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Purchasing Steinway Grand Piano
#2443376 07/21/15 01:25 PM
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Hello everyone -

I've been reading this forum for a while and can't believe I am saying this: Yes I am looking to buy a Steinway grand piano smile My dream is coming true! smile

I currently have Kawai CA 65 digital piano in our tiny one bedroom apartment and my husband and I just signed a contract on a new place with a large livingroom with high ceiling(I live in NYC metro area). We are moving next year so I have about a year to find the perfect piano for me. I am an amateur who takes a lesson once a week and practices about 10 hours a week.

I take a lesson on a Steinway concert size grand piano so am very partial to this brand. My budget is ideally ~50K but this is a once in a life time purchase for me and for my future children so am willing to spend up to 70-80K if needed.

1) Buying a brand new Steinway: I have done a Steinway showroom tour in NYC on 57th street last year (they moved now). Not sure if that is the best place to start.. Or should I go straight to their factory in Astoria? Do you know if the price from the sales person is negotiable?

2) Buying a used Steinway: Is getting a certified one at the Steinway store is the best way to go? I do not know enough about piano itself so am hesitant to look on Craigslist (simply I don't know what is good to buy and not with appropriate price...)

3) The new place has large livingroom with large windows. It's a corner unit so guess how many windows there are... I will not put the piano under the direct sunlight of course but is putting the piano in the naturally lit room going to affect to piano?

4) Sound proofing : the new apartment will be on the 3rd floor. Of course I want to respect for the people above and below. I am planning on putting a thick carpet under the piano but not sure if this is going to be enough.. I will keep my digital Kawai that I can play at night and early am so will only play the grand piano during the day on weekends. Any sound proofing in an apt tips appreciated!

Thank you so much for reading this and I appreciate any advise/tips. Have a great day!!

Re: Purchasing Steinway Grand Piano
Chelsea00 #2443383 07/21/15 01:52 PM
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Hi Chelsea, and congratulations on your forthcoming purchase.

When buying pretty much any brand of piano, there are several options.

You can buy new from Steinways or one of their dealers (here in the UK all new Steinway sales are actually done through Steinway Hall in London no matter which agent you go to. I know it works slightly differently in the US). Of course if you can afford it, this is generally a good way to go. In the UK, all new Steinways are prepared to such a high level that you will end up with a beautiful piano on delivery. I am not sure what the preparation is like in the USA, but there are many on this forum who can guide you in that department.

You can buy a used Steinway. In buying used you have basically three options:

1. Buying certified used from Steinway hall - a used (as opposed to rebuilt) Steinway is usually one under 30 years old, and it will have been brought back into as close to new condition as possible. The hammer heads might have been replaced, for instance, and it will most likely have been given a full regulation, and the original finish will have been cleaned and polished, with any scratches being removed. The piano will most likely have its original strings, but if they are producing a good tone after 30 years then there will be no problem. These pianos are not cheap to buy from Steinways, they have strict quality controls on what they'll sell as 'used' and generally they're only about 15 to 20% cheaper than new Steinways (at least, that's what I've observed in Steinway Hall London). Generally Steinway in the UK will give you a 5 year warranty on a piano like this.

2. Buying used from a third party dealer. Here you may have to be slightly more careful. Again, you'll want to stick to a piano under 30 years old. Quite often in the UK there are Steinways for sale from third party dealers, and they are often in very good condition. It really has to be checked out by a technician, but generally these pianos will fetch about 50 to 60 percent of the new purchase price.

Sometimes you can find Steinways in that age bracket that have been in institutions and have been beaten to within an inch of their useful life. It's not always possible to know by the price of the instrument, and this is why I'd take a technician once you've zoned in on a piano you like.

3. Buying used from a private seller. At the moment there is a model B for sale in the UK, I don't know who is selling it, but it's carrying an asking price of about £37,000. A new model B is about £75,000. It might be a good buy, but since I'd be buying it without a guarantee, I'd probably want to knock that price down a bit. It's very hard to go back to the seller with a problem in a private sale, but you can find some good deals. You can also find some atrocious deals.

Finally, I would advise checking out rebuilt Steinways.

Again you have several options:

Rebuilt from Steinway and Sons.

