The Piano Book

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 30 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

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 elsewhere on this website.


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.



Foreword by Keith Jarrett


Preface to the Fourth Edition

How to Use This Book

[Pictorial Description of How Pianos Work]
The Action
How the Action Works in a Vertical Piano
How the Action Works in a Grand Piano
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

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

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

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

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

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



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 forty years.

Published by Brookside Press, San Diego, California. Distributed to the book trade by Independent Publishers Group (IPG).

Sign Up to Receive Announcements of New Articles and Features

I'm a :