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Searching for a new grand piano! #2401473
03/22/15 10:01 PM
03/22/15 10:01 PM
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Portland, OR
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Hello, piano lovers! I posted here a couple of months ago asking about feedback on my Petrof voicing, which sounded muffled to me. Since then I have been trying hard to break in the voicing and it's been improving over time, and if it's like the Petrof upright I had before it should become quite lovely. It's really quite a nice piano (especially for the price), but I thought that in a few years, I would try to find my "dream piano".

Well, I recently had a stopover in California and checked out an older German-built Feurich. The tone definitely showed its age but the touch was just amazing, and it made me realize that when I felt that I couldn't play the first page of the Chopin Ballade No. 1 as sensitively as I'd like, that it wasn't me, it was the piano! While it looks like it won't work out (thanks to R. Kassman and Judy with the Feurich for talking to me about it!), now I'm on the hunt to find another piano that can respond with such sensitivity. I like reading about other people's searches for their pianos and thought I would share my own smile

I ended up visiting the three big piano stores in Portland this weekend. My first stop was Michelle's, where they have a consigned 5 year old Estonia 190 in pyramid mahogany for an unbelievable price. I have read so many great things about the recent Estonias, but it just wasn't for me, both in touch and tone. It'll be a fabulous deal for someone else! I played a bunch of other pianos, including their Steinways, but nothing caught my eye. There have been two Steinways that I have played in my life that I loved-- one that was in my college dining hall that they would open up for recitals, and one concert grand. I didn't play any that came close to what I remembered from years ago.

Today I decided to go to Classic Pianos. They have a huge selection, and I must have tried out 20-30 pianos. I'm not sure if I prefer a slightly brighter tone, but my two favorite pianos were a new Schimmel and a new Bosendorfer, both ones facing the wall (perhaps reflecting the sound more?). I felt that many of their pianos sounded too muted down for my taste, and it was hard to get good dynamic range. I think the Schimmel was the most expensive line and I didn't note the size (so confusing to have all the different lines!) and the Bosendorfer was a 6'3" that was a couple years old-- I greatly preferred the tone to the brand new one next to it. It was an extremely sensitive piano but at over $70k, way out of my price range! They have a little house adjacent to the store where they can bring 2-3 pianos for you to compare side by side in a home environment, and I also tried the two Schimmels in there. Brian asked me what I didn't like about the touch and tone and I couldn't give him a clear answer, just that it didn't feel quite right. I always knew that I'm particular but I didn't realize just how particular until today!

Since I still had some time, I also stopped at Portland Piano Company on my way home. I've been there a couple of times to attend master classes (as an audience member) and concerts, but have only played a few of their pianos. I got to play two new 7' Faziolis, a Fazioli concert grand, a Shigeru Kawai SK-3, a Grotrian, and an assortment of used pianos. My favorite by far was one of the 7' Faziolis that had been voiced more mellow than the one next to it, so that it was mellow but still very clear. I liked it very much but still didn't feel that it was the one (and good thing, given the $117k price tag!).

So, today I found out that I have extremely expensive taste and am very particular about what I like in pianos. I had expected to find many pianos that I liked and could narrow down to my favorites, but I just wasn't crazy about most of the ones I played. I did play a couple of old Baldwins (probably 1950's or 60's) that clearly needed some work, but in general I liked their touch and tone. I have a feeling that this will end up being quite a long search! Next time I go up to Seattle, I plan to visit some stores there, and also when I visit my sister in the Bay Area. Stay tuned smile


2001 Petrof 125 -> 2002 Petrof IV -> 1999 Bosendorfer 225 (meow!) 🐱
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Re: Searching for a new grand piano! [Re: twocats] #2401496
03/22/15 11:44 PM
03/22/15 11:44 PM
Joined: Sep 2012
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Tempe, Arizona
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I really enjoyed reading about your experience. I envy you the ability to play at a high level with the ear to go along with it.

I have only been playing for 3 1/2 years and have a long way to go. But, like you, I have made the rounds of local dealers and have been playing their high end and used pianos. I am able to discern the bell-like clarity of some of the high end Yamahas and distinguish them from the more complex timbre of the Steinways and Mason and Hamlins. But I am sure I still have a long way to go in developing my ear.

As for touch, I played a Kawai Shigeru a year ao (I think I've played six of them now) and was blown away at how easily I was able to convert my musical impulses into sound.

I was haunting the local Kawai/Schimmel dealer a month ago and played a new Schimmel that was quite spectacular in both tone and touch. I really loved playing it and the owner of the store said: "It sounds like you've found your piano." And, you know what, if I'd had a spare $77,000 in my pocket that might have been true! Ha ha.

