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#206913 - 03/05/07 02:53 PM First time poster w/ lots of questions....
MJinMN Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/05/07
Posts: 64
Loc: Minnesota
Hi all-

I’ve recently found this wonderful site and wanted to get some of your expert advice. My wife and I both took piano lessons for many years as children – neither of us was a great pianist, but we enjoyed playing. We would both like to start playing again, and have 3 daughters (age 3, 3 and 1.5) who we’re hoping will learn to play when they’re older. In a couple weeks, we are going to be closing on a new home that has a “formal living room”. In both my and my wife’s opinion, formal living rooms are those rooms that nobody ever goes into except to dust, so we’re planning on purchasing a grand piano.

The room itself is about 14x16, and there’s an ajoining entry foyer that probably makes the open area about 26x16. Both of these rooms are open to the second story of the home, I’m guessing 18 foot ceilings. Floors are hardwood (walnut I believe) and we’re planning on oriental rugs for both rooms. My questions:

1) I’ve been doing the advance scouting for the piano, visiting all the stores in our area. Since I’m horribly out of practice, my general strategy is to talk one of the salespeople into playing the various pianos for me so I can hear the differences in the sound/tone, and then also playing a little bit myself to make sure there isn’t something about the key action that I don’t like. I’ve talked to enough of these salespeople to have a general sense of which brands are well regarded, but I couldn’t explain a Renner action to you if my life depended on it. Is there anything else that someone like me should be doing in trying to select a good piano?

2) When I listen to the various pianos, I find I consistently like the ones with a “brighter tone”. While I certainly want to get a piano that can play anything and sound nice, my personal tastes in music are probably more contemporary/cheerier music, rather than more classical music. Brands that I’ve liked have included Yamaha, Petrof and M&H. I also really liked a Bechstein, although I didn’t think that had such a bright tone as the others. If I’m looking for a bright tone, which other brands should I make sure I check out or consider? If I buy a “bright tone” piano, will I struggle playing classical music on it (due to the tone – I’ll struggle playing anything due to skill)?

3) Given the hardwood floors (with rugs as mentioned) and high ceilings, what effect will this have on the way the piano sounds in our house compared to at the piano store? Is this likely to be a good room for a piano?

4) Do I need to worry about the weight of the piano from a structural support point of view? I wouldn’t think so given how dispersed the weight is, but wanted to make sure. Similarly, if I use casters, is there anything else I need to do to protect the floors?

5) Finally, my current leader is a M&H BB if it will fit OK in the room when we set up our paper cutouts on the floor. Is there anything in particular I should consider about this piano, either positive or negative?

Thanks in advance for any thoughts you can share.

Mason & Hamlin BB

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#206914 - 03/05/07 03:35 PM Re: First time poster w/ lots of questions....
JohnEB Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/20/06
Posts: 754
Loc: Belgium
Hello there, sounds like you're approaching this sensibly and asking all the right questions.

Regarding action - given the brands you're looking at I don't think there's anything specific you should be looking for, just that the piano feels right to you. You will have your own preference as to a light or heavy action, and it's your prerogative to choose that.

Regarding tone - if you prefer brighter tone due to your preferred music then go for it. You certainly won't lose out on classical music. Plenty of professional classical musicians play losts of music on Yamahas and other 'bright' sounding instruments. You have to buy what sounds and feels right to you.

The size and volume of your room sounds wonderful for a grand piano - I wish I had your high ceilings in my new house. As to how it will compare with the showroom - that's impossible to say, although with that height and wood/rug floors I don't think there's much you should be concerned about. But talk to the dealer to see what they will do about a trial period.

Re the weight - ask your dealer, particulalry about protection for your floor. It depends how big your casters are - many newer grands have extra wide casters (mine are about 3 inches or more long on my Wendl & Lung and don't leave the slightest mark on my admittedly old wooden floor). I would be surprised if the weight of a piano would make a floor collapse - is there something specific you are worried about?

And regarding that specific make/model - well you'lll have to get opinions on that from someone else as I have no experience. But you sound like you know what you want and have a good short list of brands (although I get the impression Bechstein is in there just because of the name!) so I'm sure you'll find what you want. Good luck!

