Buying a Piano
Buying a piano can seem like a daunting prospect, they are big, expensive, heavy, need maintaining and you have no idea where to start. Consider it an investment in your family's musical future. Pianos depreciate very slowly and can be sold or traded in for similar prices to purchase. Aim to buy the best instrument that you can afford and plan to get the maximum use out of it. I find families who take the plunge and make the commitment to a piano tend to also do better as they are motivated to use the piano having paid for it!
When I say "A piano" I mean just that, an acoustic, heavy, upright/grand, mechanical piano, no electricity necessary, no screens, no frills. There is no digital instrument which comes close to the feel of the geniune article, and certainly not within the same price range. For a second hand beginners piano you can expect to pay between one and two thousand pounds. Sometimes they are cheaper if you can get a private sale and sometimes they are free if you get lucky. Gumtree has been known to have free pianos going if you take them away.
In addition to a piano, a stool and (for little people) footstool will be required. Make sure that the stool is adjustable as the height of the stool is very important to developing proper technique. A footstool will give a child the physical support they need so that they can concentrate on techniqe rather than on staying on the stool. Piano stools are sold by piano dealers although it is sometimes worth looking online as the same thing can be cheaper on ebay. Or, if you've got the nerve, and you're buying from a shop, ask them to throw a stool in with the instrument. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't but it doesn't hurt to ask. (I did!)
Buying a new piano
For those of you lucky enough to be able to do this, go for it. New pianos will be solid instruments which can last for years. There are many reputable dealers locally as well as further afield and many brands available for different price ranges. I am happy to look at pianos for my families and give my opinion on individual instruments. Remember that no two pianos are the same and even two identical models can feel and sound different.
Buying a second hand piano
This is most people's first choice. Please do take advice before buying a second hand instrument, don't buy anything sight-unseen and make sure it comes with some kind of guarantee. I am more than happy to help people buy pianos. I will go and look at second hand pianos and give my opinion as much as needed (within reason!). Ignore any information given along the lines of "recently tuned" or "needs tuning" neither of these things tell you anything about an instrument. Pianos always need tuning after moving.
Hiring a piano
Many music shops offer pianos for hire. If you choose this route, make sure you get a deal where you can count the cost of hiring towards the purchase of the instrument if you decide to do so down the road. This is a "safe" way to invest, if you truly decide you don't want a piano then you can return it and won't have laid out a huge amount of money.
Pianos are so big, we can't fit one in our house
If you can fit a full-length digital piano in your home, you can fit a small upright, they take up the same footprint as a digital and the quality of the instrument is far and away the better choice.
Do pianos need tuning regularly?
Yes, a thousand times yes! Pianos should be, ideally, tuned twice a year. Typically tuning costs between 50 and 100 pounds and takes a couple of hours. A good technician will also be able to do minor repairs at the same time. The best times to get a piano tuned is in the spring after you turn the heating off and Autumn after the heating has gone on for the winter. Pianos should also be tuned 3-5 weeks after moving, after they have had time to settle down.
We live on the second floor, we can't get it up the stairs
Yes you can. Piano movers can do magical things with moving instruments. Don't watch if you're worried, as it can be quite nerve wracking. If you really think it's a problem, talk to a mover before you buy the instrument. Always use a specialist piano mover to deliver an instrument. Most shops have their own vans or people they contract to who are experienced.
We aren't sure if we are going to make this a long term thing, can we start with a digital piano and upgrade if we decide to carry on?
If you are asking this question, I'm probably the wrong teacher for you. I'm looking for pupils and parents with commitment to the long term and consider it a false economy to go with a sub-standard instrument until "commitment" often a digital instrument is the frustration which will stop someone from continuing as they won't be able to get the sounds they want from it.
My child is only a beginner, they don't need a real instrument until they are advanced.
Would you build a house with cheap foundations and only spend real money on the roof? Of course not! The same thing applies to buying a musical instrument, start with a solid foundation and build up from there. It is as beginners that we need the best quality instruments in order to learn what is possible. Accomplished pianists can coax the beautiful sounds from the oldest and rustiest of pianos but beginners need a little help from the instrument.
Pianos are terribly expensive, we can't afford to buy one
I would suggest first that you have a look at instruments and see if this is, in fact the case, you can pay anything you like for a piano and they are sometimes even going free.