How to Buy a Piano

Buying a piano is a big deal. Not only is it an investment, but its more so a very large piece of furniture that isn’t easy to move around. It also requires a lot more than just going to the store, buying it and driving home. There has to be price comparisons, finding the right look, color, sound, model, location, and then having it arranged to be moved, tuned and learned on. When parents or students first think about learning piano or keyboard, I always suggest to start with a smaller keyboard. No less than 76 keys, but optimally something full size with a pedal board is always ideal. Nowadays there are many great full size digital keyboards for sale. Yamaha makes some terrific ones that are very user friendly, affordable and portable. Often times we try and minimize cost by buying something “cheap” off the internet. I don’t always say this is a bad thing, but as I have learned with my own mistakes, you always get what you pay for. Let’s not say that buying an instrument off Kijiji is a bad thing, it really isn’t. Sometimes people are selling their instrument as a “must go” or “we don’t care how much you pay, just get it”. The best thing to do is ask your teacher for help. Do your research!

This was the first piano my parents purchased for me many many years ago.

Pianos are very easy to find for good deals online but it is up to you as to how long you want your investment to last. Many times the pianos online have some damage, scratches, broken keys or beat up sound boards that you would never know existed. Almost all of them do not come with a warranty which is another downside, but if you trust in the make and model, you can always get some extra life out of it. Also, it is best to always think way down in the future. When kids are grown up and the family doesn’t want the piano anymore, how much would you get for it if you sold it?

When I was a young girl my very first keyboard was a 10 note battery operated keyboard. I thought it was the coolest thing ever (it was MY version of an Ipod in terms of coolness), however like most kids with gadgets they get bored of, I accidentally left my keyboard outside on our deck and it was ruined. Oops! My best advice is to always start with a keyboard or full size digital piano. Buying second hand is not a bad thing! Keyboards will last a good couple of years until students start to learn more intense music or decide their keys are just too light to play on.

In my experience, 2-3 years is about long enough for a child to play on a keyboard. At this point, they have already learned basic skills and have become attached to their teacher and music learning in general. Upgrading to a full weighted keyboard in the size of a wooden upright or grand piano is the next option. Upright pianos tends to be the more popular choice because there is more space to put them in the home. Grand pianos require full spotlight and a room with less furniture. Both instruments still require the same amount of care with a regular tuning once a year. A home with good humidity levels of 34% or higher is also highly recommended in order to preserve the wood quality and “health” of the piano.

Another critical element when buying a piano is to consider the weight of the keys. There should be some “give” to the key but not too sticky or heavy. I prefer a piano with a heavier touch because it forces my fingers to work harder to create more sound. Many pianos have keys that are so light, if you sneeze by accident, an entire rendition of Fur Elise by Beethoven can be played. Not a great idea! There should always be some level of resistance on the keyboard so that students build stronger muscles and excellent technique through their years of study.

This was a Kijiji find which turned out to be a nightmare. Looked pretty but cost so much in repairs after a few weeks.

Pianos usually have 3 pedals, though some have only 2. One pedal is always reserved for the sustain which elongates the sound when held, another either dampens the music being played by putting a mute on the keys (perfect for late night playing!), and often times the extra 3rd one, will either create a short crisp sound on the piano or allow for only one note to ring out while the others end quickly. The most important pedal is always the right pedal, which is the sostenuto/sustain pedal. The other ones are bonus material.

I highly recommend going to actual music stores and supporting our local businesses when it comes to buying a piano brand new. Stores offer warranty, free tuning and sometimes free delivery which makes up for the price you pay. Also, you have the security knowing that the piano came right from the factory. My favorite stores are Standard Piano, Steinway Piano Gallery and St. John’s Music. I would highly stay away from pianos that are “free” on the internet or less than $500. Many times the pianos may look decent, but there are so many internal problems that it will cost more to fix the piano that it would be to buy a new one.

If you do end up finding a great piano online, once again, have your teacher or a professional go out and do a test on it. They will know what to check for and what areas could be potential cause for disaster. I have seen some of my own students find amazing deals online and their pianos or keyboards are still working many years later. I have also seen some buy brand new pianos from a dealer only to have issues with it within the first month. It’s really a hit and miss, but most times it can be a WIN!

A brand new Yamaha DGX 660 keyboard has all the functions you need for a beginner to intermediate learner.

Just keep in mind that the goal of having a full size piano or keyboard is to create a quality learning environment for the student. If a child is always using training wheels on their bike, they will never know how to ride a real bike. Keyboards are great training wheels, however, full size digital pianos and acoustic pianos are one step closer to driving a car. If you want your child or yourself to have great musical ability, the instrument they learn is a very large contributing factor. Yamaha and Kawai are my favorite brands for quality and make, however, pricing can be pretty high up when looking in to a newer piano. Many retail stores do have some used pianos for less cost which is still a great investment. Often times families with upright pianos will go to a store and trade in their piano for a grand piano. This is where the new piano player can really reap the rewards of getting a used piano for a great deal.

I will admit that my most favorite purchases via Kijiji have been an orange Mapex drum kit, my baby blue grand piano and my bright red piano. Manufacturing companies don’t always make these wild colors nowadays, unless you have a lot of money to have a special order. This is where finding these treasures through Kijiji can be very useful. I firmly believe that when the time is right, the best instrument will be waiting for you. Keep researching and dreaming big! Great instruments are always around the corner!

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