So - I recognize your quandry and am delighted to hear your thoughts as you progress through your search. Best wishes and good luck in your search!

Last edited by AZ_Astro; 03/22/15 11:47 PM.

Kawai KG-5. Korg SP-250. Software pianos: Garritan CFX, Ivory II, Ivory Am D, Ravenscroft, Galaxy Vintage D, Alicia's Keys, et al.
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Re: Searching for a new grand piano! [Re: twocats] #2401514
03/23/15 01:13 AM
03/23/15 01:13 AM
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Portland, OR
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Thanks, Astro! I thought the Shigeru I played was voiced way too mellow. They had another but the lyre wasn't properly attached so I didn't get to try it. The touch was pretty responsive but I had expected more due to its reputation.

Pretty excited to plan a piano hunting trip to Seattle in the next few weeks!


2001 Petrof 125 -> 2002 Petrof IV -> 1999 Bosendorfer 225 (meow!) 🐱
Re: Searching for a new grand piano! [Re: twocats] #2401535
03/23/15 02:38 AM
03/23/15 02:38 AM
Joined: Sep 2012
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Tempe, Arizona
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Sounds like fun. Enjoy the trip!


Kawai KG-5. Korg SP-250. Software pianos: Garritan CFX, Ivory II, Ivory Am D, Ravenscroft, Galaxy Vintage D, Alicia's Keys, et al.
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Re: Searching for a new grand piano! [Re: twocats] #2401578
03/23/15 07:45 AM
03/23/15 07:45 AM
Joined: Apr 2014
Posts: 2,182
First Town, First State
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Hi twocats!

Really enjoyed reading about your piano buying experience.

Our experiences (about this time last year) were a bit different, although in the long run it kind of matches yours (I'll explain that in a minute).

We knew we wanted a nice grand, but thought an entry-level grand was all we could go for. Now due to having played on Yamaha C-series pianos before (including our teacher's beautifully restored 1972 C3), I'll admit we had bit of a bias for Japanese instruments. However, when we tried the GC1M both of us did not care either for the feel of the action nor the overall tone. The plastic feel of the keys also bothered us.

We tried other brands in the store (did not play the Steinways for price and other considerations) and was not making a connection.

Finally even though it was out of our price range we tried the C2X on the floor. Loved the feel of the action, the tone, the feel of the keys themselves, everything. And, after a few lucky breaks we were able to procure the piano, and we have never looked back.

The interesting part is this: A few months ago I finally had the chance to play a few high-end pianos (including Steinway). I was very surprised to find out these instruments (some that cost 3-4 times what our C2X cost) really didn't raise the bar for me at all. Were they beautiful looking and sounding, sure. Did they offer a higher level of performance to justify their much higher prices, not for me.

So yes, I'm more convinced than ever that the logo on the fallboard is one of the least important aspects of the buying process. I still think however, that the entry-level pianos we tried were noticeably lacking in many areas, and I'm glad we made a "once in a lifetime" purchase, rather than buying a "starter" piano.

Best of luck on your search.


Yamaha C2X | Yamaha M500-F
Groucho Marx: "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."
Curriculum: Faber Developing Artist (Book 3)
Current: German Dance in D Major (Haydn) (OF); Melody (Schumann) (OF)
Re: Searching for a new grand piano! [Re: twocats] #2401625
03/23/15 10:23 AM
03/23/15 10:23 AM
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Rehoboth Beach De. USA
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I know the feeling of falling in love with high end pianos. Once I played my first Grotrian many years ago, there were few pianos, to my ear that could match it. In addition to the pianos you've already tried I would also put Sauter, and Steingraeber on your list. The Sauter Omega 220 is one of the best grands of that size I've every played and any size Steingraeber grand is extraordinary in every way musically. Steingraeber being probably the only piano that might draw me away from Grotrian. Good luck, and have fun in your search.

Rich


Retired at the beach

Anton Rubinstein said about the piano: "You think it is one instrument? It is a hundred instruments!"
Re: Searching for a new grand piano! [Re: twocats] #2401686
03/23/15 02:13 PM
03/23/15 02:13 PM
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Suffolk, England
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An expertly rebuilt piano could be the answer. When you are in Seattle you could visit Ed McMorrow at Mukilteo and see.


Ian Russell
Schiedmayer & Soehne, 1925 Model 14, 140cm
Ibach, 1905 F-IV, 235cm
Re: Searching for a new grand piano! [Re: twocats] #2401696
03/23/15 02:25 PM
03/23/15 02:25 PM
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Portland, OR
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Brian - I did try some Yamaha CX series and they were nice instruments! The Steinways that I played really did not excite me, although one sounded lovely when I heard someone else playing it.

