WHERE TO SHOP FOR A USED PIANO
This advice and data for buying a piano comes from the, "Buyer’s Guide to Quality Pianos," prepared by the Bluebook of Pianos. The booklet also provides technical information such as structural details, tuning and how to judge tone. Diagrams and a glossary of terms are included. The more pianos you sample, the more familiar you’ll grow with your own ideal. Somewhere you have a vision of what only you and only you want in a piano. There's more to a piano than just the brand, type and size. This is no bull and is not biased in any way. It is based on all fact, not opinion. The public, by its purchases, decides which pianos are the most desirable. According to figures released by the Bureau of the Census of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the brand names along with the most popular types and sizes are listed by market share are shown in this consumer information report. This report is based on actual sales records, not opinions.
An instrument that was a good piano for the money 20-25 years ago is most likely still the case in today's piano market. The public, by its purchases, decides which brand names and types were the most desirable. They are the court of last resort. Stick to well known brand names with a large market share such as Baldwin, Kawai, Samick, SMC, Steinway, Yamaha and Young Chang. They all have sold the most pianos for over 30 years in the US and all have USA facilities to cover warranty and service. These companies accounted for 94 percent of the vertical pianos and 99 percent of the grand pianos produced in the United States in 1997.
When shopping for a piano you'll find that dealers don't want to give you price information over the phone. They expect you to come into the store and hear a sales presentation before prices are given. If you know what pianos cost this can make it very difficult when you want to buy. Most buyers want a general idea of the marketplace before they go out shopping because it helps them to make the larger scale decisions like: "How much money do I want to spend?" and "What will I get for what I pay?". If you buy a tip sheet, a piano book will give you a good understanding of what is available for sale and how much it might cost on the high and low side. Based on someone else's opinion. But don't expect anyone to tell you the truth that doesn't have their hand out.
If you have already been out shopping, you may have found that each dealer has their own "List Price" for their pianos and there often is no consistent information available to you that will help you know what is a fair price for a particular piano. No two dealers are alike, and no two markets are alike. One dealer may mark their piano list price up considerably higher than another so that when they discount the price, it seems that you are getting a much better deal. Very recently I received an update from a Yamaha piano salesman stating that a Model T 118 had a list price of $5,150 and the Bluebook Price was $5,499. Two weeks later a customer wrote to me stating that a brand new Yamaha Model T 118 was offered to them - in the box - for $3,495 at a Yamaha Dealer Sale in Costco Warehouse in Phoenix Arizona. I happen to know the wholesale, and at $3,495 the dealer was making a 32% markup.
In fact, another dealer who has more modest markups and not so radical discounts may actually be offering a better value on the piano. Now, if all pianos being compared were of the same brand and model, it would be much easier for you to figure things out. Many manufacturers only have one authorized dealer in geographical area to carry their brand. So, often times, you are comparing competing brands and models. When you add the complications that used pianos introduce to the marketplace, it can get very confusing.
There is something else to learn before you set out to spend your money on a piano. Pianos are merchandised in several ways. One is by retail merchants who charge a single, standard price and stick to it. The other is by price discounters who operate in much the same manner as do some retail automobile dealers. To get the floor price of their pianos, these discounters pad, or “pack,” the manufacturer’s suggested list price. The customer is then offered a “discount” from this price, either in the form of an over allowance on a trade-in piano or in an outright cut from the padded price.
One favorite trick of some retailers is to show a customer a full-sized, standard piano that allegedly costs from $5,900 to $6,500 and to inform him that the instrument now is on sale for $4,500 for the next two or three days. With rare exceptions, such instruments are made to sell for precisely $4,500—not $$5,900 to $6,500. They are always on hand, and the retailer runs a “sale” on them anytime he wants to stimulate floor traffic.
Don’t ever expect to get a brand-new, full- sized piano for a bargain price. Even if you see a picture of the instrument in the paper, don’t believe it. This piano usually is nailed to the floor. Enter the store and you’re likely to be told either that it is a secondhand piano or that it is not a full-sized, 88-key job. In either event, the salesman will try to upgrade you into more expensive pianos. These may be one all right, but you take a chance doing business with a store of this type. Pay no attention, either, to sales that may offer brand-new console pianos for prices in the neighborhood of $1,995.00. This is the type of piano built especially for a “sale”, and made to sell for $1,995.00.
This Industry Standard Piano Price Guide gives you, as a buyer, a firm foundation to work with when planning your purchase and negotiating prices. All of the prices in the guide are based upon the same margin ranges for each brand. This ensures that there is no favoritism shown towards any particular model or brand and helps you get an idea of how the dealer is pricing their instrument relative to Industry Standard Piano Prices. It is impossible to tell much about a piano simply by looking at it. Neither can you tell, unless you are an expert, by sitting down and run- fling through a few bars yourself or by listening to a salesman tinkle through a sonata or drum out some chords. Most new pianos sound pretty good, especially to untrained ears.
Not even the name may be a trustworthy indication of a piano’s quality. In the past 25 years, many famous old -piano companies have gone out of business. Many of the names, however, have been bought by other firms. Frequently the new makers have continued the - tradition of craftsmanship and quality originally associated with the label. Sometimes, though, the new owners place the name on a low-cost piano of inferior make or on instruments made up especially to sell at “sale” prices.
