Selecting a grand piano

Any music gear discussions that don't fit into one of the other forums.

Moderators: Kent, Joe., analogdigital, infradead, lisa, parasitk, plord

User avatar
Sinamsis
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 4096
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2014 9:36 am
Location: Richmond, VA

Selecting a grand piano

Post by Sinamsis » Sat Dec 07, 2019 10:27 pm

I'm in the process of looking for a smaller grand piano for our house. I'm a mediocre player but my wife is classically trained. We also have young kids, and I'd like to have a piano for them to play. We have a dedicated room for the piano but really have no clue what we're looking for. Size needs to be around six feet, either just below or just above. I prefer a darker tone, I feel like my wife probably agrees though I don't think she really pays attention to the tone of the piano as much as I do. We played a couple Yamahas and Kawais (new) all of which I thought sounded nice. Until we played a couple Schimmels, and then everything else felt disappointing. I have found some very reasonably priced used pianos locally off of the FB market. We initially thought we'd spend a few thousand dollars for a cheaper used piano and then save up to eventually buy a nicer piano. Now things get hairy. There was a very lightly used Schimmel (rented for a few gigs) that was significantly reduced. I don't have nearly enough cash to buy it outright, but we could finance it and probably pay it off over the next several years without spreading ourselves too thin. This would probably be it for us. Otherwise, I've found a Steinway not too far away. It's a 1926 Model M for around $6000. I have yet to go try it out. The price is in our ball park, though a bit more than we wanted to spend. Supposedly it plays well and is without issues. Seller says in 1980 or so the action was updated and the finish was touched up, but otherwise it's supposedly all original. With it's age and history I suspect we will need to put some money into maintenance in the future. If we do end up wanted to go with a new piano, or specifically a Schimmel, our local store will let us trade it in also.

So hopefully someone here can educate me on grand pianos. Is age a bad thing when it comes to pianos? Are Steinways hype or are they really that good. What brands would others recommend? Is Schimmel a good brand? What else do I need to consider and look for? Thanks in advance.

User avatar
MindMachine
weekend warrior
Posts: 6539
Joined: Sun Aug 02, 2009 1:45 am
Location: Santa Susana Field Lab

Post by MindMachine » Sun Dec 08, 2019 12:12 am

Chickering.

We had a 'baby' grand 1929 build and it was as you say 'dark' (on the lower mids) and covered the whole spectrum equally sonically. Meaning it had some heft in the lows and especially the middle lows.

Beautiful quality and they seem pretty affordable.
FS: A-140-2 Dual VC ADSR, Erica VCA 2, SP-555 Sampler and more - CHEAP!!!
viewtopic.php?t=222871&highlight=
WTB: Kurzweil Rumour (or trade for Mangler)

User avatar
commodorejohn
Ultra Wiggler
Posts: 858
Joined: Fri May 03, 2013 4:19 pm
Location: Placerville, CA

Post by commodorejohn » Sun Dec 08, 2019 1:28 am

I'm no expert on this stuff, but I play a ~1920s Knabe baby grand at my church, and it's wonderful. Mind you, it had a proper restoration done in the not-too-distant past, but the action is pleasant and the sound is well-balanced but leaning towards dark-and-warm.
Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73
Synthesizers: Roland JX-10/SH-09/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000, Ensoniq SQ-80

"'Legacy code' often differs from its suggested alternative by actually working and scaling." - Bjarne Stroustrup

pianoscope
Common Wiggler
Posts: 170
Joined: Sat Dec 22, 2012 11:45 am

Post by pianoscope » Sun Dec 08, 2019 5:13 am

Simply buy what you like the sound of. A good tech can significantly change the tone through voicing, lighter and darker. Moving the piano around in the room will change the sound, rooms and piano are one instrument. You won’t really get a decent piano under 30k minimum so just go for one that looks good and you like.
An old Steinway will most need a complete overhaul, whack on 10k.
Treat the room, avoid glass have some diffusers ( not absorbers) will tame harshness.

