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Hello! I have scoured far and wide and looked at many different pianos over the last year, but many questions of mine I feel have not been answered skillfully, or without bias to one's own pocket.
I won't ask is this piano better than this other one, and I won't ask which brand is best. I know they're redundant questions. All I will tell you is what I want. If you believe I am asking too much, feel free to give me options of recourse. I am more than willing to hear it all at this point I just want to learn more about the industry and the market, and what steps I should take to look for a piano that meets my specifications. Leave no details to spare if you believe it can help and educate me!

Info about me: I live in Vancouver BC, a semi-humid climate with much rain, not so much sun, and a large temperature difference between winter and summer. My budget is fairly meagre, but this purchase means a great deal to me. Plus I want it to last, I do not plan to stop playing after all hahah.

What I want: I am a young, budding composer looking for an instrument that fits the bill of; accurate, decent tone, A Clear sound (cannot tell you how many times someone has described a piano's tone as "warm" when the whole sound is washed out and muddy, and the action feels just as bad,) and fairly good action. I don't care much about the look of the piano or where it comes from, as much as I would like to be able to care about that. I just want something that will perform well enough to suit my classical pieces, and potentially be recorded (simply a mic) in the future.

I have heard many good things about the Yamaha U1 and U3 for this sort of utilitarian purpose, but also find that they're almost always priced at or above 2000 CAD for one of reasonable age. Is there any particular location I should be searching for them? Places or people most people do not look for that can get me a good deal? Not specific people or places of course but generally.

Any help is appreciated! Thank you.

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Originally Posted by Oliver Nouri
a semi-humid climate with much rain, not so much sun, and a large temperature difference between winter and summer.
...
What I want: I am a young, budding composer looking for an instrument that fits the bill of; accurate, decent tone, A Clear sound
...
I have heard many good things about the Yamaha U1 and U3 for this sort of utilitarian purpose, but also find that they're almost always priced at or above 2000 CAD .

Much rain and humidity and temperature difference is gong to be very bad for ANY piano, no way around that. You will have to tune it at least twice a year, when the temperature kind of stabilizes, say June and December.

What you describe in terms of sound, pricing, utilitarian definitely yells "YAMAHA", U1 or U3, not much difference between the 2. I have a U1 some 40 years old and still serves me well. Sound is definitely clear (on the harsh side if you listen to me) but the mechanic and keyboard is very good, technicians love it, robust, easy to maintain.

I am afraid you will not be able to spend less that 2K for a reasonable condition U1. Any way that you will be able to gather that sum ? It will be worth it for many years.

Just one final piece of advice. Get yourself a copy of "The Piano Book" by Larry fine. You can find it used for 10 bucks or so on Amazon / Ebay and it will give you a LOT of info on what and how to buy a used piano.

I hear a lot of passion in your post and I love it. All the best,

Mark.

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What is your budget?
Do you use a MIDI interface or direct USB/Line Out connectors to transcribe or record your compositions?
Do you have access to a good quality acoustic (owned by someone else) that you might be able to play once or twice a week to keep you inspired?

If so, one of the premium digital slabs with a street price of $2,000 and under (Roland FP90x, Yamaha P515, Kawai ES920) on a portable, but good quality stand may be just the ticket. Particularly if you’re at a point in your life where easy portability matters (because you’re going to move around frequently), being able to practice silently matters, and you don’t have the budget to handle follow up tuning/maintenance/repairs.

I’m going to guess in your market that most acoustic vertical pianos priced under $2,000 are going to be >40 years old, or lower quality models, both of which may require additional $$ to get them to play to their full potential.

p.s. most of the used piano shopping/inspection content from the previous Piano Book has been ported to the newer Piano Buyer website, which you can read for free.


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Oliver Nouri - It sounds like you are looking for an inexpensive acoustic upright priced at less than $2k, is that correct?

