Determing the right piano for an experience level

Posted by: Daniel R

Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/13/12 03:08 AM

I have been looking at pianos (I posted a previous topic where I expressed interest in the C3X, and I have also looked at a Grotrian Studio 192 and a Boston grand that caught my ear), and was talking with the family about an appropriate piano, as the Grotrian Studio 192 was the one that caught my ear, and there were two arguments that I encountered and was so flustered that I did not know how to respond. The first was that one grand piano is the same as another.

The second argument, and one which I feel has a more objective basis is that the performer has to be good enough to justify the cost of the piano.

I am still a student, but I have gone through several juries and played several pieces large and small for my professors. The question I have is when does the skill level justify the cost?

For example, under my belt (passing a jury with an A) I have:
Bach Inventions in C major, D minor, D major, E minor, G major
Bach Well-Tempered Clavier - Prelude and Fugue XXII - Book 2
Bartok - Mikrokosmos Books 1-6
Beethoven - Op. 13 - Sonata in C minor
Beethoven - Op. 14 - Sonata in E major
Chopin - Nocturne in F minor Op 55, No. 1
Chopin - Prelude in E minor No. 4 (Drowning)
Debussy - Deux Arabesques No. 1
Gershwin - Prelude No. 1
Ginastera - Danzas Argentinas - Mvmt 1
Haydn - Sonata in D Major, Hob XVI, No. 37
Mozart - Sonata in A minor K. 310
Mozart - Sonata in C major K. 545
Prokofiev - Visions Fugitives - No. 1, 7


What other pieces should I have available to justify a skill level for a piano of 30,000 dollars cost like the Boston, or 42,000 like the Yamaha, or 54,000 like the Grotrian (all list price).
Posted by: Rickster

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/13/12 07:47 AM

Originally Posted By: Daniel R
The question I have is when does the skill level justify the cost?

IMHO, never...

Desire and affordability justify both quality and cost.

I would imagine that a lot of Steinway owners can’t even play chop-sticks, and some really good players have an old Wurlitzer console that they can make sound pretty good for what it is…

Best regards,

Rick
Posted by: Mark...

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/13/12 10:59 AM

Once you can play Rach 3 you have permission to buy any piano you want...until then you should stick with consoles...
Posted by: kaismom

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/13/12 01:14 PM

DanielR,
No one asks you if your driving skill justifies a BMW or Ferrari or a Maserati. You pays your money and you buys your car.

Piano is a material good one buys. No more or no less.

But we all know it is WAY more than that for one's soul. I consider that a cheap way to appease the soul by spending 50K or 100K, if you have it.

Just be grateful that you have the money to spend on the piano.
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/13/12 01:23 PM

You shouldn't buy a piano that "matches" your level of play. You need to think long-term. Purchase a piano that you can "grow into".

Or, do you want to be trading it in a few years for something that matches you skill level then?
Posted by: 4evrBeginR

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/13/12 03:15 PM

As far as I'm concerned anyone able to pass jury exams with any Beethoven sonata deserves a good piano up to a new Bösendorfer/Steinway if you can afford it financially. Your skill is no longer an issue. Finance is the only consideration at this point. You should always be able to buy any piano you choose comfortably financially unless you are a professional, then you could justify a loan as cost of your job, and there are certainly some tax benefits you could take advantage of in that case.

I don't know how many times I heard the word "investment" used by my sales person when I was buying my Yamaha C3X. Pianos are not investments. Buy what you can afford. If you can afford the C3X, it is an awesome piano.

As a student, you should not burden your future with large debts on top of whatever student loans you may already have. Focus on your career, and the piano will come.
Posted by: KillerCharlie

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/13/12 03:34 PM

I think that if you already enjoy playing the piano and you know you will continue, you should buy as much as you can afford. I also bet that the correlation between skill and piano cost is relatively small for most buyers.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/13/12 03:58 PM

If you or your parents can afford any of the pianos you mention then buy the best one you can afford that you also like. Of course, unless your parents are quite well off "can afford" isn't just a simple yes answer so the financial considerations are really more complicated.

You should read the free Piano Buyer in the left hand column about pricing because you should be looking at the SMP and NOT the MSRP. You should be looking to buy any of the pianos for 10%-30% off the SMP. In addition some of the MSRP's you've quoted seem to be wrong. The SMP for Yamaha C3X is 48K and for the Grotrian it's 75K.