Be warned though, a piano sounding nice in one place can sound worse in another. Personally for under 10k I would go for a modern Yamaha and have a tech voice it to your liking. No character but good bang for buck.Even tone, even action. Hand built yamahas are another story.

Grand Pianos hate small rooms...they weren’t built for them. Perhaps consider a good upright?
Yes age is bad. Pianos are not an investment, they deteriorate.
Never played a Schimmel.
Don’t listen to the tone snobs, just buy what you like,

User avatar
Sinamsis
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 4096
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2014 9:36 am
Location: Richmond, VA

Post by Sinamsis » Sun Dec 08, 2019 9:51 am

Thanks for the feedback so far.

$30k seems like an arbitrary cutoff, but from what I've seen that seems to be true (if you're talking new prices). The Schimmel that we liked was in the high 30's. We'd definitely have to finance that, but it wouldn't be completely out of our budget I think.

Basically we're looking at spending in the ball park of $6000 and eventually "upgrading" (be it replacing it or spending money on restoring it).

We are looking for a grand, not upright. The room is not small and the layout of the house is open. I'm sure regardless of what we buy within the size constraints I've listed, the room will not be an issue. I probably will treat the room regardless.

User avatar
numan7
the most autistic amongst us
Posts: 6223
Joined: Wed Nov 25, 2009 9:09 pm

Post by numan7 » Sun Dec 08, 2019 11:35 am

hmm... age (as in too new, or too old) can definitely be a bad thing when it comes to pianos, depending on how picky one is about tuning accuracy and stability (perhaps consider hiring someone who tunes pianos professionally to come along when you look at the old steinway, if you, your wife and/or your kids are really, really picky).

personally i slightly prefer the sound and keyboard action of the kawais over other ~6 foot long grand pianos i have played (even fazioli and steinway - never tried a schimmel though). i think they made chopin sound extra-nice. :cat:

(and i agree with pianoscope's good points, above)


cheers

User avatar
Sinamsis
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 4096
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2014 9:36 am
Location: Richmond, VA

Post by Sinamsis » Sun Dec 08, 2019 12:04 pm

numan7 wrote:hmm... age (as in too new, or too old) can definitely be a bad thing when it comes to pianos, depending on how picky one is about tuning accuracy and stability (perhaps consider hiring someone who tunes pianos professionally to come along when you look at the old steinway, if you, your wife and/or your kids are really, really picky).

personally i slightly prefer the sound and keyboard action of the kawais over other ~6 foot long grand pianos i have played (even fazioli and steinway - never tried a schimmel though). i think they made chopin sound extra-nice. :cat:

(and i agree with pianoscope's good points, above)


cheers
Thanks for the feedback. My kids are still young. My wife might be picky. I will probably have a tech give it the once over if we go with the Steinway. If we go with the almost 100 year old Steinway we're counting on putting money into it over the next few years.

Interesting you say that about Kawai. I need to go back and play it, my kids were having a melt down and I didn't get a chance. My wife was really eyeing the Schimmel. The Kawai new and Schimmel very lightly used (just for a few performances) are both similarly priced. Kawai is low 30s, Schimmel is mid 30s (with MSRP of high 50s). The Kawai has very attractive financing (0% interest for two years). The Schimmel we would have to finance through a bank for a better interest rate. Schimmel by the way is hand built in Germany.

