Know nothing about pianos? Good!
This article is written especially for you! At the end of this article, we want you to be equipped with enough knowledge to properly choose a used acoustic piano all by yourself! Awesome? Read on!
1. Basic Must Know Knowledge of Piano
What is a Piano?
A piano is just an instrument. It is not as scary as you think. Neither is it too complex.
Basically, a piano is a string instrument which produces sound when you press down the keys. Each key is attached to a hammer which strikes the strings and produces sound when you press down the key. A standard piano has 88 keys.
Due to the simple mechanics behind a piano, there is actually nothing much that can go very wrong. As such, pianos are generally able to last for a very long time, even longer than you and I!
What is Piano Tuning?
Over time, strings in a piano will slowly move out of place due to usage or wear and tear. This would accumulate to a point where the strings are out of tune.
Tuning a piano essentially means adjusting the tension of the strings to ensure the sound produced is accurate again.
A simple way to look at piano tuning is that it is just like your dental checkup. It is recommended periodically, yet not really necessary until something has gone wrong.
In general, piano owners either tune the piano regularly (once every 6 months) or do so only when the piano is out of tune. (Just like how we approach dental!)
What is a Piano Heater?
Apart from keeping the strings in tune, you have to keep the mold away too.
This is done with a piano heater which is placed inside a piano to speed up evaporation and drive off moisture. The piano heater is usually turned on all the time, 24hours a day.
Most acoustic pianos come with a piano heater. You don’t have to buy them separately.
Why is the Piano Height Important?
The height of an upright piano determines the size of the piano’s soundboard.
The soundboard is basically where the piano’s strings and hammers are housed within. It is basically the main body of the piano.
In general, the larger the soundboard, the better is the sound quality and projection. In Singapore, only upright pianos of at least 120cm in height are used for examinations and hence termed “Exam Models”.
That is not to say you can’t pass an exam with a piano shorter than 120cm. Many of our students are actually using 109cm or 115cm pianos at home!
What is Piano Serial Number?
Most legitimate piano brands come with a serial number for their pianos. Using the serial number, you can know the year which the piano is produced and know it’s exact age.
The serial number is usually printed on the soundboard inside the piano. Just open up the top lid to find it!
2. Choosing a Piano
Which Brand is the Best?
There is no such thing! Just like how you may like the iPhones, you can’t deny that Samsung, HTC and Microsoft produces very good phones too!
In fact, the more important factors to consider when buying a used piano are country of origin, piano tone and price. Even the condition of the piano is not as important as you think because you can simply retune or restring the instrument!
Which Countries Make the Best Pianos?
This is a very tricky question. There are always good and bad factories in a country and there will always be exceptions.
Very generally (and stereotypically) speaking, pianos made in these countries are ranked as such in terms of quality and reliability.
Top Class: Vienna/Germany/Italy
Good: Rest of Europe/Japan/USA/Korea
Naturally, the country of origin affects the price accordingly as well. The “Top Class” pianos are naturally more expensive than the “Good” which are more expensive than the “Basic”.
Why is Piano Tone Important?
Basically, piano tone is how a piano sound like. It usually spans within the spectrum of bright/chirpy to mellow/deep.
While pianos of the same brand and model has very similar tone, no two pianos in this world has the exact same tone. There will always be a very slight difference in tone due to the different material used for the strings, hammers and soundboard.
The piano tone is by far the most important factor in choosing a piano. Almost all other conditions can be rectified by tuning or repairing the piano but the piano tone can hardly be changed.
Head down, try out the piano and make sure the person playing the piano is comfortable and likes the tone of the piano.
What is a Good Price?
There are 3 main components influencing the price of a piano.
Country of origin. See above “Which countries make the best piano?”
Age. The older the piano, the less it should cost.
Brand. The more popular a brand, the easier it is to resell the piano next time. As such popular brands tend to be more expensive than the less known brands.
If you are buying a new piano, prices are fixed by the distributors and there is nothing much you can do. Here are some real life examples to give you an idea. (The names are hidden as requested by the piano dealers)
Brand X, 124cm, Made in China, $5,300
Brand Y, 121cm, Made in Japan, $10,000
Brand Z, 121cm, Made in Germany, $19,000
If you are buying a used piano, a general guide is that secondhand piano dealers usually sell them at around 40% - 70% the price of a new piano depending on the age.
If you are selling a used piano, a general guide is that secondhand piano dealers usually buys them at around 25% to 50% the price of a new piano depending on the age.
If you are trading in your used piano to buy a new one, the trade-in value offered is usually nominal.
3. Usual Concerns
How to Transport the Piano?
If you are buying a piano from the Piano Marketplace, you can engage the service of a professional piano mover to transport the piano for you.
In general, a one-way trip of transporting an acoustic upright piano costs around $130 while transporting a digital piano costs around $110.
What Should I Look Out for when Viewing the Piano?
You don’t have to be a piano technician to inspect the piano. Here are what buyers from the Piano Marketplace usually look out for:
Examine the exterior to ensure there is no visible damage on the piano.
Open up the top lid to see the serial number of the piano.
Inspect the keys to make sure they are of even height and nothing is protruding or caved in.
Play the piano and make sure the intended user likes the tone.
Ask the seller when the piano is last tuned or repaired.
To get a better understanding, you may read more at "How to inspect a used piano?".
What if I find some Flaws in the Used Piano?
That is normal! A used piano will naturally not be in sparkling brand new condition!
If the flaws are minor and insignificant, don’t let it deter you from a good deal. As long as the piano is still in working condition and can be played, it is still a magnificent instrument!
In general, most used pianos can be easily retuned back into perfect working condition!
Will the Piano Spoil Frequently?
A piano hardly spoils. It may go out of tune or a string may break and these can be easily rectified by a piano technician. There is seldom a need for any major overhaul of the piano.
If you want to be safe, go for pianos made in "Good" or "Top Class" countries as they tend to be more reliable. See above "Which countries make the best piano".
Is this Piano Good Enough for my Child to take Grade 8/Diploma?
The quality of your piano has no impact on your child's piano academic performance at all. Give a good student an average piano and he will still be able to pass with flying colours.
If you want to be safe, just make sure you get a piano which is at least 120cm in height as all piano academic exams in Singapore are done with pianos of at least 120cm tall.
Choosing a piano to buy is not as difficult as you think and you do not need to be an expert to choose the right piano.
If this article is too long and packed with too much info for you to process, here are 3 simple guidelines that you should take away!
Go for a piano that suits your requirement. If you are not a professional player, there is no need to strain your finances for such a good model. A basic piano is often good enough most of the time.
You must like the tone of the piano. Most problems can be rectified but the piano tone can hardly be changed.
You should like the piano and be excited about the purchase! It should make you happy!
Are you also looking for a piano teacher, piano tuner or piano mover? Let us know and we can help!