Buying my first piano!

General discussion about piano makes, problems with pianos, or just seeking advice.

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Unicorn
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Buying my first piano!

Post by Unicorn » 18 Jan 2017, 21:16

Hi there,

I'm looking for some advice on choosing my first piano.

I'm an adult learner - have played other instruments when younger - currently playing around Grade 2 on the piano but obviously hoping to improve a lot once I start lessons.

I'm hoping to find a nice sounding and well made piano that will last a long time. Having grown up with a piano in the house I have a fairly good ear (I think!) so am probably going to be a bit fussy. My budget is around 2- 2.5k but I'm wondering if this is realistic given what I've seen so far.

I live in central Scotland and there is a dearth of anything decent on the private market; there are a few dealers I've been to so far, mainly Glasgow.

So far the pianos I've liked are:
1975 Marshall & Rose, asking price 2k, sweet sounding and good condition but maybe lacking in 'oomph' in the bass
1983 Welmar, 800 pounds, ex school piano, nice but even I could tell it was rather neglected and needed attention
1982 Marshall & Rose - asking price was 3995 but 'best price' dealer offered was 3100. Very very nice piano but over budget and seemed a lot for such an old piano?
1990 Knight - loud, big sound, nice feel, maybe a bit bright. 2,200
1993 Yamaha P22 (American) - 2,200 pounds - seemed nice but didn't spend very long playing it.

Do any of these sound a reasonable buy? The more I 'research' this the more of a complicated mindfield it's becoming. Should I try and stretch the budget to a newer piano? I don't particularly like black, shiny pianos by the way!

Would be ever so grateful if someone could give me some pointers as I'm feeling very confused!

Many thanks in advance.

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Re: Buying my first piano!

Post by vernon » 19 Jan 2017, 23:13

Without knowing the condition of any of the pianos you mention I would say they are all grossly overpriced.

With your budget you go for new.
There is life beyond the Central Belt bubble of Scotland and I suggest you Google further north for a bargain!
Try Perth,Aberdeen and Inverness
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Re: Buying my first piano!

Post by NewAge » 19 Jan 2017, 23:41

From your listing, if I had to check out one it would probably be the Knight. I've never played one, but believe they can be pretty good.
My golden rules to prospective buyers are:
- Take your time, DONT rush to make a purchase.
- Play as many different pianos as possible. Generally newer means better, although there can be exceptions to that rule.
- Consider increasing your budget - during the time you are looking, put a little extra cash away which could take you into a superior category of upright, and considerably increase the choices available.
- Many private sellers don't bother to keep their pianos in tune. If you should find 'that special piano' which is not in tune, tell the seller you are seriously interested and may well put down a deposit if the piano is tuned first.

In your shoes, I would take a deep breath, be patient, and keep looking. Whatever you do, don't buy in a hurry! Try a few Kawais as some of the newer ones are sweet, and may be within your budget.
You may be lucky enough to stumble upon a well-maintained Welmar. These are superb pianos.
Also check these three out on Gumtree in Glasgow:
1967 Steinway Model Z. Looks nice. Does it play as nice as it looks......?
Bluthner upright. Getting on a bit, but an experience just to try one out!
There's also a John Broadwood, baby grand which I'd want to try. One never knows......!
Don't let your piano adventure become a painful chore. Take your time and ENJOY what should be a rich, ultimately fulfilling journey.
Good luck, and please provide feed-back on your experiences.
I was playing the piano in a zoo, when the elephant burst into tears. I said, "Don't you recognize the tune?" He replied, "No, I recognize the ivories!"

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Re: Buying my first piano!

Post by Unicorn » 20 Jan 2017, 10:45

Thank you both for your replies.

I know I need to take my time, but being new to all this, I'm trying to get a feel for prices, and for what pianos I actually enjoy playing.

The pianos I listed above were all in excellent condition bar the Welmar. Bearing in mind that three of them (the Knight, Yamaha, and 1982 M&R) were from dealers where they'd been fully reconditioned, offered free delivery, and a warranty - do they still seem very over-priced?

