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Hi all! I am looking to buy my first grand piano! A little background, I've been playing for about 3 years and currently practice on a Yamaha N1. I recently started taking lessons again and have been having trouble adjusting to playing on an acoustic. My teacher said that I need to get a acoustic piano sooner rather than later, and seeing as I'm an adult and have trouble finding enough time to practice as it is, I want those hours to count.

That being the case, I'm looking to buy my first grand! I'd prefer to stay under $25k. Currently I am looking at used pianos just as all the new pianos I've tried in that price range have been more or less disappionting. I'm living in Seattle.

Do you guys have any recommendations as to what I should be looking for? The reason I ask is that I've noticed the Yamaha C3X I tried feels completely different from most other pianos, and I tend to like the control from pianos with a very light touch. On the other hand, seeing as I'm still learning, I wonder if it would be good to play on a piano that isn't as easy to control because presumably if one ever performs it will be on an unfamiliar piano.

What are your thoughts on picking a piano to practice on? I ask because it seems most people's considerations when purchasing are tone, and while that is certainly important to me, I think it's even more important that my time spent practicing will prepare me to perform one day.

Also, I actually put a deposit on a 1985 Yamaha C3 for $14.5k which is apparently has been reconditioned in Japan from Langlois Pianos. Obviously the issue here is that I haven't tried it! If I don't like it then I can always get a refund, but I'm wondering whether people have bought from them or done similar things before. I was hesitant to buy it from them seeing as I wouldn't be able to try the piano but I've been having a hard time finding pianos to purchase in the area. I've looked around at all the stores I've found and haven't really found one I like in that price range.

Thanks!

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Hi rifung!

I was recently in Seattle looking at pianos, and if you're looking for ones with a lighter touch I'd definitely drive a little farther to Mukilteo and Stanwood-- I'm linking to my posts about my experiences there.

Ed has a little Chickering that I really liked, which is also one of the prettiest pianos ever. Fandrich & Sons (see linked post as well as the post below it) has a 5'5" with a new design that plays much bigger than its size and sounded lovely, which is right at your max budget. They also have a slightly larger grand for $20k, but I liked it less. I have no doubt that both these places would take great care of you after your purchase, as they are owned by piano technicians.


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Welcome to the forum.

You will find that the general advice here on the forum is (1) always sit down and play the piano you are considering to purchase, preferably play it more than once and (2) if it is a used piano, hire an independent piano technician (not the one at the dealer's) to evaluate the piano.

You should like the tone. You should like the touch. Unless the touch is so light that it feels like something from an early cheapo unweighted digital, a comfortable touch is fine. Yes, if you perform on different pianos, the touch might be different, but that can go both ways. You should enjoy playing it. The piano shouldn't fight you.

If you can go over your budget, the C3X is very nice (I just got one). It's my understanding that the C3X is less bright than the C3's were, so keep that in mind. The C2X is very nice as well.

You don't say what pianos you tried but were not impressed with. It might help if you did mention them.


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Originally Posted by rifung
On the other hand, seeing as I'm still learning, I wonder if it would be good to play on a piano that isn't as easy to control because presumably if one ever performs it will be on an unfamiliar piano.
A piano that's easy to control is a good piano at least in terms of touch. That's definitely what you should look for.

The idea of buying a piano that isn't easy to control(a poor piano) because it will help if you ever play on an unfamiliar is completely wrong. Even if this idea made sense probably 98% of your playing will be on your own piano so the idea is not relevant.

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Originally Posted by rifung
Hi all! ... the issue here is that I haven't tried it! ...

Thanks!


Yes, that is a huge issue. One thing to keep in mind is that you need to take time - maybe months - to buy a piano. You need to end up with "THE" piano which you like.

I've liked most C3s I've played - other than one in a store which was basically worn out (ex-institution I think).

But at 30 yrs old, you're looking at a piano which could have issues - one of which is possibly the strings, which have an effective lifespan of about that long (though will still work OK for much longer. Also have it checked for regulation and voicing - which in many older pianos has been ignored. Definitely have your technician appraise it. Check that it's been serviced regularly if possible. And remember that a good upright is better than a poor grand.