User avatar
foliephonics
Common Wiggler
Posts: 78
Joined: Sat Dec 22, 2018 10:33 am
Location: France

Post by foliephonics » Sun Dec 08, 2019 1:11 pm

My wife spent a few years looking for a piano. She's classically trained with a fair level. She was looking for a grand (actually half-grand) and saw many many pianos, old and new.
We learned in the process that old pianos (esp Steinways) have different touch/mechanics than current pianos and different keyboard height.
We learned that the "feeling" you have with the piano is essential. Also, she passed on some pianos she loved because she felt she would still want to change later on.
My wife fell in love with the Steinway grand but that was out of reach, both financially and space-wise, yet she kept that as a milestone against which to measure other pianos.
She finally fell in love with a new upright (!) Steinway which had the "perfect" touch and that's what she purchased, slightly over budget, and it made a world of difference in her playing (quantity and quality).
(Note 1 : before the Steinway, she had a 20 years old Schimmel, the sound and touch of the Steinway is in a different league.)
(Note 2 : she also invested in the silent mod because it's just not possible to play when the children are in bed etc. and I must say I'm impressed by the quality.)
So my suggestion is : take your time. Considering the investment (much like a car or a house), make sure you are 100% with the choice you make.
Happy keys !

pianoscope
Common Wiggler
Posts: 170
Joined: Sat Dec 22, 2012 11:45 am

Post by pianoscope » Sun Dec 08, 2019 1:12 pm

No, for new your looking far higher than 30k for a good piano.
I make part of my living playing pianos, mostly Steinway and weirdly there are 3 practicing concert pianists in the family. 30k is obviously just a ball park figure, but approximately fits my experience. And 30k is second hand.

I have had situations even in places like abbey road on the same piano, sometimes sounds great, other time less so. Room acoustics may not be an issue but it is a big part of the sound. I have given solo recitals on beautiful Steinway D’s In theatres that sounded like hell, as there is no reverberation.
I spent most of my life owning pretty crap pianos, never really effected my playing, and I haven’t improved now I have a good one and access to a top flight Steinway C when ever I want. My beater pianos were however tonal even and their action consistent. I have noticed that often it ends to be pianists who struggle with getting a nice sound that carp on and on about a pianos tone or lack of.
I’m not saying you can’t get an instrument that gives you pleasure on the cheap, far from it!

You may find a grand for 10 times less than your budget that you personally prefer the sound of. Follow your ears, and touch.

I once did a gig on a very average upright in a jazz club that was literally transformed by a friend as a favour, who happened to be one of Steinways best techs. I would have that upright over many lower tier grands anytime. Good techs are practically magicians.

And just to add the action can big drastically altered to suit your tastes.
Good luck
Last edited by pianoscope on Sun Dec 08, 2019 5:41 pm, edited 4 times in total.

User avatar
estin
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 1033
Joined: Thu May 17, 2012 7:56 pm

Post by estin » Sun Dec 08, 2019 3:21 pm

Might sound like heresy, but what about a good dedicated PC running the best sampled Piano VST you can find ran through something like Altiverb? Add a high end 88 key weighted controller and quality monitoring. Leave the pc offline and don't load anything but a basic OS on it and it'll run problem free 24 hours a day.

User avatar
Randy
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 1820
Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2012 9:50 pm
Location: Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Post by Randy » Sun Dec 08, 2019 8:00 pm

Agree with the "follow your ears" advice, and with pianoscope's advice about the action. I have a Knabe from 1907 or 1917 (part of the serial number is hard to read), and it sounds fine. It's not an heirloom piano, and has some cracks in the soundboard, which is not uncommon. I like playing it 'though, and that's enough for me right now. I've been playing for 55 years, classical and jazz training.

Although estin's advice is reasonable, for me at least, there is no comparison, even between a not great actual grand and a digital representation. I'd always prefer the real grand.

Play lots of pianos, that's really the only way. How much you like it will depend on the action and the sound and maybe even the room and how you're feeling at the time. The best I've ever felt on a piano was playing a $40K piano in a showroom (can't remember right now what it was). Enjoyed that more than the 9" Steinway I played in an actual concert hall.