Rich - I will try to play those-- think there is a Sauter dealer in Seattle. Except now I'll just be lusting after more pianos that I can't afford, haha.

Ian - thanks for the recommendation, Ed had already reached out to me. I can stop at his workshop on the way to Fandrich & Sons smile


2001 Petrof 125 -> 2002 Petrof IV -> 1999 Bosendorfer 225 (meow!) 🐱
Re: Searching for a new grand piano! [Re: twocats] #2410437
04/15/15 01:38 AM
04/15/15 01:38 AM
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Portland, OR
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Just returned from Seattle! I must have played 40-50 pianos during this trip. Details to come, with a few pics as well. I was told that I have Perri Knize's sensitive hearing-- not sure if this is an affliction or a blessing, but I'm definitely on my own little Grand Obsession journey. I'm embarrassed that I ever felt that she was too fussy and obsessed!

SPOILER: I found my dream piano.

SPOILER #2: I can't afford it.


2001 Petrof 125 -> 2002 Petrof IV -> 1999 Bosendorfer 225 (meow!) 🐱
Re: Searching for a new grand piano! [Re: twocats] #2410455
04/15/15 03:55 AM
04/15/15 03:55 AM
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Originally Posted by twocats
Just returned from Seattle! I must have played 40-50 pianos during this trip. Details to come, with a few pics as well. I was told that I have Perri Knize's sensitive hearing-- not sure if this is an affliction or a blessing, but I'm definitely on my own little Grand Obsession journey. I'm embarrassed that I ever felt that she was too fussy and obsessed!

SPOILER: I found my dream piano.

SPOILER #2: I can't afford it.


If you have the money tied up in 401K's or IRA's, you could transfer some of it to a self-directed IRA and "invest" in a piano.

I thought it might be borderline illegal, but this guy is doing something like that - but he's renting out his instruments.
https://www.trustetc.com/about/news/etc-in-the-press/new-york-times

And Mason & Hamlin is even spinning their pianos as "investments."
http://masonhamlin.com/investment




Re: Searching for a new grand piano! [Re: BornInTheUSA] #2410488
04/15/15 07:58 AM
04/15/15 07:58 AM
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New York City
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Originally Posted by michaelha
And Mason & Hamlin is even spinning their pianos as "investments."
http://masonhamlin.com/investment
Even though I own an eight year old BB and like it a lot, I find that ad appalling. It's just complete nonsense considering all pianos depreciate at least for the first 10-20 years.

Re: Searching for a new grand piano! [Re: twocats] #2410532
04/15/15 09:46 AM
04/15/15 09:46 AM
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If pianos appreciate in value why would manufacturers want to sell them?


Currently working towards "Twinkle twinkle little star"
Re: Searching for a new grand piano! [Re: BornInTheUSA] #2410566
04/15/15 10:43 AM
04/15/15 10:43 AM
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Portland, OR
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Originally Posted by michaelha
If you have the money tied up in 401K's or IRA's, you could transfer some of it to a self-directed IRA and "invest" in a piano.

I thought it might be borderline illegal, but this guy is doing something like that - but he's renting out his instruments.
https://www.trustetc.com/about/news/etc-in-the-press/new-york-times

And Mason & Hamlin is even spinning their pianos as "investments."
http://masonhamlin.com/investment

Oooooh, that just seems... unwise. This piano costs more than the condo I used to have in Austin.


2001 Petrof 125 -> 2002 Petrof IV -> 1999 Bosendorfer 225 (meow!) 🐱
Re: Searching for a new grand piano! [Re: pianoloverus] #2410601
04/15/15 12:39 PM
04/15/15 12:39 PM
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Atlanta, GA
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Even though I own an eight year old BB and like it a lot, I find that ad appalling. It's just complete nonsense considering all pianos depreciate at least for the first 10-20 years.
Yes and no. Because of the longevity of good pianos (upper middle & above), they outlast and outpace inflation. It's not a stock or bond, but it's not a typical depreciating asset like a car or appliance.

I find that most good pianos surpass the original purchase price ~ 12 years (exceptions for concert grands, exotic finishes, or below average condition). If the piano is well bought (with some reasonable initial discount), that time frame can be shortened to 7-10 years. There are always unpredictable forces like our recent, extended recession or changes to a brand's positioning that can alter this track. Truly, most mid-grade pianos follow this financial track as well.

