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I wonder how this all will end - not well I guess...

A couple of months ago, I started shopping around for a new piano. Read reviews and opinions, visited the few stores that still exist. (Sweden is a pitiful piano market nowadays, a couple of Yamaha resellers, a Steinway and Kawai showroom, 3-4 piano techs spread out over the country, selling new Feurichs and renovated instruments as a side business.)

It started off well, I almost decided on a Yamaha U1 and went home to think about it. Then read some more, went around the house to see if we could squeeze in a grand somewhere (yes, we can), talked to my wife, tried a couple of available new (Yamaha) and used grands etc etc... This is after all meant to be my great 60th birthday present so I really want to get things right.

Now, I caught myself red-handed, seriously thinking about how to finance a mint condition Steingräber B-192 that I fell in love with. I woke up of course, its too big, too expensive and ridiculously over-qualified for my feeble playing skills, but made me wonder - where will this journey end? It might still be the U1. Or something a lot more expensive. Right now, I'm just confused and a bit worried about my unreliable judgement.

Any experiences with the slippery slope of buying an instrument far, far above the original budget? Did you manage to hit the brakes?

Last edited by ColonelBogey; 03/11/21 10:54 AM.

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Going through this myself, actually.

A grand that we shouldn't spend the money on even though we could? Very used grand? High quality upright for less than the very used grand? How long do we wait for "the right one"? A month? A year? At what point is "sound and touch" enough and when does reputation of long-term quality take over? And so on.

We did hit the brakes on a grand that was brand new and at the very, very top of our budget just in time, though. The rest is still up in the air.

Anyway, I feel you 100%. Though I can't imagine having even fewer options to choose from! That adds a whole 'nother level of frustration. (Though too many options can be difficult, as well.)

At least with a piano, the chance of the slippery slope of not liking the higher quality instrument is probably very rare, with the opposite being true--the better the instrument the more you will likely love it--but the slippery slope, then, is more of a financial slope, I would think.


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Yes, when the only piano I fell in love with after trying more than 100 was a new Bösendorfer 225. We were just not in a place to responsibly spend that much. In retrospect it would have been okay but at the time we thought we might lose our jobs. I ended up buying a used 225 (which is an art case model and the most beautiful piano I've seen in my life-- see the link in my signature) but I still think of the other as the one that got away. Hopefully I'll stop feeling that way in a couple of months when I get a new action and hammers in my piano.

Size and cost are limitations but don't let your level of skill be one! We only live once and I've noticed that the older I get, the faster time seems to fly by smile

Now that vaccines are rolling out, can you be patient and travel to look for pianos once it's safe to do so?


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Originally Posted by twocats
.... I ended up buying a used 225 (which is an art case model and the most beautiful piano I've seen in my life-- see the link in my signature) but I still think of the other as the one that got away. Hopefully I'll stop feeling that way in a couple of months when I get a new action and hammers in my piano.

Size and cost are limitations but don't let your level of skill be one! We only live once and I've noticed that the older I get, the faster time seems to fly by smile

...

Just finished reading your thread! Such a fantastic instrument and an interesting and inspiring story! And you have a good point - I should not let my playing skills be a limitation.


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Originally Posted by twocats
Yes, when the only piano I fell in love with after trying more than 100 was a new Bösendorfer 225. We were just not in a place to responsibly spend that much. In retrospect it would have been okay but at the time we thought we might lose our jobs. I ended up buying a used 225 (which is an art case model and the most beautiful piano I've seen in my life-- see the link in my signature) but I still think of the other as the one that got away. Hopefully I'll stop feeling that way in a couple of months when I get a new action and hammers in my piano.

Size and cost are limitations but don't let your level of skill be one! We only live once and I've noticed that the older I get, the faster time seems to fly by smile

Now that vaccines are rolling out, can you be patient and travel to look for pianos once it's safe to do so?

