Buying a piano for the first time
Has your child just started piano lessons and you are not sure about which piano to buy?
Do you need some tips on buying a piano?
Hampstead Piano Academy’s teachers have created this guide to help you buying a piano for the first time.
To begin with, ask your self:
“What do I need?
Are my children just trying out a new activity or are they serious about learning the piano?
Do they wish to reach a high standard of level in the future?
Do I consider this purchase as a lifetime investment in my children’s education?
Is there enough space for it at home?
Will the music disturb my neighbors?”
To continue, how much are you willing to pay?
As many things in life, you get what you pay for. There is a huge range of prizes and quality from the old £ 30 small keyboard in the charity shop, to the brand new $ 160,000 grand piano in the greatest concert halls.
Decide your budget.
Take your time to wisely answer these questions and consider a suitable budget that seems reasonable and appropriate not only for your pocket but also for your needs, plans and expectations for the future. Fortunately, the market is not small and it is not impossible to find the best piano for each pianist.
The best brands of pianos to buy are Steinway, Fazioli or Bosendorfer; but there are also more affordable acoustic, hybrid and digital instruments from companies such as Yamaha or Kawai.
But…what is the best piano for you?
If your budget allows, buy a new acoustic piano. You will be investing in your family’s enjoyment and your children’s intellectual stimulation. Moreover, an acoustic piano has a much more longer lifespan and holds its value better than a digital piano, the latter built to have a turnover and become obsolete after a while. Just like iphones!
Don’t buy it if you can’t try it.
When buying a piano, you should bear in mind that no two pianos will never be exactly the same. Even if they are the same model and brand, they will never be equals, so we always recommend to try it in situ instead of buying online.
There are three main characteristics that define the quality of a good piano: sound, touch and tone. The three of them should be directly related to the way the pianist plays, and provide an accurate feedback of his/her actions. Only with a good response from the instrument, the performer is able to develop his/her expressivity and creativity.
But what is the meaning of all this?
The sounds produced are directly related to the weight the student applies when playing. And the piano must be able to transform effectively those efforts into music, with certain tone and shape.
The beginning does matter
If you are deciding which piano to buy for beginners, do not forget that the weight of the keys and their touch-sensitivity will affect their learning progress. If the keys are too light, the student will struggle when playing in a better piano (either in exams, concerts or at the teacher’s studio).
On the other hand, if the keys are too heavy, he/she will have difficulties producing the sound or even damage his/her fingers’ little muscles. If a student practices in a good quality acoustic piano, there will be more chances of achieving musical success.
It is very important to compare and play many different models. Take your kids with you and let them try all, to find out the instrument that better responses to their fingers’ touch. When they hear the sound they like, they will feel which piano is the right for them.
However, if you are not sure if your little Mozart will quid next year or loose his/her interest rapidly, do not take the risk and rent a piano instead of buying it. This will allow you to see how much it is being used and enjoyed before paying a notable amount of money. It will give you more time to decide. Or you could also opt for the “home rental with purchase option” and pay monthly installments that will be reduced from the total prize if you decide to buy, or if not, the instrument can be easily returned!
Second hand pianos are also an option, but it may be more difficult to find “a healthy one”. You will need to travel around to play each of them and then pay for the delivery to your home.
In addition to all the things covered so far in this piano buying guide, there will be more checks needed: equal quality, sound and response throughout the whole keyboard, strings, hammers, dampers, pedals, buzzes, distortions…
Although they will be cheaper than new, be careful, bargains could be deceptive and you might end up paying more for restoration, extra tuning or other issues. If you would like to give this option a try, bring a professional along with you to tell you the real condition and value of the piano. If it needs any work, ask for a quote and be realistic about numbers. Would it be worth it?
If the previous options are beyond your budget, you could consider to buy a digital piano or keyboard. In this case, we would highly recommend that you give your children the chance to play in a proper piano at least once a week, either in a practice room, at school or in their piano lessons at the teacher’s studio.
Even though there will never be a perfect substitute of the acoustic sound and mechanism, it is true that digital pianos have some advantages: easy to move around, fit in a small room, could be played with headphones if needed, have a selection of different sounds to explore, can record the performances and they do not need to be tuned!
To choose a digital piano you need to think of the same qualities we have mentioned before but please, do get the one with the best touch-sensitivity otherwise, you will waste your kid’s time and therefore your money.
Last but not least, ask the piano retailer for some hybrid models. They are a combination of acoustic and digital, with some advantages of both. Some piano stores in London, not too far from Hampstead and St John’s Wood, are Hampstead Piano Services, Jaques Samuel Pianos and Markson Pianos Ltd.