Depreciation is always vs. price for new. Your piano will eventually pass your purchase price and will stay above it for decades before it reaches the point where it will need to be rebuilt. And at that point, the cost of restoration vs. replacement (because yours is a premium, performance level instrument) will make financial sense as well.


Sam Bennett
PianoWorks - Atlanta Piano Dealer
Bösendorfer, Estonia, Seiler, Grotrian, Hailun
Pre-Owned: Yamaha, Kawai, Steinway & other fine pianos
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www.PianoWorks.com
www.youtube.com/PianoWorksAtlanta
Re: Searching for a new grand piano! [Re: PhilipInChina] #2410603
04/15/15 12:41 PM
04/15/15 12:41 PM
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Atlanta, GA
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Originally Posted by PhilipInChina
If pianos appreciate in value why would manufacturers want to sell them?
If art pieces appreciate in value, why would artists want to sell them? wink


Sam Bennett
PianoWorks - Atlanta Piano Dealer
Bösendorfer, Estonia, Seiler, Grotrian, Hailun
Pre-Owned: Yamaha, Kawai, Steinway & other fine pianos
Full Restoration Shop
www.PianoWorks.com
www.youtube.com/PianoWorksAtlanta
Re: Searching for a new grand piano! [Re: twocats] #2410634
04/15/15 02:08 PM
04/15/15 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by twocats
Originally Posted by michaelha
If you have the money tied up in 401K's or IRA's, you could transfer some of it to a self-directed IRA and "invest" in a piano.

I thought it might be borderline illegal, but this guy is doing something like that - but he's renting out his instruments.
https://www.trustetc.com/about/news/etc-in-the-press/new-york-times

And Mason & Hamlin is even spinning their pianos as "investments."
http://masonhamlin.com/investment

Oooooh, that just seems... unwise. This piano costs more than the condo I used to have in Austin.


I forgot to say, only if you have oversized retirement accounts, but definitely don't put your retirement at risk.

Re: Searching for a new grand piano! [Re: twocats] #2410654
04/15/15 03:05 PM
04/15/15 03:05 PM
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"Surpassing the original purchase price" does not make something into a good investment, even if that's what happens to high end pianos (which I have to say I doubt). There are several reasons for this:

1. Something may be a decent investment if it can later be sold for more than the cost basis. The cost basis of a fine piano is not the purchase price. You have to add sales tax, the costs of maintaining it, moving costs, etc., in order to generate the basis, which will be substantially more than the purchase price.

2. Something may be a decent investment if it can later be sold for more than the cost basis, taking inflation into account.

3. There is a difference between getting one's money out of an asset and selling an asset that is a good investment. Getting your money back (even if you could when you sell the piano) is not enough to make something into an investment.

4. You have to sell the piano in the right market to the right people. You cannot sell it to a dealer, because the dealer will need to buy it for some fraction of what the dealer expects to get for it. You cannot sell it at auction, because auction prices are low, and there would be huge premiums to pay the auction house in any event. You would have to sell it to an individual purchaser through some private mechanism, and I cannot believe that an individual would pay anything like retail value (even set at the used piano price point) for a used piano. A buyer in such a situation would need a bargain, or else he or she would go to a dealer, who can do things like provide a warranty.

Anyway, this is what I think.

Re: Searching for a new grand piano! [Re: twocats] #2410680
04/15/15 04:16 PM
04/15/15 04:16 PM
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Considering that the best current savings rates lose money vs. inflation, even with the barriers to liquidating a piano, it's a less risky investment than, say, stocks & bonds, homes or even gold over the last few years.

I'm not saying it's a musician's retirement replacement (like with rare violins), but compared with any other product you can use on a daily basis, many pianos could be defended as a "safe" place to spend.

It's hard to believe that our perspective is not skewed by our lengthy recession. Even as the piano market recovers, it's still much smaller than recent historical averages. In the past with higher historical averages, reselling on the private market was also easier, faster, with less dramatic discounting required. I could point to numerous contributing factors including craigslist, retiring baby boomers, music education in schools, households spending priorities, etc.

The interest in learning to play an instrument remains high, and that innate desire keeps us in business.


Sam Bennett
PianoWorks - Atlanta Piano Dealer
Bösendorfer, Estonia, Seiler, Grotrian, Hailun
Pre-Owned: Yamaha, Kawai, Steinway & other fine pianos
Full Restoration Shop
www.PianoWorks.com
www.youtube.com/PianoWorksAtlanta
Re: Searching for a new grand piano! [Re: twocats] #2410691
04/15/15 04:48 PM
04/15/15 04:48 PM
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Portland, OR
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I brought three pieces to audition pianos:

1) Chopin Ballade No 1, the piece that started it all (why I started taking lessons again, got a grand, looking for another grand...). The first page requires a *very* sensitive touch and there's a huge dynamic range through the piece, and also covers a good span from bass to treble.

