Some helpful tips on buying a piano. The article is written by teacher Yiyi Ku:
Buying a piano is like buying a car; they can all take you from point A to B, but some cost a lot more than others. As to brands, there are many to suit every budget. Personally, I do not recommand anything that needs to be plugged into the wall in order to produce sound, so we are talking only about acoustic pianos here. Here are some tips:
Piano Buying Tip #1: Don't buy for looks! Don't buy a piano because 'it looks good'. Baby grands may be more pleasing to the eye, but a good upright can cost more, sound better, and play better than a cheap baby grand. If you are buying a piano for musical reasons, because your child is taking piano lessons, than looks is not the most important criteria.
Piano Buying Tip #2: Do your own research. Don't trust everything you hear or read in the shops. Some shops only carry certain brands. Some brands are heavily promoted because they provide the biggest profit margins.
Piano Buying Tip #3: Play before you buy! This sounds logical enough, but it is amazing how many people don't do this. Never buy from a catalogue! A student once told me she just bought a new piano, I was so happy for her, then she told me she was getting her living room renovated first, so I asked her where the piano was in the mean time, she said still in the shop, so I said I hope the shop put it away so people would not play on it and mess with it, she said she was not getting the one on the floor, but a brand new one still 'in its box'. In other words, she bought a piano she had not actually played on! Every piano is different and unique; unless it is physically impossible, always play the actual piano you are buying before you pay for it!
Piano Buying Tip #4: New is not always better. It is possible to find well maintained, used pianos that are of reputable brands. Personally I believe buying a used piano of a good brand is a better investment than buying a new piano of a cheap brand.
Piano Buying Tip #5: Choose a reputable brand. How do you know if a brand is reputable? Read Tip #2 above! Do your own research. Just because the salesperson says it is, does not mean every piano is worth the price tag. I do not trust companies that repackage themselves every so many years and sell under a different name. There are exceptions, but I would be careful about companies that rebrand and sell only in certain countries.
Piano Buying Tip #6: Seek advice. If you know nothing about pianos or music in general, seek advice from your child's piano teacher, ask a friend who is a musician, or invest in a piano technician to check out the piano. This is especially important if you are spending a significant amount, or buying a used piano.
Piano Buying Tip #7: Budget for tuning and accessories. Remember to factor in regular tuning costs, moving costs, and other items you may need - bench (preferably adjustable), reading light, cleaning accessories, lesson costs, sheet music etc. Some shops throw in freebies, if not, negotiate!
Piano Buying Tip #8: After service. If you are buying from a shop, ask about warranty, trade up options, and any other benefits that may be available, including referral fees should you happen to have many friends who are also looking to buy.
Piano Buying Tip #9: Buy the best piano you can afford! Do not buy a piano more than you can afford, as you will end up losing it. Do not buy a cheap piano if you can afford better, as you will end up loosing money trading in the cheap piano later.
Piano Buying Tip #10: Enjoy your purchase. Make music! Don't let your piano collect dust!
Here is a great reference book for when you are doing research about buying a piano, brands to choose from, and things to look for:
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