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Renting/Buying/Selling a Piano or Keyboard
Please Note! BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and has moved to a new website: BerkeleyParentsNetwork.org
I would love to purchase a grand piano. It has been a long dream since I was a child. Back in the day, I dreamed about a Baldwin or Steinway. Steinway pianos I think are too expensive for our family. I can't seem to find any Baldwins anywhere. I know the company has changed a lot, but I wanted to make sure I am looking at the right places. Do you have any recommendations for where to go to buy a grand piano? I tried out Yamaha, but I really did not like the touch or sound, after testing several. If you are a piano player, I think you know what kind of sound I am looking for, when I say the classic Baldwin touch and sound. At this point, I am open to other 'brands,' just am looking for a piano that doesn't have a heavy touch or a flat sound. If you have any suggestions on where to purchase a grand piano, that would be great. Also, do you have a favorite piano technician? Thanks for any feedback!
-Test a lot of pianos in showrooms to familiarize yourself with other brands, but...
-Don't limit yourself to buying from a showroom. You already have an idea of what you want, so it's usually worth it to check into used piano sales. It's very much a buyer's market. Craigslist of course has a lot of garbage, but it also has a lot of great pianos. Random situations like a piano that was on the premises of a start-up now going defunct, being sold by someone clueless about pianos. This can be great for the buyer!
-If buying from an individual, ask a few basic questions that are similar to asking about a used car: maintenance over the years, was it tuned regularly, moved a lot, etc. Then...
-If you are really interested in a piano, have someone professionally appraise it, for around $120-150. They will check over every inch of the soundboard and action and give you a long, detailed report, including the worth and any work you might expect to have done over the next 10 years or so.
I bought a used baby grand Yamaha off craigslist 4 months ago, after having a thorough appraisal, and got it for a steal compared to it's retail value. It took some driving and a little more follow-through in terms of setting up appointments, but I was happy I did it, as I could not have afforded a baby grand otherwise.
Two piano technicians I recommend highly: Larry Newhouse - SF or Marin 415-383-7690 and David Abdalian - East Bay 925-460-3211
Hope you enjoy your new piano! Kate
We would like to buy a nice sounding, 88 key, weighted or semi weighted keyboard for my daughter to start taking piano lessons but hope not to pay over $600. We would like something that she can grow in to and for me to play as well. I like to play and grew up playing a traditional stand up baby grand but would not call myself a 'musician' by any means so some of the super fancy keyboards for professional musicians is not necessary. Getting a keyboard was our compromise to getting a traditional piano since you can use headphones, turn down the volume, takes less space, etc. but we would like the sound and feel of a traditional piano as much as possible. There are so many makes/models, does anyone have any recommendations or have one that they are happy with?
We are trying to buy a piano for our 6 and 8 year olds who just started taking music lessons. Their teacher recommends buying a Yamaha, possibly an used one. The one used at her friend's store was a little more than $3000. I remember seeing a piano roadshow at Costco a few months ago. A small? new Yamaha was $3999. I can't really compare because I don't know the model. Any idea on where to start? Used vs New? Thank you in advance! Lisa
It was great fun to go and look at their pianos and to learn about them. The guy who was helping us just kept popping around and plays bit of songs for us on the various pianos. I had lots of dumb questions as I have never played myself and have no clue about an upright vs. anything else.
I am happy we decided to rent; and we still may buy if after a year my son is still interested...and, if not, they will come take it away and we will have saved a ton of money and space in the house that the piano would take up for the next several decades. Thrilled you can rent pianos...I had no idea you could do that
While he has very good prices on new Yamahas and other brands, he also has a large stock of used pianos. If you have children who are just starting out on piano and you need to pay less for their first piano, there are some very good used pianos which will do the job very well. His excellent trained staff can help you choose from the variety of used pianos, or work out financing for a new Yamaha if that's what you decide on. anon
Pianos generally hold their value very well because they are very durable. Most quality acoustic instruments will last 40+ years in good playing condition. In other words, you could pay $2500 for a piano now, have your kids play it for 10 years, and then sell it for about the same amount when you don't want it any more.
