Key factors to consider when buying a piano

A pile of price lists, brochures, conflicting reviews and advice from someone who bought their piano 10 years ago, just doesn’t help in finding today’s best piano for you.

Some advice you may receive could be based on a one-off experience with only one piano from a manufacturer’s entire range, and it may not necessarily have been a new and current model either. Comments praising the most expensive of pianos as a ‘dream’ instrument may not be based on any experience with such a piano at all, but due to the fact that the piano is simply of such a high price. In today’s market, the highest price is no guarantee of the highest quality.

We have carefully selected what we believe, from our extensive experience and expertise, to be the best buys in the market, today.

Rest assured, we promote quality AND value. We do not promote today’s overpriced pianos thriving on yesterday’s status.

Whether you are looking to satisfy a small budget or in search for a concert instrument, the key factors in ascertaining a ‘Best Buy’ are:

Component Quality: Action, Hammers, Soundboard, Strings, Frame

These parts dictate the quality of touch and tone, and tuning stability. The mechanical longevity from a quality action and sustained tonal longevity from quality hammers, are invaluable. Quality soundboards deliver superior tonal resonance and dynamic range. Poor quality strings will restrict the pronunciation and tone, and particularly in the bass (copper wound steel) creating false beats and loss of clarity. The best frames are made in a vacuum to eliminate imperfections and weak spots from any tiny pockets of air. On older pianos, even the most prestigious, iron frames can develop hairline cracks after re-stringing. Tuning stability from a quality frame and advanced scaling, play a substantial role in the performance and life of the instrument.

Build Quality: Cabinetry, Structural Reinforcements, Assembly

Good components can be almost useless in a poorly assembled instrument. Structural reinforcements, such as backposts can improve the tuning stability and can also improve resonance. The quality of the cabinetry is very important for a number of reasons including the development of buzzes, rattles, squeaks etc. and a poor quality cabinet, close up, doesn’t look good.

Size: String Length, Soundboard Area

Subject to equivalent or superior quality in all areas, bigger pianos are better. The larger frame (iron plate) accommodates longer strings with superior and smoother scaling between registers. The frame is fitted to the front of the soundboard, which also benefits from the size. A bigger piano may produce a better tone, but be sure that the design and condition (and, if used, wear) of the mechanical components (keyboard, action, hammers) is not compromised against a smaller piano of the same price.

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency!

A piano with a delightful ‘sweet spot’ or ‘really good bass’ is not so good if the rest is quite average. The tonal pronunciation of each note must be consistent. The touch must also be consistent in repetition, response and expression. Be aware that many pianos of all prices can sound very different from an identical model. Therefore, you could be buying a ‘below average’ example. Pay a deposit, rather than in full, on a piano you order if it is not in stock in the chosen finish. Ask to see the piano to test its characteristics prior to delivery and final payment. However, some advanced manufacturers are producing pianos with excellent factory output consistency. Subject to equal preparation, two new pianos of the same model by the likes of Yamaha can sound very similar indeed.

Aesthetics: Style of Cabinet, Choice of Finishes

A very large item in your home or institution – so looks are important. This is not always the main factor in making the piano right for you, but it does matter to some more than others. Many prefer a good solid looking instrument and others prefer the small, modern style pianos for something a little more discreet. Size does matter, and smaller pianos often lack depth, bass and dynamic range.

The End Result: How the piano performs altogether

You could know everything about every piano on the market, but that won’t change the ‘end result’. The way the piano actually performs in tone, touch and the way it looks are what make the piano your choice. Just ensure that you feel entirely confident that the above factors have been satisfied and you should be with the right piano.