Your guidebook to choosing the suitable piano?
Why play the piano?
The piano is an extremely exciting instrument to play – the piano has at least 300 years of literature for you to choose from, music from Bach to Mozart to Beethoven to Chopin to Schumann to Henry Mancini to Yiruma to…The list is endless.
Choosing the right type of piano is extremely important – a good piano will develop good sense of touch, build up finger strength & dexterity, build up the correct sense of pitch… and so on.
What types of piano do we have?
Three centuries ago, what we call a piano is something that looks like a harpsichord, but sounds differently. Nowadays, we have mainly concert grands, baby grands, uprights, and even electronic pianos. Besides, there are so many choices of brands – Steinway, Yamaha, Kawai, Young Chang, Pearl River, Bosendorfer…
Given so many choices, lets go through each of type of pianos:
Those 9 feet long grand pianos which you see at concerts. These are the best pianos one can ever afford, Steinway is famous for their concert grands – many classical pianists prefer them.
Concert grands touch are very heavy (compared to others), but this heavy touch enables very beautiful tone and color to be generated. If you are a good piano player, and if you do have lots of money and a big room to accommodate your instrument – the obvious choice is to go for a concert grand.
Baby grands are usually 5 or 6 feet grand pianos – which is about 2 feet smaller than the “normal” grands. The smaller size enables it to be fit into a smaller room, however from experience, you need quite a large room for the baby grand to sound nice.
Baby grands touch are still quite heavy but not as heavy as a concert grand. If you have lots of money and a moderately large room to place your piano, baby grands is a very good choice. Furthermore, some people see baby grands as a beautiful furniture.
Upright pianos are the most common piano. Unlike a grand piano, the uprights strings are placed vertical instead of horizontal. This makes the mechanism totally different from grand pianos, so the touch is also very different. (Dont worry though, if you have started with an upright, you will have no problems playing a grand – just that we need some time to adapt to the heavier touch)
A lot of people prefer uprights because they are more affordable, requires less space to keep, and it has a damper pedal so that the sounds are muffled. By pressing the damper pedal, the volume immediately turns down – this enables practicing even late at night without giving neighbors headaches.
I personally do not recommend buying an electronic piano, despite being the most affordable and the most compact.
Electronic pianos has the advantage of being able to produce many instruments sounds. But trust me, by giving in to these fancy sounds will really sacrifice the development of correct touch for the piano. At least, up to now, I have not come across any good electronic pianos to match with my 5 2″ Kawai BL61. They are not even as good as my 20 year old Pearl River.
Maybe one day I will recommend electronic pianos when the touch can match a concert grand.
What to consider when buying a piano?
Many things, to be honest.
1) Budget / Price: How much are you willing to spend to buy an instrument? For example, you definitely do not want spend a few hundred thousand bucks on a concert grand, if you are just starting to take lessons.
2) Space: How much room do you have for your piano? If you need a good piano, but do not have room for a grand piano – a tall upright is the solution.
3) Tone & touch: This really depends on your personal likings. You need to test playing the pianos yourselves before selecting. Even if you are just starting to take lessons, try to press the keys – do you like the sound? Do you like the touch? How loud and how soft can the piano go? Are the keys responsive enough – if you press hard, do you find the sound goes loud enough, and if you press softly, does the sound goes soft enough?
Other important tips when buying a piano
1) If you know a honest piano technician, it is always good to ask him/her to help you on piano selection. He / she will be able to look at the internals of a piano to tell whether it is in a good condition or not. Bring your technician to the piano shop and ask him to try them out.
2) If you do not know a piano technician, why not bring over your piano teacher / instructor? Teachers definitely has better piano knowledge than beginners.