New vs. used: If you buy new, you will pay a markup for dealer overhead and manufacturer profit, just like with a new car. But if you feel timid about entering the used market, the extra money might be worth it to you.
Evaluating instruments: Two key weapons for your arsenal
1. Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer: Supplement to The Piano Book (Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer: The Definitive Guide to Buying New, Used & Restored Pianos). Totally revised in Sept. 2010 according to Amazon.com. The author, Larry Fine, is a piano technician. This is basically a 'Consumer Reports' type book on buying used or new pianos.
2. Find a local piano tech that you can trust. Ask your teacher for suggestions or repost on BPN. You could also check with the Piano Technicians Guild www.ptg.org. They have a page for requesting a referral. Have the technician evaluate any instrument you are considering. This is like having a mechanic check out a used car.
Finally, I have to add my opinion on the issue of digital vs. acoustic. While digital pianos have some valuable applications, I ALWAYS want students to be practicing most of the time on a quality acoustic piano.
1. The action of an acoustic instrument gives a person a unique and more specific way of learning how one's effort or movement produces certain sounds. With an acoustic instrument, the player can feel the vibration of the keys and the body of the instrument when the sound is produced by the hammer striking the string.
2. Acoustic actions have weights in the keys which creates a surface resistance to movement so that a player can rest some of the weight of their arms and hands onto the keys. Once the hammer is triggered, the resistance is much less, so that the player can learn to rest on the bottom of the keys after playing. These two attributes of the action can help train a player to have a highly efficient piano technique.
The action of a digital piano, even if it is 'touch sensitive' or has weighted keys, is not the same, in that there is not a varying amount of resistance depending on whether the sound has been made or not. In my years of experience, playing on a digital keyboard and/or an instrument with too light keys tends to produce shoulder, neck and back tension, and various technical limitations in intermediate and advanced players.
'Well', you may say, 'my kids are just beginners. Who knows if they are going to stick with it?' In my experience, they are much more likely to stick with it if they have a quality, comfortable instrument to play. Children are generally very in tune with their senses and will practice more on a piano that sounds good to them. Over time, the vibrations and depth of sound of an acoustic instrument is more satisfying. And remember, you most likely will be able to sell the instrument for close to what you paid for it if they lose interest.
To summarize, it's fine to have a digital instrument in the home as long as you also have a good quality acoustic piano. Rebecca
I bought my piano from Ruben Jackson firstname.lastname@example.org He gets pianos, fixes them and tunes them and delivers them for a very reasonable price.
On a side note, after a year and a half my granddaughter gave up piano! So I don't recommend a huge monetary outlay when you are just starting out unless you are in an economic strata that allows for those kinds of outlays for what may become a giant dust catcher. wiser and not much poorer
I'm (nearly) ready and looking to let go of my father's piano. It's a very small baby grand piano (a Schmoller & Mueller, probably ca. early 1920s), but even as petite as it is (basically, a 60 square footprint), it doesn't fit in our even more petite living room, and has been relegated to a room of its own for nearly 13 years. As sentimental as it is to me, I'm reaching the point where practicality and the desperate need to re-purpose the room is prevailing. And since we have absolutely no other place in the house to put it, I don't see any other option other than letting it go. This is why I'm writing..does anyone have any suggestions with what might be a good solution. I already checked with family, and nobody is able to take it. I'm up for donating it to, say, a non-profit/nursing home/senior center. (any suggestions for who might want it?), or selling it (checking online, it looks like it's worth about $650). When my dad passed away, I inherited it and refurbished it. It's walnut brown, and the finish has crazed a bit on one side and there are some repairable scratches here and there. It would need to be re-tuned. And although it always sounded wonderful to me when my dad played it, it's not considered by 'experts' to be a very fine instrument. But it is a very sweet little piano, and has a wonderful story, and I'm hoping this will be the reason why someone would be interested in it. So, as you can probably tell, it's very difficult to let go of (and I do worry I'll regret letting it go, but I just can't think of what else to do with it), but if I think it's going to a good home, then I'll feel better about it. So if anyone has any ideas, or is interested in it, or knows of someone or a group that might be interested, I'd certainly appreciate any suggestions. Many thanks. Kitty
