Piano World Home Page

Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect?

Posted By: rhawke

Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/24/18 06:08 AM

Hi, I'm looking for my first grand piano and have identified a price range of ideally 15k. I have already done a lot of reading on this site and have played various models in dealer showrooms. So far of the new Asian pianos I played Knabe, Seiler, Brodmann, A Geyer and Rittmueller. I have also played lots of used pianos like older Baldwin Model Ls from the 80ies and 90ies and some Yamaha. The Knabe and Seiler at the first dealer sounded so bad (muffled) that I didn't even consider them for a minute. But they also weren't tuned which doesn't help.

I noticed a lot of different tones from the rest of the pianos. In some showrooms I played brand new models that were identical, sitting right next to each other and one sounded significantly warmer than the other (this was a Brodmann CE 175). The dealer said this was probably just a different technician that set up that piano and that is was voiced differently.

I prefer a European tone that sound warm as you play softly and is yet clear. The dedicated piano room that we have is 16x14 with hard surfaces on all 6 sides, so I'm worried about things getting to shrill. I'm already planning on getting an area rug to put under the piano plus maybe some accoustical wall panels.

When i played my first Brodmann PE 187 6 months ago I was impressed. Even though it is out of my price range, I played the Brodmann again today at the same dealer in a different room (I assume another piano) and it sounded fine up to the middle C and then got harsher the higher I went. I'm not sure if my perception has changed over my buying spree or if it really sounded so different than the last model i played or if this was just a factor of the different piano placement. In that same room I played the Rittmueller GH 170 which sounded more mellow but if I had to chose at that point between the two, I would have now gone for the Rittmueller. Now the Brodmann was up against a wall and the Rittmueller was in the center of the room. No idea how much of a difference in tone that alone made?

Another dealer suggested that I should buy a piano on the "slightly more mellow side than what you want" because the piano over time will get brighter anyway as it gets played. If I follow that advice, the Rittmueller would definitely be the winner.

So my main question: How much can i focus on tone if this is so variable? I could dismiss a perfect piano just because the tech didn't prep it right? Is the dealer right when he suggests that I focus more on action and other qualities since it will sound different in my house anyway and that they will be able to do some adjustments with voicing? And how can I make sure that the dealer has the expertise to voice the piano to my liking once it's in my house?

All in all, this feels a bit like buying with a lot of good faith and hope that once it is set up and voiced in my house, it actually sounds nice ... and it's a lot of money to spend and then hope it all will work out...











Posted By: Iaroslav Vasiliev

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/24/18 07:00 AM

You should search for a grand that already has a tone that you want and action that you want. Not much can be done to change the tone later, the attack can be made brighter or softer by hardening or softening hammer felts, but fundamentally the tone will not change.
Posted By: j&j

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/24/18 04:03 PM

As I understand it, a piano should be voiced as part of regular maintenance because the felt on the hammers compresses and hardens as the piano is played and the tone brightens. Also, the tone will change some after the piano is moved to your home. For the first couple months the pianos sound will “blossom” and a skilled piano technician can carefully tune, voice, and regulate the new piano to be its best. If a naturally bright piano is voiced down too much ( this is done by sanding or needling the hammer felt) it can really kill the piano’s sound. According to my piano tech, whose had a long successful career, you must love the pianos sound from the get go, rather than expect to change its sound through voicing.
Also, if the dealer can’t be bothered to adequately prep new pianos and keep them tuned, run don’t walk to another dealer or showroom!!!
Best of Luck!
Posted By: Learux

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/24/18 04:29 PM

I think you need more time looking. There will be a piano out there that is yours. Once you sit behind it you will know.
Posted By: P W Grey

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/24/18 06:39 PM

Rhawke,

Your experience is a very common one. The best advice so far has been that you need to love the sound (and touch) when you're ready to buy. Do not expect to "voice" it to meet your needs if it doesn't now.

Unfortunately there WILL be a difference acoustically when you bring it home. Might be good, might not be. You will then need to work on (maybe) the acoustics in your room. Many others have had this experience, as I too have. I have been shocked at the effect of certain acoustic environments, both good and bad.

