Wood Pianos VS. Ebony Black Pianos

Piano Lessons / general / Wood Pianos VS. Ebony Black Pianos

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I have an interesting question for you. Which are better, wood pianos or black ebony pianos? When you go to the symphony, onstage you see that classic black piano. You generally think of a piano as being black. But sometimes you see exotic woods, like rosewood. You see carved pianos, and they cost substantially more sometimes. But is there a benefit to wood pianos versus black pianos? That’s an interesting question with many ramifications.

Structurally and sonically, there is absolutely no difference between wood and ebony pianos.

There are many elements of the woods used in pianos that do make a tremendous difference in the sound quality. But pianos have had veneers on them for well over 100 years. So whatever the veneer is on top, whether it has a natural wood finish or a sprayed lacquer, whether it’s high gloss or satin, makes no difference in the sound of the piano. However, the wood underneath that finish, even on the rim of the piano can make a big difference in the tone of the piano. Many Asian production pianos utilize soft luan mahogany which is indigenous to the region. Luan rims are easier to bend than the hardwoods used in American and German pianos. So why do they do it? Since the soundboard is embedded into the rim, having a hardwood in the rim actually becomes part of the resonating chamber. So indeed the wood that a piano is made from does make a difference in the sound, but the finish does not. However, when piano companies are dealing with exotic woods, and intricate carved cases, they may naturally spend more time refining the instrument to the highest level since it provides a showcase for their work.

The wood of the soundboard has much more significance.

Almost all pianos today have spruce soundboards, but there are many different quality levels of spruce. Some soundboards are laminated woods with a cross grain. This kind of defeats the purpose of the fine spruce because generally the cement between those layers is going to inhibit the sound. But a laminated soundboard is far stronger, will last longer and is impervious to cracks, just like plywood is stronger than regular hardwood. So there are many things to consider about the different woods of a piano. For example, if you had the opportunity to have a wood piano or a black piano, and you really didn’t care one way or the other, black pianos tend to be more popular. So if you ever were to sell that piano, you might have an easier time selling a black piano than a wood piano.

There are people who love wood pianos and are willing to pay a premium.

With new pianos, wood finishes tend to cost a little more because they have to have matching veneers instead of essentially just spraying over with black paint. However, if you have a really beautiful wood piano, even though it might be harder to connect with someone who’s looking for that particular shade of wood, that person may be willing to pay a premium to get it. So there’s a lot to weigh here in choosing the finish of a piano. Ultimately you should get what you like because chances are, you’re not buying a piano to sell it. You’re buying a piano to enjoy it!

Choose the finish that you like best!

Get what you like! If you ever need to sell your piano, you want to have a long enough timeline so that you’re not under the gun. Because it’s not always easy to connect with someone looking for the piano you happen to have. Anything that’s relatively expensive, you want to have time to list it and get it into shape. But in terms of the sound and the playing, there is absolutely no difference in the finish of your piano!

Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

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4 thoughts on “Wood Pianos VS. Ebony Black Pianos”

  1. Recently you featured a piano made of burl wood. Maybe burl wouldn’t enhance the sound because of its structure, the way the grains in such wood are designed, but I absolutely adore burl, and I would have given anything to own that piano if I had the money and place to put it (I already have two grand pianos and an AGO organ in my home.)

    Of course I have always known that black pianos are wood underneath, just lacquered black. I love the appearance of wood, so why cover it up? Black is elegant, but the wood is prettier. And I say that even though my favorite type of furniture is Danish modern.

    1. Just as the sound and touch of pianos have to suit the player, the style of the cabinet is important also since a piano is one of the most substantial pieces of furniture you are likely to own!

  2. A beginner, I sought out an older (affordable) American walnut 5’4” Hardman. I love the warmth of wood and black shiny hurts my eyes that let in too much light, exacerbated by wearing glasses. When I improve I will upgrade and might look at a matte black . The cats won’t care.

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