For my May selection, we turn to practical matters, specifically the question of how to buy a piano, with Larry Fine’s Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer. A piano student in his youth and a piano technician for thirteen years after college, Mr. Fine now ranks as the guide extraordinaire in how to buy a piano. During my own time-consuming and emotionally-charged quest, I frequently consulted an earlier version of Piano Buyer (called The Piano Book).
Piano Buyer is actually a hybrid book and magazine, which contains a series of articles addressing:
- The basics on selecting a piano, including an in-depth treatment of vertical versus grand, new versus used, type of finish, and how to work within budget constraints;
- Thorough advice on how to buy a used or restored piano;
- An overview of the market for new pianos, including charts of manufacturers and prices.
The book’s second half contains profiles of over 30 piano manufacturers, as well as 4,000 price listings of every brand and model of new pianos. Piano Buyer also addresses those stumpers that occur once the purchaser has signed the contract and filed her lemon-yellow copy, such as where a piano ought to be situated in a room and how to care for a piano with tuning, regulation, and cleaning.
In an exclusive interview with GRAND PIANO PASSION™, Mr. Fine explained more about his book and website.
You first made your name when you published The Piano Book almost 25 years ago. What are the key differences between your first book and Piano Buyer, which you now update twice a year?
People should start with Piano Buyer. It’s an easier read, and they may get everything they need from that. If they want more information, especially if they are buying a used a piano or want more details on technical aspects and features, they should consult the The Piano Book. That earlier book also has more in-depth information on moving and storing a piano, as well as servicing a piano. However, it is no longer up-to-date on specific brands and models of new pianos. That’s where Piano Buyer comes in.
You mentioned that the website is an integral part of Piano Buyer. What benefits does the site offer?
All of the piano brands, models, and prices are in a searchable database on the website. For example, if you wanted to find out all the models of grand pianos, say between 5’8” and 6’2”, in French provincial mahogany, costing between $25,000 and $35,000, you just click off a few boxes and hit search. If you have very specific requirements, you can hone in very quickly on the pianos that are right for you. The database also may alert you to brands and models you weren’t aware of.
With the economy still having the blues, is now a particularly good time to buy a used piano?
Yes and no. You may be able to get a good deal on a used piano because more people are selling than buying. That’s counterbalanced by the fact that you can get so much for your money with new pianos manufactured in China and Indonesia, especially in the low and middle range. Those two forces are pulling in different directions on the used piano market.
To be honest, it’s a good time to be buying any piano. Dealers are hurting. You can get pretty good deals on most brands. The current issue of Piano Buyer has a feature review of inexpensive verticals, for those who don’t want to spend more than $3,000 or so on a piano. In the previous issue, I ran a review on buying a grand piano less than five feet long. It used to be that pianos less than five feet long were considered junk. But now these piano manufacturers are getting wise about how to overcome the design problem of shorter strings.
In my own experience, it seems that students of adult piano lessons can be reluctant to spend money on themselves for a piano, especially if there’s not a child in the house who will also play. Any special advice for adults buying a piano for their own practice?
As an adult, you may have more refined sensibilities than you realize about what good music sounds like. I hear every day about people going into a piano store, planning to spend $3,000, and they emerge a few hours later having bought a $30,000 grand. They go in with an unrealistic expectation about what it costs to buy a good piano. They find that they can hear the difference, and they become enthralled with the more expensive pianos. In a way, this is a cautionary story. On the other hand, life doesn’t go on forever. If you wait until you think you deserve the piano of your dreams, you might be a hundred years old. If you treat yourself now, the piano will last you the rest of your life.