Piano HQ

Glen Barkman's Muse on all things piano.

The Solution to The Big Mess Part 3

Posted by glenbarkman on October 14, 2009

Bosendorfer art The following is a very biased opinion of what the solutions are for the present piano market based on 3 needs.  And what exactly are those needs?  Simple.  Some people look for quality name brands, some people look for vintage, still others look for new pianos.  Finding used quality pianos is relatively easy.  Look no further than the top of the line Yamaha or Kawai pianos.  Most technicians and teachers would agree that there is a very high level of high quality manufacturing among these two companies.  They are the largest global high level piano companies in the world.  Some could argue that there are higher quality ones… indeed there are – but consistent volume of great sounding/playing instruments – these companies are some of the best.  In a 25 year average, Yamaha put out about 100,000 pianos per year (according to the Pierce Piano Atlas).  Kawai -roughly half that many.  The ever-so-popular Steinway – same averaged years manufactured 2,500.  I must say, there is strength in numbers.  If one company has built into the MILLIONS of pianos… that’s M as in MILLION – think about that.  Their design, servicability, acceptance around the world must be significant.  One small problem… over time their prices are what i deem almost unaffordable now.  In CDN$, a new professional U3 lists at approx. $14,500.  Used versions of these are GREAT investments.  You can usually find them hovering around the $5000 mark.  And if you look around, you’ll find one with plenty of tread still left on the tire.

The second purchase is looking for old and vintage.  Just don’t be snookered… those old pianos are only worth between $300 and $1600 PERIOD!  If you’re paying more than that… you’re paying too much.  If the asking is more – there needs to be a reason – new hammers, new dampers, new bass strings… SOMETHING!  See the previous post on my position pertaining to that.

Ok here’s the biggie… new pianos.  The biggest part of the biggest mess.  Why? Companies have been bought and sold for their name brands.  Old traditional piano companies are now simply a name brand for something cheap (usually).  So who do you trust? What makes a good piano?  Well… here are some words of advice: back to consistency – i’ve owned Chinese pianos, Korean, Japanese, German, North American, Russian, Indonesian, British, Scandinavian – and here’s the world scheme of things… ok i’m gonna do something most would consider faux pas – and that is to compare the piano market to the car world.  At the top… leader of the engineering team… i gotta say is still our German friends.  They have that je ne sais quoi that is like rich dark chocolate… and i also have to say -comes at a price… a VERY expensive price… those are the BMW and Mercedes or pianos.  The Toyota Honda are the Yamaha Kawai.  Brilliant design – less cost.  Next we have domestic and Korean in cars… Young Chang and Samick build solid, decent instruments.  My preference is leaning towards Indonesian construction.  The lower end pianos are ALL Chinese built.  When you consider Indonesian vs. Chinese… every step in manufacturing is cleaner, nicer, more polished in the Indonesian pianos.  If you’re looking simply for price?  Buy something black and shiny – you’ll find it. 

If it were my nickel?  I get enjoyment out of each category.  I love the vintage – i find that the quality in manufacturing back then (1900-1940) was second to none.  BUT they NEED restoration.  The used Japanese – also a FABULOUS option.  If you’re looking for new… then my vote is for Indonesian.  Beautifully finished, nicely crafted… designed by one of the bigger Asian companies (Samick and Young Chang).  But don’t take my word for it… go out and try lots of pianos… see which way you lean.

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