These pianos are usually instruments dating from about 1890 to 1970, and will have gone through everything that it takes to bring the piano back to the standard of a new piano. If the piano requires a new soundboard and pin block, the piano will be stripped down completely and put through the production line as if it is a new piano. At the end of the process, the piano will function in exactly the same way as a brand new Steinway, with the same sound, the same action geometry, the same keyboard. Some people love this way of rebuilding because it is of exceptional quality. Others don't like this kind of rebuilding because, although it is of exceptional quality, it doesn't tend to pay attention to the era the instrument was built. What I mean by that is, there have been a few changes since 1890, particularly in the action design, and some rebuilders would prefer to recreate the touch to the original spec of the particular piano rather than modernising it. Cost wise these pianos rebuilt by Steinways are priced at about 90 percent of a new one.

Rebuilt from a third party restorer:

On this forum there are several rebuilders who are excellent. It seems that on the East Coast of the USA you are in the Elysium Fields as far as piano restoring is concerned.

Most of the rebuilt pianos from third party restorers will have new soundboards, they will pretty much all have new pin blocks too.

Where they might differ is that because they are not Steinway and Sons, they are apt to make some changes to the piano. They improve things, change things, make decisions about whether Steinway parts are the best parts to use on that particular action or whether it might be better to use a different part, perhaps Wessell, Nickel and Gross action parts. They may want to make some scale changes, change the position of the ribs, set the down bearing differently (these are all technical terms I know, but it could change things like the volume the piano produces, the sustain of the piano, the lightness or heaviness of touch, the amount of energy transferred through the soundboard).

I'm certain that recommendations will be made on this thread for rebuilders, and I'm certain that some of the amazing technicians who are regulars here will be able to guide you and help you decide.

So in answer to your question, which is the best way for you? It depends on whether you like the piano and whether it fits your budget.

When buying used (non rebuilt), condition of the piano is everything

When buying rebuilt, quality of the work and parts is everything.

When buying new, well, whether you like the piano or not is everything!

Re: Purchasing Steinway Grand Piano
Chelsea00 #2443400 07/21/15 02:54 PM
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Hi Chelsea,

Piggybacking on the answers already given by Joe, here are my opinions regarding each of your questions.

1. Although you can select a new model D or B at the NY factory, you actually buy them through your local dealer. In this case, it may be Steinway Hall. I don't know whether they will negotiate prices or not - you could always try. This brand tends to be particular about dealers not selling new pianos to customers outside of the local dealer's "territory".

2. Buying a recent used Steinway is absolutely an option. Buying one from an established dealer with a warranty gives some people piece of mind, but dealer warranties tend to be less desirable (they're as good as the dealer) compared to factory warranties. A new NY Steinway factory warranty (5 years) is not transferrable to subsequent owners. Buying from private sellers is also an option. In either case, hiring an independent technician to do a thorough inspection of the piano is STRONGLY warranted, prior to purchase. If a seller/dealer doesn't allow this, don't bother with the instrument. Although condition is of equal importance as brand and age when it comes to used pianos, production from somewhere around the 1960s to 1980s was considered a low point in NY quality. Classified ads can be seen here at Piano World, the Pianomart/Piano Buyer classifieds, local dealer inventory lists, eBay (many use it as an advertising portal), craigslist, etc. Technicians who service good pianos in your area may also be aware of potential sellers. Also, there is a large community of piano rebuilders in that part of the US, and rebuilt pianos will be easy to find. They run the gamut from minimal work, to partial jobs, to comprehensive rebuilding of nearly every part of the piano. The quality of craftsmanship, parts, and technical preparation varies quite a lot from one to the next, so taking your time and getting an independent opinion would be really important in these cases. There's more information about all of this stuff in the Piano Buyer.

3. Exposure to direct sunlight and daily changes in temperature and humidity are the primary concerns. Natural light is a nice thing, otherwise.

4. I've taken few measures to soundproof my various apartments. Both have been ground floor units, which helps. Also, having my neighbors' phone numbers/contact info (and they have mine), and politely asking about their typical schedule tends to smooth over any problems more than anything I've done.

Hope this helps!


Pianist, teacher, apprentice technician, internet addict.
Piano Review Editor - Acoustic and Digital Piano Buyer
Re: Purchasing Steinway Grand Piano
Chelsea00 #2443421 07/21/15 03:46 PM
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Chelsea,
The great thing about NYC with regard to pianos is that they have a number of topnotch Steinway rebuilders. Just to name a few that I have personally seen their work are Faust Harrison, AC Pianocraft and Cantabile Piano Arts Inc. I'm sure there are many more as well. It may be worth your while to check out some Steinway rebuilds even if you decide in the end to purchase a new Steinway. Good luck.

