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Piano Buying Guide

General Information On Pianos

Whether you are considering your first piano purchase or upgrading to a better piano, some basic piano information and education might be helpful. There are many facts, opinions and myths about pianos. Pianists, piano technicians, and salesman develop their own and personal preferences about what they like in a piano. Quite often, what you hear about pianos is really just an opinion or a myth. To get facts, you should consult a competent piano technician.


Size Of Pianos

As a general rule, the larger the piano, the better sound, tone quality, and more volume it will have. The size of vertical pianos (spinets, consoles, studios, uprights) is measured in inches or centimeters from the floor to the top of the piano cabinet. Grand pianos are measured in feet and inches or centimeters at the longest cabinet measurement from front to back.

As pianos increase in size, the strings get longer and the soundboard area increases. This is important because the soundboard is the “amplifier” of the piano and longer strings gives the piano a fuller and richer sound, especially in the middle and bass area. However there is more to piano sound than strings and soundboards. Proper design and scaling, craftsmanship, hammer quality, felt, and action parts all play a role in the final product. Larger grand or upright pianos will produce a better sound than smaller pianos assuming equal quality of parts and construction craftsmanship.

Price Of the Piano

Price does not determine the quality of a piano. It is true that better pianos “usually” cost more but that does not mean they are a better value for you. You can actually spend more than $200,000 for the most expensive brands of pianos, but that is probably not what you need. I would not recommend buying a piano just because the brand is well known. A lot of money spent on a slick advertising campaign may make the piano brand more well known but it doesn’t make the piano any better. Be somewhat cautious about what salesmen tell you when they are trying to sell you a piano. In over 30 years as a piano technician, I have heard some outrageous stories and incorrect technical information salesmen have told customers. I don’t believe most salesmen intentionally give false information on pianos, but sometimes they are not correctly informed in some areas. There are excellent salesmen who have the best interest of their customers in mind however, keep in mind that all salesmen are trained to sell what they carry and many will put down or at least put doubt in your mind about any brand they don’t sell.

The Three Reasons To Buy A Piano

There is certainly nothing wrong with buying one of the higher priced pianos (and we sell them) if that is what you want and it fits the budget, but there may be a lower priced piano that gives you more value for the dollars you are spending. There are usually three reasons to buy a piano.

1. The piano sounds good.
2. The piano looks good.
3. The piano touch feels good.

These things are usually what most people are looking for when making a piano purchase. I would recommend you buy the largest piano that is priced within your budget and will fit into the area where you are going to place it.

Can you buy a piano without playing it?

YES, most people can. Even though each piano can have its' own individual characteristics to some extent, most pianos produced by reputable companies are quite consistent in their finished product. Because of this, most people can purchase a piano without actually playing that particular piano. This is especially true if they if they know what they want and have already played that brand and model.

Types of Pianos:

Vertical Pianos

Spinet – A spinet piano is the shortest piano. Most spinets are 36 to 39 inches in height from the floor to the top of the piano cabinet. The advantage of the spinet is that it takes up less wall space. However, the shorter strings and smaller soundboard affect the quality of the sound. The cost of repairs on this type of piano is sometimes higher because of the design of the action.

Console – A console piano is usually 40 to 44 inches from the floor to top of the piano cabinet. Consoles come in a variety of cabinet styles and it is the most common size found in homes today. Consoles will normally sound better than spinets because of the longer strings and larger soundboard. The action (where most of the moving parts are) is easier to get to, making repairs and adjustments less expensive.

Studio – A studio piano is usually 45 to 47 inches from the floor to the top of the piano cabinet. The strings are longer and the soundboard is larger than in a console. This size is ideal for schools and small churches when a grand piano is not required. Some studio pianos have decorator style cabinets that add to the beauty of a home while the institutional models have a simpler cabinet, locks and double wheel casters.

Upright – An upright piano is usually 48 to 52 inches from the floor to the top of the cabinet. They are shorter than the big uprights made in the early 1900s but still have very nice sound. These pianos have longer strings and a bigger soundboard than all the other vertical pianos. Pianos of this size have a richer, fuller more powerful sound than smaller pianos. Many well made upright pianos will have a better and stronger sound than some smaller grand pianos.

Information On Pianos

Grand Pianos

Grand pianos range in size from 4’ 7’’ to 10’2”. There are several terms related to the length of grand pianos. They are baby grand, parlor grand, grand, semi concert grand, and concert grand. Most of these terms don’t designate a specific size but a baby grand is considered to be about 5 feet in length and a concert grand is 9 feet. Generally the larger a grand piano is, the higher quality of sound it will have. The action in grand pianos is different than action in vertical pianos. The grand action is considered superior to the vertical action and has faster repetition.   

Baby Grand Piano Prices

Baby grand piano prices can have a large range. The price range is very much determined by the size and quality of the piano. Baby grand is not a technical term describing a specific length of a piano. Baby grand pianos are usually considered to be about 5’ to 5’4” in length. However, some Asian made pianos are as short as 4’7”. You can see that there can be as much as a 9” difference in what is considered a baby grand. Baby grand piano prices can vary from under $10,000 for a less expensive Asian made piano to close to $100,000 for a baby grand piano made in Europe. 

In the world of pianos bigger is usually considered better. The reason being that a larger piano will have a longer strings and a bigger soundboard. With craftsmanship being equal, a larger piano will sound better than a smaller one. If you want better sound you should purchase a piano larger than the baby grand. However, many times a baby grand is appropriate due to budget constraints or space limitations. It is usually best to get the largest piano that you can afford and can accommodate in the room in which it will be placed.


A word about the baby grand piano prices is appropriate here. The least expensive come from Asia and usually from China specifically. The quality usually does not compare to the best pianos made in America or Europe, but they have improved a lot in the last few years. As an example Hailun Pianos are made in Ningbo, China but are an excellent piano brand to own. On the other hand, the prices of European pianos have gone up significantly in just last few years. If you can afford a fine European or American made piano it is a great choice, and is prestigious to own, but it isn't necessary for most people to enjoy the piano. Still, the rule of thumb is to buy the best that you can afford since quite often a piano purchase is once in a lifetime purchase.

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Porterville, CA 93257

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