We are considering the addition of a piano to our household. I had been seriously considering a full-sized digital piano. We don't have a lot of space and they seem to give you a lot of bang for your buck without taking up too much space. However, one of my musician friends just informed me that, at the conservatory she teaches at, they don't allow kids to practice on digital pianos and that many of her piano teacher friends won't accept students with digital pianos. Apparently it has something to do with the pressure and feel of the keys...? Maybe there are additional reasons as well...? Has anyone ever come across a piano teacher that won't take students that practice on a digital? Should I just pop for a traditional piano? Any recommendations for full-sized digital pianos that are considered close to the real thing? No Room For the Baby Grand
Digital pianos and keyboards certainly have their place in the music world in many great ways, but personally I would not want to have my child learning to play piano on a digital. piano snob
I definitely advocate for buying an acoustic piano over a digital for the reasons I explained in my prior reply. The ''feel'' of a digital can never approximate that of an acoustic piano.. and particularly where one is looking for the ideal in a grand such as a Steinway, the dynamic range of a digital is far more limited. But having said that, I use a digital at night with earphones as a practice keyboard not as my tour de force instrument. My space accommodates two Steinways (horizontal and vertical)and my keyboard is a Casio PX110. The 110 is now upgraded to the 120, but in my opinion falls short of its predecessor. It seems with every upgrade there is a compensatory downgrade. I don't like the PX320 either, because of the bells/whistles add-ons. The whole world of digitals becomes more disappointing by the day. For the youngsters starting piano, a good acoustic is best, but having the digital around affords sound exploration experiences. To build a solid technique and musicianship, go for the Baldwin Acrosonic acoustic circa mid 50s to late 60's. shirley
An acoustic piano is the right instrument for kids to learn on because it gives them the genuine hammer action that is important for learning the feel and is a necessity for any serious student. (A lot of digital piano companies advertise their digital pianos as having ''realistic'' action, but it's really not the same). Any serious teacher is going to require their students at a certain level to use an acoustic piano. A digital piano, even the best sounding ones, are a computerized recording of an instrument being played back through a speaker. You don't get the same sound or the get to feel the resonance of the hammer hitting the strings on a digital piano.
A *good* digital piano will cost at least $2,000-4,000. You can find a quality used acoustic upright piano for the same cost. You should take a look at a book called ''The Piano Book'' by Larry Fine (there is also an annual supplement on pricing). If you decide to go for an acoustic upright go for something with a quality, recognizable name like Yamaha or Kawai--they are well built and the resale value on these makes them a worthwhile investment. The best website for piano information is Pianoworld.com--there is a wealth of information to be found on their forums, including information about digital pianos. Once you've done your research, craigslist is a good source for used pianos.
There are many piano teachers out there. I called around until I found one who was within walking distance and was okay with a keyboard. She turned out to be much more flexible in other ways,too, which was great.
My daughter has grown up and abandoned music, as most people do. She started music lessons when very young, and moved on to another instrument when she got older. It really mattered not at all that she learned to play on a keyboard. If piano had become her love, we would have purchased a piano. But in today's world, a student is more likely to want a real keyboard, not piano or an electric piano. Please yourselves and your child, not the teacher. Sanon
Hi - I'm planning to start my child on piano lessons in 2009. I have an old (beat up) upright (probably 25 years+) that is taking up too much space in my little house). So I'm thinking of placing it in storage for a year. I'd like your feedback about storing it and where? Any idea of the typical costs? I live in Oakland. Also how do I figure out if it just makes more sense to get a new one? Thanks!
The minuses? Well, we had it stored waaaay longer than we imagined, for years in fact. At about $65/month, that really added up. Now, not only are we out the money for 4 years of storage, we have a century old piano that could really use to be tuned and restored. It would have been cheaper to sell the old beast and buy a new one when we had space. If you only to intend to store it for a year, and your piano doesn't need much work, then it may make sense to keep it. My problem was my emotional attachment to the piano. If it hadn't been bought by my grandparents and handed down, I probably would have gotten rid of it.
