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#2107517 - 06/24/13 11:10 PM Help/Advice: Outgrown my piano?
ajskfld576 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/12/13
Posts: 5
Hi I'm new here. So, I've been playing piano since I was roughly 11 years old, and I'm now in university. I'm currently working toward RCM 10 piano exam in January.

My piano gets tuned roughly twice a year, and we have had it since I started learning. It is an upright Samick, bought new, probably around $4000. However, it was only a few months ago that I found out about the importance of voicing and regulation.

The other thing is, it was only really in the past few years that I started to take piano "seriously". Before I couldn't really appreciate or understand how hard it is to really play piano well. So I haven't done an exam since RCM 6, and only started studying theory, harmony and history this past year.

The problem and what I need advice on:
For a while I have felt that the piano I have just doesn't sound right. It sounds harsh and sharp. Usually after tuning it is better and the action is more responsive. But after tuning roughly a week ago, it is still terrible (at least to my ears and my fingers).

I told my mom and tried to explain to her about voicing and regulation. She called our tuner, who then said we don't need it. I have never really trusted him, so right now my mom is planning on contacting another piano technician to have a look at the piano.

Before, if I got frustrated with the sound of my piano I would either: blame the piano for sounding this way, or blame myself for not playing good enough. I still do both sometimes, but my hope is that if the piano finally gets voiced and regulated it will sound better and I can progress more smoothly with less frustration.

Also since my piano sounds so harsh, I have gotten used to playing with the soft pedal completely pressed down. But even then, I can't produce the sounds that I want. Still I sometimes have the nagging thought in the back of my head saying "maybe I just suck". On the other hand I have to realize that this is just a hobby for me, and it's not like I plan on becoming a concert pianist.

Is this normal? Sorry if this came off as really moody, I'm not sure who to talk to about these things right now.
_________________________
Preparing for RCM10 Piano Exam; Studies listed first:
Moszkowski, Zweigesang (Op52 No3)
Czerny, Study in A minor (Op740 No41)
J.S. Bach, French Suite No. 5: Allemande and Gigue (BWV 906)
Mozart, Sonata in Eb (K282)
Liszt, Liebestraum No. 3
Rachmaninoff, Elegie (Op3 No1)
Deshevov, Rails (Op16)

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#2107530 - 06/24/13 11:41 PM Re: Help/Advice: Outgrown my piano? [Re: ajskfld576]
Allan W. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/03/12
Posts: 369
Loc: Michigan
The soft pedal on most uprights doesn't do what they do on a grand. They just move the hammers closer to the strings which does dull the sound a little bit. On a real grand they shift over the hammers so that only 2 out of 3 strings are struck.

Also, on an upright, at least mine, holding down the soft pedal really messes up the action by making the first half of the key press have no resistance.

Sounds like you could get a second tech's opinion on if anything can be done to your piano. Although it'd be strange if you told your first tech you're willing to pay for him to regulate and voice it and he said there's no need, if it's something that has not been done to your piano in a very long time.

And what about trying some pianos in stores to see what it should feel like?
_________________________
Recent adult re-starter... http://www.youtube.com/user/allanw
Kawai MP-10 + Ivory II (pic), Young Chang Y175, 2012 (renting) (pic)

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#2107534 - 06/24/13 11:45 PM Re: Help/Advice: Outgrown my piano? [Re: ajskfld576]
Kuanpiano Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/10
Posts: 2048
Loc: Canada
I get frustrated with uprights and sometimes just practice with the practice pedal (the middle one) depressed all of the time to make the sound less bright and jarring. You can try to reduce the brightness by having more carpeted surfaces in the room.

