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zckls04
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How Do I Choose A Nice Piano?

Sun Sep 08, 2013 4:04 am

OK, so I've decided I'd like a piano rather than the electric one I have right now. I should point out up front that I am no concert pianist; I can play a few nice tunes but I'm not that great. However I do want something that my son can learn on as well, when the time comes (probably in about 8 or 9 years time).

With that in mind, I simply can't justify spending more than about $5k, which means a fully reconditioned piano is out of range for me. This piano has to be a grand. I know I'll get a way better piano at the low end if I opt for an upright, but it just isn't the same playing an upright. There's no sense of occasion about it. Plus my wife wants a nice piece of furniture which fits with the other antiques in the house.

So, I have a neighbor who has a Knabe piano (which I think is kind of mid-range-ish) which needs some work. She wants $3k for it, but it seems like that is too much, given that it will probably need restringing within the next 10 years or so. At the very least it needs a clean, and the pinblock is in unknown condition.

Alternatively, I found a Bechstein in a piano store for $4,800 (and I may be able to beat them down a bit more) which has a rather distressed looking case (the veneer is a little cracked and warped in places), but the actual piano seems to play well. The salesman (and note this piano company has a very good reputation) said it had great potential and that it needed no immediate work if I was OK with the condition of the case.

I don't know a whole lot about pianos, but 4.8k for a Bechstein seems awfully cheap. Even my dad has heard of Bechstein. It makes the Knabe seem like a terrible deal, but I'm not sure if I'm missing something obvious. The action on both seems great, but the case of the Knabe is in better nick and the Bechstein's strings are much cleaner and nicer sounding.

Any tips?
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TSS
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RE: How Do I Choose A Nice Piano?

Sun Sep 08, 2013 5:01 am

Maybe check with local piano tuners to see if they know of anyone looking to sell a decent grand piano in your area because they're moving, don't play any more, or just need the space currently being taken up by a grand piano?

Only barely related: I still wish I had snagged the massive Steinway upright (Seriously, this was the biggest upright piano I've ever seen and until I saw it I had no idea that Steinway even made upright pianos) with a chestnut case that I saw at an antique store once. The case needed refinishing and it was badly out of tune, but it appeared to be in good working order otherwise (no broken strings, hammers and felt in good shape, no "dead" or sunken keys, etc). Of course I didn't have the money for it nor was I living in a house with floors that would support a gargantuan piano like that, but still it wanted to go home with me in the worst way.
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Boeing717200
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RE: How Do I Choose A Nice Piano?

Sun Sep 08, 2013 1:44 pm

If you want a new one, you can get a Yamaha b series for about what you're looking at spending. It's an upright, but at 5k you'll have a tough time finding a baby grand that won't need some work.

[Edited 2013-09-08 06:45:05]
 
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RE: How Do I Choose A Nice Piano?

Sun Sep 08, 2013 2:11 pm

Quoting TSS (Reply 1):
Maybe check with local piano tuners to see if they know of anyone looking to sell a decent grand piano in your area because they're moving, don't play any more, or just need the space currently being taken up by a grand piano?

Or movers:

For More Pianos, Last Note Is Thud in the Dump :

Quote:

Yet economic and cultural forces have made many used pianos, with the exception of Steinways and a few other high-end brands, prone to being jettisoned.

With thousands of moving parts, pianos are expensive to repair, requiring long hours of labor by skilled technicians whose numbers are diminishing. Excellent digital pianos and portable keyboards can cost as little as several hundred dollars. Low-end imported pianos have improved remarkably in quality and can be had for under $3,000.

...

Used pianos abound on Web sites like eBay, driving prices down and making it difficult to sell Grandma’s old upright. With moving costs of several hundred dollars, even giving a piano away can be expensive. Abandonment often becomes the only option, especially for heirs dealing with a relative’s property.

See also: http://www.pianoadoption.com/

Lots of good info there...
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zckls04
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RE: How Do I Choose A Nice Piano?

Sun Sep 08, 2013 4:33 pm

Quoting Boeing717200 (Reply 2):
If you want a new one, you can get a Yamaha b series for about what you're looking at spending. It's an upright, but at 5k you'll have a tough time finding a baby grand that won't need some work.

I'm fine with it needing a bit of work, as long as it isn't a black hole of endless repair. If I could spend 5k on buying and maybe another 5k on fixing it up, spread over 5 years or so, I am hoping I'd get something which would last at least another ten years or so before needing any major work.

But it does have to be a grand. That is the one thing which is non-negotiable.

Quoting Revelation (Reply 3):
See also: http://www.pianoadoption.com/Lots of good info there...

Interesting- not seen that site before. Thanks!
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RussianJet
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RE: How Do I Choose A Nice Piano?

Sun Sep 08, 2013 4:43 pm

It's a shame that you are insistent on limiting yourself to a grand. You could get so much more for your money if you were open to an upright, and you could be very surprised by the quality. However - if that's your wish, so be it.

Used pianos can be a bit of a minefield. There are many about, as they're often things that people for practical reasons can't keep or don't want to move. Pay very close attention to the instrument's provenance. You must ensure that it has been well-maintained, and that all the essential parts are in fine working order. This may sound obvious, but often appearance can be deceptive. You absolutely must get under the bonnet, have a good play on it (no inappropriate jokes please!), and look into its upkeep.