But - you never know, it may be a wonderful piano.

Many of us have "climbed the ladder" so to speak - rather than lashing out $$BIG on our dream piano, we've bought something appropriate for our current circumstances, and, over the years, as our standard of playing or circumstances have improved, so have our pianos.


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Thanks everyone for the advice! So I guess I will definitely try to find a piano which I enjoy the touch of, and find a technician to have a look at the piano with me.

How old of a piano is too old? I didn't think 30 years was too bad considering I've seen pianos that are 80 or 90 years old being sold as well.

As for the pianos I've tried, I've tried the Yamaha C1X, C2X, and their equivalents from the G series. I also played the C3X and loved it, but it's out of my price ranege for now. I've also tried a used C1, Kawai RX2, and many used Steinways and Mason & Hamlins, and one used Estonia.

I feel like I really like the sound from the Steinways and Mason & Hamlins and the Estonia as well. However, I didn't really like the action on any of the ones that were within my budget. The Estonia's keys felt very cheap which I didn't like, but it sounded marvelous. I believe one of the stores is going to have a 190 shipped to them soon so I'm definitely going to have to try that out.

I am wondering if I should just get one that I don't love but can use as a stepping stone because one of the stores has a 100% trade up policy. This might be worth it also because I probably won't have to pay as much extra in interest since I'm planning on financing the piano.

Thanks again for all the advice! I think that if I get a refund on the C3 I still have to pay $700 for the shipping from Japan which I regret slightly, but I wonder if it's worth it to just purchase another piano should the right one come along.

Last edited by rifung; 04/29/15 10:06 PM.
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Please don't settle for a piano you don't love; you have a good enough budget that with some patience, you should definitely be able to find the right one for you. Play as many pianos as you can, and be aware that each piano is individual and that ones of the same make and model may play differently. I found that the more pianos I played, the more I am able to articulate what I like (or don't like).

Also, I think you should *definitely* consider visiting Fandrich & Sons. Heather Fandrich just wrote me saying that Darrell has voiced their showroom pianos to another level, and invited me for another visit. You'll also learn a ton about what a good tech can do just by talking with them.


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We're also looking for a piano in the Seattle area. Classic Piano in Bellevue has the Estonia 190, but I think it's going for around 40k. My wife tells me it is a great piano (she is the pianist). Check out twocats thread for her search, and her auditions in the Seattle area.

Good luck!

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Playing on an acoustic versus a digital is like night and day. It's important for developing finger strength and confidence in performing on other pianos. The audio-kinetic feedback of an acoustic is one of the primary joys of playing the piano. Unfortunately, this comes with expense as well.

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Hey Rifung

This can definitely be intimidating! I went from playing digitals for 22 years to my first piano, which happens to be a 7 footer, last year. I can say, without a doubt, that my playing ability and enjoyment has risen exponentially. Your teacher is right, that it is an important step in your growth as a musician.

$25K can buy you a lot of piano, even new. Hailun has a new 7 footer in your range, and of course there's a lot of very nice used Kawais of recent vintage. That money can buy you a nice Steinway M or L, though a bit older.

Definitely look at the higher end Chinese pianos. Estonias are pretty nice from the recordings I've heard, but are still kind of rare here in Seattle.


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Seiler ED186 should be in your price range - may or may not be what you are looking for - but I was surprised when I played it.

I liked it better then the Yamaha C3X - which is more expensive - but as is clear from this board tastes are quite personal.

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Thanks for all the replies and suggestions!

Does anyone have any comment as to how old of a piano is too old? I practice around 2 hours a day and want something that can hopefully last.

Honestly I'm a bit confused on the whole new vs used debate, as it seems like some used pianos sound great and I wouldn't even know they are used, whereas other ones sound and feel like they are dying. On the other hand, if a refurbished piano will hold up just as well as a new one, why would anyone buy a new piano? After all, you can get much more piano for your money when buying used.

