This is worse than buying a mattress

Posted by: Recalcitrantron

This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 03:26 AM

I don't play piano. My wife used to play many years ago. Our daughter, age 14 plays flute, sings and would like to play piano. Our twin sons age 10 will be starting piano in the next two months or so. I may even give it a try. Problem is we need a piano and do have a relatively small budget ($2,000-3,000). Hard to buy when you don't know who to trust or exactly what to look for. For instance, the local Yamaha dealer was pushing the entry level Cable-Nelson ($3,000) brand which is a Chinese made Yamaha. Then there was the Hamilton ($3,800) which was explained to me to be an entry level Baldwin (also made in China). Then the was the Fischer and Sons ($2,000) which appears to be an entry level "house brand" made for the Sherman and Clay piano chain. I am not partial to any particular brand or name. We just need a solid affordable piano. Frankly, I have no idea what is inside these units and what to look for to distinguish one from the other. Interestingly, the Fischer, which is the cheapest, has a spruce soundboard (which is supposed to be better yes?), while the other two have laminated boards. It's enough to drive a guy crazy, especially when you add the digital pianos into the mix. Problem with the digital is my wife hates the way they look and the only remotely affordable one with what looks like a nice cabinet is a Suzuki sold at Costco of all places. It only has a 1 year warranty compared to the Yamaha Clavinovas which have 5 years which to me sends a strong message which company believes it makes a solid product. All of the acoustics have a 10 year warranty.

So what we are presently left with is a confusing mess that has me thinking maybe a pair of saxophones for the boys would be easier (and cheaper).

As such, any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
Posted by: guest1013

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 03:51 AM

Read the Piano Buyer for starters, see the ad on the right column of this webpage. Have your wife play the Yamaha and the Baldwin - they may be the best of your list. They are designed a bit differently from each other. See if she notices the sound and touch. It will take more than one visit of playing and comparing, and one may react differently each time. Slow down and have fun! There is typically said to be room to negotiate the price as well.
Posted by: EJR

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 04:49 AM

<<add the digital pianos into the mix>>

A multi instrumental family all about to start or re-start on the piano?

I'd strongly consider a digital in the first instance to get everyone up and running and facilitate management of multiple practice session! You can't go wrong with a Clavinova.
Posted by: Oz Marcus

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 04:53 AM

Hmmm... if your wife hates the look of digitals, then I would probably not bother.
You might also want to look out for a Hailun - if they are still being sold in the States. Of course, you could always visit Canada to buy one eek

I would also strongly recommend that you have a read through the piano buyer guide and possibly even try playing a few piano's (or possibly getting your wife to) and seeing what sounds the best for your budget. Once you have a short list, you can start the negotiations.

M
Posted by: FormerlyFlute

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 07:07 AM

Depending on where you live, you may be able to find a very nice used piano, getting more for your dollar.

I bought a used Yamaha when I started 3.5 years ago and have not regretted it yet. My accomplished piano playing friends like my piano very much as well.

The caveat is that you should get a technician to check out serious contenders, especially if purchasing through a private buyer. However, I bought mine from a well respected dealer and did not get a technician's opinion and it turned out just great.
Posted by: Bob

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 07:36 AM

A new piano in your price range would be one we fondly call a "starter piano". Solid spruce soundboards with 1/4" wide growth rings are comparable in vibrating efficiency to laminated boards IMHO. Hamiltons have been, and Baldwins are now, made by Dongbei in China. Check Craigs list for used Yamaha's and Kawai verticals. Have a tech check out any used piano.
Posted by: jnod

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 08:02 AM

definately look at used: it should be possible to get a nice 5 year old Yamaha, Knabe, Kawai or whathaveyou in your price range. Even cheaper - ever since the Chinese entered the market, selling used pianos has gotten progressively more difficult. A buyers market for sure.
Posted by: Numerian

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 08:47 AM

I think your assumption is wrong. If the twins insist on getting separate saxophones, the student version of an alto sax costs $1,885, so you have to spend $3,800 just for their student years. When they graduate to an adult saxophone, a professional instrument can cost as much as $4,800. So now you are up to nearly $10,000, not counting replacement mouthpieces from time to time.

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/navigation?q=selmer+sax&src=3WWRWXGB&ZYXSEM=0

These are Selmer instruments, the standard in the saxophone industry - also they are owned by Steinway so wouldn't you be better off just getting a Steinway piano, like an Essex? The twins could play duets on the piano. Maybe you could find a used one in your area that is within your budget.

