Buying an upright piano is no small feat and should not be considered as a quick purchase. For many, an upright piano might be your piano for life, or could act as the starting point on becoming a musical sensation. A piano isn’t just an instrument, it is a part of the home and no matter which room it is kept in, it will be a talking point for years to come.
Being such magnificent instruments, we wanted to offer the first time upright piano buyer a comprehensive guide on the key things to look out for when buying your first upright piano and give you some inspiration for the questions to ask when visiting a piano showroom. For any further information on anything mentioned here, we’d be happy to help! Get in touch with one of our piano experts today.
So without further ado, let’s get started on this exciting adventure of buying your first upright piano!
Where is it going?
The absolute first thing to ask yourself when buying an upright piano is: Where are you storing it? Unlike most digital pianos, upright pianos are not designed to be moved and will generally stay in the same place for the majority of its lifespan. Of course our expert delivery and assembly team are here to help and can get your piano exactly where you want it to be but there are still a few things to consider.
Firstly, don’t store it in your conservatory.
We’ve spoken about this in our silent vs hybrid piano guide, but acoustic pianos absolutely hate being in rooms with changing temperature conditions. Being made from wood and utilising physical metal strings, rooms that change temperature regularly will severely affect your piano as it shrinks and expands to the room’s temperature. This tension will frequently cause it to go out of tune and potentially even damage the frame of the piano. The same goes for storing your piano next to radiators too!
Another thing to consider here is things such as stairs and any narrow corridors that you’ll need to get your piano through! Our team are amazing at what we do and generally can overcome 99% of problems when it comes to piano assembly and getting the instrument to its desired location, but we can’t perform miracles!
Secondly, it’s a simple tip, but one to consider, how much space do you actually have to play with? Some people are often surprised by the size of an upright piano and models differ in size depending on a multitude of factors. Many students often find that their teachers will recommend getting a piano that is no shorter than 120cm in height when transitioning from a digital piano to an acoustic, this is more to do with tone, which we’ll come onto momentarily but is worth noting, so get that tape measure out before you buy!
When it comes to tone, absolutely NO two pianos will ever sound exactly the same. The beauty of each instrument comes in it’s fine nuances and this is what makes each piano both unique and individual to you! A pianos tone comes down to everything from manufacturing materials such as the woods, strings and hammers, to the philosophy behind each brand, so it is certainly important to do your research and find which appeals most to you.
To see differences in tone on three of our favourite piano brands, watch this demonstration in our Cambridge showroom!
As you can see, tones vary DRAMATICALLY and to achieve the ideal sound that you are looking for, you are going to want to do some research. For example, remember how we said that most teachers won’t recommend pianos under 120cm? Well this is because in shorter pianos, the bass strings are not long enough to achieve a balanced sound throughout, meaning you’ll have to hit the keys harder to achieve the correct level of sound, which when you then transition into other pianos, you may find that this throws off your playing style dramatically...See, there really is a lot behind this!
The inner workings of any acoustic piano are nothing short of mesmerising. With so much going on and literally thousands of tiny parts working harmoniously together to create the perfect sound, the most important thing to focus on is how the instrument actually feels to touch and play...You’re the one playing it after all!
If you don’t feel comfortable playing an instrument, or aren’t quite getting the sound and feel that you want from it, it’s not the one for you. That’s why we always recommend visiting our showrooms when purchasing an upright piano as this will give you the physical opportunity to compare similar pianos, how they sound, how they feel and if they are right for you or not.
Another great question to ask yourself when buying a piano is: What do I actually want this piano to do? We covered this in our Digital Vs Acoustic Piano guide, but it is especially true for upright pianos.
If you’re buying an acoustic piano, you will already have some kind of intention for either home practice or performance, but what we mean here is that someone looking to have an incredibly expressive instrument with lots of colour and tonal range shouldn't be looking at starter pianos.
Instead, think about your playing style, are you more of a classical player who loves precision and finesse? Or more of a jazz player who loves groove and unleashing a flood of expressive energy? They are two completely different intents for the same instrument to achieve!
It’s also worth noting here on any additional features that you might want your piano to have. For example do you want your piano to also have a silent mode so you can practice anytime of the day? What colour would you like? When do you need it by? All great questions to consider.
Ultimately, you need to begin to combine all of the features and ideas that we’ve mentioned above when choosing your first upright piano: Tone, touch, size, feel, location, finish, your playing style, your ability level, the list goes on. By now, you should have begun to create an image in your head of what you envision your piano to look and sound like. That way you’ll have a great idea on what you’re looking for when you come in to try your piano out for the first time!
We hope that offers some great insight into helping you make the right decision for you and has given you some inspiration to go out there and begin finding the perfect piano for you. Of course, we would love to show you around all of our beautiful piano showrooms and speak to our expert team in order to help you find your piano for life that is going to support your musical journey!
We can’t wait to see you soon!