How to Buy a Piano

Buying a Piano Tips

So you have been tickling the keys a while, here and there, whenever you get the chance and now you are ready to buy your own piano. It could be that your child shows a strong interest in piano and you are ready to buy for your little one. Sometimes, you just like the look of a piano and want to put one in your living room. In any case, this is a major investment and you will need to do some planning beforehand.

Piano Parts

In order to be sure you are buying a quality instrument, it is important to know the parts of the piano and be able to check they are all in good condition. The main wooden part of the piano that houses all of the parts is called the cabinet. It is often made of a core wood with a veneer overlay for appearance. Find out about the finish and the layers of lacquer used to make it shine. Check the construction of the cabinet, ensuring supports can handle the overall size of the piano.

A piano cannot be tuned properly if there are problems with the soundboard. This is a wooden board on the back of the piano that vibrates the sounds from the strings. It creates the piano’s tone. It is a common problem for a soundboard to be cracked, especially on used pianos. Other parts that contribute to tone are the treble and bass bridges. These are long sections of maple that are attached to the soundboard.

You may hear a dealer discuss the “strung back” of a piano. This just means the strings and parts that attach them to the piano. The thousands of parts that produce sound, like the keys and the hammers that strike the strings, are collectively called the “action”.

The area where the piano keys rest is called the key bed. They keys will be balanced by a center pin. They will also be bushed with a fine wool material to ensure the keys themselves make little to no noise. When you press a piano key, you may hear a slight brushing from the key but a clacking noise means something is wrong.

In general, pianos have three foot pedals. If you strike a piano key without pressing a pedal, you will notice that the tone only lasts a moment. This is different from plucking a guitar string where the vibration continues on until it fades. Pianos have dampers that rest on the strings and prevent the prolonged vibration. By using the right-most pedal, called the “una corda” pedal, you lift the dampers allowing the note to continue on as if plucked on a guitar, until the pedal is released.

The left pedal is called a damper, but rather than shortening the vibration time, it mutes the piano’s tone. This pedal will work either by shortening the distance between the hammers and strings or by shifting the action so fewer strings are hit by the hammers.

The center pedal, or sotenuto, is less commonly found on pianos. It works to sustain only selected bass tones that the pianist chooses. You will find this pedal on most grand pianos, but rarely on uprights.

Upright Pianos

For children, it is best to start out with a less-expensive upright piano. Make sure your child chooses the piano. If you pick one he or she does not like, the piano will only sit quietly in your living room taking up space. While not always the most attractive looking instruments, upright pianos are the most economical and can often be traded up for better models as your child progresses. When buying solely for decorative purposes, an upright piano makes little sense.

Upright pianos can be 36 to 51 inches tall. They are about five feet wide and two feet deep, taking up little space in your home. When the upright is between 39 and 42 inches tall, it is called a console. The spinet, a shorter, 36 to 37 inch piano, is no longer made. If you want one of these, you will have to buy it used. The sound is not great, but a spinet is perfect for a beginner.

Grand Pianos

Grand pianos are those large, flat models that rest on three feet. A baby grand piano is about five feet in size. A concert grand can be as large as nine feet. Obviously, those shopping for decorative looks need to check out the available space before buying. There are many different finishes available that can make a powerful impact on any space. Consider how the piano will look both propped open and closed flat. Will you use it as a space to display other items or make it the centerpiece of the room?

Even when you are buying only for looks, it is important to buy a quality instrument. This is because you never know if you will need to sell the piano at a later date. By investing in a quality piano, you ensure you can get your investment back if you ever decide to sell. Pianos do not depreciate much over time.

Questions to Ask

When you buy your piano, you are not done with the buying process. You must also have the piano tuned. Ask the dealer for a reputable tuner to assist you once the piano is in your home. Ask the dealer about repair and maintenance plans and find out if tuning is included or at least discounted. Be sure you ask if the piano bench is included in the purchase as well. Whichever piano you choose, these instruments are long-term investments offering great satisfaction for parents, players and decorators alike.

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