Rich

Last edited by Rich D.; 07/21/15 03:47 PM.

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Re: Purchasing Steinway Grand Piano
Rich D. #2443427 07/21/15 04:04 PM
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Chelsea;

The folks who have already responded to you post are way more knowledgeable about piano basics (especially Steinway) than I'll ever be.

However, let me respond to your post from a different point of view.

Almost two years ago my wife and I started taking piano lessons, and our piano was a Kawai CN34. After 8 months or so, it was obvious that these lessons were becoming part of the soul of our home. So we went looking for an acoustic piano, with a budget of about $5K.

To make a long story short, we decided to "go big" and bought a brand new Yamaha C2X grand. Even completely re-arranged our home so that the piano would fit.

Fast-forward 14 months. This is a purchase we would do again in a heartbeat. Among other things our piano technique and control has improved, as well as the quality of the sound drifting through our home.

Like you I practice 10-14 hours per week, and usually practice time is something I look forward to at the end of each day.

Of course every budget had a breaking point, but for something like this assuming the passion for the piano is there, this is one purchase that hopefully is viewed as once-in-a-lifetime.

Best of luck with your future purchase.


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Re: Purchasing Steinway Grand Piano
Chelsea00 #2443437 07/21/15 04:24 PM
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I'll add that while Steinway pianos should be included in your search, you may find as have so many others, the draw of other high-end brands. It surprises many people to learn that there are more than a dozen makers that compete at or above the level of Steinway. In NYC, you have the privilege of trying most of them (Bösendorfer, Grotrian, Estonia, Seiler, C.Bechstein, Blüthner, Steingraeber & Söhne, Fazioli, Sauter, August Förster, Mason & Hamlin, premium models from Yamaha, S.Kawai, etc).

Play these instruments and let one of them, perhaps Steinway, earn your business. It should be a lot of fun. Good luck in your search!


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Re: Purchasing Steinway Grand Piano
Chelsea00 #2443447 07/21/15 05:00 PM
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I read here at least once from a dealer that this perception of a 'no-haggle' policy with Steinway isn't true. But he didn't say what the wiggle-room range was.

I would suggest talking to rebuilers even if you don't plan on going that route. They have a lot of information about new Steinways. I talked to one recently who says a lot of his clients are people who bought new Steinways and hire him to bring it to it's full potential, and the final bill being in the $20-25K+ range! Some of these might be pretty serious players so probably not critical for average players - but still good to know what could be done and possibly pick one or two things that affect your playing.

Are there other people in that building with a grand piano? I would want to make sure of a couple of things 1) there's a way to get it in there. I recently visited a friend who lives in a high-rise with a Steinway grand in the lobby. I asked about it. He said, it belongs to a tenant who couldn't get it into his unit. 2) I'd want to make sure you could play it where your neighbors can't hear it or at least not at disruptive levels. In my multi-unit dwelling days I only remember one neighbor who had a grand piano. He didn't live in my building but when I walked by his unit it was pretty loud. I think he was on the ground floor.

One final thought, at your price range you have a lot of options. My budget was a little less than half of your base budget (not the extended one) so I didn't have as many good options. Not trying to talk you out of Steinway at all, but when you have a blank $80K check this is a rare opportunity to play all the high-end pianos without the dealers looking like you're just wasting their time, kicking tires...

Good luck.

Edit: re: soundproofing, this is a little crazy, but not as crazy as buying an $80K piano and not being able to play it. I wonder if there's a way to rent a grand piano, have it delivered to your future unit or one like it and actually test out the sound proofing capabilities. You should be able to rent a baby-grand for about $400/day.

Last edited by michaelha; 07/21/15 05:07 PM.
Re: Purchasing Steinway Grand Piano
Chelsea00 #2443448 07/21/15 05:05 PM
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I think there is a very large range in quality among rebuilt pianos, and this sometimes occurs even among different pianos from the same rebuilder. So if you are thinking about a rebuilt piano my advice is to play a lot of them and to get the opinion of an independent and knowledgeable tech.

One area where rebuilds can save an especially large amount of money is if you are interested in a non ebony finish or non contemporary design. The cost of these options on a new Steinway can add an almost unbelievable cost to the piano. They will add some cost on a rebuilt piano but not the huge amount you'll pay for a new Steinway.

