How To Buy A Piano

Types of Pianos

Piano buyers first need to decide on the type and size of instrument. There are two types of pianos:

Grand Pianos

On a grand piano, the strings run parallel to the ground. Because the strings are longer than on other types of pianos, it’s possible to make a louder sound. Additionally, the lid of the piano can be opened to allow more sound. Grand pianos come in several sizes. The exact lengths vary by brand and model, but generally they are:

  • Baby Grand: 5’0” – 5’5”
  • Mid-sized Grand: 5’6 – 6’5”
  • Large or “Semi-Concert” Grand 6’6 – 8‘0
  • Concert Grand: Usually 9’0”

Vertical pianos

These piano have strings that run vertically, allowing the instrument to be placed upright against a wall, taking up less space. This category includes Spinet, Console, Studio and Upright pianos. The main difference between these types is the vertical height, ranging from the lowest, the spinet, at 36-38” high, to the upright, which can be 50-60” high.

Grand pianos generally produce the best sound, but cost more and take up more space.

Shopping For A Piano

As with shopping for any type of instrument, it’s best to stick with quality brands for both quality and potential resale purposes. Even within brands, models and individual instruments vary, but generally, some of the best are: Steinway, Baldwin, Yamaha and Kawai. Choosing a piano, though, is also a matter of individual taste. There is a lot of difference between brands and individual instruments in tone and touch. When shopping, try out (or have someone who plays try out) the same pieces on different instruments. Listen to the sound in every range – high, middle, and low. Consider the “touch”.

Used pianos can be a good value. As with a new instrument, check out the sound and touch. Consider the overall condition and check to be sure all of the keys work. If you are seriously considering a used piano, hire a piano technician to check it out for you.

Piano Accessories: What Else You’ll Need

You’ll need a good lamp and piano bench. A bench that allows you to adjust the height is ideal. It should be adjusted for each individual so that when playing, their hands and forearms are parallel to the ground. Some piano benches have other benefits, such as storage or width that allows for two players, but proper height should be the priority.

Piano Care and Maintenance

Keep your piano away from heat, direct sunlight, drafts or dampness. It is best not to place it on an outside wall. Keep food and drink away from it. Wipe the keys with a damp cloth. Check the manufacturer’s instructions regarding care of the outside.

Piano Tuning and Repair

With regular use, a piano should be tuned every 6-12 months. The cost of piano tuning varies by market, but will probably be in the $50-100 range. If you don’t have a piano tuner already, your teacher, school or piano dealer will likely be able to recommend one. Most piano tuners are also able to make common adjustments and repairs, such as adjusting pedals or fixing sticking keys. A specialized piano technician may be needed for certain types of unusual or infrequent repairs, such as replacement of hammers, dampers or strings or dealing with a cracked soundboard.

Piano Movers

If you need to move your piano, hire qualified movers who specialize in moving pianos if at all possible. It is worth the extra trouble and investment. They will have special equipment, a piano board. Ask your piano dealer for a recommendation if you need help finding piano movers.

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