Robert Estrin - piano expert

Should You Buy a Piano from a Brand You've Never Heard of?

Learn more about unfamiliar, exotic piano brands

In this video, Robert doesn't talk about Steinway, Yamaha, or Kawai pianos. Instead, he focuses on those not-so-well-known piano brands you might have never heard of.

Released on January 13, 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, this is Robert Estrin at and The question today is is it bad to buy a piano brand you've never heard of? Well, there's a lot to explore in this subject. First of all, you go into a piano store and you see all kinds of names. Everybody knows Yamaha and Steinway and maybe the piano they grew up with. But most other names are not so familiar to people. Maybe you've heard of Kawai or Baldwin or some of the other names. But there are dozens of names you'll encounter and wonder what are they?

Well, if you're going into a piano store and seeing new pianos, many of them are either fictitious names or names of out-of-business piano companies that are stenciled on Asian production pianos. After all, there are now hundreds of new companies in China, many of them exporting to the United States. And different importers want to put different names on the pianos that appeal to buyers. Does this mean that they're bad pianos? Not necessarily. Now, there's a certain level of piano that you expect out of an Asian production piano that isn't going to be the same as a hand-built piano. To make things even more complex, there are a host of niche boutique European companies like Bluthner and Fazioli and others you may have never heard of, Grotrian, that are extraordinarily fine instruments. So the fact that you haven't heard of them doesn't mean that they aren't absolutely world class. The good news is that in today's day and age you can just type it into your phone and find out quite a bit about any piano brand you encounter.

The other side of the coin is the fact that pianos were in their heyday 100 years ago. In this country at the peak, there were over 1,800 companies manufacturing pianos in the United States, unlike three today. So just because you haven't heard of a name, doesn't mean that it's good or bad. In fact, there are hundreds of piano names I've never heard of and I encounter new pianos all the time. So you have to really research the specific instrument. Play it, have an open mind and remember you could always research things on the internet or ask me, and I might just make a video just for you. Thanks for joining me here at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Chris Farrr * VSM MEMBER * on June 26, 2019 @5:56 am PST
When I bought my Boston grand, the store asked me to try three "identical" models that differed only in the case wood. I was surprised that there were subtle differences in tone and touch. I loved them all, but it was that comparison that made me change my mind from the ebony to a mahogany case. The salesman explained that even with machine made components, wood responds differently to humidity and temperature so every piano is an individual. Playing the piano you're considering should be your most important test.
Angela Mann * VSM MEMBER * on June 26, 2019 @5:37 am PST
Always play the piano extensively before buying - get a feel for the action and the sound - I have a 1920's Bluthner (German)b- the sound is amazing.
Robert - host, on June 27, 2019 @3:13 pm PST
Each piano is unique - even brand new pianos of the same make and model! So, it's important to find the specific piano you are drawn to.
Fred Thomas on January 13, 2016 @6:18 am PST
The important thing is to play pieces using upper and lower registers to see if you like the tone and action. I have played on Steinways that didn't thrill me, and was able to help a church buy an inexpensive second hand Maeri which continues to please them--I had never heard of this piano name until I played it. What really annoys me is having people who have bought a piano without asking me to try it then ask me what I think of it. I've played a lot of gorgeous pianos with pitiful sound!
fulvia * VSM MEMBER * on January 13, 2016 @6:18 am PST
Maybe after doing all the necessary research for the quality of a piano brand, the last test is to play the piano you intend to buy. It seems to me that each individual piano of any brand may be a bit different. Just recently I got to try 2 refurbished and rather expensive Steinway that I did not like the overall tone and feel. I also tried 2 baby grand Yamaha, and decided I will keep my upright Yamaha!
Robert - host, on January 13, 2016 @9:44 am PST
You are right - to a great extent it comes down to personal preference with pianos. Sometimes people with limited experience with pianos can gauge an instrument better by hearing it and having someone on a higher playing level try the instrument. They can provide perspective on feel which would be impossible for someone playing on an elementary level.
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