It's particularly important that, in addition to sounding good, the piano will maintain its tuning for decent, long intervals. Poorly-maintained pianos will start sounding bad very quickly if the pegs are prone to loosening. Do go for a well-known producer as already mentioned; Yamaha is a very sound suggestion. They can be prone to lack of tone complexity, but are very well made, solid instruments.

I guess in addition to doing your research into the piano's history, the only advice I can really give you is this - play, play and play some more before buying.
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zckls04
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RE: How Do I Choose A Nice Piano?

Sun Sep 08, 2013 5:47 pm

Quoting RussianJet (Reply 5):
It's a shame that you are insistent on limiting yourself to a grand. You could get so much more for your money if you were open to an upright, and you could be very surprised by the quality

This has to be a beautiful piece of furniture as well as a player unfortunately, which rules out an upright, all Yamahas and all new pianos. Yamahas are already ruled out due to their horribly tinny sound, IMO at least.

If I were buying an upright my budget would be $1k at maximum. It's because I want a grand that I'm prepared to put in an extra 4k at purchase plus 5k of work, in the hope that I can get a grand that is comparable to an upright at one tenth the price. That's how critical it is that it's a grand!

I'm going to have somebody check the pinblock for me in the hope it will hang on for a while longer. Not sure about the soundboard though- do you know how to evaluate such a thing visually?
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RussianJet
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RE: How Do I Choose A Nice Piano?

Sun Sep 08, 2013 6:25 pm

Quoting zckls04 (Reply 6):
Yamahas are already ruled out due to their horribly tinny sound, IMO at least.

That can be an issue, but often mellows out over time, and with different Yamaha models offering different tone characteristics. They are comfortable to play on as well, which is an important point. Take each one on its merits, with full road testing.
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zckls04
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RE: How Do I Choose A Nice Piano?

Sun Sep 08, 2013 7:09 pm

Quoting RussianJet (Reply 7):
That can be an issue, but often mellows out over time,

Interesting- I wasn't aware of that. I'll see if I can find a used one to play.
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RE: How Do I Choose A Nice Piano?

Mon Sep 09, 2013 4:43 am

I once had a Walter piano. Handbuilt in Indiana and been around for at least 40 years. The president of the company signs each and every soundboard when they leave the factory. I had a Walter studio piano back in the late 70's/early 80's. Walter's sound is similar to Steinway studio piano's. The touch is silky smooth. Sometimes you can find them used for around $4K.

The only reason I sold mine was that I was moving a lot and a electronic piano was a much better choice for me.

I also like Kawai studio pianos as well.

When looking at a piano, look at the thickness of the sounding board. How many ribs are in there on the top edge usually gives a hint at what quality level of piano you have.
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seb146
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RE: How Do I Choose A Nice Piano?

Mon Sep 09, 2013 6:33 am

How do you choose a nice piano? Go to a nice piano store!
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RussianJet
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RE: How Do I Choose A Nice Piano?

Mon Sep 09, 2013 3:29 pm

Quoting zckls04 (Reply 8):
Interesting- I wasn't aware of that. I'll see if I can find a used one to play.

Do that - and also try a range of models. Not all Yamahas are the same, despite the engineering pedigree behind them!

Anyway, forgot to say - good luck in your quest! I'm very jealous, having lived without a piano for many years now.
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daviation
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RE: How Do I Choose A Nice Piano?

Mon Sep 09, 2013 8:06 pm

I have two pianos in my home; I play both of them.

A Sohmer parlour grand from 1928, and a Knabe studio upright from 1982. I bought the Knabe new. I wasn't even a blip on the radar in 1928!

This is a wonderful web site for all questions about pianos: www.pianoworld.com They can answer absolutely any question you have.

I had always wanted a grand, but a Steinway was out of my budget. I tried Craigslist and other web sites. Almost all examples were junk.

I finally found a wholesaler who was moving his studio to another location, all sales 70% off. I told him what I wanted in an instrument, he found five pianos for me to audition. Since I already had a Knabe, I thought the Knabe would be best. But it wasn't; it was terrible. Eventually, I played the Sohmer which had been restringed, rehammered, re-everything except the original ivories. The furniture was a little beat, but some tender loving care fixed that. A beautiful instrument, I play it every day.
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daviation
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RE: How Do I Choose A Nice Piano?

Mon Sep 09, 2013 8:14 pm

By the way, the piano I described above cost $4,000. It did need a regulation and voicing which cost about $500. But it stays in tune throughout the seasons, the action is grand (sorry! grand action is inherently better than upright action because grand uses gravity), and the richness of tone is fantastic.
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RE: How Do I Choose A Nice Piano?

Thu Sep 12, 2013 8:49 am

There currently is an auction for a Walter piano on Ebay. It describes the features found in Walter pianos. Who knows it may be near you.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Charles-R-Wa...efaultDomain_0&hash=item1e7f9598da

And here's one on the east coast for an exceptional price.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Charles-R-Wa...efaultDomain_0&hash=item1e7f9598da
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RE: How Do I Choose A Nice Piano?

Fri Sep 13, 2013 6:41 pm

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