To buy a piano or not to buy a piano, that is the question. Are you thinking of making that big purchase? Perhaps you are feeling overwhelmed and wondering where to start. There is certainly a lot to consider.
The majority of people would agree that buying a piano may be one of life’s more challenging tasks. It is a daunting task for the most experienced pianist and even more so for those who do not have any experience with the piano. I am asked on a weekly basis by families who I work with at my teaching studio how to approach this important decision. If you are thinking of making that big purchase, digital or acoustic, here are some guidelines:
Budget To Spend
Determine how much or how little you can spend when you buy a piano. It is best to have a range in mind. Do not be intimidated by this process. Do some research online to get an idea of things. Knowing how much you can spend on a piano is the beginning of the process and will inform your decisions as you move forward. Imagine that you are planning to buy a car. I don’t know anyone who would just drive up to the car lot, point and say, “I’ll take that one,” without any thought of price. This knowledge will keep you from spending or financing more than you wanted to. You want to enjoy your new piano from the beginning and not be plagued by buyer’s remorse.
Digital Piano or Acoustic Piano
Digital pianos are electronic devices that use sound chips and speakers to reproduce piano sounds. You can purchase digital pianos that have 88 keys, 76 keys or 61 keys. You can purchase a digital piano that has weighted keys or not. Weighted keys simply mean that the keys have a resistance that simulates an acoustic piano when you press them. I advise the weighted keys for piano students.
However, an accomplished pianist learns to play a digital or acoustic piano with equal ease as there is not always an acoustic piano at a given location. I have played many a wedding, graduation ceremony, funeral, etc. where the only instrument was a keyboard without weighted keys. Also, I often take a portable piano to gigs. But, I do feel the beginning piano student needs to practice on a piano with weighted keys if possible. A digital piano is an electronic device that is designed to sound like an acoustic piano. A digital piano does not have hammers, strings or soundboard. Instead, they have electronic circuits and speakers. A digital piano runs on electric power and some will work with batteries which is convenient if you are performing at an outdoor event or place without an electrical source.
Most digital pianos have a MIDI output which allows you to connect them to a computer via an inexpensive interface. This allows you to record and edit your playing and add additional parts, as well as control other instruments. There is even a terrific, free software program called Audacity that is available for just this purpose. Other advantages include:Different types of piano sounds.Built-in rhythm capabilities to accompany playing.The ability to record performances.Never needs tuning. Headphones are available for private practice.
Portability And Low Weight
An acoustic piano is probably what you think of when you think of a piano. Its sound is created by an extensive internal network of hammers, strings and keys. Acoustic pianos have a number of advantages over digital pianos, but aren’t necessarily ideal in every situation.
Acoustic piano advantages include having 88 weighted keys, vibrations caused by hammers hitting strings and echoing inside, control of action and tone with every stroke, two or three pedals to sustain or dampen the tone, and quality wood with different types of finishes. Additionally, quality pianos last for decades–sometimes almost 100 years–and might even gain value over time. Digital pianos lose value as new models are introduced, according to Piano Technicians Guild.
Acoustic pianos are,however,more expensive, and in 2009 retailed at $3,500 to $10,000 for uprights and $7,500 to $85,000 for grand pianos. Of course, a thrifty shopper can always find and purchase a great quality used piano for considerably less. The key here is patience.
New or Used
If you are going purchase a new digital or acoustic piano, you will find that the majority of music stores have a financing option. However, look closely at the interest rate attached. Oftentimes, you will do much better to seek financing at your bank. If you do finance at the store, be sure to have a firm grasp of how much that instrument is actually going to cost if you follow the payment schedule and do not pay off the financed amount as quickly as possible.
Many stores also carry used pianos, both digital and acoustic. They may even have a guarantee or warranty. Also, look at your local classified, Ebay and Craig’s list. You can find terrific deals through these resources. Be sure to have a piano technician look at any used acoustic piano. You will probably pay a small fee, but it is worth it.
Do Your Homework
Do the homework yourself first. If you are viewing the piano at someone’s home and the piano has broken keys, scars and scratches in its cabinetry, etc. or has been sitting in someone’s barn for 30 years with birds roosting in it, avoid the expense of having a technician look it over. Only call someone when you are seriously considering a purchase.
For easy transportation and travel, easy recording capabilities and simple connection to a sound system, a digital piano might be your best option.
For a family that is situated with no plans to move, an acoustic piano may be the best fit. Nothing compares to the echo, sustain and reverb of an acoustic piano, especially in a concert hall. You may opt for the best of both worlds. A digital piano is not the high in price. Especially if you can find a used digital piano. Since they are so affordable, people can have both a digital and an acoustic piano and use them differently. I use both with equal pleasure and for different purposes.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
The piano is a wonderful investment but it can also be expensive so don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask about a piano’s durability, performance, sound, aesthetic and internal construction. Be familiar with the different parts and functions of a piano so you’ll get a better understanding of what type of piano you’re looking for.
Also, try to enlist the help of someone who has played the piano for years and knows something about them. Lastly, sometimes people start out with a more basic piano that they can afford and later upgrade to a more expensive piano as their interest,money and developing piano skills warrant it. I bought my first grand piano in my early twenties even though I had played the piano since childhood.
Warranties, Repairs and Miscellaneous
Ask about warranties (how long and what does it cover?). Also, ask about repairs and maintenance of any piano you are interested in. If you’ve already decided to buy a piano, ask if the purchase price includes the bench and delivery of the piano. Ask them to check the piano’s tuning and whether it’s been cleaned before they deliver it.
Happy piano hunting! I hope you find the piano of your dreams and enjoy creating music on your piano for a lifetime!
If your looking to buy piano music that’s one of a kind, consider Donna Linton’s new Album, The Driftwood Trip. It offers a peak into one of the most unique ways to experience piano music.