Piano Brand Recommendations
Genevieve P., Utah
I’m passing on a question from a student that I was unable to answer. They would like to purchase a baby grand and wanted to know which of these brands were the best: Wheinbach, Yamaha or Kohler and Campbell. Any preferences?
Jo D., Australia
I’ve heard that the pianos coming from Germany are the best – not sure if any of these are. Brand names aren’t always so reliable anymore as they can be made in various places using cheaper labor.
Julia S., Kansas
Yamaha by a long shot–assuming that we’re comparing instruments in comparable condition.
The age and condition of the instruments are very important factors and need to be part of the equation, too.
If they’re looking at a used instrument, they need to have a good piano technician assess the condition before agreeing to buy it. It would also be a good idea to have it appraised to be sure that the asking price is reasonable.
By the way, this advice is based on having worked for six years at Kansas City’s authorized Steinway dealer, which was also the Yamaha dealer for 5-1/2 of those years and the Kawai dealer for the last 6 months I was there. We also had an extensive inventory of used instruments of all brands as well, so I have a lot of experience with new and used pianos of all quality levels and price points.
One last comment: Remind them that they’re buying a PIANO, not a price. Getting something cheap may feel good for a few minutes, but it doesn’t last long if they don’t like the sound and the feel.
The more beautiful and responsive the instrument is, the more we’re inspired to play it!
Rebecca G., Colorado
As a guitar player, I would highly recommend that anyone investing in an instrument should play instruments to find the one that is right for them and not rely on brands alone. I didn’t get this concept for many years until I was shopping for my last guitar 3 or 4 years ago. I went into a store owned by an old timer from the music scene here in Denver and when I told him I thought I could live with any of the dozen or so guitars I’d already played, he said to me, “You haven’t played enough.” He told me I needed to try out guitars until I found one either that I couldn’t put down or that I couldn’t stop thinking about after I went home. I thought it was a brilliant idea and decided to trust the process. 2 weeks later in the middle of another store I realized I was having the experience he described to me… and I bought that guitar the next day. It’s my favorite instrument I’ve ever owned and is a great match for me. When it’s time for me to shop for a piano, I’m planning to go through the exact same thing.
I hope you find my information very helpful as I promote pianos from time to time and have had long conversations with piano technicians. Before I go into my opinion, here is a great resource for everything having to do with piano buying:http://www.pianobuyer.com/
Here is a quote from the Piano Buyer site regarding Weinbach:
“Note: For years, Weinbach pianos were made by the Petrof company and were virtually identical to Petrof brand pianos. The Weinbach name is no longer being used in North America.” You can find it in the index section under the Petrof name. What this indicates is that the piano is rebuilt or pre-owned that your student’s family is looking at. Also, did they tell you if all the pianos they’re looking at are preowned? If a piano store has properly prepped an instrument with what is called a “factory regulation”, a used piano can actually be better quality than a new one. A piano tech told me that he noticed some Steinway’s coming out of the factory very ill prepared; what that means is that the factory standard for how the ideal feel and tone should come across – is sometimes left to the piano technicians to ensure quality control over – after the pianos arrive on the showroom.
The facts that go into determining what piano is “best” are never that very clear because there are wide array of factors that are influenced by personal preference. European pianos tend to have a deeper tone quality and heavier touch than Asian pianos. Brand new Yamaha acoustic pianos have rave reviews by piano techs because of how consistent they are produced. Personally, I love them but also prefer heavier touch and deeper tones such as are present in Baldwin and Steinway. I sold Samick for a while which owns Kohler & Campbell. Here is another quote, “Until just a few years ago, Samick primarily made pianos under the Samick and Kohler & Campbell brand names. (For historical information about the original Kohler & Campbell piano company, see The Piano Book.) In the 1980s Klaus Fenner, a German piano designer, was hired to revise the Samick scale designs and make them more “European.” Most of the Samick and Kohler & Campbell pianos now being made are based on these designs.”
Since most consumers neither care nor even know the difference between lighter touch and lighter tone quality, then I imagine the best recommendation is to find out from them whether the pianos being considered are used or new, and the actual baby grand size. Usually any grands over 5 feet are going to have better tuning stability in my opinion then 4’7″ and would be worth their long term investment to purchase. Perhaps your student can include as part of the deal with the store that whatever piano they buy has to receive a full factory regulation (this usually costs $1000 paid to the piano tech). If one of the instruments in question is already properly “prepped” then that is a smarter buy for quality assurance and is less work and cost for the store, and will probably just need a basic tuning when delivered, and could help be the deciding factor of which brand to get.
Marg G., Australia
Just a note on baby grands. I was told by both a tuner and a piano sales person that the sound quality of the upright grands are better then baby grands. This is because the strings are the same length but something about the way it is strung in the upright produces a better quality sound. In other words the baby grand looks impressive but is not necessary a good quality investment. The next size up from the baby grands produce a better quality sound, as the strings re longer than any uprights and the baby grand, and therefore are worth the extra money.
Brian B., Australia
If the piano is for an adult I always suggest that they buy with their heart rather than their head. In other words they need to fall in love with it as someone has already alluded to. – They need to love the touch and sound otherwise playing it may become a burden rather than a pleasure.
Greta R., New York
Schimmel is a brand made in Germany. I have one, and am very pleased with the tone and the construction.
The factory has high standards.
Stephanie F., California
I have a Baldwin baby grand that I love! It has a wonderful action and tone. It was a great value and really holds a tune.
When I’m asked for instrument recommendations I will suggest they shop around in their price range. Try a few different brands and instruments within the same brand. This way they will get a feel for what works for them and what they like in touch and tone of the instrument.
Dorothy H., Australia
I agree with Marg about choosing an upright grand, rather than a baby grand. I decided on a Yamaha U3 (upright) over a baby grand and absolutely love the sound.
There is a huge difference in the tone and power of the bass notes (upright grand vs. baby grand), and the higher notes are crystal clear. My piano is around 20 years old, imported from Japan, and I hired a tuner/technician to check it over before I committed to buy.