Advice on Buying a New Piano
by Carol Beigel, RPT
Like many other big ticket items, you either spend the money up front on quality or spend it later on service and repairs. Usually better quality pianos spare you the aggravation of intermittent action and key-sticking problems, and require tuning less frequently. Piano manufacturers must cut corners somewhere to produce pianos that can sell for prices that consumers are willing to pay. Although all new pianos may look alike on the showroom floor, there are differences in the materials used. Less expensive models may have their cabinets made from manufactured wood material under the veneer, laminated soundboards, high tension stringing scales, synthetic materials in the piano action, and very hard piano hammers, just to name a few differences. The better pianos have cabinets made from hardwood under the veneer, solid spruce soundboards, lower tension stringing scales with duplex bars, real leather buckskin, high quality wool cloth in the piano actions, and better-made piano hammers with walnut moldings. Typically, they are tuned and regulated several times before they leave the factory.
An excellent book on buying or owning a piano is The Piano Book written by Larry Fine, RPT. You can probably find it in the public library or on Amazon. More information about this book is available at www.pianobook.com
Four piano dealers here in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area sell good quality pianos, and have excellent reputations for paying attention to their customer service and product satisfaction; Oren Music sells Yamaha and Baldwin pianos; Jordan Kitts sells Steinway and Kawai pianos; PianoCraft in Gaithersburg carries the Mason/Hamlin line; and the The Piano Company in Leesburg also carries Kawai, Bosendorfer, Schimmel, Walter and Fazzioli pianos.
When asked, I usually recommend Yamaha pianos. I have found Yamaha piano actions to be very stable, crisp and even, and the prices reasonable for the quality offered. For upright pianos, I would recommend the P22 console as a good place to start, and the U1 studio model is an excellent choice for the more accomplished pianist. The C series of grand pianos, starting with the GC1 are very tunable and playable, and the handmade S series, though pricey, has a beautiful, melodic tone.
Advice about buying a MIDI Piano. For those unsure how much their new piano would be used, consider purchasing a "hybrid" or MIDI piano; meaning that it is both a real acoustic piano and an electronic MIDI piano with all those voices. They are the modern version of the roll player pianos and have names like the Yamaha Disklavier, Baldwin Concert Master, QRS Pianomation, or PianoDisc. Imagine having a piano that not only satisfies the piano teacher, but will also play music by themselves when you wish. All of these manufacturers produce music for these instruments, but you need to check the compatibility of the file formats in order to play it on each other's systems. These MIDI players differ slightly, so you would need to check out the latest features offered at the time you buy.
My favorite piano of all, and the one I bought, is the Yamaha Disklavier . It has the best Recording capabilities as it records both the keys and the pedals, and is the only system installed by the manufacturer. It also has the best Silent feature that comes with headphones so that the piano can be played and recorded without anyone hearing it, and the new models can play/record the piano along with CD recordings of your favorite vocalists. The vocal tracks on the audio CDs are also the genuine, original artist's recordings, not a special rendition.
If all you want to do is hear your piano play music, and it does not need a premium recording function, then a play-only model will do nicely. Again, my recommendations in this area would be a Yamaha Disklavier because I like Yamaha pianos and the original artist's recordings, or the Chili system on the QRS Pianomation models. The Chili system also records, but at the time of this writing, is the only system that will play MIDI files from a CD that you have burned yourself. An entire portion of this website, called MIDI Player Tools is dedicated to getting the most out of owning a MIDI Player.
see also companion articles Thoughts on Buying a Used Piano, and Advice on Buying a New or Used Disklavier
An interesting Link on the internet is the Bluebook of Pianos at www.bluebookofpianos.com
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