Robert Estrin - piano expert

Why Would You Buy an Expensive Piano?

A not-so-easy answer to a very common question

In this video, Robert talks about expensive pianos and why they are so highly priced.

Released on June 22, 2016

  
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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi and welcome to livingpianos.com and virtualsheetmusic.com. This is Robert Estrin your online piano store Living Pianos with a great question as to why would anybody need a high-end or expensive piano? You might think, is it frivolous to spend $60,000, $70,000, $80,000 for a piano when you can get a perfectly fine Asian-made piano for a fraction of the cost. What are the reasons that people spend this kind of money? Is it just status?

Well there's a lot that goes into it. Yes, some of it is status. Having a name like Steinway in your piano sets you apart when people walk into your home much like having a certain logo on a handbag can be very impressive to people. Fortunately, this is not the primary benefit of owning a high-end piano. There's much more to it. Along the same lines, however, to the status, is also the resale. If you do have a piano that's noted for being a high quality manufacture, in the long haul it's going to have more value. Think of it, if you buy a brand new piano for under $10,000, little baby grand, if when it wears out you would never rebuild such a piano because rebuilding cost more than the piano. So it's almost like a disposable piano. So for folks who want a piano in their family to pass down generation to generation, getting a higher end piano is reason enough for this.

Now, what about the way they play, the way they sound? For a lot of players, a lower-end piano is gonna be just fine for the purposes you have young kids you wanna start them out with piano. You're not even sure if they're gonna stay with it. You want some nice furniture in your home, maybe you want a wireless player system in the piano, the kind of things we install all the time, and a good Asian quality piano will last through years with proper maintenance. But what about the really serious player? I will tell you that years ago I was in a position where my personal piano was a brand new top-tier Asian, not top tier piano but one of a top Asian brands which I'll remain nameless. I don't begrudge them anything, but my experience with this piano with the way I practice. That piano needed major regulation about every six months, not just little touch up. It could not withstand the kind of use that I put into a piano. We even have to rebuild the whole pedal lyre more than once. It kept breaking apart. It couldn't take the kind of intensive use that a concert pianist is going to impart on that piano. More than that, the vast majority of Asian production pianos don't have the range of expression.

You see any high quality pianist knows how to instantly adjust to whatever instrument is in front of them. So if I'm playing a concert on a concert grand Bosendorfer or Steinway or Mason and Hamlin I can let myself go tremendously, putting as much energy as I want into the instrument. But with lesser pianos it's riding a line between how far you can go not introducing distortion to the tone much like turning up a cheap stereo too much gets unpleasant to the ears. So it is with cheap pianos. They got a really low-end Indonesian piano for example, you might find that when you really put energy it gets a little brittle and distorted. You can still make it sound good and the fact of the matter is beginning students won't have the energy to reach that limit any way. So it isn't probably an issue for quite sometime for most students.

The flip side is how quietly can you play? Can you play whisper quiet and still maintain that singing line that will project? Just imagine your playing a piece that maybe has three or even four lines. Almost like a different strata of sound where you have the quietest, a little bit louder, louder still, and the loudest and you have these lines that you're trying to mold to create the sound that you could follow each line independently yet vertically they have balance, one louder than the next. This is of course very difficult thing in the piano and only high level players approach this. But if you don't have a piano that is topnotch, and more than that, is impeccably-voiced and regulated. it's impossible to have that kind of control.

So the long and short of it is a higher line piano in good condition is going to give you a wider range of expression and control and will have more lasting value over the long haul, will require less maintenance for a serious player, and you can enjoy it, and even have some status to boot.

So those are all different benefits. If any of you have other observations or ideas as to what other reasons one would spend more money on a piano than absolutely necessary, love to hear if from you. Again, Robert at livingpinaos.com. Here also at virtualsheetmusic.com. Thanks so much for joining me.
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

00slevin * VSM MEMBER * on June 24, 2016 @9:24 am PST
Thanks Robert, that clears it up I do recall him mentioning Renner, so he must have been referring to Hamburg Steinway.
Mabel Bryant * VSM MEMBER * on June 22, 2016 @10:25 am PST
I agree with your comments. I have a Bosendorfer 9 6 concert grand.at home with the extra octave. The tonal quality and the touch of the piano is better than the Steinway. When you play loud the sound is not harsh and with soft notes, you barely have to touch the keys.
Mabel Bryant, Houston, Texas.
00slevin * VSM MEMBER * on June 22, 2016 @8:57 am PST
Fascinating aspect. Thank you. Could you address piano actions. THey seems to be completely apart from the piano proper, much like a car engine is from the body. MY tuner told me that my early nineties 7ft grand Weber has the same action as a Steinway. IS this really possible or did he mean similar?
reply
Robert - host, on June 23, 2016 @11:24 am PST
I don't believe Weber pianos have ever had Steinway actions in them. It's possible that they utilized Renner actions which are used in Hamburg Steinway pianos. Interestingly, Weber pianos today are available with Mason & Hamlin actions. These Wessell Nickel & Gross actions are state-of-the-art and are made out of carbon fiber and other composite materials that aren't affected by the weather and have more exact tolerances than traditional wood actions.
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