One other thing though is that the piano you are contemplating should be recently tuned so you can assess it properly. An out of tune instrument sounds poorly no matter who makes it. The dealer should accommodate you there if you show that you are truly serious about it. Don't fall for the common: "Oh, after its delivered we will adjust it to your hearts delight" routine. It rarely works that way.

Pwg
Posted By: MarkL

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/24/18 07:11 PM

Quote
So my main question: How much can i focus on tone if this is so variable?

My experience was that the way my piano sounded in the large and mostly hard surfaced showroom where I bought it compared to my home, it could almost be a different piano. Not saying you shouldn't care what it sounds like, but you might be faced with the need to have a technician do a good bit of tweaking no matter what you buy. I'd say put a lot of emphasis on how it feels, because that won't change between the showroom and your house. You could also try offering the dealer $100 to move the piano into a practice room where you would get a much better sense of the tone. They'd probably be willing to refund the money if you buy the piano, and if not at least you only lost $100. If you're lucky enough to try out a used piano in a private residence, you'll probably get the best sense of what it will sound like in your own home.
Occasionally I get the need to hear great sound from a different piano, so I use my digital and run it through a VST that sounds like a steinway, bluthner, fazioli, or whatever. After an hour of that I've usually had enough and happily go back to the sound of my acoustic.
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/24/18 07:55 PM

I concur with those who say you should like how the piano sounds and feels in the showroom. The sound and touch may or may not be different in your home but you definitely should not assume the dealer will/can change it after delivery. At least start with something you like as this gives the best chance of being OK or easily tweaked in your home.

You can try asking the dealer for a short in home tryout with no obligation to purchase the piano. Some dealers will do this although you may have to pay for shipping if you don't purchase the piano. If the dealer insists they can adjust it to your liking at your home, that might be a good opportunity to ask for a no obligation tryout in your home.

If you go this route you should have a good tech already available to adjust the piano's tone or touch if necessary. This could be one of the dealer's techs or your own choice. If not the dealer's tech you might have to get the dealer's approval for any changes you want to try out in your home.

If the dealer has a smaller room available in the store that you think would be acoustically closer to your home environment, they should be more than willing to move it to that room (at no cost).

If all/many of the dealer's pianos are badly tuned that's clearly a bad sign. But if only a few are like that I definitely wouldn't dismiss buying from the dealer. If you think a piano might be a good choice but it's poorly tuned you can ask the dealer to tune it. If they then say no it's a bad sign assuming you're reasonably serious about buying a piano from them. It's very hard or even impossible to judge the tone of an out of tune piano, and Larry Fine has said that it's often a question of tuning when someone doesn't like a piano's tone. Similarly if you think a piano might be a reasonably serious candidate but it sounds, for example, too bright, you can ask the dealer to try and adjust it more to your liking.
Posted By: Hakki

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/24/18 09:31 PM

It is very important that the piano should be tuned and regulated at the dealer.
If the piano is out of tune it will sound bad despite how good it is voiced.
So make sure the dealer tunes the piano before you try/buy.

Don't expect the tone change dramatically with voicing.
It might be helpful for a few notes that sticks out and needs to be voiced.

Finding the grand that will satisfy all of your expectations is hard.
There might be compromises. Basically you should try as much pianos
as possible and hope to find the ONE.
Posted By: rhawke

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/24/18 09:46 PM

Thank you for all the answers! The out of tune pianos were at one of the main piano dealers here in Houston but they told me the tuner was scheduled for the next day. But based on what I read here the Knabes are not in the "premium chinese list". Neither of the dealers I visited had put in a lot of effort into their used grand pianos in the 10k price range. I played about 20 used pianos and out of them maybe only 3-4 sounded perfectly tuned. I'm starting to lean closer towards buying something new now because of this ...

