Need advice on Grand purchase...

Posted by: dcb

Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/21/13 10:41 AM

I think I've convinced my wife that buying a grand piano is a good idea. I've been playing on an upright for 3 years now. I started playing the piano as an adult but really love everything about playing the piano. I play classical music and am looking for a grand that is between 5'5" and 6'4" with a very warm, mellow tone and a good, responsive action that isn't too heavy. Unfortunately, my teacher has a really nice Steinway that I love to play and I've built a real appreciation for high end pianos.

If I had $50k, I'd buy a Mason Hamlin model A but my budget is much lower in the $10-$15k range. I think I'm destined to buy a used piano with my quality expectations and my budget. I'm thinking about these hypothetical used options:

1. Kawai RX1 or RX2 (5'5, 5'10")
2. Mason Hamlin A (5'8")
3. Mason Hamlin B (5'4")
4. Baldwin R (5'8")
5. Baldwin L (6'3")
6. Charles Walter (5'7" or 6'4")

I've been looking at prices and I think the Kawais and Baldwins might be in price range but the M&H are more in the 20-25k range. I've seen some Baldwins in the 8k range.

The good news is that I'm not in any rush. Also, I don't care much about what the piano looks like...color, condition...just concerned with the quality of the instrument. Any advice on which way to go? Restored? Really old? 30 year old piano from private seller? Dealer?

Again, I think if I had $25k, I could easily buy a restored Mason Hamlin but I'm trying to figure out some options for 10-15k less.

If anyone has had a similar buying experience, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks!
Posted by: Steven Y. A.

Re: Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/21/13 11:01 AM

make sure you check out the Vogel V180. (or used v177). my favorite around the $20k range (new)
Posted by: jawhitti

Re: Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/21/13 11:26 AM

The best advice is to go out and play a LOT of pianos. If you're in a large metro area then you're in luck - hit up all the dealers and play their pianos - used, new, $1,000 pianos, $100,000 pianos and whatever you can find in between. Eventually you'll start to notice a trend in what you like. Your patience will serve you well. (It sounds like you actually have a pretty good idea what you want).

In my somewhat uneducated opinion ten year-old pianos are about the sweet spot in the market - in general. They can be bought at significant discounts to new while still being in excellent condition. Once you get to thirty years old be more cautious, as that is about the age whem most pianos will start to show their age. These are very gross generalities though - a ten yeear-old piano migh have sat by the window sun in a barely-air-conditioned practice room and a thirty year-old may have been lovingly cared for.

There's nothing wrong with private party sales as long as you realize what you're giving up - you have to pay to move it, tune it, and most importantly there's really no recourse if you don't like it. Caveat Emptor. You also won't [easily] be able to finance it if you're not in a position to pay cash. On the other hand you can occasionally find a screaming deal from someone who inherited a piano, or whose spouse died, or whose kids moved out and they just want the piano "gone" or "to a loving home". Either way, the standard advice is to be sure to hire a technician to go over the piano before you buy it. You'll find tons of useful advice from techs on these forms. I also personally would advise you to reserve some cash to have any used piano you buy thoroughly voiced and regulated. (If you are not sure what that means you have some work to do before you shop seriously!)

Bsaed on the options you presented I think I would recommend looking for used Balwin Ls. It's got that "American" sound and they are relatively plentiful in the used market, often priced in the teens. Very much a workhorse piano but often used that way, so be careful about the condition of any L you consider. A dealer by me has a model A in his showroom for less than ten grand but it's old and frankly doesn't play or sound that nice.

Finally beware that many of us on pianoworld (self included) started out with a budget of x dollars only to ultimately spend 2x dollars or more. I started with the same budget as you but utimately got an eight year-old Yamaha C6 and blew my budget out of the water. I make that payment every month with a smile though - the piano has worked out wonderfully.

Enjoy your shopping adventures!
Posted by: dcb

Re: Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/21/13 11:37 AM

That sounds like good advice. I'm a little worried about starting the search because you are right...I've heard a lot of stories about budgets changing. (and not down) I live in the Boston area so that is good for me...there are a good amount of pianos on the used market here and some great technicians for voicing/ regulating, etc.