I guess others can comment? I don't have much experience with uprights.
_________________________
Working on:
Ravel - Ondine
Debussy - Suite Bergamasque
Schubert - Drei Klavierstücke D. 946
Rachmaninoff - Piano Sonata op.28

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#2107547 - 06/25/13 12:10 AM Re: Help/Advice: Outgrown my piano? [Re: ajskfld576]
gooddog Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4669
Loc: Seattle area, WA
If you are serious about pursuing your piano studies, I'd suggest upgrading to the best piano you can afford and also upgrade to the best piano technician you can afford. Both will make a huge difference in your playing. I am speaking from experience.
_________________________
Best regards,

Deborah

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#2107549 - 06/25/13 12:12 AM Re: Help/Advice: Outgrown my piano? [Re: ajskfld576]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17666
Loc: Victoria, BC
ajskfld576 : (Did I get that right?)

Welcome to the Pianist Corner forum.

The first question that comes to mind - something that you haven't covered in your first post - is what experience have you had with pianos other than your own Samick? If you have a teacher (presuming so, since you are preparing a fairly advanced exam), what results/feelings do you experience when playing on his/her piano?

While some may call me a "piano snob" for saying this, I will stick my neck out and say that I don't think you're going to get optimum response, tonally and action-wise - meaning you might not be realizing your full potential - from a Samick upright.

That said, some uprights are decidedly quality instruments and many professionals practice regularly on them, but a $4000.00 Samick is not one of those instruments that can respond to advanced repertoire.

Of course, tuning and regulating will help, but you should also keep in mind that if you are preparing RCM Grade X and your examination is going to be held in a major centre, you will most likely be performing on a grand. Even though every piano is different, you should have some experience playing grands because practicing your repertoire on an upright and performing your exam on a grand can be a bit of a shock unless you know what to expect.

However, since you are in university, I'm presuming that you have pianos there to practice on, don't you? Is it possible to do more practicing at the University than you do at home? That, if it is a possibility, would be my suggestion to solving your problem for the time being. It is summer, however, and classes are out, aren't they?

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190 in satin ebony

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#2107556 - 06/25/13 12:29 AM Re: Help/Advice: Outgrown my piano? [Re: ajskfld576]
Ferdinand Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/23/07
Posts: 926
Loc: California
Adding to what Kuanpiano wrote, a sheet of foam placed between the wall and the back of the piano can reduce the brightness.

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#2107613 - 06/25/13 02:59 AM Re: Help/Advice: Outgrown my piano? [Re: gooddog]
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
Originally Posted By: gooddog
If you are serious about pursuing your piano studies, I'd suggest upgrading to the best piano you can afford and also upgrade to the best piano technician you can afford. Both will make a huge difference in your playing. I am speaking from experience.


Ultimately, yes, if he remains serious about music he should probably upgrade, right now it's more like making do with the best piano his mom can afford. The poster should bear in mind that his mom is already meeting him half way by agreeing to pay a second tuner to evaluate/fix what may or may not be a problem. The priorities of keeping a home together (and a kid at university) take precedence over upgrading what is probably a perfectly serviceable piece of equipment. (Written as a mother who might've helped her daughter upgrade an old but still functioning computer if she hadn't just had to replace a clutch and fix a leaking roof.)
_________________________
Slow down and do it right.

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#2107624 - 06/25/13 04:00 AM Re: Help/Advice: Outgrown my piano? [Re: ajskfld576]
Cinnamonbear Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/09/10
Posts: 3722
Loc: Rockford, IL
If you play your piano a lot (and your post indicates that you do), and if it sounds so bright that you have gone to using the soft pedal, you are just making the problem worse. eek Chances are that you've played the hammers into deep, hard grooves before you started using the soft pedal, and it's way past time to have the hammers re-faced (re-shaped) and the action regulated. This will soften the tone a lot, and improve the piano's response to your touch! smile In fact, in some respects, you will be giving yourself a "new" Samick! grin

Here's a nice short vid about hammer shaping. Notice, this guy is working on upright piano actions:



Once the hammers are re-shaped, the regulation brings all the other measurements and balances back into place so your piano will play like a dream. Regulation and voicing should be a normal part of servicing your piano. Not all "techs" are cut from the same cloth, though. What you need is not just a second opinion, but someone who is willing and able to do the work. It takes my tech about an hour to re-shape a set of hammers. The regulation process can take from several to many hours to accomplish, depending on how far the piano is out of whack. Usually, a "get it up to snuff" hammer shaping and regulation and tuning can be done in a day.

