Welcome to the Spring 2014 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. If you play the piano, the tone is probably the aspect of the instrument that most interests you. And if you don’t like the tone of a particular piano you own or are considering buying, you may feel inclined to move on to a different one. While in some cases that might indeed be the best action to take, it’s also possible that your present piano’s tone could be improved — even restored to how it sounded when new — through a process called voicing. Piano technician Sally Phillips takes us through the procedures and terminology of voicing in “Voicing and Tone: What Piano Buyers and Owners Should Know” (p.95). Phillips is assisted, via a YouTube video, by 2005 Van Cliburn Piano Competition winner Alexander Kobrin, who further expounds on the importance of voicing and tone; and by additional sound samples and videos illustrating the effects of voicing, and the evolution over time of what has been considered desirable in concert-piano tone.
It’s also possible that it’s not your piano that needs voicing, but your room. In “Ten Ways to Voice a Room” (p.101), piano technician and acoustician Chris Storch suggests a number of actions you can take to improve the acoustics of your piano room, such as adding, subtracting, or rearranging furniture; hanging or removing drapery; or placing a rug under the piano. While these are not usually the first things that come to mind when you’re dissatisfied with a piano’s sound, they can have a tremendous effect on your piano-playing experience, and should be carefully considered when buying or maintaining a piano.
If you played the piano as a child, there’s a good chance that your first instrument was a Baldwin — as was mine. Once one of America’s preeminent piano makers, Baldwin fell on hard times in the 1990s, went bankrupt in 2001, and was purchased by Gibson Guitar Corporation. Since then, Baldwin has kept a low profile, concentrating primarily on developing its manufacturing capacity and markets in China, with, up to now, relatively little distribution in the U.S. That capacity having been developed, however, Baldwin is now ready to roll out a full complement of products in its home country. Our reviewer, Dr. James Lent, of UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music, tries out two vertical and two new grand models to see if they’re worthy of the Baldwin name (p.50).
“For a generation of pianists, piano buyers, technicians, and retailers, the mid-level grand pianos made by Kawai and Yamaha have achieved benchmark status among mass-produced instruments,” writes Dr. Owen Lovell, Piano Buyer’s Piano Review Editor. Recently, both lines underwent changes that their respective makers considered sufficiently important to require renaming: Kawai’s RX-BLAK line is now GX-BLAK, and Yamaha’s C models have become the CX series. In “Kawai GX and Yamaha CX: Evolutionary or Revolutionary?” (p.54), Lovell compares some of the new models with their immediate predecessors to see how big the changes really are.
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. 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.45).
Don’t forget to explore the rest of our website. If you’re shopping for a new piano, our 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 for how we can do that better, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Larry Fine, Publisher
The Definitive Piano Buying Guide for
Brookside Press LLC
P.O. Box 4916
Palm Springs, CA 92263 USA
Copyright 2014 Brookside Press LLC.
All rights reserved.