Kiddie Koncierge: Buying a Piano
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Kiddie Koncierge Piano Buying Thoughts
Updated October 12, 2010

There is a dizzying array of pianos out there in all tone, finish and
cost ranges.  If you research your purchases like we do, you might
appreciate the following article.  It puts a lot of the piano buying
issues into perspective:

Our thoughts on the process are:  
  • Don't rent.  If you are going to invest in lessons, you are, to
    some degree investing in the probable long term
    commitment to music.  That is not to say that you need to
    invest in a $30,000 Steinway, but you might as well put your
    resources into equity as it were.
  • Buy used.  So you don't rent.  That doesn't mean that you
    have to buy new either.  You can buy a perfectly decent
    instrument for about $600-1,000.  Below $500 and you are
    starting to get into some serious wear or tonal issues.  
    Above $500 you start getting into better instruments.  
    Between $1,000 and 2,000 you can get a downright
    respectable piano.  Above $2,000 you are getting into nicer
    finishes, brands, and baby grands, and grands.  There are
    a number of places around the Bay Area that will sell you a
    good to great used Piano.  D&C  Pianos on San Pablo Ave.
    in Berkeley , and Piedmont Piano in Oakland are two
    places that we ave check out.  
  • Be patient.  unless you have a fat checkbook and don't care
    about price, you should count on spending some time
    shopping the pianos.  That is one of the downsides of
    buying off of Craigslist or eBay.  Unless you know exactly
    what you are doing, you can get a load of garbage.  You
    don't know how hard the piano has been played, you don't
    know how well it had been taken care of, you don't know if it
    was in an accident (joking, but you know what I mean), etc.  
    Plus, when you buy off of Craigslist, you are seeing one
    instrument at a time whereas buying from a store, you can
    see a bunch of them in one place at a number of price
    points.  You may pay a little more at a store, but your time is
    valuable, right?
  • Ask the sales people to play the instruments you like.  If you
    can play, all the better, you can tell what sounds and feels
    good.  If you can't, the people who sell these instruments
    CAN and will if asked.  That is great on two fronts:  one it is
    a pleasure to hear someone who know how to play make
    these things sing and it also gives you an idea of how they
    are supposed to sound.  
  • Choose the store where you buy the piano from carefully.  
    We liked D&C because they have the following policies:  1)
    they recondition the pianos they sell so they know the
    instrument, 2) if you buy a used piano and, at any time,
    wish to upgrade, they will apply the FULL price to the piano
    you upgrade to (provided of course, you buy it from them),
    3) they will tune it and 4) they will deliver it - all within the
    sales price of the piano.  So you basically negotiate the "out
    the door" price.  Just like buying a car.  If your used piano
    store won't do that, maybe you should look around a bit
  • Don't give in to the emotional sales pitch.  The guys at
    Piedmont Piano tried to pull the high status sale on us
    saying that it is a crime to go cheap on this investment in
    your child's future.  Blah blah blah.  Listen, it's all fine and
    good if it isn't your money but it is ours and we care about
  • Stores will also have recommendations on teachers.  Take
    advantage of this.  Piedmont Piano also has their own
    stable of teachers that you can hire.  Their prices aren't bad
    at $40 a lesson.
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