As to whether you need a better piano, my opinion is this: if you are going to be performing regularly, you are going to be confronted with idiosyncratic pianos no matter where you play. Even among the group of grands that you will eventually put your hands to, some will play and sound like a dream, some will play and sound like crap. The moves and touches that you work out on your practice piano(s) will not always turn out they way you expect on the performance piano(s). The best practice you can give yourself is to play on as many different pianos as you can, and challenge yourself to cooperate with each and every instrument to get the best music out of them that you can. (This is probably what led you to try using the soft pedal on your upright. wink ) (One time, when playing an out of tune grand, I decided to play everything with the "soft" pedal pressed, because it cut down on the number of out-of-tune strings the hammers were hitting and, overall, made the piano sound more in tune grin ).

Having a practice instrument that is a joy to play is so important! thumb I hope you find someone who can do the work for you. Some tuners just tune, and they get very good at it, but then they also pass the other service and repair work on to other qualified techs when that kind of work is needed. A tuner who is not willing to do a regulation and voicing, or suggest names of people who could do the work, raises red flags for me. It makes me wonder what kind of tuning you are getting, too. smirk Depending on where you live, do not hesitate to get a third or fourth opinion (with cost estimates) to help you make the best decision on who to hire to do the work for you. Also, ask around among the people you know who have pianos. Who services their pianos? Are they happy with the work?

--Andy
_________________________
I may not be fast,
but at least I'm slow.

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#2107724 - 06/25/13 10:37 AM Re: Help/Advice: Outgrown my piano? [Re: ajskfld576]
bennevis Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4384
I'm of the old school who believe that you have to work with what you've got, and anything better is a bonus. Considering how many great virtuosi honed their skills on mediocre instruments when they were young....

I played on a small, strident, tinny-sounding Yamaha (console-sized) vertical from the age of 10 till 15 after which I was packed off to boarding school a few thousand miles away, where I continued learning on the bigger Yamaha uprights in the school's practice rooms. And then on to similar uprights at university.

Two moments of epiphany: the first was when I started playing the pianos at that school, which had much more realistic key weight (- the Yamaha console I learnt on at home had very light key weight) and found I couldn't produce a proper forte. It took several months before I developed sufficient finger strength to cope with the school's uprights.

The second was when I played on a grand for the first time, when I had to change my teacher after leaving school (because she only taught at the school), and moved on to university. My new teacher had two grands, both of which actions I found difficult to adjust to. And the problem was that I was having lessons on his 'heavy' grands but practising on the university's Yamaha uprights, which not only had lighter key weight but also much brighter and brilliant sound. (I wouldn't use the word 'harsh', knowing now what I didn't know then). Again, a period of adjustment followed, but I eventually was able to adjust automatically, as soon as I sat down at the appropriate piano. (BTW, I did all my piano exams, including my diploma, on uprights).

After university, I was moving around with my job for a few decades, so I could only grab whatever practice I could, on any piano, in whatever condition, I could lay my hands on. I learnt to adapt swiftly to any piano's idiosyncracies of tone, dynamics and action - often within a couple of minutes of playing. Three years ago, I finally bought a (high-end) digital, and since then have only practised on it, occasionally visiting showrooms to try out my new pieces on the grands there. Again, no trouble adjusting (in fact, the actions on my digital and those of acoustic grands are very similar, more so than between acoustic uprights and grands) - I actually quite enjoy trying out different pianos to see what I can get out of each, in terms of colour and tone quality. I never have a 'fixed' sound in my mind and then try to get that exact sound when I play on different pianos. Each piano has its own 'voice' and I want it to work for me, and with me. Even if I have to change my touch completely for each piano.

