The modern piano market offers a vast array of beautiful acoustic pianos, functional digital pianos, and unique hybrids of both. Selecting the best piano to meet the needs of a young music student, an experienced performer, or even an adult who continues to play for enjoyment can be a daunting task. It’s essential to consider the elements of size, type, brand, and perpetual care of a potential instrument as you begin your search. The following tips will prove helpful as you begin to explore available resources, try out pianos, and evaluate your specific needs before making your purchase.
Consider these Aspects
One of the most significant considerations in choosing a piano is the purpose it will serve and who the primary user will be. A new student could ultimately be deterred from pursuing music if parents enroll them in piano lessons and select an instrument of poor quality and in need of critical repairs. Investing in the highest quality instrument you can afford, whether new or used, is always the best way to maintain student motivation while also retaining the resale value of the instrument. Other concerns that accompany the purchase of a piano include selecting the best size and style of acoustic or digital to fit the available space of your home. Options such as a new or used piano, a specific piano brand, and future maintenance must be examined before your final decision.
Determine Your Optimal Piano Size
The allotted space in your home dramatically impacts the size of the instrument you will want to consider. Acoustic pianos come in two styles, upright and grand, and within each category, there are several sizes to evaluate. The smallest upright is the spinet, which ranges from 36 to 40 inches in height. Even though it may be a suitable size for your particular space, it is not recommended because of the poor sound quality it produces.
Better vertical piano options include:
- Console pianos that range from 40-44 inches in height
- Studio upright pianos that range from 43 to 47 inches in height
- Full-size or professional upright pianos that range from 47 to 60 inches in height
The taller models of pianos offer a larger soundboard that creates greater resonance and, when purchased from a reputable brand, offers an excellent option for students and families involved in piano lessons.
Grand pianos are generally the choice of serious amateurs or professional musicians and come in several size options.
- Baby grand pianos that range from 4 ½ to 6 feet in length
- Medium grand pianos that range from 5 ½ to 7 ½ feet
- Concert grand pianos that range from 7 to 9 ½ feet.
Although a grand piano is considerably more expensive than its upright counterparts, a great option to save money and get a good instrument is to purchase a pre-owned, reputable brand piano that has been reconditioned by a knowledgeable technician.
Regardless of which style and size best suit your needs, remember to allow room for the piano bench, a small space separating the wall and the piano for improved sound, and environmental concerns like extreme temperatures, drafty windows, or too much direct sunlight. These elements can affect tuning and lead to structural damage to your instrument over the years.
Comparing Acoustic and Digital Pianos
For true piano lovers, nothing compares to the sound and feel of an acoustic instrument. The richness of a spruce soundboard and the precision of well-maintained keyboard action offer the best experience to aspiring pianists. One of the distinct advantages of playing on an acoustic piano is that it provides optimal resistance needed for students to develop finger dexterity, hand strength, nuanced listening skills, and better overall control of the sound they create. A reconditioned acoustic piano that has been serviced by a trained technician and fits your budget is a worthwhile investment that retains its resale value and will be playable for at least 50 years if properly maintained.
Since the 1980s, digital pianos have offered benefits for the needs and budgets of many students and musicians. High-quality digital pianos often use recorded sounds of well-known brands like Steinway and have unique features such as headphone jacks for privacy and the ability to interface with a computer. However, the downside to digital pianos is often a shortened lifespan and significant depreciation through the years.
Best New and Pre-owned Piano Brands for Quality, Value, and Skill Level
A new piano does not always equate to the best quality or value for the cost. Take your time to explore the many brands of pianos available in today’s market, as not all brands are equal in craftsmanship and longevity. A visit to a local piano store, such as Hulme and Sweeney Piano Services, is a great way to view pre-owned selections and talk to a professional about your top concerns. A piano is a complex, mechanical instrument that should be thoroughly examined before purchasing. One distinct advantage of a regulated, voiced, and tuned pre-owned piano is that time has allowed the strings to stretch and the felts to be compressed, making it more stable. Compared to a new piano, a good reconditioned one will require less tuning and maintenance, especially in the first few years of ownership.
At Hulme and Sweeney, many excellent pre-owned pianos come through annually and sell as a “like-new condition” instrument.
- Mason and Hamlin offer its vintage scale design and superior quality in its grand pianos and one upright model if you are in the market for an American-made piano. The limited number of skilled craftsmen who build these pianos ensures that every detail is complete.
- Steinway and Sons piano is also an excellent choice for your home. They offer a variety of grand and upright pianos with a unique sound and superior build suitable for any level of performer. This piano maker has stood the test of time for nearly 200 years, making it an investment for many generations.
- If you’re looking for a consistent and dependable instrument, consider a Yamaha piano. This builder has focused on excellent craftsmanship since the late 1800s and offers acoustic, digital, and hybrid pianos. Various styles are available including grand pianos of all sizes and upright pianos of the standard heights. Yamaha pianos are utilized in classrooms and practice rooms throughout the country.
- One last brand that makes the list of top pianos is Kawai. This Japanese piano maker has used extensive research and testing to innovate superior keyboard action and consistency and withstands humidity and temperature issues. Pre-owned Kawai piano will prove an excellent investment as a practice instrument for your student or as a centerpiece of enjoyment for the entire family.
Hulme and Sweeney carries other well-known and reliable brands such as Baldwin, Young Chang, Samik, Weber and others, providing options to suit many preferences.
Before and After Your Piano Purchase
Buying a piano should always involve playing and testing the instrument before purchasing to ensure the tone and feel is satisfactory to your preferences. If you are not a pianist yourself, bring a friend who plays and can provide feedback about the piano’s action, tone, and voicing. It is also advisable to postpone purchasing a used piano or accept a free one without the assurance of a thorough inspection by a trained, reliable technician. It is not uncommon to find bargain pianos in compromised condition and beyond repair or tuning. While trying out various pianos, keep in mind there are fluctuations within the same size and brand of pianos, each creating a slightly different tonal quality and feel.
Whether you ultimately choose a new or pre-owned piano, each option will require yearly tuning and maintenance. We recommend tuning pre-owned pianos twice a year and servicing new pianos four times yearly until the tuning becomes stable. Reconditioned pianos that have been properly maintained are considered more stable in their sound because of age and use and will usually require less servicing.
We Are Here to Help!
At Hulme and Sweeney Piano Service, we hope to assist you on your journey to purchase and maintain a piano that will bring enjoyment to your family for years to come. Our store is open for you to view a wide selection of beautiful upright and grand pianos and ask questions about available models and the services we offer. Each piano we sell is thoroughly serviced with regulation, tuning, voicing, and polishing before delivery and includes 2 free tunings plus 5 years of parts and labor.
Contact us today to help in your piano search and to serve all your piano needs!