i'm interested in purchasing a used upright piano for my young children to learn and practice piano playing. any recommendations on where to buy one? i'm not looking for anything fancy. is it worth buying a used one from another family and paying extra for moving costs and tuning? pamela
Hi everybody, Does anybody know a good place where I can rent a standing piano for a couple of months? Thanks, Sara
Can anybody recommand what is the best way to sell a 5 feet Grand piano ? It is 3 year old and likes new. Thank you. Alice
My 6 year old daughter really wants to start piano lessons. I do not want to purchase, maintain and find space for a piano until she shows true commitment. I have been told it is acceptable to start by using an electronic keyboard. One friend has recommended the Yamaha DGX505 keyboard ($540 at Costco). This certainly seems nice, but is there a less expensive keyboard that would perform just as well? I am confused and would appreciate some feedback from people who know these products and beginner piano playing better. If the 505 is the highly recommended choice and will get us a few years down the road, I will spring for it. By the way, I think I will learn how to play too!
In general, the Yamaha keyboards are good - I would avoid off-brands and would definitely avoid Casio!! Yamaha is a respected company with years in the music business.
The ''short answer'' to your question: before you make a purchase, go visit a reputable piano company like Piedmont Piano in Oakland. You will get expert advice, and they both sell and rent all kinds of pianos, including electric ones. Remember, it is completely free to try out instruments, so why not try out all that you can?
The price of $500 you mentioned from Costco for a Yamaha electric piano seems a little high, especially when you consider that you get no knowledgible service from them, and there is little re-sale value on that type of instrument.
In the course of shopping for a digital piano, several questions have come up that local dealers have not been able to answer satisfactorily. I should note that we are looking for a piano substitute that will not alienate our neighbors during early morning practice time, so multitudes of extra voices and features are not essential. We want the best touch and feel more than anything else. 1) What is the difference between the Clavinova line and the Yamaha digital piano line (other than the looks/extra features of specific models)? 2) Is Roland still considered ''top of the line?'' 3) Are there considerations of maintenance and repair we should think about? 4)Any particularly knowledgable dealers you'd recommend? We'd like to hear the whole spectrum of opinions and experience. cld
Not sure about the sound, but Yamaha has better touch than Roland. Dealer name hard to remember, he thinks Pianos Plus in Hayward had a good selection, and made the sale by encourage demo-ing of the pianos. The sales rep at Sherman Clay was snobby & pushy. Hope that helps! Jessica
Could anyone recommend good and reasonable places in the Berkeley/Albany/El Cerrito area that I can rent a piano or buy a keyboard? If you can also explain the logistics of renting a piano (what the shop will require us to do, how we should take care of the piano, etc.), that would be great. We are starting our 6-year-old daughter in a piano lesson and need something for her to practice at home. We don't play piano and frankly know nothing about renting one. We are also considering buying a keyboard (with weighted keys as recommended by the teacher) and would like to weigh the pros and the cons of both approaches before we decide what to do. I checked the website but the information is outdated. Thank you very much.
Anyway, our piano teacher recommended a digital piano (not a keyboard) because the have the feel of a real piano. You can read about the ''graded hammer effect'' on the yamaha website. The keys are properly weighted so the high notes are light and the low notes are heavy. The keys are standard size. Better models have better speakers and will sound better. Our 930 sounds great on headphones and not as well when played (still pretty good!) but we could improve that by hooking it up to better speakers.
Reasons to buy a digital piano instead of a traditional:
* it is always perfectly in tune. this is really important for your child's ear training
* multiple ''voices'' are fun. My daughter enjoys playing her pieces with the organ, choir or marimba sound instead of the plain old piano sound.
* record/playback features. Your child can record herself and hear how what she played sounded. Sometimes a child has a hard time hearing tempo problems or pauses when he or she is playing but they hear it easily when they play it back for themselves. ALso, they love to compose their own melodies and play them back.
* preset music: there are 50 pieces in the piano that you can play. I sometimes turn them on. THe kids like to put on the fast-paced ones and run around the house.
* if you opt for a more expensive model your child can record her songs onto CDs and save them. You can also buy accompaniments for some simple pieces, so that your child plays Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with an entire orchestra accompaniment. These are well done as the piano waits for your child to find and play the right note (it holds the previous note until the correct next note is played). My daughter doesn't love this feature, which the teacher sometimes uses at her lessons (she has a fancy model), but lots of other kids do.