#206915 - 03/05/07 03:41 PM Re: First time poster w/ lots of questions....
Jolly Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14144
Loc: Louisiana
Pick a benchmark piano, one you like, and compare your other choices to it.

For a lot of techs talking about instruments in the 6 foot range, many pianos are gauged against a Yamaha C3, much as a lot of verticals are compared to a Yamaha U1.

You may prefer larger pianos, just be aware that when you get to 7 feet, resell is a bit harder.

Over 1.3M (and counting) posts where pianists discuss everything. And nothing.

#206916 - 03/05/07 04:00 PM Re: First time poster w/ lots of questions....
MJinMN Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/05/07
Posts: 64
Loc: Minnesota
Thanks for all your detailed comments. When I heard the Bechstein, I just thought "wow, you could play any type of music and it would sound amazing on that piano". That being said, while I definitely liked some of the piano brands better than others, I REALLY liked the larger pianos better than the smaller ones. I believe with the pricing of the Bechstein, I'd have to go with the smaller piano to keep the price comparable to the others that I liked, and I don't think I want to make that trade-off.

As for the floor/support question, I don't have any unusual concerns. One of my other hobbies is aquariums, and it's not unusual for folks to have to add support to their floors below an aquarium that might weigh 2K pounds. I was just thinking "better safe than sorry".

Your strategy is generally what I'm trying to do. Unfortunately my attempts are made much more difficult due to the fact that each store carries 4 different brands and a few random used pianos, meaning I have to travel from store to store, trying to remember the last piano's sound, and unfortunately listening to salespeople of different skill levels playing for me... I do need to get to the local Yamaha dealer, I've only seen/heard used Yamahas so far.

Thanks again for your thoughts.
Mason & Hamlin BB

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#206917 - 03/05/07 04:40 PM Re: First time poster w/ lots of questions....
Roy123 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/20/04
Posts: 1790
Loc: Massachusetts
Here's a differing opinion. You and your wife haven't played for a while. Your kids are too young to have an opinion. So, instead of buying a very expensive piano, get something more modest and live with it for a while. You tastes may change as you study and become more accomplished.

Pianos get brighter with use, and typically sound louder at home than in the showroom. Consider this first grand to be somewhat of an experimental purchase. A few years down the road, you'll have a much better idea of what you really want.

#206918 - 03/05/07 05:04 PM Re: First time poster w/ lots of questions....
Happy Birthday mdsdurango Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/01/04
Posts: 1755
Loc: Durango Colorado
My man - you are in a real spot.
You like the M&H BB and the price tag doesn't put you off?
Get it![/b]
Question; How can you go wrong with that?
Answer; Well, what if it just sits there and does not get played? Then you have a phenom piano just sitting there and a lot of dollars invested.
Seeing that the money seems not a factor I like both Jolly's and Roy's post and suggest you take a good look at a Yamaha C3. As jolly says; it's a benchmark (and a fine piano as well). Check out an Estonia while you are at it. Priced similar to equally sized Yamahas (slightly higher I believe)but built in smaller quantities, it has rave reviews here and a committed following.
A piano will also seem brighter in your home with wood floors so watch for that too.
Count your good fortune! You have some terrific pianos ahead to choose from.
Take your time and choose wisely.

Yamaha S6, U5C, P120

#206919 - 03/05/07 06:32 PM Re: First time poster w/ lots of questions....
SheilaM Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/13/07
Posts: 1
Loc: Seattle
Hi! This is my very first posting here; been lurking for a while. I'll post to introduce myself in a bit.

At any rate, the house you are looking at sounds quite similar to the house I live in, and I've got a 6'1" grand piano in the living room. I do have carpeting in the living room, but hardwood in the adjoining entry, and 20 foot ceilings. If you PM me I can send you a picture for comparison's sake.

My experience has been that the living room and entry have marvelous acoustics, with the height of the room adding a lot. You will have volume challenges though; it's not possible for me to really play "quietly" since the room amplifies the piano all over the house. I bought an electronic keyboard to use with headphones for those early-morning practice sessions before hubby gets up.