OT here but twocats I think you were blessed to find your gorgeous Bosendorfer and it was good that the new one got away. smile


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Originally Posted by j&j
I think you were blessed to find your gorgeous Bosendorfer and it was good that the new one got away. smile

A moral one might draw from this story is that a wonderful used piano looking for a new home could be a great birthday present, especially for someone with latent skills that are ready to blossom.


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Originally Posted by ColonelBogey
Just finished reading your thread! Such a fantastic instrument and an interesting and inspiring story! And you have a good point - I should not let my playing skills be a limitation.

Thank you! I hope you're able to find a wonderful instrument that won't break the bank. With a piano you really love I'm sure your skill will improve with all the time spent on it smile

Originally Posted by j&j
OT here but twocats I think you were blessed to find your gorgeous Bosendorfer and it was good that the new one got away. smile

I hope with the new parts and regulation that it'll finally play as beautifully as it looks! It is definitely a very special piano but has wear from age. The new one (and only that particular 225) just disappeared under my fingers when I played. It was like it understood what I wanted and there was just me and the music. I just have to listen to my tech who said that I had a magical experience on that one day and to appreciate it for what it was. On another day or in my home it could have been different!

But I have the most beautiful piano in the world sitting in my living room and that's pretty incredible. Maybe soon I'll have the best of both worlds smile


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Just spent Saturday morning trying out a paper grand silhouette in various spots in the house. The good/bad news is that I can fit in a 188cm, maybe even a 192cm reasonably comfortably. This is good, since it increases the number of available used instruments to choose from, but increases the risk of me spending too much.

On Tuesday, I'm trying out a couple of Steinways. To be continued...


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Don’t forget to leave room for the bench and also for your tech to work when you are calculating size.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
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Originally Posted by ColonelBogey
Just spent Saturday morning trying out a paper grand silhouette in various spots in the house.

FYI, that can be misleading. Based on silhouettes, I thought I could accommodate maybe 6' 1" +. Ended up buying a 5' 7" and realized, upon delivery, that anything larger would never have worked. Try putting chairs or boxes on the silhouette edges. Be sure you're envisioning a big, 3 dimensional object.

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The crucial thing to remember as well as allowing room for comfortable seating while playing, as dogperson has pointed out, is to allow room for the tech to work. That means allowing enough room for the tech to sit back far enough to pull out the action.

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Originally Posted by BruceD
The crucial thing to remember as well as allowing room for comfortable seating while playing, as dogperson has pointed out, is to allow room for the tech to work. That means allowing enough room for the tech to sit back far enough to pull out the action.
Which, realistically, should be about two and a half feet.

Last edited by Carey; 03/13/21 12:22 PM.

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Thanks all! I did think about enough room for the bench but not pulling out action...


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Originally Posted by ColonelBogey
On Tuesday, I'm trying out a couple of Steinways. To be continued...

Tried out an M and an O from the 70-ties. Not convinced - these are instruments in mint condition but expensive (40k USD-ish), imported already renovated to please the people that want a playable grand that looks fantastic in their luxury home or apartment. I did not completely fall in love with the sound...

A 20-ties Bechstein M 178, well restored as it seems is up next. That will be a full days excursion to beautiful Dalecarlia.

I dont know much about Bechstein apart from playing and really liking a A175 in Germany (pre-covid). Maybe thats also a reasonable option - a new Bechstein A175 with factory installed silent system. Tempting. Since I cant try an A175 here, I wonder how different individual contemporary A175's can be? I would expect them to be very consistent, right?


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Originally Posted by ColonelBogey
This is after all meant to be my great 60th birthday present so I really want to get things right.
...
Any experiences with the slippery slope of buying an instrument far, far above the original budget? Did you manage to hit the brakes?
I'm considerably younger than you but I imagine that part of a birthday gift to oneself is to make the process leading up to it enjoyable. The last thing you'd need, from yourself, is pressure to get it right too quickly. At least, that was part of my own learning curve in the whole "buy a piano you can happily live with for a long time" ordeal. I kid you not, I started my search with a Boesendorfer Imperial (!) that was ridiculously out of my affordability range and that would have sounded ridiculous (I'm sure) even in a spacious home like my own. There's the saying of "having eyes bigger than your stomach" that applies when kids order oversized meals in a restaurant ... it appears to me that a similar saying occasionally applies to us aspirational piano buyers.

