Choosing the Best Piano for Your Home

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.

Vertical Pianos

Better vertical piano options include:

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

Grand pianos are generally the choice of serious amateurs or professional musicians and come in several size options.

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.

Piano Brands

At Hulme and Sweeney, many excellent pre-owned pianos come through annually and sell as a “like-new condition” instrument.

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!

A Guide on the Best Piano Brands: Mason & Hamlin

With a storied history, Mason & Hamlin is one of America’s oldest piano manufacturers. It remained on top during the Golden Age of the Piano and still flourishes in today’s digital world. How does this North American company remain one of the most beloved piano manufacturers?

The Mason & Hamlin company is dedicated to superior craftsmanship, holding fast to its vintage scale designs and techniques that made its pianos so revered. Today, the company only has so many craftsmen in the factory to ensure every detail is on point. With this attention to detail, only about 300 grand pianos and 50 uprights make it to the market every year. Each piano is built to last and is versatile in performance. A Mason & Hamlin piano is truly one-of-a-kind.

Mason & Hamlin History

Mason & Hamlin started as a reed organ manufacturer in the United States in 1854 by a businessman and an inventor. Henry Mason and Edmond Hamlin quickly led their company to success and decided to expand into the piano industry in 1881. By 1910, the company became Steinway’s main competitor.

Edmond Hamlin (left) and Henry Mason (right)

Unfortunately, this American piano manufacturer struggled over the next 85 years. It experienced terrific highs and devastating lows. Then, in 1996, the Burgett brothers bought Mason & Hamlin, saving the company from bankruptcy.

The Burgett brothers reestablished manufacturing in the factory in Haverhill, MA. They took a long, hard look at the company’s past to see where things went wrong and where the manufacturer’s strengths lay. First, they brought back the original scale designs that made the company famous in the first place. From there, they standardized certain features while modernizing others, such as the jigs and fixtures. Because of this meticulous work, the brothers resurrected a piano with a clear tonal palette that is unmatched even today.

Mason & Hamlin Pianos

Mason & Hamlin has a line of grands that vary by length and one upright, but all have superior quality and sound. The tone of these pianos is distinctively American, with notes characteristic of German pianos. The heavy construction of the Mason & Hamlin grands and uprights allows these instruments to have a powerful bass and clear, bell-like treble. If you’re looking for a new piano, you cannot go wrong with a Mason & Hamlin grand, upright, or pre-owned instrument.

Grands & Uprights

Mason & Hamlin grands are known for their:

It is because of these distinct parts that Mason & Hamlin grands are able to maintain their quality of sound long after they have been purchased. The Crown Retention System and composite action are especially responsible for the long-term quality of these pianos. The system locks the rim in place so that it cannot expand with age or stress, and the composite actions do not shrink or swell according to the temperature or humidity, effectively preserving the rich tone of the grand piano.

While pianists can choose from various grands and baby grands from this American manufacturer, Mason & Hamlin only produces one upright model — Model 50. This vertical piano features the same durability, rich tone, and power characteristic of the company’s grands. It just has a much smaller build, making it ideal for spaces with very little room.

Pre-Owned Mason & Hamlin Pianos

Have you ever listened to your grandmother’s piano and felt that the instrument’s sound is unmatched? This is due to the fact that your grandma has put a lot of mileage on that instrument. It’s known that pre-owned pianos are well-regulated with a more stable action and clearer tone. So, when you buy a previously used piano, you’ll get the same quality of sound as your grandma’s — without having to put in all the work! Plus, you will not have to get the instrument serviced as often as newer models because the action is steady and the strings are stable.

If you’re interested in a pre-owned Mason & Hamlin, we recommend Model B or Model AA. The Model B is 5’4” and is considered a baby grand. Its compact size makes it ideal for any space, but just because it’s small doesn’t mean it lacks power. The Model B has rich bass notes and bright treble notes that quickly fill a space.

The Model AA is 6’2” and full of character. Its tone and projection match those of grands much larger than its size. In addition, its elegant design makes it a perfect addition to any home, studio, or institution. Both the Model AA and Model B come in ebony or mahogany finishes.

