• Stephanie Veber

Which Piano Should I Buy?

Updated: Apr 18

Recommendations of instruments for students.


Buying a piano or digital piano can be completely overwhelming. I recommend that, where financially possible, all of my students purchase at least a digital piano with 88 weighted keys when beginning lessons as the benefits far outweigh that of a 66 key non-touch sensitive keyboard. A digital piano with 88 weighted keys will help students better develop proper technique, as well as help them to build finger strength at the same time. Having 88 keys also allows students to explore the full harmonic range of the instrument. Digital pianos also generally come with a damper pedal which students love to use and experiment with as well (just be sure to check this in the fine print when purchasing because some do not come with the pedal!). Another advantage of a digital piano is having a headphone jack so that students can practice even when they are required to be quiet.


Digital pianos are a great alternative if you don't have the space or budget for an acoustic piano. Acoustic pianos are of course the ideal instrument for students to play and practice on, but it is also important to understand the difference between buying a single owner second hand Yamaha U3 and an 80 year old piano that hasn't been tuned or properly cared for in years.


Please note that all the advice given in this post is my own personal opinion and there may be other options not mentioned here that you come across in your searches for an instrument which are also of a good quality and may be suited to you and your specific needs.


 

Digital pianos


Yamaha P45


The Yamaha P45 is my number 1 recommendation for students just starting out who don't have a huge budget. The P45 has the full range of 88 keys, the keys are weighted (GHS - Graded Hammer Standard piano action), 10 different voices and a bunch of other features, and also comes with the music stand attachment and damper pedal. This piano is really ideal for beginners and students moving into intermediate territory.


The piano retails for around $699 new but can often be picked up secondhand for around $450-$500


Visit the Australian Piano Warehouse to check it out.


Roland FP30


I have a Roland FP30 and I absolutely love it. It is an 88 weighted key digital piano with a great action and even better sound and feel than the Yamaha P45. The FP30 also comes with an extensive range of voices, Bluetooth audio and midi connectivity that can be used with GarageBand or Roland's Play Everyday. It also comes with a damper pedal. This piano is really excellent and I recommend it for beginner and intermediate students.


The FP30 retails for $1,229. I rarely see these come up secondhand but you might get lucky if you keep an eye out.


Visit the Australian Piano Warehouse to check it out.


Roland HP702


I have played an HP702 and found it to be a really lovely sounding piano with a great touch and action. Its features are very similar to that of an FP30 but where the FP30 is a more portable digital piano, the HP702 has more of an acoustic piano 'look'.


They typically retail new for $2679


Visit the Australian Piano Warehouse to check it out.


Kawai CA59


I personally love Kawai pianos as well and this digital piano is a dream to play at this price range. It has a full touchscreen, 88 weighted keys, exceptional tone thanks to Kawai sampling their own Shigeru SK-EX and EX grand pianos to produce the sound, bluetooth, 3 built in pedals (soft, sostenuto and damper) which replicate the placement and feel of the Kawai Shigeru SK-EX grand.


The CA59 retails for $3199


Visit the Australian Piano Warehouse to check it out.



 

Acoustic pianos


Buying acoustic pianos can definitely be tricky to navigate, and there are a number of things to keep in mind when looking.


Buying secondhand


Old Secondhand Pianos

Inheriting a great aunt's antique piano that has been kept in a garage for years and not tuned or properly maintained is a bad idea. Pianos need care and regular tuning in order to stay in good shape. You may notice when you play an old piano that the keys are quite easy to press down, the action is not stiff and is actually quite loose. If you come across a piano with a honky-tonk twang, steer clear. Likewise, if you notice any strange metallic buzzing, some keys that don't come back up when you press them or the overall feel of the piano is just not quite right, then this piano is not for you. Pianos in bad condition can cost a lot of money to restore and, if it is sentimental to you, it may well be worth it, but if you are purchasing an instrument for yourself or a child to practice on, it most likely won't be worth it and, left unfixed, will not be a suitable instrument.


Newer Secondhand Pianos

Probably the most common type of 'newer' secondhand piano would be the black Yamaha U3 and U1 series. If you walk into just about any secondhand piano shop you will see at least one U3. Yamaha U3s and U1s are fabulous pianos and I do highly recommend those both new and secondhand however, be wary when purchasing secondhand as you could be buying a grey market piano. A grey market piano is one that has been used in schools, universities or institutes (generally in Japan, Vietnam or China) and then brought over here, refurbished and then sold on as if it were a newer/less used instrument. Given that these instruments were originally used in schools/universities etc, they will have been used extensively on a daily basis. These pianos are also often 30-40 years old.


See this quote from the Kawai Australia website:


"The impact that a working history like this will have had on the action – an intricate mechanical device predicated entirely on the precision of its many moving parts – shouldn’t be underestimated."

- click here to read more about grey market pianos.



If you come across a secondhand Yamaha that you'd like to buy, this website can help you decode the serial number and determine in which country the instrument was originally sold. Ideally you want one that was made for the Australian market and not originally sold overseas.


Piano Gallery in Melbourne always have a great range of secondhand and new pianos and the owner, John, refurbishes and restores pianos beautifully. He is a great person to chat to regarding purchasing of secondhand pianos.


Buying new


Surely buying a new acoustic piano couldn't be a problem, right? Brand new pianos sometimes don't have the warmth and depth of sound that a (newer) used piano may provide, but regardless, they come with a warranty, if you buy the right piano, they can be of excellent quality, and they will take students from beginner stages of learning all the way through to advanced and beyond.


As mentioned above, I highly recommend Yamaha U3 and U1 series pianos - they are pretty standard student pianos and the Yamaha U3 action is a benchmark for a lot of other acoustic upright pianos as well.


- Yamaha U1 retail for $7595 as a starting point (check them out at Australian Piano Warehouse)


- Yamaha U3 retail for $14,480 as a starting point (check them out at Australian Piano Warehouse)


Kawai ND-21 and Kawai K series

Kawai upright pianos are also a dream to play. I have a vintage one that I played on when I was growing up so I have a soft spot for them as well. Kawai pianos have a state of the art hammer action, a beautifully rich depth of sound and are really top quality pianos. In buying a Kawai you can be sure that you are buying an excellent instrument.


The Kawai ND-21 retails for $6499 and can be purchased new from Australian Piano World


The K series pianos start at $9495 for the entry level K300 model and can also be purchased from Australian Piano World.



I also love Alex Steinbach pianos which are elegantly designed by Korean piano manufacturer Samick, and have a beautifully rich and warm sound and excellent touch. Retail starts at around $6,500 for the entry level prelude and sonata models. Go to Piano Gallery to check them out.



 

I hope that this information helps to point you in the direction of the purchase of your next instrument. Please note that these are my own personal recommendations and I do not receive any commission for the links posted above in this blog- Stephanie Veber, South Side Piano.



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