Also in terms of practicing, I take it that the feeling and control of the action is more important than the tone right? I've really liked the sound of some restored older pianos but the touch just didn't really match that of a new piano. While I would like to enjoy the sound it's much more important to me that I'll be able to reach a higher level of playing.

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Originally Posted by rifung

Honestly I'm a bit confused on the whole new vs used debate, as it seems like some used pianos sound great and I wouldn't even know they are used, whereas other ones sound and feel like they are dying. On the other hand, if a refurbished piano will hold up just as well as a new one, why would anyone buy a new piano? After all, you can get much more piano for your money when buying used.


New piano comes with a warranty - if you buy a used one private party you most likely won't get that. It then comes down to what are you looking to spend, a used piano may or may not be that much cheaper. It will have the advantage of staying in tune easier if it was well taken care of - but again now you have to know the full history of the piano's care. With new you don't.

Properly taken care of a piano can last longer then you'll be alive, which is why you always want to buy the best you can. I've found a 20-30 year old Steinway which have been completely new factory action for 33k sitting next to new pianos which are 30k - now we're getting down to personal choice. Will that 30 year old Steinway last 60 more years - sure why not.

But always come back to finding the perfect piano for you, they make lots of new pianos - but really good used pianos might be rarer to find.

We're also looking to buy our first grand, and went into this figuring it'd be a used piano. Now it's looking like it's not going to be.

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Originally Posted by rifung
Thanks for all the replies and suggestions!

Does anyone have any comment as to how old of a piano is too old?


I'd definitely fuggedabout anything prior to 1870, and look with great skepticism on anything before 1910. Your main concern should be design issues. There are some things that make really old pianos prohibitively expensive to rebuild, like open pin blocks and old action designs for which you can't get parts.

Deterioration and damage are the next issues to consider, and will vary greatly from instrument to instrument depending on their use and rebuilding histories. Typically it's rare to find a really old really good one, but don't rule it out. For instance, a 1907 Steinway completely rebuilt in the early 90's could be a real gem.

If you find a used piano that seems OK to you, have a technician check it for you. A competent one can advise on both design and condition issues. You're going to need a tuner/tech on an ongoing basis, so the first thing to do is find someone to be your regular go-to person, and have them evaluate the candidates.

Another thing to think about is the size of the instrument. If you have room for it, as I and a few others here do, a used 9 ft. concert grand can be a wonderful home piano. When they're too old for a concert venue, they go for very little money, because so few have room for one.



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hello,

I started out looking for a used C3 as well. I'm not going to get into the gray market Yamahas. I have no good or bad thoughts on the subject other than re-sale might be harder for those models. So let me share a couple of observations. First, that's sounds awfully expensive for a gray market C3 built in 85 but I'm not an expert in piano prices (or anything else) outside of what I see in LA.

The other issue is, techs told me pianos from that era and not just Yamahas I might possibly be looking at both string replacement and rebuilding the action. By the time I factored all that in, I was ready to give up and I kept going over budget, which I blew altogether anyway.

Now I'll contradict myself. I understand that the rebuilders in Japan who supply the wholesale market over here, are masters at rebuilding because that's all they do. If you can get an A+ grade from there, then perhaps the price is a darn good deal.

My brother bought his new Kawai from this dealer (and I ordered my piano cover from them). I'm talking about the Modesto outlet so maybe i'm wrong here. If they're the same dealer, I spoke at length with the owner and highly recommend them. They're after sale service is top notch from what we experienced.

Back to your piano, $25K gets a lot of piano in today's market. I'll be very interested to see where you land, since they'll all be pro level instruments.

One last comment, please rethink purchasing a piano you feel you'll have trouble controlling. You're probably not going to play it much if it's non-rewarding chore. That's why most kids stop, it's no fun fighting your piano. Besides, you had me at the C3X, what a piano!

Good luck......blob


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Originally Posted by rifung
.......................Also in terms of practicing, I take it that the feeling and control of the action is more important than the tone right? I've really liked the sound of some restored older pianos but the touch just didn't really match that of a new piano. While I would like to enjoy the sound it's much more important to me that I'll be able to reach a higher level of playing.


