Generally speaking, when looking for a new piano, buy the best piano you can afford. The first thing is to decide how much you can afford to spend on a piano without breaking your budget. Remember, a piano is an investment. A good quality new piano will cost upwards of $2,000-$3,000 (easily several thousand dollars more if you want to spend that much), but that piano will also last you a long time. If it’s well-taken care of, a good piano will last about 50 years before needing to be rebuilt.
If your budget is tight, consider purchasing a used piano. They can be a good value. The best bet when purchasing a used piano is to buy from a reputable dealer so that you don’t end up with a piano that needs a lot of work to make it play and sound good. If you’re buying from a private party consider having a piano technician check it out before you purchase it. The small investment to have it checked out can save you serious dollars down the road. Remember that a piano may look good on the outside but need a lot of work on the inside (strings may need to be replaced, pins may need to be fixed or replaced, etc.) so it’s best to have a professional look at it before you purchase.
If you’re purchasing a piano for a child who is just learning how to play and you’re not ready to invest a lot of money into a piano, an older used piano in good condition may work just fine. When I first started playing piano I played on an older piano. My parents didn’t invest in a new piano for a few years because they wanted to first be sure I was interested in learning how to play and was going to use a piano. They didn’t want a big object sitting in their living room that was only collecting dust. But they did make sure the older piano we had was in good working order and was kept in tune.
If your budget is tight, my suggestion is that you opt for sound quality over the look of the piano – especially if the piano is going to be used by someone who is learning how to play it. A beautiful piano case can add major dollars to the cost of the piano and can have the same sound quality as a lower-cost piano that doesn’t have a case made with expensive wood.
If you find you truly can’t afford a new or good used piano right away, then consider renting rather than purchasing a poor-quality piano. An option is to see if you can arrange to use a piano at a friend or relative’s house, or possibly at school or church. But, if the piano is for a child who is taking lessons, renting may be the better choice unless the piano you’re using is easily accessible nearly every day. A child may quickly lose interest in learning how to play the piano if the piano isn’t easily accessible for him or her to practice on.
When you look at pianos, keep in mind that longer strings in a piano generally produce a better sound. If you’re looking at uprights, look for a taller one. If you’re looking at a grand piano, the strings are horizontal so a longer piano will typically produce a better sound but will also take up more space.
Some of the more expensive pianos such as Steinways, Bosendorfer, Bechstein, and Mason and Hamiln will better retain their value better than a less-expensive piano although most pianos retain their value fairly well (http://www.pianoscentral.com/brands). Some pianos, such as Steinways, typically appreciate in value over time. That’s one of the reasons to consider purchasing the best piano you can afford. You’ll also typically have less repair issues on a better quality piano.
What are some of the differences between an expensive piano and a less-expensive piano? Yes, sometimes it seems like you’re paying more because of the “name” or “brand” of the piano. While that may be true in some instances, it’s not the norm. Less expensive pianos usually have manufactured wood material underneath the veneer and the veneer itself will be of a less-expensive wood. They also may have synthetic materials in the piano action, and have high tension stringing scales, to name a few particulars. Higher quality pianos will have hardwood underneath the cabinet veneer, lower tension stringing scales, wool cloth in the piano actions, and are typically tuned and regulated before leaving the factory. But, there are instances where fancy beautiful cases are holding interior parts that are of sub-standard quality. To avoid getting “taken,” do research before you shop and use a reputable dealer.
If you’re not sure how much your new piano is going to be used, you might want to consider a MIDI piano. A MIDI piano is both an acoustic piano and an electronic piano. They are today’s version of the roll player pianos. You can play these pianos if you want but can also have them play music for you whenever you want.
Space is a big consideration when purchasing a piano. Pianos are approximately five feet wide and two and one-half feet deep. You’ll also need an additional two feet of depth so the piano bench can be moved out to sit on comfortably. Grand pianos usually take up most of a room because people have a tendency to showcase them and not put them against a wall like most vertical pianos are.
Shopping for a piano can be a fun experience. Enjoy the process. Look at and try out several pianos at several dealers before making a purchase decision. Get a feel for the piano. Pay attention to the feel of the keys and the sound of each piano so you can decide which piano is best for you.