Re: Purchasing Steinway Grand Piano
Chelsea00 #2443465 07/21/15 05:56 PM
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Hi Chelsea, I recently bought my lifetime piano after searching in multiple cities. One thing to keep in mind is that each piano is unique (it's completely different from buying a car!), so even if you're comparing pianos of the same brand/model/age, they could feel and sound very different. Part of it is due to a piano's inherent character, part of it is condition and how extensively the tech has prepped it (and how they've chosen to voice it), and yet another part is whether the piano has been broken in-- I found that new pianos that had been on the floor for a year or two sounded much better than brand new ones fresh out of the crate.

I've played a few wonderful Steinways in the past (one of them remains in my head as one of the best pianos I've ever played), but didn't find any that I liked during my recent search and I thought that the touch of the new Steinways were too light. The concert grands also tend to have a satisfying depth to the touch that you might not find in a smaller model. I would also recommend that you be open to the idea of trying other brands, as there are so many wonderful options in the New York area (by the way, you might be interested in reading "Grand Obsession"-- the author ends up buying her dream piano in NYC). In addition to the stores that others have suggested I'd check out Allegro Pianos-- they have a great reputation.

Regarding sound, the recommended solution that I found was Piattino caster cups which help to decouple the vibrations from the piano to the floor. I didn't end up trying them since our downstairs roommate isn't bothered by my playing, but you may want to look into that.

Hope that whatever direction you decide, that you play as many pianos as you can before you make a decision! I did tons of internet research to learn everyone else's opinion, but when it came down to it, one particular piano instantly grabbed me when I sat down to play. It's great that you have plenty of time to learn what you like smile

Last edited by twocats; 07/21/15 06:11 PM.

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Re: Purchasing Steinway Grand Piano
Chelsea00 #2443471 07/21/15 06:12 PM
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Hi Chelsea.

I would not buy a new Steinway grand for any reason because there are so many used and rebuilt Steinways readily available that perform as well or better than new ones. I also wouldn't buy a rebuilt piano from Steinway as there are so many rebuilder that have nearly a lifetime experience rebuilding. Once a Steinway technician get some great experience under their belt, they can make much more going independant.

You have a year to find the dream piano and this presents a great opportunity. You can take a 3 or more day vacation to NYC and with a hired consultant, or on your own, you can play probably a dozen Steinway Ds and during the same trip, see a Broadway play. eat at some of the world's finest restaurants, do other sightseeing, and more importantly, play a few other brands. If you go to the right sellers, they'll provide the opportunity to compare many 9' grands including Steinways.

You can make the same kind of trip in Philly (There are great sights to see and restaurants ) there as well. This mixing of shopping for a piano and a sightseeing vacation. You can even visit those relatives that you've been meaning to visit!

If you find a piano that thrills you, the rebuilder will likely store the piano for you until you are ready for delivery.


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Re: Purchasing Steinway Grand Piano
PianoWorksATL #2443560 07/21/15 11:58 PM
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Of all the advice given above, all of which is good, this is the advice that resonates most with me and is one which I recommend you re-read and seriously consider.

Originally Posted by PianoWorksATL
I'll add that while Steinway pianos should be included in your search, you may find as have so many others, the draw of other high-end brands. It surprises many people to learn that there are more than a dozen makers that compete at or above the level of Steinway. In NYC, you have the privilege of trying most of them (Bösendorfer, Grotrian, Estonia, Seiler, C.Bechstein, Blüthner, Steingraeber & Söhne, Fazioli, Sauter, August Förster, Mason & Hamlin, premium models from Yamaha, S.Kawai, etc).

Play these instruments and let one of them, perhaps Steinway, earn your business. It should be a lot of fun. Good luck in your search!


Regards,


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Re: Purchasing Steinway Grand Piano
BruceD #2443595 07/22/15 05:54 AM
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Bruce is right. This IS good advice.

Originally Posted by PianoWorksATL
I'll add that while Steinway pianos should be included in your search, you may find as have so many others, the draw of other high-end brands. It surprises many people to learn that there are more than a dozen makers that compete at or above the level of Steinway. In NYC, you have the privilege of trying most of them (Bösendorfer, Grotrian, Estonia, Seiler, C.Bechstein, Blüthner, Steingraeber & Söhne, Fazioli, Sauter, August Förster, Mason & Hamlin, premium models from Yamaha, S.Kawai, etc).