You have to like *both* the touch and the tone. You might have to make minor compromises on one or both, but you have to enjoy the physical process of playing the piano and like the sound the piano makes.

A good piano technician should be able to make some adjustments to both touch and tone, but the piano you buy should be very close to what you want--you shouldn't have to invoke magic on the part of your tech to make the piano enjoyable for you to play and hear.


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Originally Posted by rifung
Thanks for all the replies and suggestions!

1) Does anyone have any comment as to how old of a piano is too old? I practice around 2 hours a day and want something that can hopefully last ...

2) Also in terms of practicing, I take it that the feeling and control of the action is more important than the tone right? I've really liked the sound of some restored older pianos but the touch just didn't really match that of a new piano. ...


re 1) Difficult question - buying a good used piano of any age it's important to have a technician assess it, even relatively young pianos. There are many wonderful used pianos out there - and with used you could get a larger, better piano for the same $$$. I know some 50 yr old pianos which are enjoyable, other 20 yr old ones are "GROAN" material. Using YAMAHA models as an example, you may get a good used C5 (or even C7?) for new C3X money. You can check out some on-line retailers for some examples of relative pricing (someone suggested looking at RickJones website for that purpose recently).

re 2) Personally, I think it's a combination of the 2 - though I'd go a little more for touch myself - you are doing much more than listening to it. The key - do you enjoy playing it? Playing plenty of pianos is a key.



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Thanks everyone! I will definitely keep all this in mind.

My last question is whether I should care that a dealer has a trade up policy. The reason I ask is that I had a very pleasant experience with Classic Pianos in Bellevue and I would love to do business with them but they mostly carry new pianos so there's nothing really in my price range. However, they do have a 100% trade up policy so I wonder if it would be worthwhile to get a cheaper piano from there and then trade up when there's something I like in my price range and I've saved up more money. This also means I potentially wouldn't have to finance as much money.

Also, I still don't totally understand the point of buying a new piano. For a car I can understand as they get into accidents and things stop working. Is this kind of the same situation with a used piano? Can I expect that a used piano will be more of a maintenance headache?

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hey rifung,

Stores offer full trade-in as an enticement to buy in the present, not down the road. I don't have the statistics but I read somewhere that it's rarely taken advantage of by the buyer. I believe the study showed that when it came time to purchase your next piano, it's doubtful it will be the same brand. As you gain sophistication in acoustic pianos, your tastes and knowledge expands. I have to admit, after becoming a PW member, I would try out a million pianos and ask a million questions before buying the next one. How likely is it the same dealer represents your brand of choice?

I bought my piano from a dealer (with full trade in) that's now become a Steinway Gallery. What good does that do me, unless I win the lottery? As for the advantages of buying new, you get the warranty for starters, mine is 10 years. As long as I don't allow pole dancing on the lid, they'll fix everything (and they have taken care of a minor issue for me, no problem). I think that's a huge plus on that merit alone.

I don't know that buying used would cause headaches, provided your tech gives it a green light. Many rebuilders (a lot of them right here) can and do rival new models plus they stand behind there work as well. I'm not saying used is bad, not in the least bit. If I were buying used, I would give my tech carte blanch to spend all the time he required to render a verdict. So if you have a tech you trust to that degree, then way to go! So you know, I had NO intention of buying new. I was simply in the right place, at the right time, in the right economy and the right dealer (who was closing doors). I think you're in the driver seat when it comes to purchasing an acoustic piano, so take advantage of that fact. You might find the right circumstances, just as I had. Good luck...........blob


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Blob makes some excellent points about the trade up policy, but for a (slightly) different perspective, I can tell you it worked out for me. I bought my first grand from Classic Pianos in Portland and recently traded it in on a much better piano. It was nice that I didn't have to worry about selling my old piano separately, and I got more for it as a trade in than I would have if I had sold it privately. But I also got lucky that Classic had the piano I wanted. If you find a piano you like at a good price that just happens to have a trade up policy, treat that as a nice bonus but not a deciding factor.


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