Thanks.
Posted by: yshhq

Re: Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/21/13 12:15 PM

do you want to consider steinway M as well? I recently bought a 1989 for $17k, a bit higher than your range.
Posted by: mahermusic

Re: Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/21/13 12:38 PM

If you are lucky enough to find a used Walter grand that checks out for $10-$15k.... GRAB IT and don't look back..... but I'm betting you won't be able to find one at that price point.
Posted by: Jonathan Alford

Re: Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/21/13 06:34 PM

dcb,

Try some new grands in your budget. Don't worry what the fallboard says - just compare sound and touch.

I think you will be surprised.

Jonatham
Posted by: Scout

Re: Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/21/13 09:04 PM

Hi--

I just bought a lightly used and well-taken-care-of 1989 Baldwin L, and LOVE it--could not be happier! It was well within my (and your) budget (just under $10k), from a dealer. I too like the Mason Hamlin sound, and this Baldwin in my opinion ranks right up there. It sings beautifully without being too bright, and the bass is deep and rich.

Best of luck in your search.
Posted by: ruiomichlet

Re: Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/21/13 09:57 PM

They can be bought at significant discounts to new while still being in excellent condition.
Posted by: electone2007

Re: Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/21/13 10:45 PM

With your budget you can buy a new 5' 10" grand piano.
Posted by: beethoven986

Re: Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/21/13 10:46 PM

If you like a "warm, mellow tone and a good, responsive action that isn't too heavy", I suggest getting a Baldwin R or L, hire a tech to rip out the hammers, and install new Ronsen Bacon felt hammers. These hammers are lightweight, which will keep the touch weight down, and they are mellow hammers. Then, have action friction treated and regulated. Bam! You should be able to do this for well under your $15,000 limit.
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/22/13 02:11 PM

You should be able to buy a *new* M&H A for considerably less than $50,000. (Ignore the "list price" on pianos; check out the Piano Buyer--link to free online copy can be found here on the forum--for the "suggested maximum price," which will be on the upper end of what you would likely end up paying after negotiating with the dealer.)

Slightly used/ fairly newish M&H A's can be hard to find, but if you do, you could probably get one close to the upper end of your budget. (I know of at least one recent PW member who bought one for $17K or $18K.)

If a trip to Philly is not too difficult, go see the new Cunningham grand at Cunningham piano. It was priced around $10K, and the sound was extremely impressive for that price point.
Posted by: backto_study_piano

Re: Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/22/13 06:16 PM

Originally Posted By: dcb


...The good news is that I'm not in any rush...


Definitely a plus - never rush. Also, beware of deals "too good to be true" - they probably aren't.

Anything used - must be checked by a good technician.

Not rushing, also gives a chance to gradually move your price point up. That way you don't notice it moving so much.

They're right - I started looking for a "very good" upright - about $12-$18k range (Yamaha YUS or Kawai K8, Petrof etc), and ended up with an (take a deep breath) $89,000 7'4" piano. That was over about 3 years, during which I'd bought a smaller grand as an intermediate stage.
Posted by: dcb

Re: Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/22/13 06:47 PM

I've started calling some stores and doing more research. I read the piano book and researched used pricing but at the end of the day, it seems like I have to go and play a lot of pianos as someone earlier had suggested.

Does anyone have any good recommendations for piano stores in the MA/RI/NH/CT area? I'm outside Boston.

I'm also a bit intrigued with the Hailun brand although they are very difficult to actually find one to play. The video reviews seem pretty promising but this is getting to be a bit overwhelming. Hopefully, the more I talk with people, the easier it will get.

Thanks for your help.
Posted by: Amaruk

Re: Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/22/13 07:20 PM

dcb,
In Salem, NH (40 mins north of Boston) you have an excellent Kawai/Shigeru/Mason&Hamlin dealer called Londonderry Piano. In Nashua, NH, also 40 mins from Boston, you have an excellent Yamaha/Schimmel dealer called Darrel's Music Hall. Don't buy a piano until you have visited these two dealers is all I can say. The customer service is top notch at both places and their prices are rock bottom before negotiations...
Posted by: rlinkt

Re: Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/23/13 01:14 AM

Originally Posted By: Jonathan Alford
dcb,

Try some new grands in your budget. Don't worry what the fallboard says - just compare sound and touch.

I think you will be surprised.

