Investing in a Piano

Whether you're purchasing a new or old piano, there are a number of factors to consider...

1. Research makers of Pianos: 
- how long have they been making pianos for?
- are they still using traditional building-by-hand techniques? -or has the maker succumbed to the monetary industry by building 'cookie-cutter' pianos in a factory?
- are you looking for a local maker (Canadian, European, American)?
- if materials used is an important considering factor, research the maker of the soundboard within the piano.

2. Your Space:
- how much space do you have for this instrument?
if you live in a tiny apartment, chances are, as appealing as a grand piano is, you might not be able to invest in this instrument due to lack of free space. ...although, I would be happy with a grand piano taking up my tiny space -even if it meant creating a little bed-space under it. :)
- do you have plans to move frequently?
if your job requires frequent relocation, a piano may not be the best idea as hiring piano movers is not the cheapest. also unfair for the instrument, as moving stirs the strings inside causing slight changes in sound (can be adjusted by tuning... this would require a piano tuner who knows what they are doing!)

3. Type of Pianos:
Size: there are a few different types of pianos made in regards to size...
spinet piano is the smallest of up-rights, created in 1930, production ending around 1990; when sitting at the piano, you would be able to see over the top.
cabinet piano is slightly taller than the spinnet, allowing for a clear-er sound; still able to 'see over the top' while sitting at the piano.
studio piano is ideal for the beginner as it sounds clear, but still compact for a small space.
upright piano is a standard; will last a lifetime (depending on the maker).

Please keep in mind about the mechanics of the piano. Spinets are great pianos! Its sound is more mid-low and muddled, feels great under the fingers but not the best for very detailed/subtle playing. I find it has the same depth in keys as an upright, but more difficult to create subtle nuances in sound due to the inner mechanisms that needed to be changed to create the shorter piano (re: drop action)

 4. Now being knowledgeably armed with basic information and knowing what you want, consider the price range you'd like to invest in this majestic instrument.

5. Used Pianos: whether or not you're paying money for a used instrument, the best advice I give to all my clients who approach me with the question: "I'm thinking of buying a used piano, but how do you know it's good?", is... make sure you personally play every single key on the keyboard to make sure it depresses fully without sticking or feeling weird (feels different than the other keys when pressed or released), every key sounds (the pitch will be needed to be adjusted via piano tuner - must be done), every pedal attached to the piano works. If you are able to look inside the piano lid, do so! See that the strings are not rusted over, hammers are all attached -no cracks or fractures in the wooden pieces inside, see that all the pegs are there. Press the pedals and see the mechanisms inside still work. If the felt is worn out, that can be replaced. As long as the sound is what you like (bright, muddled, clear, etc.), and it feels good under your fingers (solid, full, easy to press) then it's good.

*Scratches and chips on the case of the piano or the piano keys will not affect the sound, as sound has to do with the insides, or what I like to call -the piano guts. I think to think of those aesthetic nicks & bruises as part of the pianos history. It's life since it was made. Just like us, if it was built great on the inside, it will remain great -no matter what condition the outside is in. Through every journey, we go through highs and lows and may encounter a bump or two along the way that imprint or scar us on the outside. A piano is the same. It's had its journey, acquired its battle scars, but still remains sounding beautiful as long as whats inside still works. 

For further detailed information on Piano Types & Sizes, please visit Blue Book of Pianos. A fantastic online source, includes piano measurements.
Another great detailed source on Buying New or Used Pianos: Buying a Piano