What would be a fair price for the Knight? (A K10 by the way, 1990).

The only new piano I've tried was a Bentley and I hated it immediately.

How much should I realistically budget for a new-ish Kawai? There's a K2 at a dealer in Glasgow for 2,800. Worth a look? They also have a used Yamaha U1 and U3, but I suspect these would be too much of a financial stretch for me. How much do dealers typically come down on their 'list prices'?

Vernon, I can't see any piano dealers in Perth? Inverness a bit of a trek! ;)

I will certainly update as my search goes on - thank you all for your help!

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Re: Buying my first piano!

Post by Barrie Heaton » 22 Jan 2017, 12:17

Unicorn wrote:
So far the pianos I've liked are:
1975 Marshall & Rose, asking price 2k, sweet sounding and good condition but maybe lacking in 'oomph' in the bass
1983 Welmar, 800 pounds, ex school piano, nice but even I could tell it was rather neglected and needed attention
1982 Marshall & Rose - asking price was 3995 but 'best price' dealer offered was 3100. Very very nice piano but over budget and seemed a lot for such an old piano?
1990 Knight - loud, big sound, nice feel, maybe a bit bright. 2,200
1993 Yamaha P22 (American) - 2,200 pounds - seemed nice but didn't spend very long playing it.
Marshall & Rose and Welmar were made in the same factory, they can be nice (but a throw of the dice at that time of production to quality ) if they have not been over played or badly looked after.
The Knight can be voiced down to suit the room but the golden rule is buy a piano you like from the start. as other have pointed out all seem a bit over priced you need to pay for a tuner to look at any used piano before buying

10 yeas ago most advice on this forum was to buy a used or new Yamaha and stay away from Kawai now that has shifted to Kawai but the same rules apply to used Kawai pre-1990 as the did to used Yamaha. Myself I prefer new entry level Kawai over Yamaha they just seem better made and a more balanced tone out of the box.

The new Bentleys are yuck and need a lot of prepping and then thy are not great


Take your time and I would widen your search to at least 150 miles



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Re: Buying my first piano!

Post by Unicorn » 22 Jan 2017, 15:23

Thanks Barrie, I appreciate your advice.

Surely it's a bit awkward to pay an independent tuner to look at a used piano that's been checked over by a tuner and technician in a dealership? Or is this expected? Comes down to if you have trust in the dealer, perhaps (and how do you know! ?)

Or does this only apply to private sales?

Sounds like I should check out some new Kawais too then.

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Re: Buying my first piano!

Post by Barrie Heaton » 22 Jan 2017, 18:01

Unicorn wrote:Thanks Barrie, I appreciate your advice.

Surely it's a bit awkward to pay an independent tuner to look at a used piano that's been checked over by a tuner and technician in a dealership? Or is this expected? Comes down to if you have trust in the dealer, perhaps (and how do you know! ?)

Or does this only apply to private sales?

Sounds like I should check out some new Kawais too then.
I have yet to come across a retable dealer who is not happy for me to look at a piano that a person is buying.
At the end of the day the tuner, if it is a good piano and at a fair price, will be doing the sales persons job.
And for you as a buyer, you have a second guarantee that the piano is ok if you buy from a shop that is.

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Re: Buying my first piano!

Post by Unicorn » 31 Jan 2017, 15:50

Hi all,

So after a long day on Saturday spent playing as many pianos as I could get my hands on, Mr Unicorn and I decided to go for the Kawai K2 - it's walnut in colour. Only very marginally over our original budget at £2600. It has seen very little use apparently (dates from 2009).

It felt very even in tone and action, responsive and nice to play. We looked at the K300 as well (in a different shop) - very nice as it was, it was considerably more expensive and probably just too big and loud for what we need right now, which is just a nice instrument to learn on.

We are very much hoping this was a good choice and will be a pleasure to own and play. If anyone would like to reassure me on this I'd be very grateful! :lol:

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Re: Buying my first piano!