This is also good advice. There is a large rebuilder in Philly I hear.
Originally Posted by Steve Cohen
You can make the same kind of trip in Philly (There are great sights to see and restaurants ) there as well. This mixing of shopping for a piano and a sightseeing vacation. You can even visit those relatives that you've been meaning to visit!

If you find a piano that thrills you, the rebuilder will likely store the piano for you until you are ready for delivery.


Good luck in your search - and enjoy!


Rich Galassini
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Re: Purchasing Steinway Grand Piano
Chelsea00 #2443762 07/22/15 05:26 PM
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I want to second PianoWorksATL's advice, also seconded by BruceD. While you may very well end up with a Steinway, with your budget and interest you should also check out other brands before making a decision. I would look at Bosendorfer, Schimmel, Mason & Hamlin, Bluthner, Beckstein. . . .the list could easily go on, but you get the idea. You might also want to check out the collection of posts on this site about Cunningham Piano Company, which is a short train ride from NYC and which also has wonderful pianos. Rich will also give you a tour of the factory and a lesson in piano construction while he is at it--an education not to be missed.

The search should be a fun experience in itself, especially given the kinds of pianos you will be trying out. You need to find out whether your love of Steinway is coincidental (because that is the piano you have been playing) or comparative (a conclusion you can only reach by trying out other brands).

Wherever you end up, enjoy the ride!

Re: Purchasing Steinway Grand Piano
Chelsea00 #2444052 07/23/15 07:55 PM
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Thank you everyone for great advice! I will report back here what I end up choosing. I am sooo excited! smile

Re: Purchasing Steinway Grand Piano
Chelsea00 #2444067 07/23/15 09:16 PM
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Play as many as possible. The right Steinway will choose you. Mine did.

Re: Purchasing Steinway Grand Piano
Chelsea00 #2444080 07/24/15 12:04 AM
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New NY Steinways require a ton of prep/maintenance to be truly great. I've put a ridiculous amount of money into my piano over 15 years. (I hear, though, they've gotten much better recently.) For that reason, I'd look at getting a Hamburg. Frankly, if I were buying a piano now, I'd probably buy a Shigeru. But I do like my Steinway and am proud to own it. I just think a Shigeru is a great piano and probably less of a maintenance headache. Be sure to check out Faust Harrison. They have great Steinways and great Masons and, lately, Yamahas.


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Re: Purchasing Steinway Grand Piano
kippesc #2444115 07/24/15 06:39 AM
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Hi kippesc - I actually had no idea you need to a lot of work on the piano other than regular tuning... Can you please give me an example of what kind of work that needs to be done?

Re: Purchasing Steinway Grand Piano
Chelsea00 #2444125 07/24/15 07:44 AM
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Re: Purchasing Steinway Grand Piano
Chelsea00 #2444139 07/24/15 08:26 AM
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Chelsea,

Here is a simple description of additional maintenance you'll need over the life of any piano. Read through the end of p. 102:

http://www.pianobuyer.com/spring15/99.html

With any new or rebuilt piano, the most troublesome (or involved) year of ownership is inevitably the first one. After things break in, assuming you've had the tuning, regulation, and voicing attended to regularly by a qualified technician, the piano tends to stabilize in subsequent years, needing less work...until parts wear out (which is decades later, in home use).


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Re: Purchasing Steinway Grand Piano
Chelsea00 #2444142 07/24/15 08:40 AM
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Maintenance on my Steinway: bottom up regulation which was incredibly extensive. Bed the keyboard, level the keys, regulate the friction (requiring changing of bushings, reeming bushings and/or repinning), all manner of regulating adjustments which goes way beyond turning little screws to include -- removing key weights, adding weight to hammer shanks, changing out shanks; string leveling, mating hammers to string, adjusting dampers, voicing. So, after 10 years and many many dollars, I like my piano. But it's very hard to find technicians who are able and willing to do this work. The piano now plays like a dream. I do not know how stable all this work will prove to be. My sense is that a Yamaha or Shigeru or Mason or Hamburg Steinway will stay regulated longer. Having said all this, I'm told the new Steinways out of New York are much better regulated. I think the Piano Buyer says this too. Essentially, the factory had been much improved in recent years.


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