Piano-Buying Stories

Stories about the piano-buying experience


Pianos are unique among consumer goods in the extent to which deciding whether or not to purchase a particular instrument combines hardheaded choices about price and features with emotional responses involving art and passion. For many, buying a piano is more like finding a marriage partner than like buying a refrigerator or washing machine. Selling a piano, too, has its special challenges and fulfillments: satisfying the famous client, the donated instrument that helped launch a career, the sharing of a touching moment involving the importance of a piano in a customer’s life.

In Piano-Buying Stories, we bring together tales, from both consumers and retailers, of their experiences in buying or selling pianos that were somehow unusual, surprising, touching, or instructive — or all of these at once. We invite the submission of additional stories; please see our submission guidelines.
— L.F.


The Stories . . .

The Piano Match

by Nancy M. Williams

In my life I have bought two pianos. With my virgin purchase, I acquiesced to an arranged marriage of sorts, and ended up with a piano that I liked but did not adore. Five years later, fate presented me with a second chance to seek my true piano match. My first piano-shopping experience began not long after my 40th birthday, when my husband, David, enrolled himself and our preschooler, Cal, in father-and-son beginner piano lessons. David wanted to buy an upright; I suggested that we start with an economical electronic keyboard. MORE ...

The Surprising Thing About Pianos

by Perri Knize

Over the many months I searched for a piano — and the years I struggled to reclaim the sound of the piano I eventually bought — I made a challenging discovery: the piano is not just a machine. It is a living, breathing entity. It has a soul, a personality, and how it presents itself to us, how it responds to us on any particular day, changes. In fact, pianos are constantly changing. The room warms up and they go flat. The air becomes dry and they sound brittle, and in humid weather they get cotton-mouthed. Since I was in search of a very particular sort of sound personality, this discovery was disconcerting and frustrating for me. But it was also intriguing. MORE ...

Johnny Costa’s Start in Piano

by Johnny Costa

Blake and I were talking over your note inviting us to write about an interesting piano sale. During its 106 years, Cooper Music has had thousands of customers, many of them famous — from John Phillip Sousa to Elton John. Blake and I agreed, however, that the most interesting story is about a customer we did not sell a piano to. MORE ...

A Three-Year-Old Reminds Me Why We Love Pianos

by Sally Phillips

One day, a young mother and her toddler son came in to look at pianos. The mother told me that her son was three, but had started lessons and was very enthusiastic. Having seen many proud parents, and observing that the tiny child was indeed very young, I was a bit skeptical about his level of enthusiasm — until he started examining with great care all the vertical pianos on the floor. MORE ...

What’s in a Name?

by Steve Cohen

Dean Hathaway, Dean of Arts and Sciences at Towson State College, called to make an appointment to play our Yamaha CF concert grand. A few years earlier, we had rebuilt his Mason & Hamlin A. Now, for duet work, he was interested in adding a concert grand to his home studio. This was in 1974, and Yamaha pianos, imported only since 1960, were gaining in reputation, but were not yet accepted as fine instruments nearly as widely as they are today. MORE ...

The Piano Sale

by Lucille Rains

It was unusual for anyone to shop for a piano on a Friday night, much less expect to have it delivered and tuned that same night, but this was a special occasion. Istvan (pronounced ISHT-von was getting married over the weekend, and he wanted to surprise his bride. He looked at the beautiful, high-polish ebony Kawai console that I had for sale in my home/shop and, in his thick Hungarian accent, said, “LOO-sil, I like, but must have valnut.” MORE ...

The Story of George

by Sheila Leverson

How shall I describe George? He is warm and wonderful, charming but not too overbearing, with a beautiful bass voice that is not to be outdone by the singing sostenuto of his tenor and treble. He was born in New York City around 1910 or 1912 — no one knows precisely when. At about the time the Titanic was sinking and the Girl Scouts were forming, the George Steck Company produced my George in what was the golden era of the American piano. MORE ...

Last Rites

by Steve Cohen

I get a phone call from someone selling an old no-name upright in "decent" condition but that "hasn't been played or tuned for many years." I explain that there simply is no market for this kind of piano, and recommend junking it. The seller wants me to come out and examine the piano anyway, as he's convinced of its value. MORE ...

Skulduggery in Piano Land

by Laura Williams

About 18 months ago I asked if you knew anything about Cunningham Piano Company, in Philadelphia, as a restorer for my Mom’s Steinway L grand. You reported hearing good things about them, and she eventually decided to have the work done there. In the course of the restoration, however, we learned something of the piano’s shady past that I thought you might find interesting. MORE ...


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Piano-Buying Stories are copyrighted by their respective authors. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of a story without the express written permission of that story's author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.