2) Schubert Impromptu Op 90, No 3: I haven't actually worked on this piece but can sight-read it decently. I wanted to check the sensitivity to the delicate arpeggios in the right hand and make sure that I could play them softly without the notes disappearing. It turns out that this was a really great selection that brought out different colors in the pianos that I hadn't expected, and that I didn't hear in the other pieces. A few pianos that had very nice touch felt like they were "running away" with this piece, like I lacked as much control on the arpeggios as I'd like. Really glad I brought this.

3) Mozart Piano Concerto in E-flat Major: I used to work on this in high school. I threw it in the bag because it's a nice Classical piece that includes elegant, very typical Mozart bits-- and my sonatas book is too fat wink


2001 Petrof 125 -> 2002 Petrof IV -> 1999 Bosendorfer 225 (meow!) 🐱
Re: Searching for a new grand piano! [Re: twocats] #2410727
04/15/15 07:01 PM
04/15/15 07:01 PM
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My first stop in Seattle was Classical Grands, where I was met by Steve. It's a part-time business (by appointment only) and I got the feeling that they may not continue after selling their remaining pianos. They had two 7-year old (new) August Forster grands and a German Feurich. He said that he had his tech focus on tuning the AF 190, since he thought the bigger piano would be my focus, but I found the treble a bit too harsh (it was up on a wooden "stage" area), so quickly moved down to the carpeted area where he had a smaller AF and the Feurich. I found the August Forster voice to be big, very clear and cheerful. It actually reminded me very much of my Petrof, maybe a tad more responsive in touch but not enough to upgrade. The Feurich was voiced very mellow, but I liked the touch more. Too bad I couldn't have the touch of the Feurich with the tone of the AF....

Next stop was... lunch! My cousin met us at The French Bakery in Bellevue, where I shouldn't have assumed that the salmon sandwich was smoked (it was a salmon salad) and should have gotten their delicious prosciutto sandwich instead. We pulled out of our parking spot as I looked up Classic Pianos on my GPS, and found that it was just two blocks from there! So we circled around the parking lot and parked again smile

I was very impressed by the prep at Classic Pianos in Seattle. You walk into a room full of Yamahas (which I didn't try), and can go through there to another room with their high-end grands and uprights, which included Schimmels, Bosendorfers (including two art-case ones), restored Steinways, and a couple of Yamahas too. I sat down at a Schimmel and started playing, and told my husband, "this is a nice piano!". The touch on all of the Schimmels was exceptionally smooth and buttery, with a good feeling of depth. Then I moved to the first Bosendorfer in the line and instantly fell in love. This is what people mean when they say a piano plays itself! It was completely effortless, with a beautiful singing, rich tone. It was such an utter joy to play, and I kept telling my husband how amazing this piano was (he has no musical ear whatsoever). And the best part was, we could take home that Bosendorfer 225 for just $165K.... I didn't like any of their other Bosendorfers that much, but went back and forth between the four Schimmels for a while. When I played the Schubert on the first one, I had the feeling that the arpeggios were running away from me, and only one of the Schimmels sounded richer and more controlled than the others for that piece. Turns out that the one I liked was a Konzert, while the rest were Classic. I really liked the touch on all those Schimmels but felt that the voicing was too mellow. Again, could be that they were new pianos, meant to be brightened over the next few years, but I prefer a "lightly broken-in" piano with a tone that I already like. (Also, I prefer used pianos to new for price reasons as well.)

Last stop of the day was Northwest Pianos. They had a used Sauter Delta that was supposedly modeled after Beethoven's own piano, which was really the ugliest piano I've ever seen. It didn't sound great, either, I want to say it reminded me of a harpsichord. I also played a brand new Sauter Omega, which the guy said needed more work by the tech, it didn't leave much of an impression on me. I was really excited to try the Sauter uprights-- I understand now what people mean by it being similar to a grand action, but I found the "springiness" strange and prefer the touch of a nice Schimmel or Petrof upright. They had a few Petrof uprights (I used to have a 125) and the touch of the 131 was really quite nice and responsive. I played a used Petrof III and the touch was very light and easy to play, much lighter than my Petrof IV, but I thought the tone of my piano was much better.

I felt after the first day that I was validated in thinking that I would know when I found the right piano. All I had to do was find one at about 1/5th the price wink



2001 Petrof 125 -> 2002 Petrof IV -> 1999 Bosendorfer 225 (meow!) 🐱
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