When buying a piano there are many different kinds to choose from. In the industry, we have specific names for each kind. This will hopefully help you to tell which is which, and how to handle some of the jargon before you go head to head with a salesman.
Yamaha 5’10” Grand
Aka – Baby grand or concert grand
In the piano biz, these types of pianos are only called grands, the difference is we measure how long they are from keys to end to describe them. For example, this piano shown here is a 5’10” grand. In countries where metric is king, they’re measured by centimeters. So, the next time you’re face to face with a piano salesman, show them you know what’s up by asking about that 5’3″ darling little grand in the corner. Try not to let on that you used to call them “baby” grands. You’ll blow him away.
K.Kawai 5’10” Grand in Walnut
Grands can come from small to super large. The sound will be different based on the size of the strings and the nature of the instrument. They also come in lots of colors. Black being the most popular, but natural wood is an option, as well as white… I actually saw Baldwin had a red-white & blue model at the NAMM show a couple years back. Sometimes, they’re set up with player systems – which can be pretty cool with all the modern technology. But, basically, they’re every piano players’ dream. (They are super sexy)
The real difference in these pianos compared to other kinds (other than how cool they look) is the type of action they have. We’ll get into that more later, however, they do look, sound and feel different than upright pianos.
Ok – so here’s the deal with uprights. There’s lots of them, I mean, lots and lots of them. Chances are, someone in your family has one in their family room right now, and it’s probably out of tune. When you go looking for one, you should know what you’re looking for, and what you’re looking at.
These guys are the work horses of the piano world. Built sturdy, sound sturdy… heck, they are pretty sturdy. You can even roll them around on carpet.
They can vary in height and depth, which is what’s going to make the difference on how they sound. Basically, the longer the string, the bigger the box, the bigger the sound. These used to only be found in colleges and recording studios, etc… but anymore, people are putting them right in the family den.
Perzina 121 in Bubinga and Ebony
With lots of makers, colors and varieties, the studio is getting pretty popular, and they sound and play pretty good too. Again, the action in these are different than a grand or the other uprights, but we will get into that later.
A bit smaller, and less sturdy than the studio is the console. These are generally “pretty” pianos with ornate cases. The serious piano player may not enjoy these as much as the home decorator, but they do get by just fine. These will not have as good of tone, nor as good of touch, but for a beginner or a casual goofer offer – these do the job just fine and look good doing it. WORD OF CAUTION – even though a lot of these models have little wheels on the legs, you shouldn’t move them around unless you have experienced help. Those pretty legs break right off. No fun trying to hide that from your wife.
Again, another kind of action, another kind of sound, another kind of touch, and usually a lower price than the studio pianos.
More affordable, and smaller than their console cousins, the spinets have been around for generations. Chances are, your grandma had one of these. These little guys can vary in size, but are usually short and narrow. Much like the console, the serious player will probably want for more, but dabblers are usually happy with these.
The action in these guys is very different from the others, and can be quite a pain to work on. Techs and tuners generally do not like spending time elbow deep in a spinet action, but all of us have. They’re a little quieter, a little smaller, a little lighter and a little less expensive than the other types of uprights. I am not sure that they’re even being made any more this way. As you probably know from your craigslist perusing, the used market is rife with this type of piano.
Casio Privia PX-160 with fixed stand (there’s a portable stand in the background)
Ok – here’s the scoop on these. First – THEY ARE NOT KEYBOARDS! If it has 88 full-sized keys, dynamic (touch) sensitivity, and some guy has spent his whole life trying to make the keys feel like an acoustic piano – it’s a digital piano. The little tiny thing you buy at Wal-Mart for your 3 year old niece with bad speakers and springy keys (all 40 of them) that comes in a box… That’s a keyboard. Know the difference – don’t embarrass yourself at the store! (sorry for yelling.)
Older Suzuki Console Style Digital Piano
Digital pianos come with a bunch of different options (including case and stand choices) and are made by a bunch of different companies. And, even though lots of guys have spent their whole lives trying to make them feel like an acoustic piano, they just don’t. That’s why teachers aren’t too keen on them. Loads of people are making them their family instrument anyways, much to the chagrin of teachers and technicians alike.
Just like acoustic (real wood and metal) pianos, the digitals are not one size fits all. You should definitely play the one you’re going to buy before you open your wallet.
As seen everywhere from church to classic rock bands – the organ still has it’s place to shine. I actually don’t know much about them, simply because they’ve become uncommon. I have had the chance to play many of them though, and know that they have huge differences from instrument to instrument as well. However, I haven’t had the chance to take many apart and play with the insides. Organ players are even more rare, and definitely know more about what they like and don’t like than I can tell you here.
Lowrey Premier Organ
What I do know can be summed up pretty quickly:
They are not generally quiet.
They do not have a piano style action (They don’t feel like a piano).
They are not a substitute for a piano in any way.
They are their own thing.
They are pretty awesome and fun – everyone loves to tinker with an organ.
To get good at it, you have to put just as much time in (if not more) than a piano, but just about anybody can sit down and play with it.
Almost no one has one at their house.
Well, that pretty much wraps up this article. I hope it helps you impress people at parties and stand-up to piano salesmen.
Thanks for reading!