Any recommendations between the Brodmann CE 175 and the Ritmuller GH170? The Brodmann PE 187 is out of my price range plus interestingly I found the CE 175 had a warmer sound whereas the PE 187 was a bit too bright on anything above the middle C.
Posted By: Piano90X

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/25/18 04:37 PM

Originally Posted by rhawke
All in all, this feels a bit like buying with a lot of good faith and hope that once it is set up and voiced in my house, it actually sounds nice ... and it's a lot of money to spend and then hope it all will work out...


This. Drives. Me. Bonkers.

"A bird in the hand . . ."
Posted By: oldMH

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/25/18 06:12 PM

We refuse to test pianos which are badly out of tune and let the sales droids know we are not interested in any pianos which are not properly prepared. Imagine test driving a car belching black smoke and hearing the sales guy tell you they can give it a tune up later.
Posted By: rhawke

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/28/18 12:28 AM

Ok a somewhat related question: I just had a professional tell me that he feels that the two major piano dealers in Houston in general are not super service focused and their pianos could be prepped much better and that especially if I was considering a new lower cost Chinese piano, that prep work can really make the big difference. He suggested I would be happier buying a properly prepped piano from a dealer in Austin instead. Should I discard this as one person's opinion or has anybody on here heard something like this before?
Posted By: P W Grey

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/28/18 12:35 AM

Respectfully, I don't think any of us are in a position to, or should (even if we were in a position to), comment one way or another on an issue such as this.

Pwg
Posted By: rhawke

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/28/18 03:21 AM

Sorry i didn't mean to get anybody in trouble here. I guess the proper way would be to just ask people for dealer recommendations in Houston. I have already read so many posts on this forum about people who are very happy with their dealers. If I were in Vancouver for instance I would love to buy from Norbert. I will start a no thread asking for positive dealer recommendations in Houston. That
Posted By: pianoloverus

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/28/18 12:20 PM

Originally Posted by rhawke
Sorry i didn't mean to get anybody in trouble here. I guess the proper way would be to just ask people for dealer recommendations in Houston. I will start a no thread asking for positive dealer recommendations in Houston.
There have been hundreds or even thousands of posts about dealer recommendations and experiences(good or bad) on PW. I don't think there's anything wrong with asking questions about this. You can always ask that people to respond only by private message if you're concerned.
Posted By: oldMH

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/28/18 01:20 PM

We found the pianos at Steinway to be the best prepped instruments in Houston. They were also quite willing to make any desired regulation or voicing adjustments for any piano being considered for purchase. The sales people were informed, honest, straightforward and professional.

HPC has a huge variety of pianos and was happy for us to try all of them on several occasions. Some prep issues for sure, which they acknowledged, and requested we return after proper prep. HPC salesman was definitely trying to tell us which piano we should like, which didn't make much sense.

FBMC is sort of weird, inside a furniture store. Salesman was chatty. Pianos were ok but none of them really interested us.

I wish these and all piano shops would maintain a current inventory of pianos for sale, with specs and prices, on their web site. It is not that difficult and car dealers manage to do it despite much higher turnover than piano dealers. It is exhausting traipsing around town and figuring out who has what and being marched all over warehouses to try different instruments.

My advice to you is to find an instrument you think you like then get the dealer to prep it as you like before concluding the sale. Be quite firm on this. And if the prepped piano does not meet your needs, you won't buy it.

At the same time, the more you are spending the wider the search may be warranted and the less important local dealer service may be.
Posted By: Furtwangler

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/28/18 02:37 PM

Originally Posted by oldMH
We found the pianos at Steinway to be the best prepped instruments in Houston. They were also quite willing to make any desired regulation or voicing adjustments for any piano being considered for purchase. The sales people were informed, honest, straightforward and professional.

HPC has a huge variety of pianos and was happy for us to try all of them on several occasions. Some prep issues for sure, which they acknowledged, and requested we return after proper prep. HPC salesman was definitely trying to tell us which piano we should like, which didn't make much sense.

FBMC is sort of weird, inside a furniture store. Salesman was chatty. Pianos were ok but none of them really interested us.