We have had our piano for 3 years now and have never had any problems with it. I can highly recommend it.
Oh, and by the way, you can find them at Piedmont Piano. I recommend that you call several dealers. Music Exchange in Dublin/Pleasanton also sells them and so does a place in San Jose (can't remember the name, but they have dealers listed on the Yamaha website). I think the original price we saw on one it the shop was $2700, and we paid only $1850, delivered, so it pays to call around. Often they don't want to give you numbers over the phone, they want you to come in. Piedmont Piano was very nice and gave me a good number over the phone.
I looked up the local dealers on the website:
Pianos Plus 1558 A St Castro Valley, CA 94546 510-581-1660 Music Exchange, Inc. 7704 Dublin Blvd Dublin, CA 94568 925-828-3442 Piedmont Piano Company, Inc. 4382 Piedmont Ave Oakland, CA 94611 510-547-8188
I'm looking for an upright piano for my daughter, beginner student. Problem is that I never played enough myself to be able to choose used piano. It seems to be a task for professional. Is there anybody in nearby area who could give a consultation? Any information will be greatly appreciated. Thank you Tanya
We would like to buy a used baby grand in time to sing Christmas carols. We'd like to know whether people have had experience with: 1) Piedmont Piano or other reputable purveyor of used pianos 2) A piano tuner/technician who could advise us/check out a piano before we buy the wrong one... Natasha
In terms of your second question (someone to advise on a piano before you buy), you might try calling Steven Benjamins. He's a tuner who lives in Lafayette and who has a studio behind his home where he rebuilds old pianos. My only experience with Steven was interviewing him for a story a few months ago, but he was personable, had a very cool workshop and had a real love for the instrument. His number is 925-284-3077. Darcy
this is a reply to the question of Stefanie, who asked in the UCB parents digest for recommendations for keyboards.
My wife is a music teacher, and she is sometimes asked if a keyboard can substitute a piano, and what brand of keyboard is worth buying. Basically, she is somewhat skeptical about keyboards since they do not give you a feeling of a real instrument. This is understandable because having played a piano 8 hours a day during 18 years of studies of misic, she knows exactly how a real piano feels. Another diadvantage of a keyboard is that it is usually narrower than the real piano (64 keys compared to about 100) - but this is really important only for advanced students of music. On the other hand, a piano is generally rather loud, and you may disturb your neighbours if you live in an apartment. For this particular reason we bought a keyboard for our daughter, although we also have a piano at home. Before we bought a keyboard, I made a survey of what is available on the market and know what is the difference between cheap and expensive keyboards.
A very important feature of a keyboard is that it shoud have touch-sensitive keys. This simply means that the it sounds louder when you hit a key harder. Usually all keyboards which cost above $200 have this feature. The cheapest keybords priced between $100 and $170 are not touch-sensitive and absolutely unsuitable for any music lessons. I actually bought "Yamaha PSR 220", which is usually sold for $220-230, but I got it on sale for $180. From my point of view, it does not make any sense to pay more than $200 for a keyboard if you buy it for a child. Keyboards which cost between $300 and $800 have the same number of keys, the same feeling, and almost the same number of voices. There is a slight difference in a number of keys which may sound at the same time. However, the major difference is that in expensive keyboards you get a sequenser (i.e., a multiple-track digital recorder), a floppy drive which you can use to store your creations, and eventually even a hard drive. By the way, this results in a much greater number of controls, which your child probably will not be able to handle. It is also worth noting that a cheaper keyboard can be connected to a computer via MIDI interface. Then, if you buy some musical software, you will also get a sequencer, and can make recording of your own music in MIDI format.
I would recommend to buy a brand name. We tried an "Optimus" keyboard (this is the Radio Shack brand), and it sounded lousy compared to Yamahas or Casios. Yamaha and Casio have about the same features for the same money, so just shop for a better price. Andrei
That will keep the expenses to a minimum while the child is able to enjoy the actual instrument, and appreciate it in full. Also, renting a musical instrument is a good way to allow your child to try new things, without making the total investment until you are certain about it. Just a suggestion. Glenn
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