The amount of money you could save compared to buying even student saxophones for the twins could be used to buy new mattresses for the boys.
Posted by: turandot

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 09:38 AM

Originally Posted By: Recalcitrantron
Hard to buy when you don't know who to trust or exactly what to look for. For instance, the local Yamaha dealer was pushing the entry level Cable-Nelson ($3,000) brand which is a Chinese made Yamaha. Then there was the Hamilton ($3,800) which was explained to me to be an entry level Baldwin (also made in China). Then the was the Fischer and Sons ($2,000) which appears to be an entry level "house brand" made for the Sherman and Clay piano chain.


If the product descriptions you are giving here were obtained from the salespros, I would say you are not doing so badly in terms of truthful disclosure. The Baldwin may have an inflated price, but that's hard to say without knowing the particular model.

If the pianos you mention are all that's available in your local market in your price range and if $3k is not chump change to your family, I'd advise you to travel to the nearest market that offers more selection. I'm not implying that any of those mentioned are bad, just that exposure to more brands will help you make a more informed decision.

A digital piano priced between 2 and 3k will not be a starter digital. It will be fully loaded with advanced features like instant recording/playback and silent play. The silent play option with headphones may be of particular interest to anyone in the family within hearing range of three or four different beginners strutting their stuff. Something like the Roland HP203 would be in your price range and might squeak by your wife's furniture criteria.

In my experience piano sales pros are far more knowledgeable and professional than mattress sellers. If you can divert them away from prepared spiels and talking points to a consideration of your particular needs, they can be very helpful.

If you have the time and inclination to educate yourself on brands, prices, and features, the Piano Buyer link to the right offers a wealth of free information.
Posted by: marimorimo

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 09:56 AM

I am not a piano expert, but had a similar piano buying dilemma due to a limited budget.

With such a budget, your two best options would be to buy used or go digital.

You're lucky since there are a lot of used pianos available in the US and good piano technicians to boot. But you need to do your research and hire a competent technician to check out the piano beforehand.

A digital piano, on the other hand would be less headache. $2000~3000 is guaranteed to buy you a very good quality DP. I'd say a good DP will function much more reliably (if not much better) than an old clunker piano or a cheap new piano of dubious make.

You should also take into consideration that acoustic pianos require maintenance costs such as periodic tunings or regulations. It is often said here that one should not buy an acoustic if they can't afford to maintain it.
Posted by: Heidrun

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 10:22 AM

I've been looking to upgrade from my old upright, and I totally agree, the process is no fun. It's hard to know what to believe when you go to the dealers, (no offense to anyone:)). I'm no expert by any means and don't know much about the brands you mention, but I would highly advise reading Larry Fine's Piano Book (or the Piano Buyer, you'll find a link to the online version in the right hand column), as well as the Flinns' "Idiot's Guide to Buying a Piano". The latter is probably a little easier to digest. Marty Flinn also makes frequent posts on this forum, you might want to look at some of them. I've found them very informative.
Posted by: rvecchio1

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 10:35 AM

Hi, I'm new here but have been playing for a very long time. It does not have to be complicated. Do you have a friend who plays piano? Take a look on Craig's list and take this friend (or your wife!) along with you to try out the pianos. If the pianos sound and feel good, you are there.

Yes, there's lots to learn about pianos, but if your kids are just starting out, a good solid upright piano is a good place to start.
Posted by: Steve Cohen

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 11:07 AM

You should also consider a major downside to digitals. Thier life-expectancy is MUCH less than that of an acoustic.
Posted by: nylawbiz

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 12:12 PM

Why do you say that? I would think an electronic piano will last indefintiely, or as long as the mechanical parts last.
Posted by: BDB

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 12:40 PM

Originally Posted By: nylawbiz
Why do you say that? I would think an electronic piano will last indefintiely, or as long as the mechanical parts last.

How long did your last computer last? Most 20 year old electronics are pretty shoddy now, and may be impossible to repair. A 20 year old acoustic piano may need some work, but can definitely be made better for far less than replacement.
Posted by: scepticalforumguy

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 12:45 PM

Originally Posted By: Steve Cohen
You should also consider a major downside to digitals. Thier life-expectancy is MUCH less than that of an acoustic.