I wish these and all piano shops would maintain a current inventory of pianos for sale, with specs and prices, on their web site. It is not that difficult and car dealers manage to do it despite much higher turnover than piano dealers. It is exhausting traipsing around town and figuring out who has what and being marched all over warehouses to try different instruments.

My advice to you is to find an instrument you think you like then get the dealer to prep it as you like before concluding the sale. Be quite firm on this. And if the prepped piano does not meet your needs, you won't buy it.

At the same time, the more you are spending the wider the search may be warranted and the less important local dealer service may be.


I hope you will forgive the question but...Fort Bend Music Center is "inside a furniture store"???? They are an authorized Yamaha dealer, along with several other brands. Can you elaborate???

And also - as one who is quite familiar with both piano dealerships as well as car dealerships, I am sure you know this but the average major car dealer is, in some cases, literally 100x the size of some piano dealers in terms of volume and revenue. Piano dealerships can be, and in many cases are - quite small enterprises. Thus, their marketing budgets are tiny and that would tend to explain why their websites are not as "robust" as you may expect.
Posted By: oldMH

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/28/18 03:32 PM

FBMC is in the upstairs portion of a building occupied by Noel Furniture downstairs. One enters via the furniture showroom and follows signs to a stairway which leads up to the piano area.

Um, it is almost 2019. If you have not figured out that people shop online by now, I can't help you. Even the smallest one-man cars dealers know to advertise online. The overhead of selling a piano in a showroom is 1000x the overhead of selling one online so I don't get that piano businesses can afford the overhead of moving, tuning, storing, insuring, displaying, etc but not the $50 it would take for good photos and description online which markets your piano to the entire universe. Piano showrooms are dying, partly due to competing online sales, so sticking the head in the sand and saying it is too difficult and traditional methods prevail may not work out. In fact, you might end up having to convert part of your showroom to sales of rattan chairs and faux leather love seats!
Posted By: Furtwangler

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/28/18 04:18 PM

Interesting. Thanks for the explanation of the showroom location.

And as far as the balance of your comments above - thanks also for that update. Also quite interesting. So people actually shop "online"?? I had no idea.

And a lot of new pianos in the $15,000 range are sold online too? Jeepers.

And pianos that are featured on a dealer's website from Houston are potentially sold to "the entire universe"? Wow - that is exciting.

Thanks again.
Posted By: PianoWorksATL

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/28/18 05:31 PM

I find it very difficult to help most customers understand what good voicing can and cannot do. Most cannot separate the change in attack from the fundamental character that is retained unless they have had a lot of previous experience with what that work accomplishes. It can do a lot for what the OP has asked about, "muffled vs shrill" specifically.

It's a difficult balance between accommodating, explaining, and not over-promising, but voicing is transformative and, by association, affects the sense of touch.

Also, as prepped by the distribution center, the ED Seiler grands tend to have a medium to medium bright voice. The Johannes Seiler grands arrive with a wider range of voicings from very dark to medium bright, but are more often on the darker side. We bring most up to a medium voice and then work from there.

We have the challenge that our main showroom is a large, open space with little acoustic help. I sympathize with customers that struggle with these variables, but with enough pianos and a couple of different showrooms, most become comfortable and trusting of our process.
Posted By: rhawke

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/28/18 09:59 PM

Thanks again for all the responses, I really appreciate all this input!

PianoWorksATL: So is voicing done entirely at the dealership or do you typically have to "voice to the final room"? Sorry for all these questions, until 3 weeks ago I didn't even know voicing existed. Our home with an almost square room and so far only hard surfaces will probably make the sound brighter? Would you in such situations typically do some minor voicing at the 2-3 month tuning?

oldMH: I had been to the Steinway dealer in River Oaks about a year ago on a Sunday but the sales person appeared not very knowledgeable ... i had a feeling he was there to sell "expensive furniture" to the 10 Million Dollar homes in River Oaks instead of finding a regular guy a piano ;-) But I guess I should not have written off a store simply based on one interaction. But if they still only carry new models as they did last time I was there, then nothing will be in my price range. I played the Boston and Essex and the Boston I liked but the Essex just didn't sound right to my ears ...

