How to Buy a Piano

When I say “piano” I m referring to the traditional acoustic piano not the electrical keyboards. Before buying a piano and spending a considerable amount of money, it is a good idea to consider some things. For example, do you prefer a vertical or a grand piano, the quality of touch and sound that will meet your expectations, and whether you will buy a brand new or a second-hand piano.

The size (height and width) of a piano plays the most important role in the clarity of sound and the intensity of volume. Therefore, the taller a vertical piano is or the longer a grand piano is the better the sound be, as the strings and the soundboard are longer. In short the larger the piano, the better the tone quality will be. Grand pianos range in sizes from five to nine feet and the vertical pianos range from 36 to 51 inches in height.

Apart from the difference in size and price, the vertical and grand pianos vary in sound quality as they have a different mechanism that creates sound. In a vertical (upright) piano the strings are in a vertical position and are being hit by the hammers from the side. Whereas in a grand piano the strings are in horizontal position and the movement of the hammers strike the strings is in the same direction as gravity. In a grand piano there is faster execution and better tone. So, if good tone quality is important to you then a grand piano should be your priority.

Usually grand pianos are intended for big concert halls, while vertical pianos are better for small homes with limited space. However, keep in mind that there are several sizes of each.

There are 4 vertical piano sizes, all of them under 59 inches in width.

  • Spinet: under 38 inches in height
  • Console: under 43 inches in height
  • Studio: under 48 inches in height
  • Upright: under 60 inches in height

There are 6 sizes of grand pianos.

  • Petite: under 5 feet in length
  • Baby: under 5 feet in length
  • Medium: about 5 and a half feet in length
  • Parlor: about 6 feet in length
  • Semi-Concert: about 7 feet in length
  • Ballroom: same as a semi-concert piano
  • Concert: 9 feet in length

Some popular brands that you might want to consider are:

  • Steinway
  • Baldwin
  • Yamaha
  • Hamburg Steinway
  • Bechstein
  • Mason and Hamlin
  • Kawai

When shopping for a piano keep in mind that touch (of the keys) and sound are the most important factors while you are executing a piece whether as a master or as a beginner. In order to develop proper technique, test the piano to see how it feels on the fingers as you press the keys.

Before you make a purchase test out several pianos. Play with the keys to see if they feel ‘right' to you. Check the resistance offered by the keys to make sure it suits your style. If the keys are too light they will not strengthen the fingers. And if the keys are too heavy then it will be hard to play a difficult piece of music.

If you decide to purchase a second-hand piano you should check all the keys to make sure they work and feel good, and check them for stickiness. Check the pedals to see if they are worn out. Check the hammers for wear and tear at the point where they meet the strings. And check the strings for rust which will affect sound quality or they may break prematurely. With a used piano also check on what warranty the seller is offering. If they are confident in their products they will not be hesitant in offering a fair warranty.

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