Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about used pianos versus new pianos. There’s so much to think about with this subject. It’s really quite vast. When you buy something used, you’re going to save a lot of money. A car loses a lot of value as soon as it’s driven off the showroom parking lot. But there’s a comfort level of buying something brand new. There’s some truth to that with pianos as well. With a new instrument, you know that nothing is worn out. However, interestingly, with a new piano you’re not going to discover its strengths and weaknesses until down the line a bit as it gets broken in, gets acclimated to the environment of your home and other factors. So, sometimes a gently used instrument or one that has been restored can actually be a safer bet.
What is the quality of pianos that are being produced today compared to pianos that were produced decades ago?
The American piano industry was in its heyday 100 years ago, producing vast numbers of pianos. Whereas today, there are only about 1,500 pianos produced each year in this country. If you’re into an American piano, you’re going to have to spend a substantial amount of money to get a new one. A Steinway baby grand or grand piano is going to be in the high five figures. This is true of just about any American piano. European pianos are also extraordinarily expensive.
So, what about Asian pianos?
Most pianos are made in Asia. Have they improved? Well, there have been many new technologies that have come to bear. For example, the use of plastic and other composite materials in the action has been able to reduce costs while adding to the precision of all the parts. Wood is very difficult to work with. One could argue that newer materials like carbon fiber may have benefits. But the real quantum change in pianos has been in the manufacturing process itself. Because pianos used to be made in the old world way, by hand. Many things were done just with a team of skilled technicians. All pianos require a lot of handwork even today in the most mechanized factories. However, there are many parts of the piano that can be machined with precision using robotics, bringing the cost down and the precision up. So, in the very lowest price range, cheap pianos today are better than cheap pianos were decades ago. If you look at the bottom tier pianos from years ago made in this country, they really were not very good. It’s really hard to cut costs without cutting quality.
If you have your heart set on an American or European piano and you can’t afford a new one, finding the right used instrument can be challenging.
You have to know a lot about pianos to understand what you’re getting because pianos wear out. Also, the environment where a piano is kept affects the quality. The question is how great was the piano to begin with? If work has been done, what’s the quality of that work? If parts have been replaced, were they the correct specification of high level parts? So, you have to have some knowledge in order to buy used. But if you are knowledgeable enough, you can sometimes get phenomenal value in the used market. But you must have somebody you can trust, a friend who is an expert at pianos, perhaps a technician, someone who can guide you. Without the proper knowledge, you could end up getting a piano that looks and sounds fine and then you find out about a problem like a crack in the soundboard that you had no idea about! As soon as the weather changes, everything buzzes and you find out the only way to fix it is rebuilding the piano for tens of thousands of dollars. That’s what you want to avoid. But if you can find somebody you can trust, a used piano can be a great resource for you. But as I said, there are also great new pianos out there at lower price points. Pianos have gotten generally better over time in the lower price range and even the mid price range.
I hope this has been helpful for you. Thanks again for joining me! I’m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
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