User avatar
th0mas
Veteran Wiggler
Posts: 526
Joined: Fri Nov 19, 2010 9:36 pm
Location: Ottawa

Post by th0mas » Sun Dec 08, 2019 9:01 pm

I'm looking for a upright and found this website to be somewhat useful as a starting guide:

https://www.pianobuyer.com

To the commenter about the computer + keyboard + monitors, sorry but it just isn't the same. Having a piano in the house is an opportunity to step away from all the tech and wires and midi and speakers and just have an instrument that can be walked up to and played.

Also what you describe could, in best situation, deliver the sound that is similar to a professional recording of a piano. That is nowhere near the experience of being in the same room as an actual piano that is resonating next to you, especially as the performer.

Not to mention small children and wires, I have that issue at home as well.

User avatar
Sinamsis
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 4096
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2014 9:36 am
Location: Richmond, VA

Post by Sinamsis » Sun Dec 08, 2019 9:30 pm

pianoscope
Ha, I think our definition of good is different. The Yamahas and Kawais that we tried in the 30s new seemed decent. Of course these aren't handmade instruments like the Schimmel or Steinways. The Schimmel we played was at least very good to me. I don't think we'd ever go beyond that price point and quality honestly, anything more would probably be lost on us. Now, that may change with time. But yeah, to me, the new pianos in the 30s seemed pretty good to me. Not excellent, but not bad by any means.

User avatar
Sinamsis
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 4096
Joined: Tue Jul 22, 2014 9:36 am
Location: Richmond, VA

Post by Sinamsis » Sun Dec 08, 2019 9:32 pm

estin wrote:Might sound like heresy, but what about a good dedicated PC running the best sampled Piano VST you can find ran through something like Altiverb? Add a high end 88 key weighted controller and quality monitoring. Leave the pc offline and don't load anything but a basic OS on it and it'll run problem free 24 hours a day.
Ha, when we were younger and a real piano was well beyond our means, I tried this. I had an MPK88. My wife never touched it. These days if I were to go down this road, I'd probably just get a Nord Stage or something. But like others have said, it's not nearly a substitute, and for us definitely not an option. Haha for me, I have a Prophet X with some decent 8Dio samples, and I have a bunch of sample banks on my computer I could rely on.

User avatar
dubonaire
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 6005
Joined: Sun Jan 17, 2010 10:45 pm

Post by dubonaire » Mon Dec 09, 2019 12:00 am

Sinamsis wrote:
estin wrote:Might sound like heresy, but what about a good dedicated PC running the best sampled Piano VST you can find ran through something like Altiverb? Add a high end 88 key weighted controller and quality monitoring. Leave the pc offline and don't load anything but a basic OS on it and it'll run problem free 24 hours a day.
Ha, when we were younger and a real piano was well beyond our means, I tried this. I had an MPK88. My wife never touched it. These days if I were to go down this road, I'd probably just get a Nord Stage or something. But like others have said, it's not nearly a substitute, and for us definitely not an option. Haha for me, I have a Prophet X with some decent 8Dio samples, and I have a bunch of sample banks on my computer I could rely on.
I can't play the piano but I really want to learn now so I can accomplish more in the studio. In the Philippines there are excellent and very affordable piano teachers. (In my opinion Filipinos are great teachers because they are patient and giving.) I have this fantasy to be able to play a Rhodes, so I'm currently looking at the awesome electric pianos that are available. The 88 key MoDX looks very cool to me because in addition to some great piano emulations it also has very interesting FM functionality at a good price, and a graded hammer action keyboard. The Nord Stage would also be cool.

I completely get the point that for you it should be an acoustic piano. I think it would be a supremely satisfying, and dare I say it, grand experience to be a competent pianist sitting down at a grand piano.

