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Buying a piano
With so many piano manufacturers and retailers in operation, choosing a piano that best suits your needs can be a daunting process.
How to choose a piano
Like buying a car, the first step is to consider your needs and constraints to determine what sort of instrument you are going to buy: upright, baby grand, grand or digtial.
Some things to consider in this process include:
- Location of the piano.
Do you have a room in mind? Space is probably the most obvious consideration in deciding which type of instrument to get; concert grand pianos are between 2.2 and 3 metres long, and even baby grand pianos take up a lot of floor space. When buying a piano for the home, most people opt for an upright model for this reason, but these instruments will still be a dominant feature of most rooms. Also bear in mind that most of the sound from an upright piano will come out of the back of the instrument, so consider noise-related issues when determining placement. There are many different wood finishes for most pianos and digital pianos are increasingly offering different colours and finishes. Whilst you should always choose a piano for its sound more than its look, you may wish to choose a finish that will complement the location of the instrument. It is extremely important to consider how the piano will get into the designated room; many a piano enthusiast has purchased a new instrument or moved house only to find that they are physically unable to get the piano into the room. Don’t forget: pianos do not come apart, so make sure that it can fit through a door or window!
- What function will it have? Is it just for practising, or will it also be a performance instrument?
This will, of course, have a direct influence on the piano’s location. If the instrument is to be used for performance or advanced-level rehearsal, the acoustic resonance of the space will be important, especially for grand pianos, where the sound can be directed by angling the lid. If it is just for practising, this is less important, but bear in mind that piano music carries easily through modern house walls, so if there are other people in the building who will be disturbed by the noise, it is perhaps worth considering moving the piano further away or buying an digital piano, which can be used with headphones if necessary.
- How much are you able to spend?
Pianos can range in price from around a couple of hundred pounds for the cheapest digital or secondhand upright in need of repair to hundreds of thousands or even millions of pounds for a concert grand. Work out a realistic budget and try to stick to it. Don’t forget that poor quality instruments can often discourage the budding pianist from practising and be expensive to repair or difficult to resell. Like any precision piece of equipment, you normally get what you pay for, so buy the best that you can afford.
Once you have worked out your needs and constraints, go to a piano showroom to try out different instruments. Buying an instrument is a very personal choice, so ‘test drive’ as many as you can before you part with any money. Always try to play (or have someone else play, if you are not a pianist) the exact instrument that you are buying rather than just buying the same model, since they can vary hugely in terms of ‘feel’. A good piano can be passed down for generations, so as long as it suitable for your needs and within budget, use your instinct.
There are hundreds of different manufacturers to choose from, but the golden rule of playing an instrument before you buy always applies. Remember that although a piano made by a well-known manufacturer will probably be more expensive, it will also hold its value much better than cheaper instruments, so will be easier to re-sell. On top of which, parts for repair will be easier to come by and a quality instrument is always more rewarding to play than a badly-made one.
Some of the best-known manufacturers include:
- Yamaha (a huge range of instruments from entry-level to concert grand, and perhaps the best range of digital pianos – known as Clavinovas - on the market. Also makers of acoustic-digital hybrid instruments known as Silent Pianos)
- Steinway & Sons (makers of the most popular concert grand pianos in the world)
- C. Bechstein (known especially for their high-quality upright pianos)
- Kemble (the best-selling British manufacturer in the world)
For a more comprehensive list, visit pianofinders.com
Make sure that you visit at least one piano dealer before buying a piano. They generally have very knowledgeable staff who will be able to answer any questions that you may have as well as recommending local piano movers, tuners and repair shops. Be aware that some dealers have exclusive deals with certain manufacturers, so try to visit one with as wide a range of instruments as possible. If you don’t play yourself, try to bring a friend who does, who will be able to give you an insight into what each instrument is like from a musician’s point of view.
http://www.uk-piano.org/piano_shops/index.html has a comprehensive list of UK shops.