Everything You Should Know Before Getting Your First Piano

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After learning how to read sheet music, you must find an instrument to play on.

Naturally, you’ll have a lot of questions about acquiring a piano- should you actually buy one? Is it better to get a piano or a keyboard? Is it worth getting one second hand?

To help you, Jellynote has prepared a comprehensive guide to finding your dream instrument.

First thing’s first…consider the following points:

Is this something you’re serious about? Or, just like the disturbingly lifelike artificial intelligence commonly known as “the furby”, is this just a passing craze?

Ask yourself the following: are you committed to learning the piano? Or do you just want to be Carole King?

We do not own the rights to this image.

Are you only in it for the short-term benefit? Or do you want to build a strong base for future learning?

Is there enough space in your house?

Can you afford this?

Probably not…

If you’re not sure whether you’ll stick at it…

…It’s probably best that you don’t actually buy a piano. New pianos can be extremely expensive, costing upward of $4,000 (and that’s not even for a grand piano). We recommend you rent one for at least a year before you consider buying it.   

Renting a piano will allow you to see how often you use it and will give you time to decide whether piano is the right instrument for you.

Plans change, and you really don’t want to be on the wrong side of an ill-planned investment. Do you really want to be stuck playing an instrument that you don’t really like just because you’re financially obligated to? Think of the shame you’ll feel every time you enter the room and see the instrument which you effectively sold your soul (and perhaps your kidney) to purchase lying under a layer of dust. Talk about a guilt complex…

Plus, renting a piano allows you to try different models before settling on the one you will eventually buy. Think of it like dating. You wouldn’t marry the first person you met off the street, even if that person was Mark Ruffalo, so why should you commit to the first piano you encounter?

Tempting…but no

For a good rental service in the UK, check out Markson Pianos or Sheargolds.

If you’re in the US, try faust harrison Pianos or Piano Piano.

The piano vs keyboard debate…

A debate as old as time itself… (or rather since 1874 when the “Musical Telegraph” was first invented).

If you want to learn proper techniques…

…You should definitely consider a piano over a keyboard. Pianos have weighted keys, allowing you to build up finger strength, which will enable you to learn more challenging pieces down the line.

Also, pianos feel alive. Sounds strange, but hear me out. This is because when you touch them, there is a physical reaction within the piano. As you play a note, a hammer hits a string, which thus creates a sound. This process creates a much richer sound than a keyboard could produce.

Remember that the sound of an acoustic piano carries more than the sound produced by a keyboard so if you’re playing for a large audience it definitely has its advantages.

Plus, pianos are sexy! Imagine walking into a room where all the sofas are facing the piano, instead of the TV. Pianos ooze sophistication, whereas keyboards really don’t.

Looking to improve your piano technique? Check out this instructional article on techniques to help you play piano chords.

If you want a cheaper option…

…A keyboard is definitely for you.

Unlike pianos, keyboards require no maintenance and don’t need to be tuned. Also, keyboards aren’t affected by the environment or humidity.

Most keyboards allow you to adjust the volume and insert headphones. This means you can practice on a Sunday morning without starting World War 3.

While you forfeit an authentic piano sound, a keyboard allows you to produce a variety of other sounds, including, but not limited to, ducks quacking, babies crying and, perhaps most disturbing of all, the sound of a middle aged white man saying “yo”.  

Keyboards can be good for orchestration as some include features that enable you to “play” (or rather use the sound of) another instrument altogether. Some allow you to record music so if you’re looking to record a song (but don’t have the money to spend on renting a recording studio), a keyboard is definitely the better option.

There’s also a matter of space. Keyboards take up a lot less space and can be packed away easily. If you’re a student, it may be the more appropriate option.

Check out our interview with Yuri Matsuura – a famous pianist who writes sheet music specifically for small hands.

Should I buy it new or second-hand?

“Something second hand and broken still can make a pretty sound.” – Bombshell

While having a new piano is ideal, it is also very expensive. If you’re willing to flash the cash, feel free! But if you have a tighter budget, consider buying your piano second-hand. Second-hand pianos are usually a lot cheaper than new ones.

Having an item in your house with a mysterious history can be quite exciting! Take, for example, auntie Lizzie!

If you do opt for a second-hand model, pay close attention to the following advice.

How To Buy A Used Piano

If you’re certain that piano is the instrument for you, it’s important to first work out your budget.

A well-made used piano will probably cost you about $2000 minimum. However, there will of course be other expenses to factor in. Unless included in the price, you’ll have to pay for the piano to be delivered to your house, which could cost a few hundred dollars. You’ll also have to consider the cost of maintaining the piano, i.e. any repair work you’ll have to do on it and the price of regularly tuning it.

