Some history might be helpful here: In 1987, I published The Piano Book: Buying & Owning a New or Used Piano, at a time when many, if not most, new pianos were poorly made by today’s standards, and the methods of selling them often bordered on the unethical. The book was groundbreaking in its exposure of all that, as well as unusually comprehensive and technically accessible to the layperson, and over the next 20 years, it was published in three updated editions, supplemented by annual model-and-price guides.
By about 2005, globalization and computerization had so transformed the manufacturing landscape that defective and substandard pianos were largely things of the past, at least for pianos sold in the West; sales practices, too, had also considerably improved. Technology was also beginning to blur the distinctions between digital pianos and traditional acoustic pianos. All of this had the effect of rendering outdated much of the editorial basis for The Piano Book, at least as far as its treatment of new pianos was concerned. At the same time, the Internet had transformed people’s reading habits; increasingly they preferred digital media to printed books, and demanded that information be provided now and free. I responded to these challenges by rewriting all of my material for the 21st century, putting it online for free, and turning the work into a collaborative effort among many authors with diverse areas of expertise. Thus was born, in 2009, Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer, an advertising-supported, free online magazine (www.pianobuyer.com) with a semiannual print component.
As the public continues to migrate online, publishing a four-color magazine twice a year has become increasingly costly and unnecessary. At the same time, over the past nine years of publishing, we’ve accumulated in our Archive a considerable body of excellent articles that we feel would greatly benefit a wider audience. We also believe that, despite the trend toward digital, having a printed version of the articles continues to be worthwhile, as there are many people who do not enjoy reading onscreen for extended periods of time, or who prefer to find their reading materials in bookstores and libraries. Our response has been to separate our printed materials into two publications: The Best of Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer, with its collection of articles that age well and thus will last for a number of years; and a separate, smaller, and simpler Piano Buyer Model & Price Supplement, published twice a year and containing exactly what its title implies: comprehensive and up-to-date listings of acoustic-piano models and prices and digital-piano specifications and prices.
Of course, all of our materials—articles, instrument reviews, models, prices, specifications, databases, stories, etc.—will continue to be available online for free.
Now, I can imagine one asking: Why is it necessary to publish dozens of articles about buying a piano? Is the subject really that complicated?
Well, yes, it is—for several reasons. First, the subject can be segmented into a large number of specialized interests: new pianos, used pianos, restored pianos, digital (and hybrid, software, and electronic player) pianos; pianos for institutions, for performance use, for beginning students; caring for a piano (tuning, regulating, voicing, cleaning, humidity control), piano accessories, piano moving; establishing a value for a piano, and selling, donating, or disposing of a piano; room acoustics; and so forth.
Second, each of these interests can be further subdivided almost without limit. For example, treatment of the subject of new pianos requires some description of each of the dozens of brands in the marketplace. The treatment of used pianos requires a description of each era of the past 150 or so years that is still represented in the used-piano market.
Third, most of the above subjects can be discussed at a number of different technical levels, from basic, nontechnical information for the casual buyer, to more in-depth information for piano professionals and aficionados.
Of course, no single volume could possibly cover all of these topics comprehensively, but this book makes a good start. It covers almost every significant area of interest, and some more minor ones, at at least a basic level, and several at more advanced levels. It also touches on a number of topics of great importance that, to my knowledge, have never before been written about—such as how an institution can avoid getting stuck with donations of inappropriate instruments, how to select a concert grand from several of the same brand, taking a tax deduction when donating a piano, and why, from a financial point of view, most pianos are not worth an owner’s investing in their rebuilding.
This broad treatment of the subject at a variety of technical levels, combined with coverage of significant niche topics, makes this volume suitable for a very wide audience: from first-time buyers to professional pianists, dealers, and technicians, and from administrators and faculty at colleges and conservatories to piano students at those same institutions. Each will find ample material here to answer their questions, guide their purchases, help them do their jobs, and/or enable them to advise others.
And, while you’re reading, please visit us online at www.pianobuyer.com, where you’ll find additional articles, instrument reviews, searchable databases, classified ads, and other shopping tools.
Larry Fine, Editor