Hulme and Sweeney have Mason & Hamlin Model AA and two Model Bs ready for restoration. Please call (860) 408-4895 to inquire.

Benefits of a Mason & Hamlin Piano

Choosing a grand or upright piano is a major decision that requires careful deliberation and thorough research. A Mason & Hamlin could be the instrument you need for yourself or your young pianist. If you’re still unsure this piano is right for you, here’s more information:

Choosing a Piano

How do you decide which grand or upright is right for you? You can get recommendations from a dealer to narrow down your options, but you will not truly know which one is the perfect instrument for you until you try playing it.

When you play the piano, listen to its bass, middle, and treble tones. How do they feel hitting your ears? If they sound off, a different model may be a better option. Pay attention to how the keys feel under your fingers. Playing the piano involves multiple senses, so make sure you’re entirely comfortable with a particular model.

It’s also helpful to note that every piano will sound different based on its age, condition, and maintenance, as well as the room it is located in. Because so many factors play a role in how a piano sounds, you’ll need to play a variety of pianos (even those made by the same manufacturer) to find the one that will suit your needs and preferences.

Are you ready to test out different pianos? Get in touch with our piano technicians at Hulme & Sweeney for more information on pre-owned Mason & Hamlin grands and uprights. We’ll ensure you find your dream instrument.

A Guide on the Best Piano Brands: Kawai

Shigeru Kawai pianos have consistently made their way on an array of Top Ten lists for the finest musical instruments. It began with an ambitious goal of creating the best piano in Japan that could beat all European pianos. Now, its use of ABS Styran plastic in the action parts still amazes musical aficionados. Over a 40-year period, Kawai Corporations performed extensive research and testing to develop a piano that offers more responsive action and consistent play regardless of the humidity or temperature. As one of the largest piano manufacturers in the world, Kawai's innovation cannot be beaten, especially if you love a warm tone to your piano.

History of Kawai

Kawai Corporations' founder, Mr. Koichi Kawai, showed an aptitude for mechanical design and inventions from a young age. After apprenticing as a piano builder, he built the first complete piano action in Japan. This revolutionized the Japanese piano manufacturing industry because, prior to this, actions had to be imported to Japan.

Over the years, Kawai earned a number of patents for his designs. And in 1927, he finally decided to leave his employer and founded the Kawai Musical Instrument Research Laboratory. Just a year later, they produced the first Kawai grand piano, which became the springboard for their manufacturing success. Throughout the years, Kawai Corporation stayed true to its roots, only building acoustic and digital pianos, refusing to dabble in the production of other products like their biggest competitor, Yamaha. The company is holding firm to the belief that they can serve the musician best by doing one thing well.

Kawai craftsmen and designers introduced and optimized the use of ABS-Carbon Fiber components in modern piano actions. This design allowed for more precise action and play and is far less susceptible to shrinkage or swelling due to temperature changes.

The Japanese company’s hard work has paid off. Within the last 20 years, Kawai pianos have earned over 50 prestigious international awards, including the Music Inc. Product Excellence Award for the GX-2 Grand Piano in 2017 and the MMR Acoustic Piano of the Year for the K-3 Professional Upright Piano in 2011. Kawai pianos and their bell-like tone and warmth are truly a force to be reckoned with.

Kawai Pianos

For almost a century now, Kawai has been at the forefront of innovation in the piano industry, introducing new designs and concepts that have set the standard for other manufacturers. Blending artistry and engineering, this manufacturer has produced a high-performing piece of Japanese craftsmanship. You can enjoy the elegant design and tonal clarity of a Kawai piano with one of these fine instruments:


Kawai grand pianos are world-renowned for cutting-edge technology, rich tonal experience, and long-lasting performance. Time-tested methods have been combined with innovative components (such as parts made of carbon fiber) to produce a beautiful musical instrument that stands the test of time. Whether you need a concert grand to grace your stage or a baby grand to take up residence in your home, Kawai has the right instrument that will match your level of ability. Every time you sit down on the bench, you'll be transported to a musical world unlike any other.