To the OP, I think you'll find that if you play on many other pianos, you'll find pianos that are even 'harsher' and 'sharper'-sounding than your own, as well as others that are duller. (I thought that I'd never find a piano that can compare with my childhood Yamaha's in brightness and stridency, but a few months ago, played on one that was even more so....and it was a brand new seven-foot grand from a big-name manufacturer). As long as the action is well-regulated and its tone is reasonably even, you've got what you need most, and just need to work with it, not against it. For instance, you may well find that the piano you have to play on in your exam has even 'harsher' sound than your upright. How will you manage then, if you can't adapt to it?

Go on visits to showrooms, try out as many pianos as you can from as many different manufacturers as possible, learn to adapt your touch to each piano's individual qualities, and make it work for you. You'll need this sort of versatility in the near future, and you'll also discover an amazing world of vastly differing piano sounds, from the super-bright to the super mellow, and everything in between.....

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#2107800 - 06/25/13 01:06 PM Re: Help/Advice: Outgrown my piano? [Re: Ferdinand]
asiantraveller101 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/31/08
Posts: 158
Loc: ME
Originally Posted By: Ferdinand
Adding to what Kuanpiano wrote, a sheet of foam placed between the wall and the back of the piano can reduce the brightness.

Or I have seen people put thin pillows behind it.
My suggestion: before you invest in another piano, (unless your mind is already made up to change) ask the tuner/technician to voice the piano. It does mellow and even out the harsh tone. However, of course, a new piano will do wonder to your practice. grin
_________________________
JN

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#2107844 - 06/25/13 02:04 PM Re: Help/Advice: Outgrown my piano? [Re: ajskfld576]
Hakki Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2100
ajskfld576 :

Would you please post a sample of your piano's sound. Because it might direct us better for providing our opinions.
_________________________
Put in one of IMO, I think, to me, for me... or similar to all sentences I post

http://www.youtube.com/user/hakkithepianist

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#2108717 - 06/26/13 08:42 PM Re: Help/Advice: Outgrown my piano? [Re: ajskfld576]
ajskfld576 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/12/13
Posts: 5
Thankyou for the responses. Well our current piano tuner said we don't need voicing and regulation.. but like Cinnamonbear mentioned, it seems like he might not want to spend the extra hours doing the work. For example, I remember one time he had to reschedule our tuning appointment because he was meeting family for lunch. :\

Haha yes like Frycek mentioned, ultimately it is my parents who support me. So, I would like to avoid buying a new piano for now and work with what I have. My only worry is if the piano still sounds harsh even after my piano gets voiced and regulated.

I'm still wary about using the soft pedal too much, I feel like I'm not learning to control the keys properly.

Hmm I'll have to try going out to try more pianos. Is it normal to walk into a showroom and ask to play on the pianos?
_________________________
Preparing for RCM10 Piano Exam; Studies listed first:
Moszkowski, Zweigesang (Op52 No3)
Czerny, Study in A minor (Op740 No41)
J.S. Bach, French Suite No. 5: Allemande and Gigue (BWV 906)
Mozart, Sonata in Eb (K282)
Liszt, Liebestraum No. 3
Rachmaninoff, Elegie (Op3 No1)
Deshevov, Rails (Op16)

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#2108722 - 06/26/13 08:45 PM Re: Help/Advice: Outgrown my piano? [Re: ajskfld576]
Allan W. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/03/12
Posts: 369
Loc: Michigan
Perfectly normal. You can mention that you have an upright and you're disappointed in the sound. And you'll have to listen to their sales speech for a few minutes but they'll let you try out their pianos.
_________________________
Recent adult re-starter... http://www.youtube.com/user/allanw
Kawai MP-10 + Ivory II (pic), Young Chang Y175, 2012 (renting) (pic)

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#2108831 - 06/27/13 01:10 AM Re: Help/Advice: Outgrown my piano? [Re: ajskfld576]
Auntie Lynn Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/07/04
Posts: 1096
Loc: San Francisco, CA
Years ago, mama bought be a lovely Steinway (series G - rare); anyway, it is now worth 17 times what she paid for it, according to the Steinway "blue book." Best investment yhou can make. It will be your best friend - better than any husband, wife, friend, tax adviser, teacher, und zo weiter...

