To the current non-pianist, the price point of pianos can seem ludicrous, some are the equivalent to a deposit on a home, but others can come in at just a few hundred pounds...But what are the real differences? All have 88 keys, use some kind of action and create that serene sound we all know and love.
So just why are premium pianos so expensive? And why can that price be justified?
Well today we wanted to break down exactly what goes into premium instruments that can cost anywhere up to and over £100,000, why they are worth the amount they are and also offer some advice on still being able to access high quality instruments at great prices.
Why Premium Pianos Are So Expensive
Firstly, we want to make the point that here we are largely focusing on the crème de la crème of musical instruments. In the same way that most cars have four wheels and get you from A to B, some just do it more efficiently, faster or in a particular way, a piano can be looked at in the same way. You wouldn’t compare an entry level car to something like a Lamborghini, so it’s not fair to compare an entry digital level piano or keyboard to a premium concert grand piano.
The main factor that hikes up the price of pianos is production quality, here we’ll break down just how in-depth this process can be in premium instruments.
1) Sourcing Materials
Acoustic pianos are made from some of the finest materials in the world, from the finest spruce woods to hand crafted intricate strings and actions, each piece functions and works in harmony with those around it to create the most pristine, holistic sound possible.
In the case of woods, because they are sourced from some of the most inaccessible or pristine forests in the world, they are already an incredibly rare commodity. Trees obviously take years and years to grow, and can’t simply be replaced once cut down. The kinds of spruce grown for instruments such as a C.Bechstein grand piano are grown at such an altitude for example that they almost don’t experience seasons, meaning the rings on the trees grow almost perfectly circular - this gives the wood the optimum frequency to vibrate at and generate sound.
This can even be done to such a level where certain manufacturers will hire ‘wood scouts’ whose role it is to travel the world in hunt of the best ‘sounding’ trees. They will knock on certain trees and say, yes or no based on what frequency the raw wood resonates at.
From there there is the transportation, cutting and drying of the wood, we’ve written a guide on the wood treating process here, however this process can be as cost efficient or expensive as needed. As you can imagine, it’s not particularly easy to get a tree down from the side of a mountain!
This is just one section of the process as the same can be said for the likes of almost every other component in the piano, from cast iron frames to the highest grade of wool felts, hard rock maple, veneers, and all of the intricate parts of the inner action of the piano. Because these instruments are premium investments, those buying them expect only the best of the best materials to be used.
2. Precision hand crafting
Piano makers are not your normal factory workers who aren’t involved in the production process. Because of the level of quality, intricacy and delicacy that goes into many premium instruments and they are made by some of the most expert technicians in the world, this service comes at a cost. For example, some pianos, such as a C.Bechstein B212, require a manufacturing time of up to 18 months, that time isn’t free!
Whilst all pianos are made differently, with different levels of machinery and automation, the assembly time is crucial and largely increases prices because for the most part on premium instruments, there is generally virtually no robotics involved.
3. Long Lasting And Hard Wearing
Whilst pianos can be sensitive souls when it comes to certain climates and conditions, for the most part, they are long lasting. Many people often refer to pianos like sports cars in terms of price points, however the big difference is that where a car will perhaps last 10 or so years, a well made piano and looked after piano can easily live to be over 100 years old and sound just as sweet. In fact, in our recent conversation with Derby School of Music, they were recently gifted a piano from as early back as the 1877!
Because of their rich heritage, it’s also not uncommon for many premium acoustic instruments to hold their value incredibly well. This is why at Millers, we’re so confident in many of our acoustic pianos holding their value, we offer all of our customers an Investment Certificate with a fixed price on how much they can return the instrument to us for when they are looking to upgrade later down the line.
Making Pianos More Cost Effective
There are a number of ways to make purchasing a piano more accessible and at Millers we believe that the piano is actually an incredibly accessible instrument that most incomes can support. Here are a few of our top ways of either finding a great instrument at a great price point, or ways to find instruments that you might not even know existed.
Go Second Hand
One of the best places to find quality instruments at a great price is to review second hand markets. Just because someone has already owned the instrument, it’s not uncommon to find some real gems out there. To make sure you’re fully in the know of what to look out for when finding a second hand acoustic instrument, read our guide here!
When it comes to buying things such as second hand digital instruments, approach with caution too, for example unless the seller is able to tell you what year the instrument came out and all of the required accessories and functionality work, we wouldn’t touch it as it’ll likely cost you more to fix than the instrument is actually worth! Also note that unlike acoustic instruments, digital instruments are constantly innovating and changing, as such they don’t hold their value anywhere near as well as acoustic instruments do.
Something that many new players especially don’t know about when considering starting the piano is that you can rent pianos, both acoustic and digital. On a piano rental scheme, you can decide over the course of 6 months if the instrument is for you or not, however you can also explore whether or not a particular instrument has the tone, touch or action that you are expecting.
Rental also allows those who would rather pay smaller sums of money per month instead of a lump sum payment if that is not feasible...some pianos can even be rented from as little as £25/month!
To learn more about renting pianos, contact our team today!
3. Go Digital
This one depends on the player and preferences, but many starter digital pianos are not only incredibly efficient from a price point as they remove many of the manufacturing costs associated with acoustic instruments, but they still offer sensational sound quality.
In fact, for those considering purchasing a second hand or low end acoustic instrument between £2000-£3000, for most instances we would actually recommend a high end digital instrument such as a Casio GP-310 or GP-510.
We hope this guide has helped offer some insight into what makes premium pianos so expensive and the level of dedication and detail that goes into production, however also a number of more budget friendly purchasing or renting options to make sure that the piano is for absolutely everyone!
To learn more about any of our piano ranges, contact our experts today!