Don't Even Consider Buying a Piano
Until You Read This Book!

The Piano Book®

Buying & Owning a New or Used Piano

by Larry Fine
Foreword by Keith Jarrett

How to buy and care for a piano — for 20 years the piano consumer's "bible," now in its Fourth Edition. For more information, see the Table of Contents below and the Reviews and Excerpts.

ISBN 978-1929145010

244 pages

8-1/2 x 11 in.

Fourth Edition published January, 2001





CHAPTER 1: How the Piano Works

[Pictorial Description of How Pianos Work]

The Action

How the Action Works in a Vertical Piano

How the Action Works in a Grand Piano

CHAPTER 2: Buying a Piano: An Orientation

Initial Considerations

Proficiency Level




Should I Buy a Grand or a Vertical Piano?

What Size Piano Should I Buy?

Should I Buy a New or a Used Piano?

Looking For a Piano, or Zen and the Art of Piano Buying

CHAPTER 3: Buying a New Piano


How Pianos Differ in Quality and Features

Case and Cabinet Construction, Styling, and Finish

Structural and Tuning Stability

Scale Design and Strings

Bridges and Soundboard

Listening to Tone

The Action



Pedals and Trapwork

Final Preparation



Shopping For a New Piano

The Approach

Choosing a Piano Dealer

Prices, Sales, and Merchandising

But Is It a Good Value?

Does It Hold Its Value?

How to Save Money

Price and Service

Dealing With Trade-Ins

Shopping For a New Piano on the Internet

Servicing After Delivery

Buying a School or Institutional Piano

CHAPTER 4: A Consumer Guide to New and Recently Made Pianos

The New Piano Survey

The Myth of Objectivity

The Survey and Its Limitations

How to Use This Guide

Need More Help?


Summary of Brands and Ratings in Alphabetical Order

Summary of Brands and Ratings in Approximate Descending Order of Quality

The Piano Industry Today: An Overview

Index to Trade Names

Stencil Pianos

Brand-by-Brand Listings and Reviews

Electronic Player Piano Systems and Hybrid Acoustic/Digital Pianos

Commentary and Comparisons

CHAPTER 5: Buying a Used Piano

What's Out There

A Brief History of the Piano

How Long Does a Piano Last?

Brief Notes on a Few Old Piano Brands

Should I Buy a Used, "Gray Market" Yamaha or Kawai Piano?

Old Player and Reproducing Pianos

How to Find a Used Piano

Contacting Technicians and Rebuilding Shops

Repair, Reconditioning, and Rebuilding

Grand Piano Rebuilding Checklist

Visiting New Piano Dealers

Visiting Used Piano Dealers

Answering Ads

Hunting Up a Piano

Shopping on the Internet

Obtaining a Piano From Friends and Relatives

Checking Out the Piano

Looks, Styling, and Finish

Opening Up the Piano For Inspection

Pitch and Tuning

The Pinblock



Structural Integrity

Soundboard and Ribs

The Action






Serial Number

Closing the Piano

Used-Piano Checklist

How Much Is It Worth?

Depreciation Schedule for Pianos

Prices of Used Pianos

After the Sale




Selling Your Piano

Addendum: Buying a Used Steinway or Mason & Hamlin



Action Parts


Design Changes

Teflon Bushings


Rebuilding Quality

List of Steinway Models from 1853 to Present

Steinway Dates and Serial Numbers

CHAPTER 6: Piano Moving and Storage

Why Not to Move a Piano Yourself

How Pianos are Moved

Moving a Piano Around a Room

Hiring a Piano Mover for a Local Move

Interstate, Long-Distance, and Household Moves

International Moving


The Effects of Moving and Storage

CHAPTER 7: A Beginner's Guide to Piano Care


What Is Tuning?

Why Do Pianos Go Out of Tune?

How Often and When Should I Have My Piano Tuned?

Humidity and Pianos

Relative Humidity

Where to Place the Piano


Humidifiers and Climate Control Systems

Other Kinds of Piano Service

Cleaning and Polishing

Action Regulating


Room Acoustics

The Piano Technician

The Long-Range Outlook

Additional Resources

Quiet Keys

The Stanwood Precision TouchDesign System

Magnetic Balanced Action

Reduced Size Keyboard for Small Hands

Mail-Order Sources For Piano Accessories

Piano & Keyboard Magazine



Foreword by Keith Jarrett


Preface to the Fourth Edition

How to Use This Book

The Piano Book FAQs

The Piano Book

How to buy and care for a piano — the consumer's "bible" since 1987.

A piano is one of the largest consumer purchases most people will ever make. Yet when you shop for a piano you're up against a vast variety of brands, models, and styles, competing claims, and strange terminology. Finally, here is a book to guide you through the process with practical information on every aspect of buying and owning a new or used piano.

The Piano Book, now in its Fourth Edition, has been the standard consumer reference in the piano business in the United States and Canada since 1987, and is the only book of its kind. It contains:

•  Exceptionally candid brand-by-brand reviews of new and recently-manufactured pianos

•  Sales gimmicks to watch out for — and the real differences in piano quality and features

•  How to negotiate the best deal

•  Tips on finding, inspecting, appraising, and buying a used piano

•  Special section on buying an older Steinway or Mason & Hamlin

•  Piano moving, storage, tuning, and servicing

•  How pianos work

•  100 line drawings by Douglas Gilbert

•  Foreword by Keith Jarrett

•  Glossary/Index

New in the Fourth Edition:

•  Updated reviews of new pianos based on a survey of more than fifty technicians who examined over thirteen hundred pianos made during the last five years and a database of the service records for more than four thousand additional new pianos. Stephen H. Brady, editor of the Piano Technicians Journal assisted with the research and writing.

•  Extensive rewriting of the section on shopping for a new piano, addressing such topics as the piano as an investment, questions of value for the money and long-term value, dealing with trade-ins, price vs. service, and shopping on the internet. Changes have also been made to reflect the latest tactics of both salespeople and customers in the battle for the best deal.

•  An expanded rating system for new pianos to more closely reflect the subtle ways in which pianos differ in quality.

•  Many changes to the technical information on how pianos differ in quality and the sales pitches used to exploit those differences.

•  More extensive coverage of electronic player piano systems.

•  Changes to the chapter on buying a used piano, addressing the question of how long pianos last, the controversy surrounding so-called "gray market" Japanese pianos, and shopping on the internet.

•  A grand piano rebuilding checklist to help you plan the rebuilding of your piano or when considering the purchase of a rebuilt instrument.

•  A checklist for examining a used piano prior to purchase.

•  An expanded depreciation schedule for used pianos.

•  A revised table of market values of used and rebuilt pianos.

•  A discussion of some of the issues that may come up in relation to rebuilt pianos, particularly Steinways and Mason & Hamlins.

•  A revision of Roy Kehl's celebrated list of old Steinway models, based on his ongoing historical research.

•  A new list of Steinway serial numbers and dates, different from the list provided by the company.

•  Information on room acoustics.

Additional resources of interest to pianophiles, including mail-order sources for piano accessories.

•  Many other small changes throughout the book to keep it current and useful, and in response to readers' comments over the years.



Important Note: The most recent edition of The Piano Book was published in 2001, and is no longer a reliable source of information about new-piano brands, models, and prices. For that information, see Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer, the semiannual supplement to The Piano Book, in the main part of this web site.


The author, Larry Fine, is a Registered Piano Technician member of the Piano Technicians Guild, and has been involved in the field of piano technology for over thirty years.

Published by Brookside Press, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Distributed to the book trade by Independent Publishers Group (IPG).




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