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#2109098 - 06/27/13 01:51 PM Re: Help/Advice: Outgrown my piano? [Re: ajskfld576]
Charles Cohen Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/12
Posts: 937
Loc: Richmond, BC, Canada
Quote:
. . . Chances are that you've played the hammers into deep, hard grooves before you started using the soft pedal, and it's way past time to have the hammers re-faced (re-shaped) and the action regulated. This will soften the tone a lot, and improve the piano's response to your touch!
. . .


That was my first thought, too. It worked on a piano I used to play, 45 years ago.

. Charles

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#2109147 - 06/27/13 03:42 PM Re: Help/Advice: Outgrown my piano? [Re: Auntie Lynn]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17666
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: Auntie Lynn
Years ago, mama bought be a lovely Steinway (series G - rare); anyway, it is now worth 17 times what she paid for it, according to the Steinway "blue book." Best investment yhou can make. [...]


I am not an economist, so read the following with a grain of salt, but this issue has often been discussed in the Piano Forum and the consensus among dealers is :

That sounds very much like the "hype" that Steinway uses to convince the public of the "investment quality" of their instruments.

Once you consider the purchase price and actual buying power at the time of purchase relative to other costs and wages, and then translate that to today's figures, you may find that the "increased value" is far from seventeen times what was paid for the piano.

In 1956 I could have purchased a medium-sized Steinway (5' 6" - equivalent of the current M) for around $3200.00; today that instrument would list for $53,000.00 - a factor of seventeen. However, in 1956, I would have considered myself rich if I were earning more than the $275.00 a month I was then earning at an entry-level full-time job. In other words, the Steinway would then cost me about a year's salary.

In today's market, a year's salary at an entry-level job would probably just about cover the (list price) cost of a new Steinway model M. So, I don't see the great investment value of Steinway pianos - or any other piano, for that matter.

The Steinway "blue book" does not take into account, either, the condition and the normal wear and tear on the instrument that has been used over the intervening years. If you were to advertise your instrument for sale, do you really think it would bring seventeen times what Mama paid for it?

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190 in satin ebony

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#2109250 - 06/27/13 07:24 PM Re: Help/Advice: Outgrown my piano? [Re: ajskfld576]
TwoSnowflakes Online   blank
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 798
In 1956 I could have purchased a medium-sized Steinway (5' 6" - equivalent of the current M) for around $3200.00; today that instrument would list for $53,000.00 - a factor of seventeen. However, in 1956, I would have considered myself rich if I were earning more than the $275.00 a month I was then earning at an entry-level full-time job. In other words, the Steinway would then cost me about a year's salary.

Yeah, I found the hard sell from Steinway on the investment advantage to be irritating, to put it mildly. It seemed like a lot of smoke and mirrors and some hokey economics. And it's not like it's sour grapes because I could not justify getting myself a Steinway. I just think it's a little bit of a stretch to tout "investment" as a true advantage. Unless you're simply comparing it to the advantage over buying other pianos--at which point it's at least somewhat valid because pianos with very recognizably high-end names do retain value better than others, but I wouldn't call the slower rate of depreciation to be an investment advantage.

So as a smart investment in general? I am not so sure. Because unless you assume the money is already spent on a piano of some sort (or you're assuming that the money, if not spent on a Steinway, will spend the next 50 years stuffed in a mattress), it seems to ignore the fact that in having bought the thing, you have lost the general investment power of that money over the same number of years--and even invested conservatively, $3200 easily becomes $53,000 in 60 years. Or, simply look at inflation. If inflation and the piano price are largely the same over that same period of time, then there's no investment advantage at all. If the piano price went up FURTHER than inflation, then you do get the benefit of that, but only the difference between that and general inflation. Because at any given time, you can simply purchase a Steinway at a price that has remained, generally, stable with regard to its relation to what a similarly-situated you might be earning.

