Buying a pianoChoosing the right piano can be a difficult process. There are so many types, sizes and price ranges - where does one begin? There is no one solution to everyone's specific need; I will, however, attempt to address a few common situations.
The Beginning Student
The beginning piano student generally ranges in age from five to ten. Unfortunately many parents of such students often seem to be focused more on spending as little as possible on a piano than on promoting their child's ability by providing a good instrument.
A first consideration in piano buying should be finding a piano that is tunable. Generally, if the bridges are sound, the pins and pinblock are in good working order and the piano has been regularly serviced (tuned biannually) the piano is tunable.
A second consideration should be is the piano in good mechanical order? Again, generally if all the keys are approximately level and every key plays a separate distinguishable tone, the piano is at least, today - playable. There are at least 61 working parts per note or 5,368 action and key parts per piano all responsible for transposing the depression of a key into the action of a hammer striking a string. This does not include the case or body of the piano, the bridges, soundboard, pin block, plate, trapwork, strings and tuning pins. The appraisal of a piano's actual condition and value should be left to a trained technician.
A third consideration is the tone of the piano. If the piano has not been tuned in over a year, any judgement as to the quality of the instrument's tone will be impossible for the untrained ear. The condition of the hammer felt, bridges and soundboard by-in-large determine good tone, not the frequency of tuning though there are some associations. A visual inspection for rust on the treble strings and tuning pins may help.
If the piano is tunable, in good mechanical order and has fairly good tone be prepared to spend $300 - $700 regardless of the condition of the piano's case if all the parts are in-tact. A student who is expected to train his ear to proper pitch and to develop the right touch should be afforded the opportunity of beginning his musical life on a capable instrument. Keeping in mind that a regularly serviced piano will last well over a century there should be no danger of losing one's investment should the student's interest fade.
With a wise initial purchase, as a student's ability progresses so will the need for bettering his instrument. If your initial investment was a sound one there will be plenty of room for improving its quality and appearance, thus eliminating the need for a "step-up" instrument.
Vertical pianos (i.e., spinet, console and upright) are excellent for students. They take up less room in the home and cost less than a grand piano. Any vertical piano forty years old or less that has been tuned and serviced regularly, and whose case is still attractive, is worth $1000 - $2000. The better the name (or brand), the taller the piano and more frequent the servicing the greater the value. There is a caution that should be noted. Older, Vertical Pianos may have had beautiful tone and volume when produced. However, years of neglect and abuse may have taken their toll rendering the instrument to little more than a piece of furniture.
New grand pianos range between $2000 - $5000 per foot of length. One can find in a restored or well maintained older grand piano both better quality and better tone. Often these fine instruments were hand crafted and can be purchased for $1000 - $3000 per foot.
Remember, it is best to know what you are buying. Any piano, regardless of age, size, type and condition can be repaired or restored. In most cases the restored instrument will produce better, more affordable quality than a new purchase of equal type, size and brand.