Learning Piano? How To Choose An Instrument To Buy Or To Rent For You Or For Your Child?

If you are planning on studying piano, hoping to one day play even the simplest music of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven or Chopin – you are going to want the un-replicable nuances of an acoustic piano. For those who are more interested in popular music and composing using MIDI applications, you may want to explore the vast and constantly changing world of keyboards, but this article isn’t for you.

For a young piano student starting out, an acoustic piano is mandatory. Only on an acoustic piano can she experience the subtle changes in touch and pedaling that will have every effect on the music’s tone and phrasing. Sometimes children are held back in their piano studies by only having a keyboard (often of very basic quality and without any form of touch sensitive keys) to practice on at home.

While the child may be musical and responding well at his piano lessons, his progress is delayed and he becomes frustrated when he can’t reproduce the sounds strived for at the lesson

Eventually he will quit! Many parents delay purchasing a piano while they wait to see if their child really “takes to the instrument”. This actually isn’t fair to your child as the keyboard will both feel and sound completely different than a piano. A much better and affordable idea may be to rent a decent quality piano for a year and then consider a purchase.

Deciding what piano to buy can be a difficult choice. A piano is a major investment and you should approach your purchase decisions with research and care. A cost of a new piano ranges anywhere from $2000 to over $80,000. Unfortunately many of the very inexpensive pianos are very poor quality and not suitable for study.

Used or rebuilt pianos are also worth considering. In fact many magnificent pianos were built prior to World War II. Consider asking the advice of a registered piano technician (often belonging to the Piano Technicians Guild) before your purchase. You may even want to hire a technician to accompany you to your final selection. To begin your research, a very useful consumer’s guide is “The Piano Book”, by Larry Fine.

The following is a wonderful and helpful article on “How To Buy A Piano” from the National Piano Manufacturers Foundation:

“You can’t take a piano on a picnic, but that’s almost a complete list of what you can’t do with this most versatile of musical instuments. The Piano traces its ancestors back to the earliest stringed instruments; the keyboard was added in the 12th century. Since the development of the true “pianoforte” in Italy in the 18th century, the piano has made itself right at home anywhere music is played. It blends well with other instruments, and it is the ideal solo instrument. Learning to play the piano puts you in touch with melody, harmony and rhythm–and with the whole range of human emotions, from Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata to rollicking ragtime. Maybe you know all this. Maybe you’re ready to buy a piano.”


How do you go about deciding which is the best one for you?

First, keep in mind that you will be listening to, and looking at, your piano for a long time. The average lifetime of a piano is about 40 years, and you will probably have it long after you have sold your present furniture, house and car. Pianos depreciate very little. A used piano built 10 years ago and maintained well will cost almost as much as a comparable new piano.

So buy the best piano you can afford. Especially, don’t try to economize on a piano for a child who’s starting lessons. Making good music on a quality instrument is the best way to keep a young pianist interested.

Here is another piece from National Piano Manufactures Foundation on how to buy a piano:

“Almost since the first piano was built, manufacturers have been trying to make it smaller. This has been no easy task, because good tone in a piano requires certain minimums in length of string and size of soundboard.

First, the size of the original grand piano was cut by the use of stronger frames and an innovative system of cross-stringing, Then, in the late 1800’s, the upright or vertical piano was developed, sending the space-consuming bulk of the instrument up along the wall, rather than out across the floor. 
This was so successful that today some larger professional -quality uprights can have equal or better tone quality than many small grands. Eventually, even the upright was shortened, and in some cases ingenious scale design compensates in tone for the loss of size. Still, thisrule of thumb generally applies: the larger the piano, the better the tone.

The grand piano ranges in size from five to nine feet (concert grand). It tends to be more responsive and powerful than a vertical piano; a top-quality grand is the best investment if the pianist is aiming for concert performance, or if space and money are unlimited. But if the choice is between a so-so grand and a good vertical, choose the vertical. Theserange in size from 36 to 51 inches in height; all of them require the same amount of floor space, about 5 feet by 2 feet.

The largest of the verticals is the studio piano –44 inches or taller– a type that is becoming quite popular. Verticals 39 to 42 inches tall are called consoles. 
The smallest of the verticals is the spinet, a popular choice because of its small size, from 36 to 39 inches high.”