Now, this ignores the fact that you have had, for those years, a lovely piano whose presence, I wager, is better than its absence, but that's the same benefit everybody gets from having vs. not having a piano. That's not investment. That's the enjoyment of the thing itself, which, to me is not only a valid element of the piano purchase decision, but really the only worthwhile thing to think about: is my enjoyment of this thing worth the money I will spend on it; i.e. will I get $x of pleasure from it over the course of owning it, irrespective of whether or not it has any appreciable value at the time I stop owning it? And often the answer is yes, whether the piano be Steinway or any other that the buyer will eventually play and enjoy owning. But viewed purely from the perspective of whether there's an investment advantage (i.e. some kind of appreciation in value that you can realize) I'm not sure Steinway, or really any other piano, is ever truly a "good" investment.

But then, viewed that way, neither are kids. And I've got three of them.

Some things may not be good for the bottom line but enhance our lives in ways that are as beautiful as they are immeasurable.
_________________________
Currently:
Shostakovich, Trio e Minor, Op. 67
Schumann, Album für die Jugend, Op. 68
Grieg, Four Norwegian Dances, Op. 35

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#2109276 - 06/27/13 08:14 PM Re: Help/Advice: Outgrown my piano? [Re: ajskfld576]
TwoSnowflakes Online   blank
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/12
Posts: 798
Inflation: CPI index says that $3200 in 1956 is worth about $28,000 today. Which means that a similarly-situated you can buy a $28,000 piano today and it would feel the same. Which means that if that same Steinway costs $53,000, then you have essentially purchased a $53,000 piano for $28,000, which, to be fair, is a pretty good discount of $25,000 (as long as one assumes the $53,000 piano is the same value as the one bought 50 years prior, which I suspect it is not. In fact, I would venture to guess one would be lucky to sell it for...$28,000.) But you have to compare apples to apples, and that includes taking into account inflation. Because to take advantage of that investment profit you have to think about what one can reasonably buy with it at the time the profit is realized. Which means our Steinway owner didn't get 17 times the price, but fell somewhere slightly short of doubling (and, again, that's assuming somehow that 50 year old piano is worth the same as a brand new one, which it wouldn't be.)

Investment: $3200 invested for 50 years, historically, still earns enough to get you a Steinway today, doesn't it? Let's say at a 5% interest rate (S&P is a healthy 9-10% over that same period, isn't it?), and you're still ending up with ~$50,000. So I'm not sure Steinway's argument holds any water at all in terms of how good an investment Steinway is objectively, unless they're simply making the relative argument that, as compared to "investing" in other pianos, you come out better with a Steinway than some no-name piano. Because at best, it's a wash, and that's with the hefty assumption that one can sell a 50 year old Steinway at the full current retail price for a new one. I can't imagine that's true unless your Steinway was Horowitz's personal piano.

It seems to me that ultimately all pianos, mostly, are losers from an investment perspective. Are there ANY pianos that sell for more than they were purchased for except in the VERY short term (i.e. Steinway raises retail prices on pianos high enough that a used piano from a year or two ago is a better purchase even if it's more than what the retail price of that piano was at the time. But I'm not sure the idea of "flipping" pianos is really something worth trying.)

I'm sure several of my assumptions here are wrong; I'm no economist and I'm just thinking out loud. Eh, ignore me. What do I know? After all, I didn't invest in a Steinway, ultimately. And I'm no terrific pianist, either. I bring very little to the table here, it seems. laugh
_________________________
Currently:
Shostakovich, Trio e Minor, Op. 67
Schumann, Album für die Jugend, Op. 68
Grieg, Four Norwegian Dances, Op. 35

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What is the strangest thing you have found inside a piano?
by That Tooner
28 minutes 31 seconds ago
Kawai vs Ritmuller
by cromax
38 minutes 39 seconds ago
Considering going into debt for a Steinway grand
by joonsang
Today at 10:38 PM
Best Glue for Damper Pads
by JMichaelWilson
Today at 10:07 PM
Went to the store and tried out lots of DPs
by lang15
Today at 09:18 PM
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