Information you need before you buy
Style and Price
Also see our NEW SECTION on Buying a Piano courtesy of The Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer |
(by Larry Fine & Alden Skinner)
Once you've chosen the size piano that's right for your space, aspirations and pocketbook, decide what style piano you want. Verticals have elegant cabinets and are particularly adaptable to styling, but remember that piano styles are slightly more conservative than other kinds of furniture. Look at the music rack and leg design to determine whether the style will be compatible with your furnishings. A piano cabinet whose design contrasts with your other furniture can be as attractive as one that blends with it.
While finances surely will figure in deciding what kind of piano you will buy, at least consider a top quality new piano. If you do decide on a rebuilt or used one, exercise all the caution you'd take if you were looking for a used car. Don't buy a piano for anything but its decorative value if it's more than 50 years old.
A 250-year-old violin, well made and well maintained, is often a magnificent and valuable musical instrument. A 100-year-old piano, however, might make a nice conversation piece, but it will probably make precious little music.
Shop Wisely: It's An Investment
A piano is an extremely complicated mechanism that depends on the proper distribution of tremendous weight, top-quality materials, impeccable craftsmanship, and unflagging care to produce good music. Unlike some musical instruments, the piano has profited greatly in tone and performance as a result of recent technological improvements, and modern pianos are far superior in many ways to their predecessors.
In the past, the lumber used in constructing pianos was dried and cured in manually controlled kilns. Sometimes the temperature was ideal, and the lumber was cured properly; sometimes it was not. Today, electronic controls keep the temperature and relative humidity of the lumber kilns at the optimum level at all times, assuring properly cured wood for your piano.
You should approach buying a new piano with the same care you'd bring to any important investment, especially if you're not familiar with the various manufacturers (there are more than 50 different brand names of new pianos on the market).
Visit the showroom
Go to the showrooms of the dealers you've selected. Keep in mind that a piano will sound brighter in a large bare showroom, mellower in a small carpeted and draped room.
Particularly if you don't play the piano (and even if you do), go armed with a good idea of what goes into making a top-quality piano. Try not to let a salesman's fancy playing distract you from the nuts and bolts you came to inspect. Reputable dealers can be expected to help you select the right piano for your needs, and then stand behind it, but you're best off if you can make an informed choice.