Assuming that is correct, you'll have a difficult time finding one at that price range that is in reasonably good condition from a store. You will only be able to get a console or if you get very lucky, a studio upright for that price. You will probably have to get a lucky find from a private seller if you want a 48".

Would be next to impossible to get a U1 in reasonably good condition for $2k.

You'll have to either spend more like $3.5k+ or get a console. I would recommend spending around $3.5k if you can come up with the money or the hunt will be long and hard.

Then you can try out a decent console or a reasonably good used studio upright - U1, U3, Kawai, maybe Essex or some other preferable brand that will have decent sound, action, and appeal.

Otherwise you will have to go digital.

Can you please verify the type and max price?

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Whoa - you are not correct about climate conditions being a problem here for a piano, unless you are keeping it outside in the rain.

I live in Vancouver BC, been here a lifetime. The conditions here for instruments kept in a normal home environment are almost as good as those you will find anywhere in the world. I don't bother with humidifying mine, including violins. I do not have air conditioning, but my furnace heats my house to 70 degrees F when needed.

I have a gadget that is good at measuring temperature and humidity inside and outside electronically. There has been light rain for the last several days, so it says the outside is about 70%, but indoors is 40%. The indoor measurement is probably ideal.

I know luthiers consider conditions here excellent for stringed instruments. Few climate problems arise, unless an owner is careless and leaves an instrument in a car trunk to freeze or boil for some time.

Of course, it is normal to tune a home piano here twice a year, spring and fall, a month or so after the furnace is off for summer, then on again for the winter.

(To a violinist, a piano is always out of tune. Read Larry Fine.)

I think your real problem is your lack of budget. Have you contacted any tuner/technician in this area? One might know of a decent private sale available.

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Originally Posted by LXXXVIIIdentes
Whoa - you are not correct about climate conditions being a problem here for a piano, unless you are keeping it outside in the rain.

I live in Vancouver BC, been here a lifetime. The conditions here for instruments kept in a normal home environment are almost as good as those you will find anywhere in the world. I don't bother with humidifying mine, including violins. I do not have air conditioning, but my furnace heats my house to 70 degrees F when needed.
[...]

I was going to weigh in on this, too, although living in Victoria only 100 or so km. away, our climates are distinctly different because of local geological features creating microclimates. My observations may vary from those of the OP.

Statistically, we get much less rain here in Victoria than in Vancouver (about 50% less) and we do get more sunshine here year-round. But stating that there is "a large temperature difference between winter and summer" in Vancouver might make some think that you are talking about the -40 in winter and the +90 in summer of Minnesota!! True, it's all relative, but let's keep it in perspective: Hottest month: August with average temperature of 18C (65F) and coldest month: December with average temperature of 4C (39F), so a very temperatue climate. Yes, averages are lower/higher than extremes, but Minnesota it ain't! Now, if the OP lives on top of one of the mountain peaks around Vancouver, that is a little different ...!

But to the concerns of the OP: given the relatively mild climate (termed west-coast Mediterranean), it's very easy to keep homes within moderate temperature and humidity ranges without much effort or expense.

Regards,

Last edited by BruceD; 04/29/21 01:25 PM.

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Wow thanks everybody for these replies!

To answer the questions given to me, my actual total budget I am willing to spend would go all the way up to 5k potentially if I know the piano will last me a good many years, but of course that's a lot of what I've saved for quite some time... I would feel more comfortable not spending quite that much. Maybe my happy average would be around 3k. It's an interesting question then, since I am looking at this from the perspective of a young guy who knows he'll play his piano till he is old; Would you all recommend paying that very large sum for both the enjoyment of the considerably better quality piano and its many more years of life? It would be the biggest purchase I've ever made by a good margin, but if it's worth it... then why not. This book/website a couple of you mentioned, I will take a look at it to see what I can learn too.

Also yes a few fellow BC residents have pointed out it is a more mild climate when compared to truly extreme locations. As someone who grew up in California for a good few years though, it definitely feels a world apart!