The Who, Where, Why, When and How are very important.
There cannot be many products as ill-suited to modern assembly-line manufacturing techniques as the piano. Each piece of spruce... for the soundboard, each batch of rock maple that becomes the pin block (or wrest plank) that holds the tuning pins in place, each set of hammers — all are marginally different from one another and the vagaries of each of a piano's 10,000 components have to be accommodated and allowed for by succession of watchful, sensitive human beings.
PIANOS ARE NOT DUPLICATES !
Pianos are not duplicates, they are not rubber stamped. While it is possible to evaluate appearance, tone, and action by trial and observation; other factors such as quality of workmanship, price level, and durability are not, superior performance and workmanship in the store do not always produce the most rugged and durable construction. The problem in the recent past in considering some pianos was that many of them came from the factory needing several hours of work by a skilled, trained professional technician to bring the new piano to their full potential. Not every dealer is or has been willing to spend the extra money it takes to give this preparation to new pianos. The difference could and does lead to the selection of an inferior instrument over a potentially superior one because the better factory-prepared instrument out performed the other in a store.
You are buying the time the dealer has put into preparing the piano for sale on the showroom floor (costing anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on his location, overhead, and what he's had to do to make the piano presentable), the service you receive as a customer before and after the sale, the move, the warranty, etc. In addition, even though two competing dealers may offer the exact same brand and model of piano, there are often significant differences in the tone quality and touch of the two instruments. No two pianos are ever exactly alike.
One of the most important services a dealer renders to a buyer of a new or rebuilt piano is the "first service" which should take place within a few months after the piano is delivered. New and rebuilt pianos have two things in common: The strings, being new, are still stretching (which means more frequent tunings are required for the piano to continue to sound good) and hammers and other felts are settling and being "broken in" (necessitating touch-up adjustments such as "regulation" or "voicing.")
Some manufacturers, feel this first service is so important that they actually pay the dealer to do it (on many brands it is solely the dealer's responsibility, and he picks up the tab, this is a part of the price you pay, a part of that dealer's overhead and cost of doing business). The object is to perform the necessary maintenance (usually tuning, regulation and/or voicing) to make sure the new owner is satisfied, and remains satisfied, with the piano, especially during the period immediately following delivery when many critical components in the piano are acclimatizing and settling in.
THIS IS NO BULL AND THIS INFORMATION IS NOT BIASED1. Every piano has an individual character all its own. This pedigree that sets it apart, even from other instruments of the same make and style, is inevitable. No two trees ever grow exactly alike. Grain and densities differ between different species and between individual trees of the same species. Ivory tusks and plastics differ in color, grain and density. Wools, from which hammer and damper felts are made, vary in texture and length of fiber. Such variations are present in all materials from which pianos are made. 2. No two markets are exactly alike. 3. No two dealers exactly alike, each dealer sets his own price on his pianos. 4. There is no set formula for discounts.
The first thing to know, in order to make a wise choice of an instrument, is what you want the piano for. This decision will have a direct bearing on the price and quality of the piano you will finally buy. One school of thought insists that no one should buy anything but the finest piano built. A piano, in this view, - is a lifetime investment, and nothing less than an instrument of complete artistic capabilities is worth purchasing. Obviously, if you are a professional musician or a serious amateur, this is, indeed, the kind of piano for you. The extra cost will not amount to much when spread over the years, and you will have, besides, the dividend of being able to play on something of superior merit.
But not everybody needs or can afford such a piano. Suppose that you plan to buy a piano primarily so that the children can learn to play. You may even have an idea you’d like to learn yourself. You want a reasonably good piano, of course, but you doubt that the purchase of the very finest piano would be justified in your case. Can you safely buy a piano of lower cost? A second school of thought in the piano business says Yes. Below the really standout instruments is a great middle group of fine pianos capable of pleasing all but the most advanced musical tastes. Below these is another group of pianos, perhaps less durable and less perfect musically and mechanically, but still capable of giving satisfactory service. - As a general rule, the most important difference between pianos is the amount of time spent in assembling the various parts into the case and bringing the individual instruments up to their final tone quality. From nine months to a year may be spent on finishing touches for the best pianos.
Over the past 50 years some nine million new pianos have been sold in the United States. Given the longevity of most pianos, it is reasonable to assume that a large percentage of those nine million instruments are still in service out there somewhere. Given that pianos don't wear out, and used pianos have been a factor in the piano market for over a century; in the past decade the influence of used pianos has steadily grown. In fact a good used Refurbished American Piano is a much better value than the new import pianos of today. In this competitive piano age, any piano maker or piano dealer who attempts to make his success by exploiting the American public is under a severe handicap.
Fundamentally, the piano functions in the area of art and culture. Piano manufacturers have shown great enterprise in creating and engineering pianos of wide variety, both as to tone and touch as well as design and size. The public is the court of last resort. An overwhelming majority of piano buyers during more than fifty years have shown a preference for the better American console type of piano because of its small size and its furniture appeal, and its adequate musical resources in the average home. In the hands of an American Craftsman, these instruments can be made better than new.
Always remember that the more sources you consult, the more informed your buying or selling decisions will be. It's really as simple as that! Just keep in mind that these are only guides, and that there really is no substitute for experience. There is wisdom in a multitude of council.
DIFFERENCE | SIZES