When you’re thinking about buying a piano, there are so many options to choose from! Should you go for an inexpensive keyboard or a huge grand? Should you buy a brand new instrument or a beautiful used piano?
There is so much information on this subject that it’s almost overwhelming. Let’s assume that you’re looking for an instrument that will work for piano lessons. You want an instrument that will last for at least 3 years and will be able to handle beginning and intermediate repertoire.
There are 4 main categories of pianos. Acoustic pianos fall into uprights and grands. Generally the bigger the instrument, the better the sound, however brand and age are also major players. Electric pianos and keyboards are the other two categories.
If you’re thinking that you like the portability and price point of a keyboard, here are some pointers to help you make a good decision.
- Generally keyboards life span is about 10 years. After that, plastic becomes brittle and technology begins to break down.
- A beginning student can start with a 64 key, but I highly recommend going with an 88 key. This will allow you to play anything.
- Touch sensitive or weighted keys. This is one of the most important things when using a keyboard to study piano. This feature will allow you to play some notes louder than others by how hard you press the keys. Piano music uses these skills from the very beginning of lessons.
- Sound quality and speakers vary drastically between brands. Try several brands before you settle on the one that you want.
- When buying used, make sure everything works! It’s hard to repair a keyboard.
- Make sure that you have a stand and lever style pedal. These items can be purchased separately, but are worth their weight in gold.
Benefits of keyboards include portability, they never need tuned, and changing the sounds makes practice more fun.
Drawbacks are that a keyboard has a relatively short life span and the sound is electronic rather than coming from real hammers and strings.
An electric piano usually comes with a stand. They are a little sturdier than a keyboard, but still don’t need tuning. They are light and easy to move. You can expect an electric piano to last 15-20 years. Most electric pianos will have 88 keys, and pedals. If it doesn’t have pedals check to make sure it has a sustain pedal jack so that you can purchase one separately. Weighted keys are usual, but double check to make sure. When buying an electric piano the tips in the keyboard section will help you a whole lot.
Electric pianos are one of the most popular choices for young families because of the lower price point and the portability.
If you’re looking at purchasing an acoustic piano, I highly recommend reading Larry Fine’s book Buying and Owning a New or Used Piano. It is an incredible resource and teaches you everything from what to look for to make sure you buy a good quality piano, to a brief history of almost every piano brand. Amazing work! Everyone who owns or wants to buy a piano should read this book.
An acoustic piano has a life span of about 90 years. After that point, it can be rebuilt and last longer, however the rebuilding process can be quite expensive and is usually only done on grand pianos.
Acoustic pianos are heavy, and should be moved professionally. They also need tuning every 1-2 years. This should be done by a professional. Your piano technician will let you know if any repairs need to be done on your instrument when he tunes, especially if you ask him about things you’ve noticed while playing.
When you own a grand or upright piano, you’ll notice its sound changes with the season. Pianos are made from wood, and wood expands and contracts with the humidity. You’ll want to make sure that your instrument doesn’t have to deal with extreme temperature or humidity fluctuations. This change with the seasons and the days gives an acoustic piano a sound and personality like no other. You’ll become friends with your piano.
An Acoustic piano has the sound right there. There are no speakers or electronic element. Sound is produced by hammers tapping strings and that sound amplified by a wood soundboard, carrying the sound into the air and the walls and the floor. This makes the sound far superior to any electronic instrument.
When purchasing an acoustic piano, go for the largest instrument and the best brand you can afford. Here are some tips that will help you.
- Make sure all keys work. Listen for “clacking” sounds and keys that stick down or don’t sound. Each of these are fixable, but are signs that your piano hasn’t been well cared for.
- Look inside the instrument. See if there is rust on the strings. Also check to see what the felts on the hammers look like. They shouldn’t have deep grooves from hitting the strings. This tells you that the piano needs work and the hammers are showing wear.
- Look at the soundboard if you can. If you live in a dry climate look for cracks. If you see cracks check to see if you can see light through them. Cracks will lesson the value of the instrument, so keep that in mind with the purchase price. If there is any buzzing in playing the strings close to the crack, look for a different piano. That problem isn’t really fixable.
- See if you can find out how old it is. Remember that a piano has a 90 year life span. If you’re looking at a 1920s piano, it is at the end of its life.
- You should love the sound that your piano makes from the first time you play it! If you don’t feel this connection, move on. This is especially important if you’re an intermediate or more advanced pianist.
I hope these tips give you confidence in choosing a piano or keyboard.
Do you have a specific question about buying a piano or keyboard? Ask me. I’d love to hear from you and I’ll answer to the best of my ability.