So you're thinking of investing in a music making machine...
How hard can it be? A few pieces of coloured wood knocked together, with different sized strings, 88 keys and hey presto! You've got yourself a great piano.
Wrong. Actually, there are a lot of technicalities which go towards choosing the right instrument for your needs (your needs being, to be able to sound like you can actually play a piano).
Firstly, you can either buy an upright piano, or a grand piano. Note that Grand pianos are likely to cost more as they represent better craftsmanship and their appearances are more prestigious.
Colour is no real issue here and is based on personal preferences. However, you are able to get different coloured woods such as Timber or Mahogany. But the standard pianos are usually polished Black or White. And if you are feeling a little adventurous and have plenty of spare cash, why not opt for a bright purple one like "the artist formally known as Prince" has.
Another important characteristic to consider is the sound quality of your piano. A piano with a good sound means that all the strings are tuned to allow clear, distinct and even tones when each key is played. The sound will also vary depending on the piano manufacturer and hence personal preference once again. The only way to find out what you like is to rock up to the piano shop and test them out by playing your favourite tunes like "Chopsticks" or Chopin’s "Fantasie-Impromptu".
In the interests of sound quality, there are other technical points which are highly relevant to your decision to purchase. One point is that the sounds of your piano bounce off from the strings onto the supporting wood at a 90 degree angle. If you have pianos that are imported from overseas, make sure they are acclimatized to the country they are in as the wooden piano structure is likely to expand depending on the temperature. New pianos are unlikely to pose sound or tonal problems in the short term. However, you want to invest in a piano which lasts forever therefore knowing about different wood and heat effects are very advantageous. The point is, as the piano ages, the constant sound bouncing off the wood will produce a lower quality tone which in effect leads to the cracking of the piano. So what you don't want is your prized piano looking like it's just been hit by a tornado. Plus, no matter how hard you try, you can’t tune bits of splinter.
Other luxurious features you might want to consider are:
Finger Rests: these are indents along the edge of the piano, near the keys itself. Preferably for people who are too lazy to extend their hands onto their laps. Or in the alternative, don't want to dirty their black tie, concert pianist outfit. Flexible Lids: These are more noticeable in grand pianos and are held open by a stick mechanism. However, upright pianos also contain adjustable lids which when played open, emit a louder sound (for those who like to pretend they have a grand piano).Locks and keys: This feature allows the pianist to securely close the piano. They are useful just in case bounty hunters want to escape with your valuable African Elephant ivory keys. Automatic Shutters: These are in built mechanisms into the lid to allow the piano to close down slowly (for those prone to getting their fingers broken when shutting the piano).Sheet Music Holders: These hold up all your music books and pages of copyrighted songs you "accidently" photocopied. Gold-plated pedals: These refer to the 2 to 3 foot pedals located at the bottom of the piano used to adjust the length of the sounds when playing. They are usually made of brass. Double Insulated Hammer Mechanisms: These devices hit the string in order to generate the note. Generally, one coverage of felt material on the hammer is enough. But if you have more money, go ahead and double your fun.
And there you have it! Depending on how much you want to fork out, these added features will surely do your bank account justice. Or not. For a dodgy cheap piano used to store dust in your house, you're looking at about $2000. For a standard brand new upright piano by say Yamaha, Kohler & Campbell, Kawai about $6000 will definitely provide you with good long-lasting sounds. As for grand pianos, starting prices are around $9000 and can cost up to $150 000 or more especially for well known german brands like a Steinway and Sons or C.Bechstein.
And so, go forth into the wonderful world of pianos and buy yourself a grand. Although it might cost slightly more than your house (if you are buying a Steinway and Sons), you will no doubt enjoy the high quality sounds of Beethoven permeating through your living room without the aid of a CD player.