How to Choose the Right Acoustic Piano
Picking the perfect acoustic piano
If after going through the previous post and reading through the pros and cons of an acoustic piano, you have decided that an acoustic piano is what you need to buy, next step is to select the right model.
Take the location into account
Depending on whether you are buying an older piano or a new one, you might have to give consideration to the fact of where the piano was manufactured. The climate of a place makes a difference because the wood in the piano reacts to elements like humidity and heat.
Usually, with older pianos, the wood that was used to make the piano was weathered and condition to suit that particular place climate. Japan for example has a wetter climate than many locations in the United States. Therefore the wood in many pianos manufactured for use in Japan has been dried out more than the wood used to make pianos for use in the US. If you live in the US and buy a paino made for use in Japan, you may face some serious problems with the piano due to the fact that the wood parts of your piano dry out more than intended.
The most damage that can occur due to a different place of manufacture is to the soundboard of the piano. The soundboard is a crucial part of the sound mechanism of an acoustic piano. A piano soundboard is a very thick and a very heavy piece of wood under the strings. This soundboard is responsible for magnifying the vibration from the strings and creating the resonance that finally creates the sound that comes out of the piano. If the soundboard ever cracks or breaks, your piano becomes virtually worthless.
As already mentioned, the climate of the place of manufacture is more of an issue with older pianos. If what you’re buying is a brand new piano, the location of the manufacture might not matter so much since the newer pianos are made more with the global marketplace in mind.
However, it does not hurt to discuss this issue with your sales representative and to check the origins of manufacture anyway. Many piano manufacturer websites allow you to trace the serial number of the piano so you can check the vintage and the country of origin for the piano you are looking at.
Choosing the number of pedals on the piano
This issue can be a little confusing to some consumers in the market to buy a piano. An underhanded dealers may claim to offer you a 3rd pedal as a part of a special package that costs you more. This is usually nonsense. A piano has 3 pedals and it shouldn’t be optional. Some dealers also claim that they are able to offer you a lower price by offering you only 2 pedals on the piano. This may be true. Many manufacturers do try to cut the cost with this feature.
It should be pointed out here that many upright pianos do not have a middle pedal. So if the piano that you’re looking at is an upright and it has only 2 pedals, it is probably perfectly fine. But do inquire about the 3rd pedal to be on the safe side. If you are buying an older piano, the absence of a 3rd pedal might indicate that the piano was made outside of the US.
Finding Good Buys and avoiding scams
The cardinal rule to remember here is that if the price of a piano is too good to be true, then it probably is. If you have been shopping around and find a piano for a ridiculously low price, far lower than the price for the same model anywhere else in town, the odds are that it’s either used, broken or if you’re lucky, on a great Memorial Day sale.
Again, you need to use your common sense in such cases. It is quite possible to find a used piano in a good condition going away at a very good price. Be patient and take a closer look and research. There are many good pianos out there and people do sometimes need to sell them because they do not play them anymore, they are moving out or for any other number of reasons. If you find one such piano at a garage sale, the low price may not necessarily be an indication of anything wrong.
When visiting piano stores, be smart about any kind of deal that seems exaggerated. For example if most of the stores are offering a model for $20,000 and suddenly you are staring at the same model for $5000, something is probably wrong. The soundboard may be cracked or some keys might not be working.
What do you do in this situation? There is only one thing to do. You hire a professional to look at the piano over before you purchase it.
A good piano technician can easily spot any faults and is well worth the expense since you’re going to be spending thousands of dollars on an investment that might turn out to be worthless if you don’t take this extra measure of the caution.
Just because a piano is used, doesn’t mean there is something wrong with it. If kept in a good condition, a piano can last for generations. Hire a technician to check it out and ask them to pay special attention to check whether the soundboard is in good condition. If the tuning is a bit out, that is something that you can fix for $75 – $150.
The cosmetic dents and dings on a piano will not affect the sound quality. It can even sometimes be fixed up with a bit of polishing and maintenance work. The real beauty of the piano lies in its interior mechanism. If the strings are fine and the soundboard is fine and the sound producing mechanism is in spic and span shape, then a used piano can be a very worthwhile buy. Once again, only professional piano technician give you his opinion regarding these matters.
Sometimes it is possible to buy a demo model of a piano on a bargain price. Stores frequently lend pianos to local universities, concert halls or for use by students in competition as well as the guest artists. Even if the piano has been used only one time, it can no longer be sold as new. While you may not be able to guess by yourself as to how many times the piano has been used, most of the dealers are forthcoming about this information. Because the piano is not being sold as new anymore, you may instantly get a very good discount on it.
Testing the sound on the piano before you buy
You can decide on what kind of piano you want to purchase but another parameter that you need to test is the sound of the piano. It is a fact that different pianos from different brands sound completely different. Even the sound of 2 pianos made by the same company can sound and feel different. Some people don’t like the sound of the Steinway whereas some others don’t like the sound of a Baldwin piano.
You are entitled to your own taste as well.
If you are out in the market to purchase for the 1st time, you will not know the sound that you prefer. You need to go to the store and put your hands and try out every piano that you are considering. Play every key and play at all volumes. This is not an exaggeration because sometimes there is one or more than one key on the entire keyboard that is not quite right. You might not notice it if you don’t test the piano but you will notice it eventually after a few days of playing the piano at home.
Once again, you can take the help of a piano technician here. If you already know how to play the piano, you can choose to play a piece on the piano that allows you to cover the entire tonal range and check to see that all notes and keys are working fine. If not, this is where the piano technician will once again come very handy.