Houston Piano Company is an interesting place. They have lots of used pianos but many of them are out of tune. I played three Baldwin Model L from the 70ies and 80ies there and out of the three only one sounded ok to me. They have 3 different buildings with multiple rooms in each, with completely different acoustics in each which makes comparing acoustics very difficult. But they are the only dealer that has Brodmann and Ritmuller pianos in Houston.

Fort Bend Music Center I had been to the one above the furniture store. Not sure if I had the same sales person, but he sure was chatty. That's where I found the two Knabes that were completely out of tune, but I will go back there tomorrow to try them, now that they told me they tuned them. Do you think it is worth the drive to go by the other location out Missouri City?
Posted By: oldMH

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/28/18 11:31 PM

The Steinway dealer has a collection of new and used pianos at the Selection Center (or whatever they call it) downtown. You can make an appointment to go there privately. They may have some rich clients but they also work with most of the artists who come to Houston and borrow C&A pianos so they seem to have figured out what they are doing. Much better than the previous Steinway dealer in Houston (which went bankrupt).

The Brodmann pianos are an interesting brand. Good looking. Well priced.

FBMC in Stafford is worth a look, only 20 minutes away on the freeway on a Saturday.
Posted By: PianoWorksATL

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/29/18 03:54 PM

Hello rhawke,

At the dealership, we voice to achieve something representative of the pianos's strengths, as well as for evenness. If we have several similar examples, like for one of our new brands, we may have one set up as bright and another as mellow to show some of the range and effect of voicing, but we don't always have that luxury.

Further, we accommodate voicing requests if it remains in a normal range, provided the customer's interest seems sincere and we feel confident in the request. Custom voicings require a commitment.

What is far more common is that a customer likes or generally prefers one of our pianos as presented, but may ask for a minor change prior to or after delivery. That's why the typical and good advice is to start with a piano you like.
Posted By: Jolly

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/29/18 07:21 PM

Always beware of budget creep. People who populate piano forums are the world's worst at spending someone else's money. Because until you hit a certain (expensive) point, there is always a better piano out there. Once you hit expensive, it's more a matter of "different" and personal preference, than "better". Law of diminishing returns, and all that.

Never played a CE175, but I have a friend who services two of them in a piano bar. They've held up much better than he was expecting. I have seen the Ritt in person...One of the first Chinese pianos I ran into that could "sing". But it has to be in-tune to do so, at least IME. As for the Knabes, pianos can be different...I ran into a very nice 5'9" base level a few years ago and seriously thought about buying it. Just keep an open mind.

You might find a lot more piano for your money going the used route, with all the usual caveats.

Just a word or two of advice...If you need to be firm with your budget, be firm. Play pianos from $10k to $15K, narrow it down to what you like and then give your dealers the opportunity to tweak and tune the piano for you. Then make your decision.
Posted By: rhawke

Re: Grand for $15k - how much voicing can i expect? - 12/30/18 07:11 AM

Thanks PianoWorksATL. I wish the local Ritmuller dealer would do what you are talking about. After playing in more depth today on a GH188R, I noticed a few out of pitch notes and some minor metallic buzzing coming from the strings on 2-3 keys. When I asked about these, they told me "well this is because this piano has not been fully prepped yet. We like to do that in your home so that it is adjusted to your room conditions instead of prepping it fully here in the showroom. That's why we give you one free tuning after the piano has been delivered."

Jolly: The budget creep already happened ;-) My wife insisted to stay at 10,000 max but we quickly realized that this is difficult to achieve whereas opening it up to 15,000 at least gave us quite a lot of choices. So we said if it is a piano that just feels right, then we will go up to 15,000.

That being said, I played a 1989 Baldwin Model L at another dealer and he is very eager to sell it (according to him it's been sitting for a while due to cosmetics). I just started a new post on that particular piano, since it would go too far from the main purpose of this thread.

http://forum.pianoworld.com/ubbthre...d-1989-baldwin-model-l-63-good-year.html
© 2020 Piano World Piano & Digital Piano Forums