As for terminaldegree, yes I have both a line in & out + a cheap interface and in fact have a casio cdp 235r which I use in conjunction with a fortuitously gifted key of Ableton Live 10! I just find that with composing and connecting with the music there's something about even my old and failing family upright downstairs that simply cannot be replaced. I've tried my best to replicate it with reverbs in my DAW and I have gotten close, but it's not quite there. Perhaps my keyboard is simply not up to the task though! I will look up videos of those models you mentioned to compare the sound.

As for the private seller thing, I do have one piano tech I know who has some pianos for sale. I only know one piano tech in the area though, so perhaps it may be worth it for me to see if a few more have private sales going on. I've always had the impression that they carry the same benefit as a store (knowing that their piano is good, maybe maintenance for the piano for some years since they sold it) without trying to pilfer your wallets lol.

Thanks again for the quick replies. Let me know what you think.

Last edited by Oliver Nouri; 04/29/21 10:18 PM.
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Oh one thing as well, sort of the whole crescendo to this post, is this. Is it worth it looking at facebook marketplace and craigslist postings for people's pianos? I once thought that I would be able to find someone who's moving that needs their piano gone thus making it much cheaper, but after checking some of them out I am realizing that most often it is poorly maintained, has inherent issues that were not addressed by the owner or massively underestimated by the owner, and to get a professional quote on the quality of the internals is not very sustainable.

I think I may look at the private sales of my local piano technicians before going to a store, then maybe check out the stores.

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Originally Posted by Oliver Nouri
Oh one thing as well, sort of the whole crescendo to this post, is this. Is it worth it looking at facebook marketplace and craigslist postings for people's pianos? I once thought that I would be able to find someone who's moving that needs their piano gone thus making it much cheaper, but after checking some of them out I am realizing that most often it is poorly maintained, has inherent issues that were not addressed by the owner or massively underestimated by the owner, and to get a professional quote on the quality of the internals is not very sustainable.

I think I may look at the private sales of my local piano technicians before going to a store, then maybe check out the stores.

Hello, Oliver, and welcome to Piano World!

Just my opinion, but I have come to believe that only a small fraction of acoustic piano owners actually spend the effort, time and money to properly maintain their piano. And, I'm reasonably sure that most of that small fraction are members of Piano World! smile

Also, and others may disagree with me, but if you do happen to find a very nice acoustic piano, private sale, that has not been tuned and maintained on a regular basis, that doesn't mean the piano is no good. It means that it will take a few more tunings and some maintenance to begin with in order to set things right with the piano.

If you happen to find a nice pre-owned piano, private sale, that has been properly tuned and maintained, that, in my view, is the exception rather than the rule. In fact, I've visited a few piano stores where many of their pianos were out of tune. Of course, they would have it tuned, if a good prospective buyer asked them to, most likely.

As others have said, if you buy from a dealer, used or new, you will pay more. If you buy from a private seller, you take on the responsibility of having the piano moved, tuned and serviced.

That said, it is my view that if you are on a tight budget, but you still want a nice piano, you may have to be patient and look for a well regarded brand, private sale, and be prepared to act quickly (or someone else will) and have it inspected, tuned and serviced by a competent tech.

On the other hand, you may find something you can afford at the right piano store. You just have to find one that you like and think you can live with, at least until you can upgrade, which most acoustic piano owners eventually do. I think very few piano buyers actually buy that "once and forever" piano the first time around.

Good luck, and keep us informed of your search!

Rick


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I think that, as a "younger musician" (to me, everyone is young!), you should perhaps not be focusing too much on a piano that is going to last long into the future - depending how far into the future you are looking.

You might do well to find the best piano you can find for your $3000.00 knowing that as your future unfolds you may eventually - and maybe even sooner than later - be able to afford a piano that more suits your needs. Buy what you can afford would be my best suggestion and enjoy it until you can afford to find something better, whenever that may be.