Jonatham


I am in the same camp. Just go to the stores and try them out, and see what you like in a blind test. I started out biased towards the RX2, but eventually settled for a new piano at a lower price than a slightly used RX2. The guidance came from my then 7-yr old, who had no bias for the name on the fallboard.
Posted by: wouter79

Re: Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/24/13 02:21 PM

>The good news is that I'm not in any rush. Also, I don't care much about what the piano looks like...color, condition...just concerned with the quality of the instrument. Any advice on which way to go? Restored? Really old? 30 year old piano from private seller? Dealer?

That's both very good. Not being in a rush gives you the best possibilities to really explore the market (and yes, as said above that means first playing them all and ignore the labels and prices). I did that also and found a really nice 2nd hand.

I would not go for "really old" but up to say 30 or 40 years should be good. The depreciation is really fast for new pianos so buying a 2nd hand really helps a lot pricewise. That said, 2nd hand usually needs a really good fixup, as strings and action wear even if played only rarely. And you should call in a tech to check 2nd hands, adding to the costs.

I got a 2nd hand very nicely restored grotrian with ao new hammers and strings, that would be way out of my price range if bought new.

I really wanted a glossy black, but your possibilities grow even wider if you have no such requirements. I saw a few really nice white grands. If you buy them new these are usually at a premium but for 2nd hand I have the impression that usually such colors reduce the value because most people seem to prefer black.
Posted by: Larry C

Re: Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/30/13 07:38 AM

I am the 57 year olf alumni President of a fraternity and they needed a new piano at the frat house (frat houses use them to entertain the girls, quite nice actually) ... After a bit of looking we found a 1924 Mason & Hamlin Model A on CraigsList ... the piano was about 60 miles away from the University at someone's house.. I had my qualified piano tech go there and check it out, he simply called and said "buy this piano" ... we purchased the piano for $4,500 it has a fair bit of wear on the cabinet but the soundboard is in good shape (Masons are overbuilt in a good way) ... we replaced the key tops and did some work on the keys, cleaned it up and moved it to the frat house ... so for $6,000 we have a lovely working Mason & Hamlin in the house ... if I wanted a good used grand piano, I'd do it all over ... my guess is for another $1,000 we could have helped fix up the cabinet, we opted not to do so since the young men are tough on furniture

P.S. The young men tell me that the gals still love to be sernaded
Posted by: Larry C

Re: Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/30/13 07:40 AM

One more thing ... the 1920's were a golden age for pianos ... I am not too concerned that it is "really old" as some others might be ... just have a technician check it out for, depends on how well the piano has been cared for and how well you like it ... I did play the M&H before we bought it for the fraternity
Posted by: dcb

Re: Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/30/13 07:52 AM

I've found a couple Mason & Hamlin model A's and both sounded amazing but had a super heavy action and cracked soundboards. I'll certainly have a technician look at anything I'm serious about.

After playing a lot of pianos in the last couple weeks, it seems like I could do a full rebuild of a M&H AA for about $25k not including refinishing the cabinet. I could also buy a not reconditioned one for between 6k and 9k and a partially reconditioned one for about $10k - 12k.

The $25k is above my budget and the partially rebuilt vintage ones scare me a bit because of the fear that in 5 years I'd have to put some serious money into it.

I'm also trying to find a Hailun 178 to play. That piano would be in my budget and new...just don't know how I'm going to like it. I tried some new Kawais and they were fine but just not too inspiring to me. I did try a Shigeru Kawai sk3 and thought it was amazing...also cost huge money.

So, my initial thoughts after just shopping for a month is that if I had $25-30k I could be really happy with a rebuild, $40-50k could be really happy with a new piano and it seems like i have to be really patient on the used market to find a decent piano in my budget.

Regardless, playing lots of pianos above and below my budget has helped me get a better sense of what's out there.

Thanks for your help.
Posted by: RBMusik

Re: Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/30/13 08:13 AM

Check out Hallet Davis. I own a 6'1 grand. You mentioned mellow. These pianos are modeled on an IBach scale design. European tone. These are very suitable for the home as I think big bright pianos over power small spaces. For me, the action is great. I paid around 8k prepped. I've had many pros (mostly jazz) play this piano and all are very impressed.
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: Need advice on Grand purchase... - 01/30/13 08:31 AM

Petrofs also tend to be more mellow in sound, and I highly recommend them. Still, I think you will be able to find the piano you will love for many years to come within your $10k-$15k budget. However, you may be happier if you look more toward the $15k end of things as that opens you up to larger grands in general.