Buying a Piano Guide – FAQ


The Big Buying a Piano FAQ

A lot of people have a lot of questions when it comes to buying a piano.

And for that, let us introduce the Piano Blog Big Buying Piano Questions page!

Have a question? Just contact us on social media and we’ll add it to the list.

What do I need to know before buying a piano?

Let’s start at the start. There are some things to consider before making your purchase. In short you want to know what the piano will be used for and how often and for how long you will use it. 

For example, if you are looking to buy a piano that is used for beginner lessons, what you purchase will be far different than if you are an accomplished musician who practices for hours a day. You’ll want to make sure your budget matches your goals here. From as low as a couple hundred dollars for a used starter piano through many thousands for an excellent long-run instrument.

One important thing to remember as you consider this is: many piano sellers offer trade in programs.

For instance, if you are just starting, a seller might be able to start you on the lower end of their brand, and then let you trade that “starter” piano in after a time. This way you get the advantage of trying something out without so much up-front cost or commitment.

There are big upsides to this, such as that you might be covered by a store’s warranties or special programs. But one thing to remember is that if you do this, you will often be locked into one store or brand, which means you can’t shop around and get the best price. In short, make sure you know what you’re signing up for and that you’re comparing prices! 

How do you buy a good piano?

Once you have a sense of what you’ll be using your piano for, it’s time to shop around based on your needs.

Certainly there are some big brands that tend to be more reliable and trusted than others, such as Steinway, Yamaha, and Kawaii. Depending on the model, a new piano can cost over a thousand dollars up through 100,000 USD. So the price varies tremendously!

If you are only beginning and on a budget, your best option is probably to treat this like buying a car! It will lose value the second you drive it off the lot. So if you’re buying new from a dealer, check out their trade-in programs and make sure it’s a commitment you’re ready to take.

Otherwise, consider buying used for a dealer (which may include a nice warranty) or used as a private transaction.

Just like with a car, if you aren’t buying from a dealer, make SURE you have a piano technician inspect the piano if you are paying any sort of considerable amount. A good technician will charge a small fee to do this and can give you a sense of the shape a piano is in and how much it ought to sell for. This is a common request so don’t be afraid to contact a good piano technician in your area. A good starting point is the technician search on this website.

What is the best piano for beginners?

As mentioned above, there is no one brand that is the “best” for a beginner. You should make a good judgement based on your budget and specific needs. Personally I would not suggest breaking the bank on a first piano, while at the same time making sure it’s good enough to practice on.

In my own teaching I have had students reach a very high level on some questionable brands. A bigger consideration will be: is the piano in tune, and does it function well. Some older pianos are simply so bruised up they can’t hold tune well and the mechanism is out of whack. You’ll want to make sure the piano is at least “driveable”.

Remember that after the first year or two, if piano becomes a more serious endeavor, there is always the option to trade up or buy something a bit more expensive and long-lasting.

How much is a real piano?

We get asked this a lot but we are not sure what a “real” piano is!

We think though that the question refers to a concert grand piano, in which case the answer is: a lot! A top of the line Steinway or comparable concert grand that you will find in a top concert hall can easily run over 100,000 USD! These are expensive instruments that are hand crafted and have been perfected over many years. Truly works of art.

Should I buy a new or used piano?

This really depends on your needs. If you are just starting, you will find a used is just fine, but as mentioned above make sure you do your due diligence. Just like with a car, you should compare prices and have a piano technician look at the piano before purchasing.

Is a free piano worth it?

This totally depends on the piano. A lot of free pianos are really beat up.

However I’ve heard amazing stories of people finding free pianos that actually have a very high value. 

Generally speaking you will get what you pay for. But the only way to know is to have a qualified technician take a look. 

Do digital pianos sound like real pianos?

The quality of digital pianos varies greatly. From the extremely low-end models to extremely expensive modern brands that can cost just as much as an acoustic piano.

As a general statements, I find most middle of the road digital pianos to come “close enough” – especially for practice. However I have yet to encounter any digital piano that could trick me into believing it is acoustic.

Besides just the sound, the touch of a digital does not feel 100% authentic to a seasoned player.

But that does not mean there is anything wrong with digital pianos. I have one myself!

What are the best used piano brands?

There is not really one specific best used piano brand. Generally a very good high-end brand such as Steinway will tend to hold more value and playability over the years.

However, this has a lot more to do with the upkeep of the piano than it does with the specific brand. Any very good piano can be neglected and unplayable after wear and tear, sadly.

As mentioned before, a knowledgable technician can help you get a good sense of how in-shape a piano is and what a fair market cost might be.

Is a piano a good investment?

We often heard it said that a piano is a good investment. This is really in the eye of the beholder.

Many sales-people will use the term “investment” a bit loosely. If you want to buy an excellent piano and keep it in the family for generations, of course that is a certain type of investment. But if you are looking for something that will appreciate in value, there are probably other places to park your funds.

Some older pianos DO cost more because of their high quality and upkeep, but this is the exception rather than the rule. So for example, there are some “vintage” Steinway pianos that I prefer in terms of touch and feel, and because they are such works of art, I find them preferable to something more recently on the market

However this is a matter of personal preference and not a general rule. 

You might also enjoy this post: How to Buy a Piano

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