As others have said, buying a piano from a private sale involves getting it inspected (a must!), arranging to have it moved and getting it tuned until it stabilizes. That's going to eat into your budget. As you have recognized, those who are selling their piano privately often don't know the condition of their piano or they don't care to know. Moreover, it's very difficult to assess a piano's potential if it is not in tune. Sellers who want to sell their piano without having it tuned are not doing themselves any favours and may be driving away potential buyers.

Buying from a dealer may cost more initially, but (assuming a reputable dealer) the piano will be in reasonably good condition, may come with a limited warranty, and delivery may be included along with an initial tuning after the piano has settled in to your home environment.

These, as you know, are all factors to weigh in the balance.

Keep us posted on your search.

Regards,


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Oliver Nouri - After I posted, you mentioned you know a tech who fixes up and sells pianos. A tech is an ideal source to buy a piano. You'd have to trust the tech and he'd have to offer some kind of written guarantee should the piano have issues after purchase. If he doesn't have anything you like in stock, you can ask him to look for a model that you like and fix it up for you within a reasonable time frame.

Like you said, it might be a good idea to talk to more than one tech.

Good luck,

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You are getting some good advice. A piano such as you described originally is not going to last you a lifetime. I wore out a small upright by the time I was sixteen years old, playing less than two hours a day for ten years. A niece still has it, and it is awful. She doesn't mind, but has nowhere near the skills that I have.
Maybe you should look at a decent new digital - no tuning needed, and you can maybe record directly to a computer for what you want?
I have a good digital, use only good headphones to play on it. Of course my acoustic Bechstein grand is far superior, but that is way out of your price range.

Violins don't wear out the same as a piano. They can and are renewed regularly with relative ease by a skilled violin maker, sometimes for hundreds of years. Guitars don't last either.

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Originally Posted by Oliver Nouri
Wow thanks everybody for these replies!

To answer the questions given to me, my actual total budget I am willing to spend would go all the way up to 5k potentially if I know the piano will last me a good many years, but of course that's a lot of what I've saved for quite some time... I would feel more comfortable not spending quite that much. Maybe my happy average would be around 3k.

I don’t have much personal experience looking for uprights, but my sense is that there’s a big difference between what you might expect to find for $3000 vs $5000. I will also say that based on my (very, very brief) time here on PW, there seems to be a conspicuous trend... at least for people who post on PianoWorld about making piano purchases (and you are now a member of this club!). They tend to buy pianos that seem to be toward the higher end of their budget (several people recently have described adjusting their budget up during their search).

Here is an idea for you: what about looking at new Pearl River uprights? I haven’t played these myself and cannot give personal attestation to whether they are ‘clear’ (which you describe as your main tonal preference). But it looks like Loewen Piano House in Vancouver is a PR dealer and that these pianos are likely to be within your budget (https://www.lowenpianohouse.com/new-piano — the PR uprights are at the very bottom of the website and I can’t figure out if they have separate links). While you’re there, you can look at some of their preowned pianos, as well. If you’re up for a drive, it looks like Allison Pianos in Victoria carries Heintzmans and Gerhard Heintzmans (although website seems like inventory is low, so if you’re interested, it would be worth a call before heading out there). http://allisonpiano.bc.ca
The only thing I know about these pianos is what I have looked up on PianoBuyer: https://www.pianobuyer.com/brand/heintzman-co/ — it’s an old Canadian company that has been manufacturing in China for several decades. Looks like they may be a bit more expensive than the Pearl Rivers, although it’s a bit hard to tell.

Please don’t pay attention to the implications of a certain current thread title (which I found in very poor taste). Judge the pianos yourself!

I hope this is helpful. Good luck, and have fun!

Eek! I just looked up the trip between Victoria and Vancouver! Google is telling me that while they’re only 76 miles apart, it’s 4 hours each way!