I think most advanced pianists could be completely satisfied with the Yamaha or Grotrian. You might also consider a Mason AA or BB, a 6'-7' Shigeru Kawai, or an Estonia 190 as all these are IMO very good pianos and considered by many to be very good buys for the money.

The advice about buying a piano you can grow into makes a lot of sense.
Posted by: Daniel R

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/13/12 04:13 PM

I actually won't have any student loans when I graduate, and my credit history has always been excellent (I worked before I went to college, so I established a good credit early). The primary issue is the length of my credit history, as 8 years is considered far too short. My major is Music Composition, but I know I will always continue to write for the piano and to play the piano, as whenever I need to express anything it is my outlet.
I listed the dealer prices, because I know with negotiation that those prices can vary wildly, as none of them are at the same dealer. The Boston and the Yamaha both have 100% trade-in from their dealers and the Grotrian does not, but it is also my favorite in terms of tone quality(even over its fellow, a 6'8" Grotrian sitting at the same dealer price. . .and the 10'2" Fazioli sitting in the window).
Posted by: 4evrBeginR

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/13/12 04:29 PM

Well you have come this far without a new piano, so I would say you should wait until you graduate, get settled in your job, then think about which piano to buy. Don't put the cart before the horse.
Posted by: ClsscLib

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/13/12 04:34 PM

Aristotle was wrong about two things.

One was that whole "best flutes to the best flute players" idea.

If you love piano and can hear and feel the difference, buy the best that you can afford.
Posted by: kaismom

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/14/12 08:12 PM

Something else to consider...
Where will you put this darn thing?
What about your next move?

For many people in your age group, the lack of 'permanent' space is just as much of a consideration as the lack of funds.

This is none of my business, but you did ask....
Posted by: SBP

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/14/12 08:52 PM

^that's the truth.
Posted by: Daniel R

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/15/12 12:15 AM

Space is not an issue as things stand, though the move would be. I was quoted 900 dollars as the price to move the piano approximately half the state of Illinois. That's not too bad (once or twice) considering the relative cost of the instrument itself in any of the three cases. Definitely worth consideration, though considering it would only be here 2.5 years.
Posted by: John Pels

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/15/12 11:50 PM

Always buy the best and biggest you can afford and you'll never have regrets.
Posted by: KillerCharlie

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/16/12 12:06 AM

That's true about space and moving. I bought a high end digital after college. It's been through 3 moves. I didn't start looking for a grand until I bought a house.
Posted by: wouter79

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/17/12 09:22 AM

Quote:
The first was that one grand piano is the same as another.

The second argument, and one which I feel has a more objective basis is that the performer has to be good enough to justify the cost of the piano.


@1. Not for me. If it holds for you, then don't bother and get the cheapest you can get. Who said this anyway?

@2. Quite the opposite, a good piano will invite you and help you raise your level.


So I agree with above, get the best you can afford. Let your own ears and feel (of the action and response) guide you
Posted by: TwoSnowflakes

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/19/12 02:23 PM

I'm sort of at the same decision-making point, though my skill level is lower. My sense is that pianos get better in a way that if you are not virtuoso level, you will kind of "max out" on what improvements will result in a more enjoyable experience or a better overall sound, and at that point pianos simply get more expensive and nothing more.

That is to say, my guess is that if I sat down to play on a mid-range piano, and then sat down to play on a top-of-the-line piano, I would not appreciate the differences, nor would I have the skill level to take advantage of the relatively higher sophistication and range of the better piano in order to make what I play sound better. That is to say, my best is going to sound the same on every piano above a certain quality level. And I will get a similar level of enjoyment and control out of all of them above a certain point, romantic fixations with certain instruments aside.

So the key seems to be (haha) to strike (haha) at the point where any further sophistication or craftsmanship on the piano is simply making the piano more expensive, not making you sound better or contribute to your enjoyment playing it (assuming you build in a reasonable cushion for getting better once you have an instrument you enjoy). That break point goes higher and higher the better the pianist is. For someone who is a rank beginner, aside from generally being able to hear that one piano sounds harsher than another, there's probably very little to differentiate a very expensive piano from a very modestly-priced one, assuming it's not an objectively bad piano because a really bad piano will turn any new student off--it has to meet a certain threshhold of dynamic control and range so you can appreciate where you're going. For me, I'm not a beginner, but I am not remarkable in any way, and I'm also hampered by a huge drop in skill level since I last played with any seriousness. But I know when expression comes easily or doesn't. I know when I get a kind of range or control that is satisfying to me, and feel the loss at a piano that doesn't give me that back or has uneven sound. But after that's accounted for, the truth is that after that, I am simply paying more. I played a Yamaha C2 in the showroom and liked it just fine. Preferences in tone/action notwithstanding, I probably can't truly appreciate the very big price difference between that and a Steinway B. Which means forget the difference between that Steinway B and a Bosendorfer I played at almost three times the price of the Steinway. While I loved both, I'm quite certain that all of the ways in which the Bosendorfter is better, not just different, than the Steinway would be lost on me were I to play them side by side.

