Home Care > Want to Buy a Piano?

Header Image by Gavin Whitner

Perhaps you’re an unrecognised musical genius. Or maybe you’ve just redecorated your living room and identified a possible “feature corner”. Whatever our individual circumstances, sooner or later, we all reach that point in life: that point where it’s time to buy a piano.

Incredibly versatile and beginner-friendly, the piano is a mainstay of many musical genres and one of the world’s most popular instruments. And the piano’s ubiquity is matched only by its variety, with more breeds of piano than breeds of dog: from the stately, open-lidded grand piano to the vintage honky tonk.

However, like riding your first horse, buying your first piano is liable to be a painful experience – that is, if you don’t seek relevant advice.

And that is what we will provide today. For, today, we will be your piano midwife, your musical wing-man and your interior-design consultant all in one. Ask yourself these 5 questions to ensure you’re buying a piano in tune (eek!) with your home.

1. What Size and Style?

Aesthetically speaking, a piano adds a degree of sophistication and class to any room it graces.

Most pianos are larger than you think, so it’s important you consider its placement in your house prior to purchasing. For instance, if the instrument is to be located in a smaller room, you should avoid the larger pianos. Opt instead for a spinet, console, study or baby grand piano.

The advantage of spinet, console and study pianos is that they are relatively shallow. This means they can be placed up against a wall without butting too far into the room itself – perfect if you have a stretch of empty wall space. The famous honky tonk falls into this category too, setting itself apart based on its distinctive sound (traditionally, in each key, one or more strings is slightly detuned).

Keep in mind that the size and appearance of a piano also has an effect on its sound. As a general rule, the larger the piano the richer the tone. So, if you want that unmistakable grand-piano timbre but live in a normal-sized house, why not look at a medium grand or parlour grand.

Remember as well, with whatever piano you buy, that it’s not just about it fitting in the space. Your new purchase needs to pass through your door (or window) too.

2. Acoustic or Digital?

Acoustic pianos produce their sound by the literal hammering of steel-wired strings. The digital piano, on the other hand, works by responding to key presses with high-quality playback of recorded audio.

This means that a digital piano will never fall out-of-tune and, at the press of button, can alter its tone completely (most digital pianos have an abundance of pre-set sounds, allowing it to mimic numerous instruments!). Furthermore, many digital pianos are compatible with tutorial apps and gadgets, making it a perfect option for a beginner. Finally, the digital piano also allows for the use of headphones, meaning that you can play until the very early hours of the morning without annoying your neighbours!

On the other hand, the acoustic piano generally has a better tone, and its natural, string-driven response to the touch of the player cannot be replicated on a digital piano. These subtleties are so important, in fact, that many piano tutors will not accept a student who plays exclusively on a digital piano. Essentially, this element of musical control and subtlety is vital in capturing the unique tone of the player.

Furthermore, it’s worth bearing in mind that an acoustic piano will retain its value for a far longer time than its digital counterpart, which, alas, has a relatively short shelf life.

3. Retail or Private?

Prior to purchasing, it’s important to be aware of the differences between buying from a retail dealer and buying from a private one. A piano purchased from a retail dealer will normally come with a free tune-up, plus a manufacturer’s warranty. A lot of dealers will also offer you a trade-up option. This entitles you to the full purchase price if you wish to swap your piano for a better one in the future.

Private pianos are less expensive, but do not include a warranty or any of the other perks that are commonplace with retail dealers. As regards the price of an acoustic piano, bear in mind that these instruments depreciate very little – so look at it as an investment rather than an expense.

4. How Do I Get the Right Tone?

This is the million-dollar question. Well, maybe not million-dollar… Depending on your preference, a piano will cost you anything from a three-figure to a five-figure sum.

To explore different tones, try a range of pianos out when shopping. Listen carefully, and we’re sure you’ll find a tone that you enjoy. If, as a beginner, you’re having trouble differentiating between tones, ask an experienced piano player to help you in the buying process.

Also, pay particular attention to the feel of the keys, as ideally you want a piano that offers you a mixture of quality tone and great comfort.

5. Is My Piano on my Home Insurance?

So you’ve selected the piano that’s right for you and had it carefully shipped to, and installed in, your home. You’re probably already rolling up your sleeves for a quick ad-lib sesh. But, before you settle down for that yearned-for lifetime of musical companionship, there is one last thing you need to do.

The chances are that, by acquiring a piano, you’ve significantly bumped up the overall value of your household possessions. Which means there’s a good chance you no longer have the right level of home contents insurance in place. This means that, if for example you’re burgled or your house burns down, you won’t be able to claim back the full value of your things.

If you’re like most people, you probably already had the wrong level of cover well before you bought your piano. We estimate that the value of people’s things increases by 24% every three years – simply because people steadily acquire more stuff over time. So now is a good time to review your cover and update your policy.

If you’ve just acquired a high-value item like a piano, and you’re wanting to protect it, another thing to be aware of is your “single item limit”.

Your single-time limit is the maximum you can claim back on a single item under your home or contents policy, and it could be as low as £1500. For a high-end piano, this could leave you out of pocket if you need to make a claim. Remember to always list any item above your single-item limit separately on your policy.

We know insurance is full of jargon. But, at the end of the day, it’s not here to annoy you. It’s here to give you peace of mind, so that you can bang out tunes on your honky tonk without a care for anything other than the music. And it doesn’t have to complex either. Happy tonking!