Post by Colin Nicholson » 31 Jan 2017, 17:03

Excellent choice!
Should give you years of pleasure.

I have the K5 Kawai (2013), and ideal for my teaching & performance.

One thing you should consider is to fit a "Hydroceel" humidifier tube inside the top, and coupled with a digital thermometer and hygrometer that sits on your piano (one is no good without the other) - not to be confused for a room humidifier. Over a long term basis, this will keep the internal workings / wrest plank etc in good condition and reduce premature drying out - particularly if you have central heating? Helps tuning stability aswell.
Optimum humidity = 55%
Optimum room temp = 16 - 20C

If low humidity (about 40%), then drop it in a bath of clean cold water, leave for a few mins to sink, then dry off. The water is retained inside with special filter pads and gives off an ambient level of moisture. Weigh the tube before and after for reference.

If high humidity, leave tube dry to absorb any excess moisture - helps to reduce rust/ corrosion/ sticking parts.
Check the meter every week or so, and adjust as needed.
No wires or electrics.
You can't see what is does, and you must trust it 100% to do its job - ideal for new or restored pianos.

Easily fitted yourself with 2 brackets / 2mm HSS drill bit, or ask your retailer/ piano tuner how to use it.
See images below which is fitted in my piano
002.jpg
Hydroceel tube inside piano
004.jpg
Fitted to rear of front panel
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Re: Buying my first piano!

Post by Unicorn » 31 Jan 2017, 18:04

Thank you Colin, that is interesting.

Living in an older style house in the west of Scotland, we won't have any problem with low humidity :D

We already have a hygrometer/thermometer as we had terrible problems with damp in our house during the first 18 months of living here. Now finally sorted (touch wood), the ambient humidity sits around 50% and temperature 18-20 degrees, but we will certainly keep an eye on this.

Is it likely that given the piano was very little used (according to the dealer), it may need more frequent tunings at first? First tuning after delivery was included in the price but after that it's £75 a pop which seems to be on the high side.

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Re: Buying my first piano!

Post by Colin Nicholson » 31 Jan 2017, 18:23

I am assuming the dealer is not a tuner? (sometimes presumed, but dealers are often just dealers)

The tuning visits may vary at first, but I would estimate every 6 months which is the norm.

As the piano is dated 2009, I don't know when it was last tuned / tuned in the shop?
If the pitch has slipped, your free tuning may just be a pre-tuning back to pitch.... don't know myself.

If not tuned within 12 months, then a fine tuning should be enough which will last 6 months.... depends on its use/ contrasts of temperature night & day / swings in the soundboard movement. Take time to settle.

The cost is not too bad - some dismantling to do first: 1. Soft fall mechanism 2. Left pedal lift rod (to get to lid screws) 3. Middle pedal celeste rail.... then assembly after tuning. The cost may also reflect in the travelling distance?
I know some Border regions of Scotland (e.g. Kelso/ Yetholm) near where my Mum lived involved some off-road trekking to various houses! ...... similar to the Lake District..... so that may be taken into consideration, and the rarity of a location / one-off visit required not en-route to other tunings. Ask your tuner.
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Re: Buying my first piano!

Post by Unicorn » 31 Jan 2017, 19:49

The dealer is also a tuner, the price paid included a full tune/regulation before delivery and then a further tuning once it's been in my home for a few weeks.

This dealer was recommended by the piano tuner my sister and father use, so I'm fairly confident he's good.

Obviously buying any piano second hand you don't know how it's been maintained in the past, so I guess it'll just be a case of living with it for a while to see how it settles.

I'm very new to all this, obviously! :oops:

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Re: Buying my first piano!

Post by vernon » 31 Jan 2017, 21:49

You'll be happy with that piano I'm sure and I hope you found the advice on this Forum was of assistance.
Our mission in life is to tune customers--not pianos.

Any fool can make a piano-- it needs a tuner to put the music in it

www.lochnesspianos.co.uk

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Re: Buying my first piano!

Post by Model V » 02 Feb 2017, 13:32

Superb choice. This will serve you better than any ageing English piano.

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