How To Buy A Piano

The front customer entrance for Houston Piano Company showcasing grand pianos.

Seems Simple Enough

Go to a music store, tickle the keys, buy a piano. Or read an ad, go to someone’s home, tickle the keys, buy a piano. Then...go home, play the piano, hate the sound, the touch is wrong, some keys stick, slam down the cover, kick it even—ending the dream of being a concert pianist.

A piano is a rather large investment of time and energy, not to mention cost. Even the smallest type such as a spinet piano takes up space in your home and in your heart, and demands that you care for it. You or your child will be spending a lot of time practicing, playing, and listening. Making the wrong investment can be discouraging, and lead to many frustrating practice sessions. Therefore, the best approach is to take a deep breathe, don’t let your enthusiasm run amok, and spend some time educating yourself.

Your Primary Goal...

...is to know what you want, and more importantly—what you need. (Sometimes, what you want and what you need are incongruent).

Start by asking yourself the following general questions:


Purpose – Why are you buying a piano? Who will be playing it? Are you a beginner, intermediate, or advanced player? As a novice, you might be attracted to purchasing an extremely inexpensive piano until you are assured of your aptitude and dedication. However, having a quality piano that is in tune and in solid condition will inspire you to play; and teach you good habits as you develop an understanding of tone and touch. "Buy a piano you can grow into but never grow out of." [ 1 ] (Another great option for a beginner is renting.)


Budget – What is a “true” amount you can afford to spend? Keep this idea in mind though: purchase the finest piano you can afford.


Space – Where in your home do you intend on placing this piano? Do you live in an apartment? House? High-rise?


Portability – How often will you need to move your piano? Hiring professional piano movers can be costly, especially if moving frequently. A digital piano might be an option to consider.


Purchase The Finest Piano You Can Afford

Now that you have an understanding of your preliminary needs, more specific considerations regarding the type of piano can be determined:


Acoustic Or Digital – If space, size, and portability are primary concerns, there are some excellent digital models that may be a better fit for you than an acoustic. Some digital pianos provide learning tools that offer guided assistance during practice sessions; plus, digitals do not require tuning. But if sound and touch matter most to you—and space and size aren’t as problematic—acoustic is the way to go. Nothing beats its expression of sound. "Acoustic pianos have the capabilities and range necessary to play all types of music. Some skills can only be learned on an acoustic piano." [ 2 ]


Grand Or Vertical – This comes down to purpose, space, size and budget.

The grand’s soundboard and strings are positioned horizontally, producing a greater volume and resonance of tone than a vertical; and the keys are more responsive, affording superior fidelity and control. But these impressive instruments start at 4 1/2’ – 5’ (length), and increase to 8’11” or larger.

Whereas verticals (or uprights) are considerably smaller, ranging from 36” to 52” (height & width). However, if your choice is between an average grand and a high-quality vertical—purchase the vertical.


New Or Used – Budget plays a significant role in answering this question. New pianos are easier to purchase, have manufacturers’ warranties, and lower maintenance costs. But the upfront expenditure is usually prohibitive. Consider a first-rate used version and get the best of both worlds—staying on budget with your dream instrument. And most reputable piano stores will offer their own warranties on used pianos. Remember purchase the finest piano you can afford.


The Side-By-Side Test

Lastly, test different models of pianos. A side-by-side comparison is an invaluable way to help make your final decision. Don’t be shy to play around in the store. Although other people’s opinions can be helpful, touch, tone, sound, and action are ultimately a personal choice. But if you are self-conscious about playing in public, ask your teacher or even the salesperson to play so you can get an idea of the sound (soft, mellow, brilliant or loud).

These tips are aimed towards your individual needs, to get you thinking about what is appropriate for you. The journey began with the love of music and we have provided a general starting point to set you on your way.

For further information on selected topics explore the related articles below.

Ask one of our experts to assist you or visit our store and try our pianos on for size.

Purchase the finest piano you can afford.
Advice from HPC's Ask An Expert
End of Article

Page Sources

Fine, Larry.  "Piano Buying Basics."  PianoBuyer.  Brookside Press LLC, Spring 2015.  Web.  30 May 2015.
Piano Technicians Guild.  "Tips on Buying a Piano."  PTG.  Piano Technicians Guild, 2006.  Web.  30 May 2015.
Additional References:
  • Bluebook of Pianos.  "Types & Sizes of Pianos."  BlueBookofPianos.  Bluebook of Pianos, n.d.  Web.  30 May 2015.