I didn't reinforce the floors when we built the house, and the piano has been in the same spot since 1998 with no issues.

Hope this helps a bit...


#206920 - 03/05/07 07:21 PM Re: First time poster w/ lots of questions....
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 15234
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
2) When I listen to the various pianos, I find I consistently like the ones with a “brighter tone”.
In this case MH wouldn't be the best choice:

- they're generally known for a much darker type sound with lots of colours - "American sound" type colours.

If MH, however, does appeal to you - I wouldn't blame you if it does ;\)
- there are several other choices of course out there as well.

The final sound in your home of the piano you choose depends also very much not only on the room acoustics [harwood floors generally adding to 'brightness'] - but the expertise of the technician voicing your chosen piano to its best level.

Again, pianos here react quite differently - some will be more 'obedient' to follow a technicians voicing tool - others tend to sway back to where were, often in a very short period of time.....

Brightness - especially in the treble - is by the way often confused with 'loudness' - a completely different factor of tonality.

Don't forget that brightness without at least a minimal amount of resonnance is just...ahem.. *noise*.

That's again where pianos differ much from one to the other - some having a beautiful singing,highly musical quality - others, while being 'bright allright - don't.

That's what makes piano shopping so interesting -but also sometimes a bit confusing or even frustrating - especially for non-players.

Always remember: a piano has 88 keys that must sound good.

Not just 36 or 48.......

Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642 www.eliteheritagepianos.ca Edmonton, Alta dealers for Estonia,
Brodmann 780-405-8908

#206921 - 03/05/07 07:31 PM Re: First time poster w/ lots of questions....
M&HAAdriver Offline
Silver Expires April 2010

Silver member until April 2010

Registered: 01/21/05
Posts: 272
Loc: Centennial, Colorado
I'm with Mike. If your budget allows the BB, you're getting an ageless instrument that's probably a better hedge against disuse and potential resale than some others.

As for sound: I've recently traded a C3 for an M&H AA, mostly because I sensed a far greater range of possibilities with the M&H. My dealer has voiced (and I've played them) an M&H AA for a customer that wanted a darker "Steinway"-like sound, as well as my own, where I desired something brighter, but not to the Yamaha extent. The M&H is also far superior in sustaining tones than my particular C3 ever could be. For me, it was a world of difference that would have been multiple worlds if my home and budget could have gone for the BB.

My expertise does not extend far enough to know if a Yamaha can be "darkened" enough if your taste, or that of your children, should call for it.

Given the size of your home and apparent budget, you might really enjoy the thread of "Vippo" in his search for a piano that will "result in bankruptcy". Many brands are covered in detail, but specifically lacking the BB because he is in Europe and hasn't found any M&H pianos to audition. It's a great thread just to read!

Good luck!
** Bob ** M&H AA 92809 **

#206922 - 03/05/07 07:36 PM Re: First time poster w/ lots of questions....
M&HAAdriver Offline
Silver Expires April 2010

Silver member until April 2010

Registered: 01/21/05
Posts: 272
Loc: Centennial, Colorado
Norbert jumped in while I was typing, but he underscores what I'm trying to say - except he's got professional "cred"!

I forgot the weight issue. I'm an engineer, so here's the practicality: you're talking the equivalent of three very stout people standing at the positions where your piano legs will be. Shouldn't be a challenge for a "new home" at all.
** Bob ** M&H AA 92809 **

#206923 - 03/05/07 08:40 PM Re: First time poster w/ lots of questions....
MJinMN Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/05/07
Posts: 64
Loc: Minnesota
Wow, you guys are amazingly helpful. Thank you so much. I think I'm still leaning towards finding a very nice versatile piano that our family can use for the next 20-30 years, rather than going more with the entry level piano and planning to upgrade. While the latter makes some good sense, I have to believe it gets expensive when you figure that the dealer needs to make $$$ on every transaction.