User avatar
commodorejohn
Ultra Wiggler
Posts: 858
Joined: Fri May 03, 2013 4:19 pm
Location: Placerville, CA

Post by commodorejohn » Mon Dec 09, 2019 12:09 am

I've owned some quite decent piano VSTs and I have nothing against them for practice or recording purposes - for those of us without easy/affordable access to a professional studio environment, they can be just the thing. But even with a really good MIDI keybed, there's absolutely no comparison between the feeling of pressing buttons that make a nice piano sound in your headphones and the feeling of pressing levers to whack hammers into big chunky metal cables inside a wooden box that you can just feel the sound in. Not the same thing at all.
Computers: Amiga 1200, DEC VAXStation 4000/60, DEC MicroPDP-11/73
Synthesizers: Roland JX-10/SH-09/MT-32/D-50, Yamaha DX7/V50/TX7/TG33/FB-01, Korg MS-20 Mini/ARP Odyssey/DW-8000, Ensoniq SQ-80

"'Legacy code' often differs from its suggested alternative by actually working and scaling." - Bjarne Stroustrup

User avatar
mmp
Veteran Wiggler
Posts: 520
Joined: Thu Sep 17, 2009 8:32 pm
Location: Northeast USA

Post by mmp » Mon Dec 09, 2019 6:37 am

The hand built pianos really are individually unique, so you really do have to shop around until you find one that speaks to you. I would suggest opening your search wider geographically. You should be able to find a very desirable used piano in the $12k to 20k price range, get a great piano and start a college fund for the youngsters with the saved cash.

User avatar
Neo
Ultra Wiggler
Posts: 899
Joined: Wed Jul 06, 2011 2:22 am
Location: Bogota

Post by Neo » Mon Dec 09, 2019 3:09 pm

I had a 6 foot Kawai for 25 years. I think the Kawais are great value for money. The latest ones have really good action. Slightly better action than Yamaha in my opinion and a bit more character. Yamahas all sound like a sample library to me. I think you'd need to spend way more than 30k to get something noticeably better.

User avatar
mg05
Common Wiggler
Posts: 135
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2017 2:29 am

Post by mg05 » Mon Dec 09, 2019 3:10 pm

Once I was looking for an answer why one can hear only Steinway Grandpianos and I found an super interesting and profound discussion.

A lot of old grand pianos are discussed. their usage, the time, who played them, technics, for what songs, etc. (of course reasons explaining the Steinway dominance too)

Unfortunately it's written in German so probably a lot of the named Grandpianos are more easy to in Europe but some you'll find rather in America. It can be other way round.

https://www.tamino-klassikforum.at/inde ... /&pageNo=4

Some of the recommended manufacturers of the Grandpianos here:

Blüthner
Fazioli
Feurich
Steingräber & Söhne
August Förster
Shigeru Kawai

But they say a well skilled piano trimmer knows how to manipulate your GP to the sound and technic according to your wishes...

User avatar
mg05
Common Wiggler
Posts: 135
Joined: Wed Jan 18, 2017 2:29 am

Post by mg05 » Mon Dec 09, 2019 3:11 pm

PS:
or just a Kawai MP11 :)

User avatar
Randy
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 1820
Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2012 9:50 pm
Location: Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Post by Randy » Mon Dec 09, 2019 3:25 pm

dubonaire wrote:
Sinamsis wrote:
estin wrote:Might sound like heresy, but what about a good dedicated PC running the best sampled Piano VST you can find ran through something like Altiverb? Add a high end 88 key weighted controller and quality monitoring. Leave the pc offline and don't load anything but a basic OS on it and it'll run problem free 24 hours a day.
Ha, when we were younger and a real piano was well beyond our means, I tried this. I had an MPK88. My wife never touched it. These days if I were to go down this road, I'd probably just get a Nord Stage or something. But like others have said, it's not nearly a substitute, and for us definitely not an option. Haha for me, I have a Prophet X with some decent 8Dio samples, and I have a bunch of sample banks on my computer I could rely on.
I can't play the piano but I really want to learn now so I can accomplish more in the studio. In the Philippines there are excellent and very affordable piano teachers. (In my opinion Filipinos are great teachers because they are patient and giving.) I have this fantasy to be able to play a Rhodes, so I'm currently looking at the awesome electric pianos that are available. The 88 key MoDX looks very cool to me because in addition to some great piano emulations it also has very interesting FM functionality at a good price, and a graded hammer action keyboard. The Nord Stage would also be cool.

