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#63856 - 03/20/08 11:35 PM Trying pianos at dealers
Zooplibob Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/17/04
Posts: 245
Loc: Houston, TX
I have browsed piano stores in the past, but have never been serious about buying one until just recently. I realized that if you are going to buy a piano, you're going to need to play it first. If you go to a dealer, I'm not sure I would feel comfortable sitting down in the middle of the store (among all the other customers) banging out music. If you are going to play the piano for many years to come, I would want to play it a few hours at least before deciding to buy it.

This is one reason buying a used piano from someones house would be easier, since you could ask to come over one afternoon and test it privately for a good amount of time, as well as having it be in a more realistic room than a huge piano store.

Anyone else feel uncomfortable banging on a piano for hours in a public store? Whats the solution if any?

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#63857 - 03/20/08 11:51 PM Re: Trying pianos at dealers
Shelby Guy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/28/07
Posts: 56
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
Your first auditions probably won't be for hours--you'll probably know in a few minutes whether a particular piano appeals to you and deserves a closer look.

Most dealers will be pretty accommodating. When you've narrowed your field to "a handful" of choices, approach the dearler(s) and explain that you'd like a longer audition. Most will inform you of the least-busy times and many will offer to meet you at the store outside of normal hours if you're a serious shopper.

Play as many instruments as possible (sizes, brands, and dealers), play the short-list instruments several times, and try not to rush yourself to a decision.

Based on your experience with eggma, I'm surprised that you'd be very shy about auditioning a piano in public. But the dealers I interacted with were very flexible and understanding about my unique quirks and expectations.

I felt more uncomfortable auditioning in a private residence than in a public store--it felt like I was intruding on the sellers' lives.

Have fun and enjoy the search!

#63858 - 03/20/08 11:59 PM Re: Trying pianos at dealers
Axtremus Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/03
Posts: 6195
Can't you just ask the store to let you sit down and bang for hours?
www.PianoRecital.org -- my piano recordings

#63859 - 03/21/08 12:21 AM Re: Trying pianos at dealers
Zooplibob Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/17/04
Posts: 245
Loc: Houston, TX
Shelby: Thanks for the tips. You mention my experience with eggma: have you had a chance to actually LISTEN to that? If so you might change your mind on what you said ;-) (btw I updated my profile and web links if you actually want to see). I enjoy playing when people invite me to, but would feel self-conscious about filling the entire store with my noise for an extended time. This may be because ever time Ive entered these stores, they are silent and nobody is ever playing the pianos. Perhaps I haven't hung around them enough.

As for the seller, hes potentially selling the most expensive thing he owns, so the longer I play the happier he would be. I can't say that about everyone in the store.

A question for the dealers: do people come in and play the pianos for extended periods often to try them out?

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#63860 - 03/21/08 03:15 AM Re: Trying pianos at dealers
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7439
Loc: torrance, CA

I'm listening to your trio's Shostakovich as I type. Nice playing! Will you bring a cellist, violinist, and clarinetist when you try out the pianos in a shop? \:\)

I'll give you a suggestion based on my own experience. It's better to go through a set routine of non-musical tasks to sort out the pianos. That will help you focus on the piano and not get lost in the music. (Getting lost in the music and paying no attention to the piano is a problem for me if I'm sizing up a piano). I trill the whole keyboard as quickly as I can starting at the top and moving down in half-step intervals; I do single note repetitions as fast as I can, play melodies with arpeggios and chords inside a couple of octaves at a time covering the whole keyboard from top to bottom, play single notes at random and hold them to listen, play the same passages with and without pedal etc. etc. I break these things up with non-playing tasks such as checking the key spacing and level, checking the hammer alignment and seeing how well they center on the strings, looking over the case or cabinet for fit and finish, playing low bass octaves as loud as I can with my left hand while putting my right hand on the rim in different places to check for vibration feedback, operating all the pedals without playing just to listen for noise, etc. My routine may not work for you, but I think it's good to have some kind of routine to help you concentrate on the task.....and it CAN be a task if you are more into music than you are into instruments. I would suggest you pre-plan your routine (whatever it is) and stick to it with each piano you play. It will help you narrow the field.

When you are down to a couple of choices, then play the same pieces on each piano. Short pieces (or excerpts) are good. Play one on the first piano and move quickly to the second piano and play it again. Play the second piece on the second piano and move back to the first to play it there etc. etc. The sales pros may think you're a nutcake, but that's good. They'll know you're not a rube. \:D

When you think you have a favorite, then it's time for extended play. But even then, I wouldn't do it for hours. You'll just get more involved with the music and begin to take the piano for granted. IMO it's better to play for 45 minutes or an hour and then come back a couple of more times to do the same. Opinions can change in 24 hours. Sometimes the piano doesn't strike you at all the same way on the second visit.

