Piano Lessons · Piano Teaching

A Beginner’s Guide to Buying a Piano

It’s a big decision when it comes to buying your first piano.

First off, CONGRATULATIONS! You’re about to own your very first piano. It’s very exciting.

First thing when you consider buying a piano is, do you want to buy a new piano or a used piano?

In my experience of buying pianos (yes plural especially since I ran a piano school), I always buy second hand pianos.

Now, you can definitely buy a new piano, especially if you have the means to do it. And even if you can, you want to think about what kind and brand you would like to have a piano of.

For me, I love Steinway, then it’s Bösendorfer, Yamaha and Kawai. I don’t like Baldwin, or anything made in China, Korea or Asia for that matter except Japan obviously. (and I’ve own them all except those made in China or Bösendorfer). The reason is that their craftsmanship is not that great, and if you are going to use it in the long run (and for the resale value), then definitely the European and Japanese pianos are the way to go. There are also some decent American pianos out there, but you have to try them one by one to make sure they play well.

Next thing is, do you want an upright or a grand piano? Certainly a grand piano sounds much nicer and is more powerful, and you only need an upright when you’re a beginner or even of intermediate level. (BUT if you can afford the money and space and are looking into playing for long time, then yes a grand is very nice choice!)

With upright pianos, you have options from smaller ones to the bigger ones. Again, for beginners, a smaller spinet piano would be sufficient. But for intermediate piano players, a bigger upright piano provides bigger and more varieties of sound and possibly, better touch.

When I was young, I started with an medium-size upright piano, which I shared with my two brothers. Eventually, my Father bought us a tall Baldwin upright which was named a “concert vertical”. It was very, very expensive for a piano of that quality. But my Father didn’t know better and bought it out of trust from the dealer and of course, wanting us to have a better instrument. With that price, we could have gotten a small Yamaha or Kawai grand piano. I have been very cautious about buying a piano ever since.

Now, truth be told, I myself have always bought used pianos (yes, even my current Steinway and Kawai grand pianos). You do have to know the instrument very well to know what to look for when it comes to buying second hand pianos. It would be great to consult someone professional (for example your piano teacher/professional pianist/piano technician). You want to know what you have to be paying attention when choosing a used piano. Look at how old the piano is, how many previous owners there are, how much it’s used and how well it’s maintained etc. Look at the conditions of soundboard (inside of piano and yes, the BOTTOM of it- there can be cracks!), strings, hammers, pedals. See if there’s any significant damage that’s irreparable.

You might be able to negotiate for a better price when it comes to a used piano, especially when you buy it directly from the owner. Test drive the piano and think twice before you make the decision of purchasing it. Also, if you find the piano far away from where you live, get a quote about piano moving (unless it’s included with the purchase price). It can be pricey moving a piano especially when there’re stairs and turns and it’s moved to a different level!

Buying a piano is an exciting event and I hope you find a great one to enjoy for many years to come!