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 and Reviews below.

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  • Exceptionally candid brand-by-brand reviews of new and recently-manufactured pianos [Note: This is now out of date.]
  • 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
  • Checklists for examining a used or rebuilt piano prior to purchase
  • A depreciation schedule and a table of market values for used and rebuilt pianos
  • Special section on buying an older Steinway or Mason & Hamlin, including lists of Steinway models, dates, and serial numbers
  • Piano moving, storage, tuning, and servicing
  • Information on room acoustics
  • How pianos work
  • 100 line drawings by Douglas Gilbert
  • Foreword by Keith Jarrett
  • Glossary/Index



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
Reduced Size Keyboard for Small Hands
Online Sources For Piano Accessories



Reviews of The Piano Book

What musicians and experts are saying about The Piano Book


Keith Jarrett, pianist, from the Foreword:

“The most comprehensive and helpful guide to the mysteries of the piano yet published.”

Robert Moog, inventor of the Moog Synthesizer:

“Complete, detailed, and easy to follow, The Piano Book is a must-have resource, no matter what kind of music you play, or what kind of piano you own or intend to buy.”

Noah Adams, host of NPR’s All Things Considered:

“If there is to be a piano in your future, the single indispensible reference is The Piano Book by Larry Fine.” (from Piano Lessons: Music, Love & True Adventures [Delacorte Press, New York, 1996])

Anthony and Joseph Paratore, duo-pianists:

“A great addition to the library of professional musicians and amateurs alike.”

Arthur Reblitz, author, Piano Servicing, Tuning, and Rebuilding:

“A thorough job of presenting information that the public should have had available long ago.”

Frank Hanson, Chairman, Dept. of Piano Technology, New England Conservatory of Music:

“The best-researched, most accurate, most honest writing about pianos I have read.”

Barbara Kreader, former editor, Clavier:

“When your students’ parents ask you about buying a piano, hand them this book. Make sure they return it, though; it includes plenty of information you won’t want to be without.” (Clavier, December 1987)

Robert Silverman, former editor, The Piano Quarterly:

“I have just finished reading The Piano Book. It is an outstanding book in every way. It is a book that I never thought I would see in print and a book that will of great service to the piano world.” (personal letter to the author)

Library Journal, December 1987:

“. . . clearly and directly written . . . An excellent source book.”


Longer reviews:


J. Baldwin, Whole Earth Review, Spring 1988:

A piano is a bit like a puppy: you never quite know what you’re getting into when you buy one, and the pleasure of ownership is balanced by the demands of maintenance. A piano may not pee on your rug, but it can be troublesome in other ways, ways that you may be able to avoid by reading this fascinating book. What is desirable and what to avoid is shown brand-by-brand in an experienced, opinionated (the best kind) review of currently available pianos and their foibles. Illustrations abound. Names are named in a way that is rare in these days of instant litigation. The mechanisms and construction details are revealed and discussed from the standpoint of long-term serviceability — important for lasting satisfaction with your considerable investment. I also enthusiastically recommend the book as a model of honest and professional presentation of a difficult subject, spirit and all. It would have been immodest, but they could truthfully have called it THE piano book. It’s that good, and I’ve added it to my personal library.


American Library Association Booklist, Nov. 15, 1987:

Everything you ever needed to know about purchasing a new or used piano — and more. Journalist and piano technician Fine does a great service to readers interested in buying a piano for professional, educational, or strictly pleasurable pursuits, with extensive description of salient features — case construction, tuning stability, strings, bridges and soundboard, tonal quality, the action of the keystroke, hammers, pedals, etc. — and tips on how to separate a fine instrument from a clunker. (This information is especially valuable for anyone buying a used piano, since the market fluctuates wildly, and the average person usually won’t know if they’re being taken or not.) Fine offers an excellent rundown of the quality, prices, and availability of new and recently made instruments, including an index to trade names (very helpful since a given piano can be marketed under a variety of names even though the parent manufacturer is the same) and extensively annotated brand-by-brand listings (which includes pianos that are “out of print”). . . . Concluding material discusses piano storage, moving, and servicing. Clear line drawings of piano parts and paraphernalia supplement an extremely well written text. Highly recommended for all collections. Index.


The American Organist, May 1989:

If you want to buy a piano, or are in any way involved with maintenance of pianos, this absolutely splendid guide tells anything you can imagine wanting to know. With the aid of innumerable clear diagrams, new and used pianos and parts are presented in detail. New pianos are discussed by name, with no pussyfooting around. Mr. Fine tells what models are available, what firm makes them, where the weak points are, and all in impressive detail. The style is entertaining, and for many the book will be indispensable.

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).

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