[Edit] I forgot the most important thing. Play individual notes and short passages of different types to see how softly you can play without producing no sound at all. Don't worry about the other end os the dynamic range. Unless you live in an ampitheater, any piano will be loud enough for a home environment. It's the quiet end of the dynamic range where the really good pianos show their stuff.
Will Johnny Come Marching Home?
The fate of the modern wartime soldier

#63861 - 03/21/08 04:43 AM Re: Trying pianos at dealers
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
Advice such as contained in this last post would be welcome in some kind of a sticky about "How to shop for a piano."

#63862 - 03/21/08 04:48 AM Re: Trying pianos at dealers
AJB Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/01/05
Posts: 3718
Loc: London, England
I agree. Turandot could structure this a bit and it provides an excellent guide for the serious enthusiast.
Re-learning after a long break from playing. New piano for 2017. 7ft semi concert grand.

#63863 - 03/21/08 07:38 AM Re: Trying pianos at dealers
Starting Over Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/07/06
Posts: 1290
Loc: Toronto
Turandot, you sound like a professional piano shopper. \:D How many pianos have you purchased?

Very good advice. Special notice given to the need for return visits to re-evaluate pianos you really like. This is very true.
Buy some good stock and hold it till it goes up, then sell it. If it don't go up, don't buy it.
Will Rogers

#63864 - 03/21/08 07:42 AM Re: Trying pianos at dealers
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10780
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
I was supposed to be writing up a FAQ on exactly this a few months ago.

Sigh, ...... some things slip as the world and all its cares rush at you.

I go through much the same routine when I audition pianos. I hope TD doesn't mind if I just clip his comment and merge it with my own!

#63865 - 03/21/08 08:08 AM Re: Trying pianos at dealers
Shelby Guy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/28/07
Posts: 56
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
One other thing I found invaluable, but forgot about until reading Turandot's most excellent and clear advice, was this: if possible, take someone else with you who plays even reasonably well, and have them play while you sit at an acoustically-appropriate distance to assess how the piano sounds to a listener.

Many of the same suggestions apply--have them play the same set of shorter pieces which demonstrate loud and soft and fast and slow and sustain and clarity. An excerpt from a Bach prelude or Invention and a short Debussy piece or jazz improv can do all those things.

Without someone doing that for me, I very likely would have picked a different piano that I think I would NOT have been satisfied with long-term.

I do feel differently than Turandot on the point of loudness: while true that even the smallest piano can fill most residential settings with sound, what's the quality and character of the sound at "loud"? So I suggest that you play loud too.

[Edit: most salespeople can play well enough to do this for you if you don't want to bother your friends. Don't expect a Julliard-trained artist, necessarily, but that's not what you need anyway.]

#63866 - 03/21/08 08:26 AM Re: Trying pianos at dealers
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012

Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 18128
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
Originally posted by Zooplibob:
I enjoy playing when people invite me to, but would feel self-conscious about filling the entire store with my noise for an extended time. This may be because ever time Ive entered these stores, they are silent and nobody is ever playing the pianos.[/b]
Zooplibob, it is for this very reason that dealers would be DELIGHTED to have you give their pianos a serious workout.

Some dealers (understandably) don't like it when people use their stock as free practice rooms. But you are a serious shopper, and you have every intention of buying a piano in the near future. I imagine there's not a dealer in the country who wouldn't be happy to have you play for hours just to have the chance to earn your business.

I do agree that it is best to time your visits during typically slow hours... when I was shopping, I found that when I shopped on Tuesday or Wed. mornings I almost always had the place completely to myself.
Mason & Hamlin A -- 91997
My YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/pianomonica

#63867 - 03/21/08 08:28 AM Re: Trying pianos at dealers
TLuvva Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/24/07
Posts: 394
Loc: Athens, Georgia
Wow, turandot, you truly ARE a nutcake. Now I feel better. Remind me to play bass octaves really loud and feel the rim for vibrations next time. But if you do that for too long I suspect it might be a good idea to keep an eye out over your shoulder to make sure they aren't coming to take you to the booby hatch. \:D Sounds like you're due for a visit yourself.

I do believe in playing short passages of the same thing from piano to piano quickly in succession. And I think it not necessary to play for hours too. I think it's more important to visit several days in a row or several visits in a week and see if your impression remains the same each time. The first several times I visited, the pianos sounded a little different each time I played. I was bringing different people with me and I remember thinking the sound was slightly different on each visit. It's like you hear it the first time and then you go home and constantly review in your brain what you remember it sounding like, but your brain gets a little off and then you go back and hear it again and readjust your memory of what it really sounds like and then you do it again and again.

I don't recall the feel or touch being different so much, just the sound.

Maybe this is in part because of the excitement of playing to buy. You're so wound up that your senses get a little wonky. You need repetition to reconnect to your calm inner judgment.