We advise you ask your friends and family if they know anyone looking to sell their piano before you start looking for one on the internet. You’ll have a better chance of not being ripped off and you might even get a discount.

Not put off by the price? Then read on!

You also need to have an idea of where the piano will go in your house. Measure the space before you start looking so you can be certain that any piano you buy will actually fit in the space. An average upright piano is 60 inches long, 44 inches tall, and 24 to 30 inches deep. A baby grand is around 5 feet in width and depth. Remember to also leave extra room for your seat!

Want to achieve a perfect piano posture when you play? Check out our article on how to sit at the piano correctly for all the important details!

The next thing to consider is which brand of piano to choose. Steinway & Sons and Yamaha are the two main brands, but there are lots of others, such as Fazioli or Mason and Hamlin. Yamaha, Kawaii and Pearl River are considered the “budget options”, whereas Steinway & Sons is on the more expensive side.

You might want to consider finding a registered piano technician who can advise you when you go piano shopping. They’ll basically be your wingman. Or rather, your piano man.

We do not own the rights to this image.

The next step may well be the hardest as it involves you leaving the safety of your house and venturing…outside. The horror! Craigslist and eBay will have cheaper piano options, but you can’t guarantee the quality (or that you won’t be killed in the process) so head over to your local piano shop (ensure you’ve read their reviews first so you can guarantee a good service), with your technician in tow (look at you both bonding already!).

Ask your new best friend (the piano technician) to inspect all the ones you’re interested in to make sure they’re up to scratch.

If a piano tuner is unavailable to accompany you, you’ll have to inspect the pianos yourself.

Make sure you watch out for the following things when inspecting the piano:

The keys

Are any of the keys discoloured? Broken? Dirty? Wobbly? Do they stick? Are they levelled?

The casing

What’s your first impression of the casework? Are there any loose parts? Is the hinge damaged? What does the surface look like? A dented or damaged casing could be a sign that the previous owners didn’t take proper care of the instrument.

What does the inside of the piano smell like? A pungent smell could be a sign of damp or mould.

The soundboard

The soundboard is the panel behind the strings (or underneath for grand pianos). Inspect it for any cracks, which could damage the tone of the piano.

Take note of where the piano has been stored. Radiators, fireplaces or any area of the house where the temperature could fluctuate can lead to issues with tuning.

ALSO

We also recommend you ask the seller the following questions:

How old is the piano? Pianos have a lifespan of about 50 years. If you suspect the seller may be lying, use this piano age calculator.

Has there been regular maintenance? If not, you’ll have to pay to restore it which could be quite expensive.

Who’s previously played it? If it’s a younger child, it may not have been treated with as much care as it should have been.

Ask the seller how often the piano was tuned. Anything less than twice a year will run the risk of you having to pay for special tuning, which could be quite expensive.

If the piano was regularly tuned, find out who tuned it. If it was done professionally, it should be fine, but if not, it may present problems in the future.

Lastly, remember the golden rule:

Try before you buy!

Players gonna’ play

“Piano chemistry” may sound like an absurd concept but it is a real thing. Is it love at first play? Or are you being played?

Need some piano sheet music for your practise session? Check out our lists of Beatles songs to play on the piano, movie soundtracks to play on the piano and, for the piano beginner, easy songs to play on the piano.

Do some notes ring even when you stop playing the note? Any rattles or buzzes when you play? Do the pedals work effectively? Do they squeak when you play them? Be aware of all these red flags.

 Never commit to a piano before you’ve had an opportunity to play it.

When you play a piece (for the love of god, not “Chopsticks” again), see if the piano is in tune. An out of tune piano suggests a lack of maintenance, which could be indicative of more major problems the seller has neglected to tell you about.

To get an idea of whether your piano is in tune, consider using the following smartphone apps:

Cleartune

-Easy Piano Tuner

Entropy Piano Tuner

When you ultimately come to choosing the piano, you will probably know immediately which one is for you. As a wise man once said:

The piano chooses the player, Mr Potter. It’s not always clear why.

Taking her home

A very proud moment for all piano owners. However, pianos are quite delicate so we advise hiring a trained piano mover. The shop might include it in the price. If not, check the phone book or local online listings. The shop may even have some recommendations.

When she finally arrives, get started with your practice!

We wish you many happy nights spent singing around the piano.

Remember – pianos are for life, not just for Christmas…

In need of some piano sheet music?

All of our sheet music is available to download at Jellynote.com.

Happy practicing!

The Jellynote Team x

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