A Message from the Publisher
Welcome to the Spring 2013 issue of Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer, a semiannual publication devoted to the purchase of new, used, and restored acoustic pianos and digital pianos. Piano Buyer is the supplement and successor to the well-known reference The Piano Book, which, since 1987, has been the principal consumer guide to buying a piano in the U.S. and Canada. Partially supported by advertising, Piano Buyer is available free online at www.pianobuyer.com. It can also be purchased in print from the website and in bookstores.
Piano Buyer is a hybrid book/magazine. The “book” part consists of a collection of how-to articles on the many aspects of buying a piano. These basic articles are repeated in every issue to serve the many new buyers continually entering the piano market. The “magazine” part consists of features that change with each issue to cover topics of more temporary or niche interest, and to provide variety. Each issue contains several of these excellent features, many of which remain relevant for years. If you missed any of them, you’ll find them under the website’s Archive tab. The brand, model, and price reference material in the second half of the publication is updated, as needed, with each issue.
In this issue we offer several new articles for your reading pleasure. As we’ve been telling readers for a while now, globalization and the computerization of manufacturing have narrowed the gap between performance- and consumer-grade pianos, allowing makers to design and build high-quality instruments at a fraction of the cost of those made by traditional hand-building methods. We asked George F. Emerson, a veteran of 48 years in the piano industry, if that meant that hand-built pianos were becoming obsolete. To our surprise, he said yes — or that, at least, they soon would be. Perhaps a bit upset by his answer, we asked a couple of representatives of high-end makers to respond. You can read their dialogue in “Are ‘Hand-Built’ Pianos Becoming Obsolete?” (p. 77).
When an institution is ready to purchase a large number of new pianos, one of the major decisions to be made is whether to buy all of them from a single manufacturer, or to maintain a diverse inventory of instruments of many brands. The decision has artistic, technical, financial, institutional, and, often, political dimensions. The College of Music at Florida State University is one of the largest music schools in the country to maintain a diverse inventory of many brands. On the single-brand side, probably best known is the All-Steinway School program, with more than 150 institutions participating. In “The All-Steinway School Program vs. the Diverse-Inventory Approach to Buying Pianos for an Institution,” proponents of the two approaches put their best feet forward to explain the reasons behind their choices (p. 91).
It used to be that you had to choose between an acoustic and a digital piano. Increasingly, manufacturers have been developing options for choosing both in a single instrument — the hybrid piano — some starting at the acoustic side and adding digital capabilities, and some at the digital side and adding acoustic features. Yamaha, a pioneer in the development of both types, has done it again, but, for the first time, with a real vertical-piano action. Piano Buyer’s reviewers take a look at the company’s new model NU1 Hybrid upright from both the digital and acoustic perspectives (p. 51).
Piano Buyer’s ratings of new pianos are probably the publication’s most read, most misunderstood, and most controversial feature. As the quality of low-end pianos rises, and the differences between brands become increasingly subtle and subjective, our ratings have come to represent less our judgments of the instruments, and more our sense of how manufacturers and dealers position them in the marketplace — partly by price, but also by reputation and country of origin. But we’ve never been completely satisfied with this, in part because readers who lack time, interest, and/or ability to make their own judgments frequently ask that we help them by recommending specific models. Beginning with this issue, we’ve risen to the challenge with “Staff Picks,” our unapologetically subjective assessments of the best in today’s acoustic, digital, and hybrid pianos (p. 47).
Don’t forget to explore the rest of our website. If you’re shopping for a new piano, two searchable online databases of 3,000 acoustic and more than 200 digital models will help you quickly home in on the instruments that match your requirements for size, furniture style, budget, and features. If you’re shopping for a used instrument, try our Piano Buyer Classifieds; using its powerful search engine, browse among thousands of used pianos for sale. If you’re in need of piano-related services — tuning, rebuilding, sales, teaching, or moving — use our Local Services Directory. And when you’re ready to take a break, treat yourself to some comic relief with our latest blog, Piano-Buying Stories.
Finally, if you’re reading this online, consider buying a print copy of Piano Buyer. It’s a handsome volume, printed in color on glossy paper, and will make a great reference, coffee-table book, or gift. You can purchase it through the website or in bookstores.
Piano Buyer exists to make shopping for a piano easier and more enjoyable. If you have a suggestion as to how we can do that better, please e-mail me a email@example.com.
Larry Fine, Publisher