#63868 - 03/21/08 11:14 AM Re: Trying pianos at dealers
Rank Piano Amateur Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/11/07
Posts: 1854
Another thing to do if you can take a pianist with you. Narrow your search to a couple of pianos, and then stand at some distance from them, with your back to them (or blindfolded, or eyes shut, no peeking) and have someone play the same thing on both of them, obviously without telling you which piano is being played. Have them go back and forth, and see how consistent your preference is. If you always pick the same one, then go for it!

A piece of advice that I seem to recall from Larry Fine's book: also try the pianos with the lids open and with them shut as well.

BTW, in my experience as a shopper dealers love it when people are serious about their pianos, and playing on a piano will not bother them at all.

#63869 - 03/21/08 02:02 PM Re: Trying pianos at dealers
kluurs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/24/02
Posts: 3748
Loc: Chicago
Couple of other thigns...

Do check the entire case - check out and remove the music desk - check and make sure the short and long sticks match up with the lid, look at the strings for any disolorations - soundboard for anything unusual.

#63870 - 03/21/08 03:30 PM Re: Trying pianos at dealers
NE_Geek_Girl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/30/08
Posts: 118
Loc: Boston Suburbs
Some shops also encourage or require appointments which can mean you will have the store to yourself. That can make you feel much more comfortable. I also have noticed that shopping during normal working hours , if possible, is very good - stores are very quiet then.
I start with just simple exercises, partly to get the feel of a piano and partly so that I can relax.
And, if you are in the area - go to PianoCraft - we shopped there recently and since you make an appointment, you are the only customer and can play to your heart's content.
Having another player with you is very good - you can hear the piano(s) at a modest distance.

#63871 - 03/21/08 04:15 PM Re: Trying pianos at dealers
TX-Dennis Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/05
Posts: 4126
Loc: Texas
If you aren't accustomed to playing in front of others, the first couple of times can be intimidating. I found it so when I was shopping. I played some pianos in a VERY crowded showroom where others were looking at guitars, drums, trumpets, etc. I soon realized that no one was paying any attention to me whatsoever. I stood back for awhile and listened to some guy playing a digital piano who was pretty good, but for the most part people are interested in other things than whatever you are playing.

I'll also second the advice of listening to some one else play the pianos you are interested in. It is the best way to listen to the tone of the piano which is hard to do when you are concentrating on playing. Many salespeople are good players. Those that are will be happy to play for you.


#63872 - 03/21/08 04:40 PM Re: Trying pianos at dealers
M&HAAdriver Offline
Silver Expires April 2010

Silver member until April 2010

Registered: 01/21/05
Posts: 272
Loc: Centennial, Colorado
I see by the dates you've been a member of the forum for a long time. Nevertheless, perhaps you missed the "gold standard" of an odyssey of piano audtioning. A great read, and inspiration for shopping, playing at the dealer, and finally making a decision...Vippo's journey toward bankruptcy:


** Bob ** M&H AA 92809 **

#63873 - 03/21/08 04:42 PM Re: Trying pianos at dealers
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7439
Loc: torrance, CA
I hope TD doesn't mind if I just clip his comment and merge it with my own!
Dad, if you mean is it okay for you to rip me off and structure my thoughts, be my guest. \:D Adrian is right. It could use some structure. BTW, Thanks Adrian.

All it got me was a certification from tluvva that I am indeed a nutcake and should be institutionalized immediately if not sooner. \:D Hell, I knew that already. I venture to guess that it will get you some kind of silly post-of-the-year nomination reply. \:D

Actually it was late at night and I was listening to Jeff's trio perform the Shostakovich Andate through his Eggma link. Enjoyed it too!
I had been anything but helpful to Jeff on his thread about pricing, so I wanted to be a bit more constructive on his piano auditioning thread.
Will Johnny Come Marching Home?
The fate of the modern wartime soldier

#63874 - 03/21/08 09:56 PM Re: Trying pianos at dealers
Poisy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/23/08
Posts: 73
Loc: Michigan
At the store where we bought my piano, there was a student practicing a Yamaha grand piano in one of the special room with only a few expensive grand pianos. During my visit, she played too loud and the salesperson closed the door to give us a chance with the K3 in the general area. I'm sure if I wanted to play this K3 for an hour or two, they would even push the K3 in that room when no one plays in there. The only problem is, I find the K3 was against the wall sounded better than the K3 was in the middle of the room therefore moving a piano around might effect you decision.

#63875 - 03/21/08 10:29 PM Re: Trying pianos at dealers
hotkeys Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/07
Posts: 788
Loc: Massapequa, NY
If you are planning to visit multiple dealers, I would keep a spreadsheet of the various instruments you auditioned. I usually for response to staccato, soft passages, and sustain. Take into consideration how much room you have for a piano in your home. Play and listen to plenty of pianos...

- Mark
...The ultimate joy in music is the joy of playing the piano...


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