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The Vancouver climate is not hard on pianos, so there should be some good quality used pianos available. Unless you specifically want to record an acoustic piano, I would consider a digital instrument to be well suited to composing, arranging, and recording. Either an ES920 or P-515 would make sense (the FP90X has a good action, but not everyone likes the piano sound, so I would not use it for recording, and adding a VST will blow through your budget).


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I was helping a friend shop for a piano for her daughter to start lessons, with a budget of $4K USD. She ended up with a 1-year used Kawai 506N for just over $3K delivered. I was very surprised at how nice that little piano was! But I do think that the fact that it was one year old gave clarity to the sweet sound since the hammers were a little played in. There were also two brand new ones there that were difficult to evaluate since they weren't in tune.


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Thank you all again for the replies. I think I know the avenues I am going to take now concerning looking for pianos on the used market with stores or technicians. I may look into digitals if that ends up being an idea.

However! As my final addendum before I retire this thread, I give you all a link. I've come across what may be a very good deal indeed, and one I may be able to twist in my favour if they are willing to drop the price. However I have never heard of this brand, do not know where they are based out of, and I have several questions.

https://vancouver.craigslist.org/rds/msg/d/surrey-lower-west-baby-grand-piano/7314910845.html
There's the listing. It's for a Steigerman Baby Grand. Apparently it was bought by this family new in 2006, and has stayed in the same place that whole time whilst being regularly maintained. This kind of care is rare to see in the private market for sure. Whilst googling though I think I heard a few whispers saying this company made their pianos in China? Is that true? And is that a dealbreaker? I don't know enough about the nuances of the industry. But for a baby grand so new and well taken care of, I can't just ignore it.
The model number is XG-148-S

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Oliver Nouri - Once you do buy a piano, you might come back and tell us what you bought.

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Originally Posted by Oliver Nouri
Thank you all again for the replies. I think I know the avenues I am going to take now concerning looking for pianos on the used market with stores or technicians. I may look into digitals if that ends up being an idea.

However! As my final addendum before I retire this thread, I give you all a link. I've come across what may be a very good deal indeed, and one I may be able to twist in my favour if they are willing to drop the price. However I have never heard of this brand, do not know where they are based out of, and I have several questions.

https://vancouver.craigslist.org/rds/msg/d/surrey-lower-west-baby-grand-piano/7314910845.html
There's the listing. It's for a Steigerman Baby Grand. Apparently it was bought by this family new in 2006, and has stayed in the same place that whole time whilst being regularly maintained. This kind of care is rare to see in the private market for sure. Whilst googling though I think I heard a few whispers saying this company made their pianos in China? Is that true? And is that a dealbreaker? I don't know enough about the nuances of the industry. But for a baby grand so new and well taken care of, I can't just ignore it.
The model number is XG-148-S

It sounds like that could be a prospect for you. Some people scoff at the smallest size baby grand pianos, but I've played a 4'11" Chickering baby grand, made by USA Baldwin, back when they were still in business, and it played and sounded very good to be a 4'11" grand, in my view, at least.

They all sound different, and I'm not sure you can categorize any particular size piano as "no good". Sure, bigger is usually better, when it comes to pianos, but some smaller pianos will surprise you.

As for the Steigerman brand, there was a lot of talk and chatter about the brand a while back, with good reviews. You could Google "Steigerman piano" and likely get a lot of hits on PW and do some more research on the brand. And, yes, to my knowledge, it was a brand made in China, but I don't remember the details of the company.

And, based on your budget, the price does seem fair for a 2006 model piano.

Good luck!

Rick


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Don't forget, if you like the piano, get a tech inspection before you commit to anything!

One additional thought though-- I don't know your living situation but if you might be moving around for the next while you may have limited space for a piano. Keep that in mind, and also keep in mind the volume if it's a loud piano that might antagonize neighbors!


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Of course you would have to try the piano to see if it responds to your needs, but at 4'11" (with shorter bass strings than a good upright), don't go with great expectations. Be pleasantly surprised if it does turn out to be satisfactory.

Regards,


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