Dear PW Friends,
I'm sharing to encourage those who may think that they could never be happy with anything but a nine-foot Hamburg Steinway that they'll never be able to afford or fit into their home.
After many years of waiting to purchase a piano, yesterday a 2003 YP-185 (6'1" Platinum line Young Chang made during Joseph Pramberger's tenure) was delivered to my home--up a flight of 18 cement steps by two determined, strapping, young fellows during a gentle, April 30th snowstorm. This was not originally the piano of my dreams, but after getting it in my home and seeing, playing and hearing it, I don't know how I could be any happier with a more expensive or a more prestigious instrument. Here are a few photos.
Here are a few photos. In fact, I would be less happy, because I would have less money for retirement, travel, home repairs, eating out, donating to charity, being generous with my family, etc.
My voice teacher (a semi-famous Metropolitan Opera mezzo) recently passed away, and this was one of the instruments belonging to her estate--her daughter took the Steinway! (Her widower flattered me by giving me first right of refusal to purchase the piano.)
I'm considered a very accomplished amateur pianist. I am regularly paid for my services as an accompanist and composer/arranger, although my university education and professional certifications are in another field.
For years I've enjoyed Piano World, and for years I've subjected myself on PW to the endless debates and critiques and criticisms of all but a small handful of specific instruments made by an even smaller handful of manufacturers. I gather that most of those debates, critiques and criticisms are led by, either, technicians who know the science behind the mechanisms and materials and quality about which they comment, or by novitiates to the piano world. Rarely do I hear really great pianists commenting about how much satisfaction nearly any piano can offer, to one varying degree or another. It's kind of like that saying that I'll modify to say, "Those who can't play the piano talk about them."
Three of the professional musicians that I rub shoulders with regularly have all worked as professional pianists on a very high level; currently, one is the conductor of a very well-known choir, another is a professor of piano at a respected university, and the third is the associate conductor of a respected American ballet company. (None of them is familiar with Piano World.) I've talked with two of those men about my piano and they have been very enthusiastic about my choice/opportunity. One of the men does not have a piano in his home (just a digital instrument), another has only a beat-up spinet, and the third, until recently, had an older, smaller Weber baby grand. (Yes, I'm sure that the instruments at their work sites probably get used plenty.)
I'm trying to make the point that there are many accomplished pianists out there who spend time making music rather than fretting over having the quintessential instrument. I know a number of amateur musicians (several of them dentists or medical professionals) who hold off owning a piano because they would rather be seen without a piano than with anything less than a Steinway D. I even thought that way for awhile. But I know few people hold off on purchasing an automobile just because they can't afford a top-tier Mercedes. Instead, they buy the Ford Escort/Fusion or the Hyundai or Mazda--or a Honda Civic or Accord--and get out and see the world and live life and do things.
Again, I speak as a pianist who has probably had as at least as much experience than the average PW reader (setting the piano tech crowd aside). I've probably played on many more pianos--and really nice pianos--than most pianists here (again, setting aside the techs), due to a number of factors. My advice is to find an instrument that you like more than just average, make sure you can afford it, make sure you can live with the case, generally forget about the name on the fallboard and just get to living and making music!
As for these teachers that tell PW parents that their child won't progress without a really fine instrument, I think there's probably a threshold of acceptability, but it seems really exaggerated to me.
In truth, I was a little crestfallen when I first sat down at my teacher's piano. Then I played it! This was unlike the previous YCs I'd played. There were some really sweet pianos made by YC during that era (2000-2004). I've heard that the JPs and YPs from 2000 through 2004 were very similar instruments. Ads for a few YPs are found online right now, and a few JPs of that same period--mostly in gorgeous cabinets--are also for sale, many between $7K and $12K. I can't speak to how much I enjoy, or not, current YC or Pramberger (which are now Samick) instruments, but I did play a Del Fandrich Weber a couple of weeks ago that was gorgeous (although I didn't really connect with the action, else I would have bought it). In my own opinion and experience, Asian pianos from the twenty-first century have nothing to do with those made in the 1980s and early 1990s. The small, 1980s Kawai grands left me cold, but I've been delighted by those of recent years. Ditto on Yamaha. I've enjoyed some Chinese pianos in the last 15 years, too.
If I go to a home and there's a digital piano, the desire to sit down and play doesn't usually beset me. But if there's an out-of-tune little spinet that someone has lovingly painted in aqua high gloss, you won't be able to pull me away for love or money for at least the next 90 minutes. And if they've given up cable TV and drive an old car to be able to position on a small grand at a happy spot in their home, you can bet the crowd will be in at the piano with me (just like they would be at the turquoise Cable-Nelson) instead of watching football.
Lastly, I'll just say that the digital instrument that I'd had in my home during most of my adult life after leaving the resonant old Kimball upright of my childhood (on which I learned to play at a much higher level than most people ever do) has been eclipsed about 10,000-fold by my small, acoustic grand. I would have been foolish to wait any longer for something "better." A home is a different place than a church or a concert hall. For most of us, acoustics and budget are also very different than churches or concert halls. Again, I would only be marginally happier, if at all, had I spent $5K, $10K or $20K or $30K or $40K on another piano. I promise that you'll love the Clavinova way more than you will the blank wall. I know that you'll love the Walter/Knabe/Samick console more than you will the Clavinova (if you'll keep it in tune). And I promise that you'll be thrilled way more in one night by having the small grand than you will one, single day on your cruise or European vacation. The piano is one of those gifts that keeps on giving!