When I was at the store this past weekend, I also got the chance to hear a nice Bosendorfer, which I personally didn't like as much as the M&H. I felt like listening to the Bosendorfer you could almost hear the lineage back to the great European composers centuries back, and if I thought that was my primary choice in music, it would definitely be an awesome instrument. The salesperson said it has the more traditional "European" sound. Perhaps I just like the more American sound?

It's nice that most of you seem to think the M&H is a versatile piano, so that even if I want to hammer out Joplin tunes and my kids start loving Bach and Mozart, we'd both be able to be happy with it. That was my primary concern with the Yamahas I've heard so far, that they'd be AWESOME playing bright, contemporary music, but not be as nice if someone in our house wanted to play lots of more serious classical.

Regarding tone or sound, it seems much easier for me to tell the difference in the treble range than it is on the bass. To simplify, imagine the song "Music Box Dancer" - when I'm listening to the pianos, I think I am trying to find a piano where the melody rings out clearly even in the higher ranges, without being played extra loudly.

When trying to evaluate the bass range, it's harder for me to differentiate, possibly I'm just listening too much to the treble. Of course, the bass is where the larger pianos really shine. In fact, I did have the opportunity to hear the 6'3" Estonia. I definitely thought it was a very nice sounding piano for the $$$, and if my wife and I decide the 7 foot piano is too big for the room, then the Estonia will be right back in contention with the others.

Thanks again for all the very informative posts.
Mason & Hamlin BB

#206924 - 03/05/07 08:53 PM Re: First time poster w/ lots of questions....
Roger Ransom Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/19/05
Posts: 1314
Loc: SouthWest Michigan
All I can say is that my family and I have been playing popular, swing, jazz and lots of classical music on my Yamaha Grand piano and it has done them all beautifully for the last 40 years. I love it and have never tired of it!
Laugh More
Yamaha G7 - Roland FP7 - Roland FP80

#206925 - 03/05/07 09:01 PM Re: First time poster w/ lots of questions....
MartinJ. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/12/05
Posts: 316
Loc: Iowa
What would folks think of adding a player system so that the piano gets used until the kids play regularly, and while the adults build their repertoire?

#206926 - 03/05/07 09:04 PM Re: First time poster w/ lots of questions....
apple* Offline

Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 19862
Loc: Kansas
you've excellent taste.
accompanist/organist.. a non-MTNA teacher to a few

love and peace, Õun (apple in Estonian)

#206927 - 03/06/07 12:40 AM Re: First time poster w/ lots of questions....
Famous Pies Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/01/06
Posts: 82
Loc: Santa Fe NM
The dealer from whom we bought our piano last year offered for no charge and no obligation to move the piano to our house (70 miles from his store) for a two week trial.

It worked out fine for him as we bought the piano... which I imagine he expected would happen. Will your dealer offer the same for the M&H BB? If so, go for it!

No risk to you and good chance of a sale for him. \:D
M&H "A" #92414

#206928 - 03/06/07 08:40 AM Re: First time poster w/ lots of questions....
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012

Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 18129
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Originally posted by Norbert:
2) When I listen to the various pianos, I find I consistently like the ones with a “brighter tone”.
In this case MH wouldn't be the best choice:

- they're generally known for a much darker type sound with lots of colours - "American sound" type colours.

If MH, however, does appeal to you - I wouldn't blame you if it does ;\)
- there are several other choices of course out there as well.
Norbert makes a good point here, and I think it's probably just a matter of the term "bright" meaning different things to different people. For example, Yamahas are often described as being particularly bright, but I wouldn't put Yamaha and M&H in the same category tone-wise at all.

I have the M&H A, and one of the reasons I chose it over other brands is that I felt it had one of the best trebles that could sing out clearly, even over the not-inconsiderable bass of the M&H. So given your comment about wanting a good clear treble that will stand out even when not played loudly, I can understand why the BB appeals to you.

I'm with mdsdurango; if after another round or two of the stores you still like the M&H BB the best, and the price tag doesn't deter you, why not buy it?

