If you are taking proper piano lessons (rather than keyboard lessons), you will need a piano-like instrument, similar to the one your teacher has.
You could buy a digital piano (see Buying A Keyboard), but you might prefer to buy a real piano. That’s awesome. Roller skates and pickup trucks both have four wheels, but they are not the same. In my opinion, you will never regret owning a piano.
An upright piano is better for a normal size home, grand pianos are particularly well suited to a big venue like a church or school. An acoustic piano requires no electricity or amplification to produce a sound, and is not usually compatible with digital technology. They make only one kind of sound, a piano sound, but they usually do that very well! New they cost anything from several months’, to several years’ wages. An acoustic piano will need professional tuning at least twice a year, regardless of how often it is played.
Don’t settle for junk. If you’re going to buy a junk piano, rather get a keyboard. A junk piano will frustrate the player and teach them bad habits. You always put a new rider on the best-behaved horse. The same applies with pianos, get the best one you can afford.
An acoustic piano will need to stay undisturbed in one place within your home; moving it will mess up its tuning. The ideal spot is an inside wall, where it is out of any direct sun, or extreme fluctuations of temperature. According to piano makers Steinway & Sons, the most favourable environment for your piano is a relative humidity ranging between 45% and 70% and a constant temperature of approximately 20˚C.
How to spot a dud second hand piano:
- Is anything missing? Good pianos don’t have bits missing!
- Are the keys all level. The black keys should be taller than the white keys, but all the white keys should be level, so should all the black keys.
- Do the keys depress the same amount when you play them. Anything more than 3/8 probably means a worn mechanism.
- Does it buzz or rattle when you play? A rattle might just be a loose damper mechanism, but a buzz could be something much worse, like a cracked soundboard or lifting brace. A “zing” sound when you release the key, means the dampers are worn out.
- Has the piano had regular maintenance? One way to find out is to ask for the name of their piano tuner. If they don’t have one, the piano has probably been neglected.
- Is it in tune? (You can use a tuner app on your phone) It is normal to have a piano tuned after you buy it, so an out of tune piano isn’t a deal breaker. But, if it is very out of tune, it may have been that way for a while. If that is so, it might not be possible to get it back into tune. It might be cheap, but it’s probably not a bargain.
- Why are they getting rid of it? If they answer something like, “we just don’t use it anymore”, then they probably haven’t been looking after it for a while. You might be fortunate and it’s still in good condition. But this should sound an alarm.
- Are they buying a new piano? Then what’s wrong with this one? If they don’t want it, why would you?
- Is it ugly? Pianos are big, get one that looks nice.
A guitarist friend of mine always says that tone is in the fingers. This is true of almost any instrument. The human component is the most important. I’ve seen good musicians make cheap instruments sound fantastic, and bad musicians make expensive instruments sound cheap.
Money or gear is not a replacement for practicing hard. As my piano teacher told me, don’t practice till you get it right, practice till you can’t possibly get it wrong.
I hope this has been helpful. If you can think of anything I missed, please comment below. Otherwise, have fun, and happy shopping.
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