Who? What? When? Where? How?

Hallway lined with upright and grand pianos, leading to Houston Piano Company's recital hall.

Here are answers to some of the most common customer questions we receive. If you don't find what you're looking for, ask here.

We welcome any suggestions and/or inquiries.

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#1: Who are the HPC Piano Poodles?

When you first arrive at Houston Piano Company, be prepared to befriend a few of man’s best friends. You will find that our three standard poodles are pretty much in charge around here, and take their jobs as mascots very seriously.

Yes, they are our good luck charms. More importantly, they love our many customers and students, and are always at the ready to welcome guests with a bounce, a warm hug, and a cold nose! (They also double as moderately successful security guards.)

The Original Piano Poodles - Studio Portrait
The original lineup (from left to right) – Roland, Baldoin, and Dolly

As Dave Smith, one of our resident piano experts, always says, "It's hard to take yourself too seriously when you have these guys around."

For more of the fun & the furry, see our main Poodle Page!

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#2: What is Recreational Music Making?

"The term, “recreational,” is based upon the Latin word, 'recreatio,' signifying 'restoration to health.'

According to Karl T. Bruhn, world-renowned father of the Music Making and Wellness movement:"

Recreational music making (RMM) encompasses enjoyable, accessible and fulfilling group music-based activities that unite people of all ages regardless of their challenges, backgrounds, ethnicity, ability or prior experience. From exercise, nurturing, social support, bonding and spirituality, to intellectual stimulation, heightened understanding and enhanced capacity to cope with life’s challenges, the benefits of RMM extend far beyond music. RMM ultimately affords unparalleled creative expression that unites our bodies, minds and spirits.
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More on RMM, and how it influences our School of Music.

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#3: When and how often should I tune my piano?

Piano technicians recommend that you tune your piano at least once every six months. However, if your piano is quite the workhorse and you live in an environment that experiences all four seasons (in Houston, we have balmy and slightly less balmy as our two seasons), four times a year would be ideal.

Remember though, as with anything involving a creative pursuit, it ultimately depends on your personal specifications—but at the very least once a year.

For more information, tune in here.

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#4: Is the piano considered a percussion or string instrument?

Oh boy, this is one of those questions that sparks endless debates. In the midst of symphony folk, who consider the piano strictly a percussion instrument, we may be required to defer.

On the one hand, a piano achieves its sound by the hammers striking the strings, thus fulfilling the prime definition of a percussive instrument, which the Oxford Dictionary defines as:

Musical instruments played by striking with the hand or with a handheld or pedal-operated stick or beater, or by shaking…
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However, the tones are created from the vibration of the strings, fulfilling the prime definition for a stringed instrument:

Any musical instrument that produces sound by means of vibrating strings. The strings are under appropriate tension, and are set into vibration by being plucked, strummed, struck or bowed.
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Final Verdict: Do we have to choose? Perhaps it is accurate to say that the piano is an amalgam of both—a stringed, percussive instrument. 

Learn more about acoustic pianos.

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#5: Is an upright a vertical, a verticle an upright?

#6: What is your piano rental program?

HPC has the largest piano rental operation in Texas—servicing the greater Houston area with monthly, weekly, or just overnight options.

Rentals start as low as $25 per month. For any occasion, business or personal, from 9’ Steinways to most verticalsYamaha, Kawai, and many other brands.

Contact one of our associates for specifics.

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#7: Do you offer any warranties? Do you have a trade-up option?

All new and used pianos at HPC carry industry standard warranties. We also have a full-value trade-up option with no time limit.

Ask one of our highly qualified service personnel for details.

For information on a specific instrument, ask one of our experts:

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#8: What is a gray market piano?

Gray Market is defined as 'An unofficial market or trade in something…'

When it comes to pianos, and in particular used pianos, there has been some controversy as to the correct definition of this term. It is often used erroneously and pejoratively to describe the buying and selling of a perceived illegal or illigitimate instrument. But this is not the case.

In actuality, these pianos usually refer to Kawai and Yamaha brands originally produced for the Japanese market. Since the Japanese prefer to purchase new pianos due to a cultural bias, there became an influx of excellent, barely used pianos. Seeing this as an opportunity, independent businesses purchased, restored (if necessary), and sold these used pianos to the U.S and other countries at a much lower price. The only caveat: without the involvement of the original factory, companies like Yamaha and Kawai refused to supply warranties and parts that are typical features of brand new pianos.

And because Yamaha and Kawai do not authorize the reselling of used pianos to regions other than where they were originally intended—for which they no longer have a financial stake—gray market pianos inevitably got a bad rap.

This should not be a deterrent though, as any reputable piano dealer will offer warranties and suppliers who provide replacement parts for all of their used pianos.

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If your choice is between an average grand and a high-quality vertical—purchase the vertical.
Advice from HPC's Ask An Expert
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Page Sources

Yamaha Music and Wellness Institute.  "A Focus On Recreational Music Making."  Yamaha Institute.  Yamaha Music and Wellness Institute, n.d.  Web.  15 June 2015.
Oxford Dictionaries.  “Percussion.”  Oxford Dictionaries.  Oxford University Press, n.d.  Web.  15 June 2015.
OnMusic Dictionary.  “Stringed Instruments.”  Dictionary.OnMusic.  Connect for Education Inc., n.d.  Web.  15 June 2015.
Additional References:
  • Fine, Larry.  “Gray-Market Pianos.”  PianoBuyer.  Brookside Press LLC., Fall 2014.  Web.  15 June 2015.
  • Bluebook of Pianos.  “FAQ’s About ‘Gray Market’ or ‘Bootleg’ Japanese Pianos.”  Bluebook of Pianos.  Bluebook of Pianos, n.d.  Web.  15 June 2015.
  • Bean, Kendall Ross.  “What, Exactly is a Gray Market Piano?”  Piano Finders.  Piano Finders, 1998 – 2005.  Web.  15 June 2015.