New Kawai models currently available include the GX Blak, GL, EX Concert Grand, and CR40 series. However, you can still purchase previously-owned models at a much lower cost and get the same quality of sound (we would even argue to say you can get a much better tonal experience with aged pianos). Popular used Kawai grand pianos include the RX, GM, GL, and KG series.

The RX series is now the GX series. And like the newer version, the RX line of pianos is Kawai's most expensive because they have the best features, such as a tapered soundboard and thicker rim. The GL and GM series have fewer complex features so that they could be manufactured more efficiently. What this means for you is that you can get the sound of a Kawai at a more affordable price.


Experienced teachers and serious musicians will often list a Kawai upright as one of their favorite pianos because they have exceptional tone and touch. In fact, several of the major international awards Kawai received were dedicated to their famed upright pianos. These musical instruments are not just for established pianists either. They are excellent companions for students young and old.

One of Kawai's most popular line of upright pianos is the K series, which has stellar stability – the ability to maintain an outstanding tone and touch over time. For a piano that will last for generations, consider the K series, which can be purchased both new and pre-owned.

A few years ago, Kawai produced pianos under the UST series. Models under this series are still available in the second-hand market and are great options for beginners and casual users. They are designed to hold their tune well even when moved. The UST-7 is more stable than the UST-8, and the UST-9 combines the best features of the two previous models for an instrument that produces Kawai’s signature responsive and warm tone.

Hybrids & Digitals  

Never one to be left behind, Kawai now makes both digital and hybrid pianos. After years of testing, they have perfected the acoustic-like qualities of a grand in digital form. As they play, pianists will notice that the tactile feel of the keys is similar to that of a grand, baby grand, or upright.

Pre-Owned Kawai Pianos

While it often makes more sense to buy new than used, this is simply not the case with pianos. Pre-owned pianos have fantastic quality for the simple fact that they are previously used. Older instruments have a more stable action and a better tone. New pianos require frequent service appointments because the action isn’t steady, and the strings are stretching. By buying used, you can get right down to business: creating music that is out of this world.

Benefits of a Kawai Piano

Are you debating whether a Kawai piano is right for you or your child? We believe a Kawai could serve your needs well, whether you choose a grand or upright, but if you’re unsure, consider the benefits a Kawai offers:

Choosing a Piano

While a dealer can suggest which pianos you should try, figuring out which one is best for you depends on your own preferences. The best way to choose a piano is to play different models, paying attention to how the sound hits your ears and how the keys feel under your fingers. If everything feels right, you’ve likely found the piano for you, but if even the smallest thing feels off, another model may be better.

Why do pianos vary so much, even those made by the same manufacturer? A piano's sound and tone greatly depend on the instrument's age, condition, and maintenance. The sound can also differ based on the room's size and flooring. Since so many factors play a role in how a piano sounds, it’s important to play different models to understand which one will be best for you.

If you’re interested in testing out different pianos, our technicians can help you know where to start. For more information about Kawai pianos and the process of buying a previously owned model, contact Hulme & Sweeney.

A Guide on the Best Piano Brands: Yamaha

Though the Yamaha brand now makes an array of electronic devices, audio equipment, and even motorcycles, it will always be most famous for its pianos. It has been in the business of making pianos since 1887, and since then, they have fine-tuned their instrument, creating the piano with the bright and rich sound we know and love today.

The brand has a long-standing reputation for excellence and performance. A Yamaha piano will add stately beauty to any home with its fine craftsmanship and will last from generation to generation with proper care. Whether you are a beginner or professional, into jazz or rock, Yamaha's dynamic and clear tones will be everything you need in a piano.

History of Yamaha

The Yamaha Corporation began in 1887 when a watchmaker, Torakusu Yamaha, made the first Japanese reed organ. In 1899, Yamaha traveled to the United States to learn how to build pianos to grow his business.

After increasing his knowledge of pianos, Yamaha began making and selling grands and verticals under the brand name Nippon Gakki, Ltd. However, it wasn't until 1960 that the company started exporting instruments to the United States.