So because it cannot be denied that pianos get very expensive very quickly, and unless you're buying a piano for reasons other than simply wanting to have an instrument to play enjoyably and well (which are valid reasons too--it's not like you have to be an expert driver to want to own a lamborghini--it's just that usually piano players want pianos to play), it stands to reason to figure out where pianos are simply getting more expensive without giving you a tangible advantage.

Fortunately, I think I found my piano, and I have to say I was surprised to find that I had opinions that took me out of the very inexpensive grands. That there were pianos that are probably pretty awful grands that are still several times better than my current piano and my fear was that I would not be able to tell in order to make any kind of informed decision. But I could. And I could also begin to tell where pianos were simply getting more expensive without any real benefit to me. Also, I was visiting a non-piano-playing friend this summer who bought an upright as a gift to his wife because she had lamented not having one and I had no idea what it cost him but as soon as I played it I could feel it was a very blunt instrument and that if I had it in my house it would be no significant improvement over the piano I have now that mostly keeps me away from it until I can't take it anymore and have to tolerate it because it's the only thing I have.

Because I really, really, really, really like playing and I'm so sad it's taken me this long to solve the fundamental issue of having a nice piano in one's own home. There's a lovely Beethoven sonata waiting for me to dive back into and while it's frustrating to me to see how much skill I have lost since I last played seriously, I know I am going to enjoy the journey back.

Now, let's buy me a piano!
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/19/12 03:44 PM

If one has unlimited funds then I think it's possible even a beginner might enjoy the sound of a very expensive piano while playing the simplest passage more than while playing a less expensive piano. Or enjoy the touch more. Or they might eventually appreciate the difference. So, in this case, I think there is nothing wrong with spending 100K if they want to.

For most, there will be a financial compromise when buying a piano because 100K is not within their budget. It's up to each person what they think is reasonable considering their own finances or where they determine the point where any improvement in sound or touch is not big enough to justify the additional cost.
Posted by: leemax

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/19/12 07:22 PM

One other consideration is that over the next few years as you have more experience and playing time and exposure to different instruments your tastes in what a "good" piano touch and tone is may change. Unless money truly is no issue, and you can always buy what you want when you want, that could be an argument for not spending a ton right now. It seems that you have been doing just fine on the pianos you have had available to you, so you might wait a while before making the move to a really high end instrument.

Best of luck to you!
Posted by: j&j

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/21/12 03:59 PM

If space and funds aren't an issue, get what sounds and feels right. IMHO, experience level means you're going to stay with it and your piano won't become an expensive dust collector. If you feel your musical ear has "matured" enough to select your piano now, enjoy the shopping and I wish you the best luck in your decision. Keep us posted.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/21/12 04:08 PM

Originally Posted By: leemax
One other consideration is that over the next few years as you have more experience and playing time and exposure to different instruments your tastes in what a "good" piano touch and tone is may change. Unless money truly is no issue, and you can always buy what you want when you want, that could be an argument for not spending a ton right now. It seems that you have been doing just fine on the pianos you have had available to you, so you might wait a while before making the move to a really high end instrument.
But I think that could be an argument for never spending a lot of money on a piano. One's tastes are constantly evolving.
Posted by: Gatsbee13

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/21/12 04:31 PM

I think it's what you can afford and desire.. I know a Juilliard masters grad that practices the rach 3 off a yamaha digital at home.. I'm assuming that's the most he can afford at the moment.
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/21/12 05:06 PM

You buy the best you can afford ... and don't forget to call your insurance person to make sure the piano is insured.
Posted by: backto_study_piano

Re: Determing the right piano for an experience level - 12/22/12 04:42 AM

Buy the piano you enjoy playing. You'll play it then. Budget comes into it - mine was a good Yamaha upright when I was 30 & 3 young children. It was a Grotrian/Mason/Steinway grand when I was 59, living alone (not by choice) and retired with good Superannuation.

I play more now - partly because of the great piano, but also because I've more time available.