I completely get the point that for you it should be an acoustic piano. I think it would be a supremely satisfying, and dare I say it, grand experience to be a competent pianist sitting down at a grand piano.
If you're ever in the Toronto, Canada area, let me know. I have an 88 Stage Rhodes, bought it new in 1975. You can come by and play it.

User avatar
dubonaire
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 6005
Joined: Sun Jan 17, 2010 10:45 pm

Post by dubonaire » Mon Dec 09, 2019 3:34 pm

Randy wrote:
dubonaire wrote:
Sinamsis wrote:
estin wrote:Might sound like heresy, but what about a good dedicated PC running the best sampled Piano VST you can find ran through something like Altiverb? Add a high end 88 key weighted controller and quality monitoring. Leave the pc offline and don't load anything but a basic OS on it and it'll run problem free 24 hours a day.
Ha, when we were younger and a real piano was well beyond our means, I tried this. I had an MPK88. My wife never touched it. These days if I were to go down this road, I'd probably just get a Nord Stage or something. But like others have said, it's not nearly a substitute, and for us definitely not an option. Haha for me, I have a Prophet X with some decent 8Dio samples, and I have a bunch of sample banks on my computer I could rely on.
I can't play the piano but I really want to learn now so I can accomplish more in the studio. In the Philippines there are excellent and very affordable piano teachers. (In my opinion Filipinos are great teachers because they are patient and giving.) I have this fantasy to be able to play a Rhodes, so I'm currently looking at the awesome electric pianos that are available. The 88 key MoDX looks very cool to me because in addition to some great piano emulations it also has very interesting FM functionality at a good price, and a graded hammer action keyboard. The Nord Stage would also be cool.

I completely get the point that for you it should be an acoustic piano. I think it would be a supremely satisfying, and dare I say it, grand experience to be a competent pianist sitting down at a grand piano.
If you're ever in the Toronto, Canada area, let me know. I have an 88 Stage Rhodes, bought it new in 1975. You can come by and play it.
Thanks! That's awesome. I would be really surprised if I ever end up in Toronto again and right now I woudn't do it justice, but thank you very much for such a generous offer!

User avatar
Neo
Ultra Wiggler
Posts: 899
Joined: Wed Jul 06, 2011 2:22 am
Location: Bogota

Post by Neo » Mon Dec 09, 2019 6:17 pm

And if you thought the Schimmels made the Yamahas and Kawais pale by comparison, please don't try a Bechstein... you will end up selling your house to buy it.

User avatar
Randy
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 1820
Joined: Sat Sep 22, 2012 9:50 pm
Location: Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Post by Randy » Mon Dec 09, 2019 6:25 pm

Neo wrote:And if you thought the Schimmels made the Yamahas and Kawais pale by comparison, please don't try a Bechstein... you will end up selling your house to buy it.
That was it! Bechstein! That's the nicest piano I've played so far. Thanks!

User avatar
estin
Super Deluxe Wiggler
Posts: 1033
Joined: Thu May 17, 2012 7:56 pm

Post by estin » Mon Dec 09, 2019 6:36 pm

Sinamsis wrote:
Ha, when we were younger and a real piano was well beyond our means, I tried this. I had an MPK88. My wife never touched it. These days if I were to go down this road, I'd probably just get a Nord Stage or something. But like others have said, it's not nearly a substitute, and for us definitely not an option. Haha for me, I have a Prophet X with some decent 8Dio samples, and I have a bunch of sample banks on my computer I could rely on.
Gotcha, I figured with your production experience you could program a really nice sounding and convincing environment for a vst piano to work in.

Pretty crazy reading comments about expensive high end pianos just sounding bad in certain rooms. That would suck to find out the hard way :deadbanana:

Post Reply

Return to “General Gear”