Sunday, July 23, 2006

Looking to Buy A New Piano?

You might find this article in the NYT of interest. This claim caught my eye:

"The only growth in the market has been for grand pianos, of which almost 50,000 were sold last year (including pianos with automatic players), compared with only about 20,000 in 1983."

Why? The article says nothing more about it. But I think it's a point well-worth thinking about. And I'm not sure the answers are necessarily good ones, musically speaking, as concerns the future of the piano.

I sometimes wonder if Robert Palmieri isn't too far from the mark ""We've seen that, as time rolled on, the clavichord faded away, and then the harpsichord. Perhaps in the future, we will attend piano concerts in the same way we attend harpsichord concerts today." Link


Anonymous said...

One thing the NYT article doesn't mention is used piano sales. Upon taking a few trips to stores that specialize in rebuilt used pianos, it would seem that their sales are doing rather well. What some of these stores do is buy up pianos from favorable eras (ie. vintage Steinways, Yamahas from the 70's), rebuild them (often with superior parts such as metal instead of plastic parts, real ivory, etc.), and then sell them as a product touted as superior to new pianos but at a heavily discounted price (often with an extended warranty included). For example, I recently saw a Samick under re-construction with Steinway parts--didn't get to try it out as it wasn't ready yet.

What many of these companies also do is buy the brand names from defunct piano manufacturers and have the pianos built, often with all-German parts in Chinese factories. The resulting products are not bad, not too great either, but at a price that the major piano manufacturers could never compete with. Some of these rebuilders have a large inventory and probably rely on high sales/low margin for success. Understandably, I am told that many retailers of new pianos are upset at this situation.

John Lanius said...

Speaking from personal experience, the modern digital pianos outperform uprights and spinets in price and space economy, and many times in sound quality. The "touch" gets closer with every new model, too.

Someday, assuming I have the space and the money, I would love to buy a real grand or baby grand. But for now, our Roland digital does a better job than the Yamaha uprights and spinets we had in the practice rooms at college.

John Lanius

Bart Collins said...


"with all-German parts" ...and sometimes with German sounding names, no? I hadn't though of it, but I imagine it's not insignificant the used market. I know there are many who seek out used "steinways" to rebuild and sell. And of course there's all those upright pianos that need good homes :)