If an acoustic is 40+ years, a digital, depending on quality may be from 2 to 10 for entry level, and perhaps far beyond that for the better quality ones. The trouble is getting any replacement parts for the action would become more difficult as years pass and models change.
Posted by: BDB

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 12:49 PM

Here is a topic on the problems with digital pianos.
Posted by: BDB

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 02:09 PM

If you tell us what city is your local craigslist, maybe we can find a decent piano for you.
Posted by: Rod Verhnjak

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 03:17 PM

Love your post title as I say all the time the only thing harder than piano shopping is shopping for a new mattress.
When we went shopping for a mattress I felt like some clients I have talked with about their experiences looking for pianos.
Posted by: Marty Flinn

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 03:51 PM

I have seen Clavinovas in an institutional setting that are 25 years old and still working.
Posted by: boxijie

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 04:11 PM

Piano shopping is much easier than mattress shopping. I've been doing both recently. With piano shopping at least you can compare different makes and models consistently. Some of the mattress models have so many different names just to confuse the shopper and ensure you cannot compare between different stores. In addition the exact same mattress sometimes can be $2000 and then $399, depending on the week. Further there is no Matress forum website (at least I have not seen one) and I am sure it is not as entertaining as this forum.

Once you read over the piano buyer website and set your budget, things are much easier. Just get the best piano you can get inside that budget.

In your budget, for new, you should consider Hailun.

For used, you can probably get a very good Yamaha or Kawai.

You should really consider the digital piano for the reasons stated above. You can get something that sounds really good, never has to be tuned, feels pretty close to a piano, can be moved easier, and can be used with headphones ( I am sure I would have practised more if my brothers did not always complain about how many times they had to listen to Fur Elise).

You might also consider renting or renting to own. If no one decides to continue, you have not wasted too much, but this would probably only take 6 months to be worthwhile savings.

Once you have a couple of options in your price range, please post them and people will be glad to comment.

Good luck and keep us posted.
Posted by: Recalcitrantron

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 06:31 PM

Thanks for all the input. We are in the Sacramento area. We decided that a digital would be the best for us right now. Unfortunately, we still have to address the cabinet issue. The Suzuki makes me very nervous. There are quite a few posts scattered over the web about flakey power supplies and other problems and, at least to me, the one year warranty, lack of any dealer support and the fact that I would have to buy it sight unseen are all significant concerns. The Yamaha and Kawai's with nicer cabinets are far too expensive. Oy!

Thanks again. It looks like I'm off to the digital forum.
Posted by: BDB

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 07:03 PM

You might consider this one or this one, either of which would be good enough to tide you over for a while until you decide on something better. You could probably get every cent you pay for one of these back when you do. That will not happen with a digital.
Posted by: StevenG

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/08/09 07:07 PM

If (and I say IF) you like anything at Costco; if their return policy is the same as Sams Club, you can return it ANYTIME for an exchange or refund if it should breakdown.

The only reason I purchase anything at Sam's anymore is for this reason, as their prices are usually the same or more than other stores.....but they do have a great lifetime return policy (except for computers and a few other items).
Posted by: Recalcitrantron

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/16/09 01:34 PM

Well we decided on on a Yamaha CLP 330. Local dealer made us a good deal with free delivery. Thank you all for the comments and assistance.
Posted by: Monica K.

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/16/09 01:37 PM

Congratulations on your new piano! Now, as for mattresses, hubby and I finally broke down last spring and got a TempurPedic set, and all I can say is that they live up to their advertising! I've never slept better. smile
Posted by: Plowboy

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/16/09 04:03 PM

Congratulations and enjoy your piano!

Originally Posted By: Marty Flinn
I have seen Clavinovas in an institutional setting that are 25 years old and still working.

The community college course I took last year had 15 year old Clavinovas that were in very good shape.
Posted by: apple*

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/17/09 09:23 AM

i like the mattress analogy.

for both purchases, one should buy the best quality product that serves their needs... hopefully the choice will be one you can sleep comfortably with.
Posted by: pno

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/17/09 09:52 AM

Ended up with an electronic mattress instead of an acoustic one.
Posted by: apple*

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/17/09 10:22 AM

hope youave a nice electric blanket to top it off.
Posted by: Bob Newbie

Re: This is worse than buying a mattress - 11/17/09 01:00 PM

Maybe they have a "sleep number" model?
or a Tempurpedic version?