Having shelved the Imperial, I then widened the search to look for other grands, and was just unhappy. I ended up buying a high quality upright to have a practice instrument, and few things in life have made me as happy as that result. Not because I'm putting off buying the "grand piano of my dreams" forever, but I'm now on a much more relaxed time line, and I can afford economically and emotionally to take things at a more relaxed pace which is also kinder to myself.

Don't underestimate how much strength to your bargaining position you add, as a buyer, if you can sincerely walk away from a deal. I've seen it make a huge difference already and I wouldn't wanna miss it. Savvy sellers will exploit anything they see, and that includes putting various kinds of pressure on you, giving you the impression that if you don't jump on X right now it'll be gone forever etc. A little peace of mind on the buyer's side goes a long way.

Good luck with your search, and I hope you find the right one - whether in time for your 60th birthday or afterwards!

Last edited by Windjammer; 03/16/21 03:32 PM.

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Originally Posted by ColonelBogey
I dont know much about Bechstein apart from playing and really liking a A175 in Germany (pre-covid). Maybe thats also a reasonable option - a new Bechstein A175 with factory installed silent system. Tempting. Since I cant try an A175 here, I wonder how different individual contemporary A175's can be? I would expect them to be very consistent, right?

Actually, WRONG. The company has outsourced its components and some manufacturing to MANY different companies, in various locations, over the years. This results in the same model sounding and performing differently depending upon where certain components and structures are produced, and from what materials. It is BEST to play the exact piano you are considering, and make note of the serial number.


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I understand the increasing budget very well having been there myself. Suffice to say what started out as a search for a restored 6 foot grand with a modest figure in mind ended up as a seven foot 4 grand with a 50% increase in budget. Ah well.. I always wanted a grand piano and the kids are going to play for the next 8 years so I guess when it's amortised over that time period and two kids is justifiable? At least that was the thought process when I bought it.

Since then though I've rediscovered my own love for playing and might even work towards the Dip Abrsm after a 20 year break. It's amazing how playing piano is now a huge part of my life though that might change a little once the tennis clubs open and I can get back on the courts again. Even so playing the piano will remain a large part of my life forever and its all down to having a piano I love.

So blow the budget and then some smile.

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There is a lady where I live has a minty meticulously rebuilt gorgeous ~1918 6' Chickering she can not yet sell for about $3,000. I just do not have the extra coin for it right now, and I have several nice pianos including a 1925 6' Chickering, but none of them are as minty as hers, looks like it just came from a top rebuilder. There is not a speck of dust on the honey colored soundboard and golden strings and shining pins, it is really an impressive and just service. I wrote to her and told her she has a one in a thousand fantastic instrument.

I am guess I am saying do not forget the unloved available pianos. I'd much rather have a ~1920 Bluthner or Bechstein than what you mention, and I've seen these for sale redone for $15k.

Good luck!!

Last edited by MichaelET; 03/17/21 09:40 PM.
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I think you should find a piano to make friends with. See if you sit down with it and it feels like "friend." On a different note, I've really taken a bend toward the instruments from about 1850-1890 with a lighter build, and a little less metal frame than the later "big voice" instruments. I just love the lighter refined sound of the earlier instruments. The attack and sustain is different, too. I wish this type instrument was still built instead of what might be called a design monoculture of the last 50 years or more.

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I was just listening to videos of pianos for sale including some newer Bechstein, but then this rebuilt 1898 model. Whoa check out the tone. I think it is very nice. For reference, the asking price is
$30k. https://www.picarzo.com/images/videos/1892VC.mp4

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