Now, Yamaha is one of the most internationally known piano manufacturers, and they continue to sell pianos made in Japan, China, Taiwan, and Indonesia in the U.S.

Yamaha Pianos

For more than a century now, Yamaha has been expertly blending Japanese craftsmanship with high-quality materials to make the perfect piano for aspiring and concert pianists alike. Here are some of the models you should consider for yourself or your child:


Yamaha grands have over 12,000 parts, but each part is made with the finest materials and extreme care to craft the rich, silky tones a Yamaha is known for. Historically, Yamaha pianos were known to have a bright tone well suited for jazz but not preferred for classical pieces. Yamaha decided to move away from this percussiveness. They started by reinventing their bridge construction and hammer density and then providing custom voicing in the factory to create a wider spectrum of tonal color in their grands.

Today, Yamaha’s lineup of grand pianos includes the CX series, SX series, and CF series, as well as baby grands. However, their older models are still available in the pre-owned market and are just as beautiful in tone and appearance as the newer models.

Older Yamaha grand series you can buy include the G, C, and GC. The C models have a slightly richer ton, while the G models have a purer, less complex sound. GC is an excellent option when you want a mix of quality and affordability. In terms of size, you can expect to get a model that is between 5 feet, 8 inches and 6 feet, 1 inch. Overall, the G, C, and GC are the perfect grand pianos to grace any home.


Since 1900, Yamaha has been influencing how pianists view uprights. They continue to reinvent these vertical pianos, making them better every year. As a result, the popular uprights can be found in classrooms, practice rooms, and stages across the country. Today, serious students and musicians alike prefer the rich tone and reliable action of the U series.

The U1 model is especially popular among pianists of all ages and experiences for several reasons. Firstly, this piano stands at 48 inches tall and 60” wide, making it ideal for any sized practice space. Secondly, the soundboards and ribs are made with hand-selected solid spruce to give the piano its familiar rich voice. Finally, the upright features the patented aluminum action rail to protect the piano keyboard from changes in humidity and temperature, ensuring the beautiful sound can be preserved from generation to generation.


Yamaha is continually reimagining their instruments, and one of their inventions blends the nuances of an acoustic piano with digital technology. Because these hybrid pianos are not as susceptible to changes in tune when humidity sets in, they are an excellent option for older homes, university practice rooms, and church sanctuaries with frequent HVAC issues. They're also ideal for connecting to a smart device to learn, write, or record music. The options for Yamaha hybrids are truly endless.

Pre-Owned Yamahas

If you get a previously owned Yamaha from a good dealer, you’ll be adding a well-regulated instrument to your home. Older instruments naturally have more stable action. If you purchased a new piano, you would need to have it serviced more frequently within the first three years of its life because the action is not as stable (meaning the felt is compressing) and the strings are stretching (allowing the piano to be out of tune). In this case, you could get a better tonal experience from a used piano than a new one at a much better rate.

While you may purchase a pre-owned Yamaha in good condition, they will not remain this way for long if you do not keep them properly maintained. If you’re buying a used Yamaha, make sure you consult a knowledgeable technician so they can advise you on the best way to care for the instrument.

Benefits of a Yamaha Piano

You can never go wrong with a Yamaha – whether you choose a grand, upright, or hybrid. However, if you're not sure a Yamaha is right for you, consider these benefits:

Choosing a Piano

No one can tell you which piano is best for you. You have to determine this on your own by playing different models, considering how it makes you feel when you play it. Pay attention to how the bass, middle, and treble tones hit your ears. If they’re pleasant, you may have found the piano for you. However, if something seems off, another model may be better suited for your needs.

Every piano has a different sound and tone based on how old it is, what condition it is in, and how it was maintained over the years. It may also produce different sounds based on the room size, the height of the ceilings, and the type of flooring of the room. For this reason, you must play different pianos to get a feel for what works best for you.

If you’re not sure where to start, our experienced technicians can guide you through the process of choosing a piano. For more information on Yamaha pianos, contact Hulme & Sweeny. Our experts will be happy to talk to you about the process of buying a Yamaha.