After you get your piano, whatever it may be, please come join us in the Adult Beginners forum. We have a lot of fun there. \:\)
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

#206929 - 03/07/07 08:41 PM Re: First time poster w/ lots of questions....
wilwag Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 5
I bought my new piano only a month ago so i'm still floating.
Just wanted to say that no matter how horribly out of practice you are, spend enough time at the keyboard so that your hands get to know the piano as well as your ear. I almost bought a piano (was not a M&H) whose tone I liked but after playing it quite a bit I realized that the touch didn't suit me. I just kept on going back and playing and listening and not paying attention to anything else. Blew my budget but I'm happy.
Enjoy your shopping! Those are fun days.
good luck,

#206930 - 03/08/07 01:37 AM Re: First time poster w/ lots of questions....
bkkmd Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/06/06
Posts: 304
Loc: Bangkok, Thailand
There are quite a number of pianos that you should definitely consider if you are considering MH. While you said that you did not like Bosendorfer as much as MH, it does not mean that you will automatically prefer MH to every supposedly traditional European sounding piano neccessarily. Vippo's thread that was mentioned certainly has a list of other possible pianos that you should at least take a listen to before spending that kind of money if there are dealers available.
After saying that, if you prefer brighter sounding piano, Schimmel is the other one that people tend to categorize as being on the brighter side. Personally I think that most good pianos will pretty much let you play any kind of music, classical, pop, new age etc. The main determining factor will be your preference in the type of sound and touch and that is very personal as there is no single best piano that would suit everybody's need at any price point.

#206931 - 03/08/07 02:01 AM Re: First time poster w/ lots of questions....
FogVilleLad Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/02/05
Posts: 4683
Loc: San Francisco
The showrooms where you're auditioning pianos, how do they compare to the room where the piano will be placed? Fully carpeted rooms can cause you to underestimate the volume that you'll produce when playing normally.

Any chance that you could seek out showrooms whose floors and walls are similar to your own? Ideally you'd like to audition the same model piano in different acoustic settings. Doing this kind of A/B with even one instrument could help you to imagine what the difference would be with the instrument that you ultimately prefer.

The Yamaha that sounds great to you in a carpeted room could easily sound piercing in a more reverberant setting. If you continue to like the M&H tone, you may want to find a AA to audition.

When you're wondering if a seven footer is too big for the room, is that just because of its size or does volume play a role? I'm asking because manufacturers usually put longer keys on those seven footers, and longer keys aid control, including playing softly.

Even tho you tend to focus on the treble, it might be helpful to make notes about what you like and don't like about each instrument that you audition. If your search becomes extended, those notes will help.

#206932 - 03/11/07 11:12 PM Re: First time poster w/ lots of questions....
MJinMN Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/05/07
Posts: 64
Loc: Minnesota
Thank you all for all of your comments. There seems to be a somewhat limited selection of top level piano stores in Minnesota, so I'm limited a bit in my search. While I could certainly fly someplace to try some other models, my wife would undoubtedly think I'm insane, and I'd like her opinion in any event. In fact, when talking to her about it the other night, she's probably a bit more interested in classical than I am, and also has a greater interest in getting a player model for when we entertain. Unfortunately, none of the local dealers have showrooms that simulate my prospective piano location, but the upside is that their overhead is low and I think their prices are aggressive relative to what I've seen on this website. Consequently, I'm able to consider such nice pianos as the BB without totally crushing my budget, at the cost of a more ideal testing environment.

As I've thought about it more over the past week or so and talking with my wife, I will definitely be revisiting the Petrof and Bechstein. If only I could take one salesperson from one store to another to get him to play the same piece in each...

In addition, the store where I "experienced" the M&H BB, they were expecting a AA in over the next few days, so that should be available for trial soon.

To Fogville: My comments re: room size pertain entirely to the physical size of the piano. I don't feel qualified to say that a 6 foot piano will sound too "big" whereas a slightly smaller model will be ideal. I'm hoping that the aggregate size of the room, with other connected rooms (26x14 or so with really high ceilings) will be good for any piano in the 6-7 foot range.

Finally, I will be sure to play each piano myself, even it it is only a barrage of scales and chords. I was in a store last week, and definitely decided against a number of models based upon the feel. Thanks again to all.

Mason & Hamlin BB


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