Robert Estrin - piano expert

Used Pianos VS. New Pianos

The differences between used and new pianos

In this video, Robert compares used and new pianos and talks about the value of buying used pianos.

Released on January 13, 2021

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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

Welcome to Robert Estrin here to talk about used versus new pianos. There's so much to think about with this subject. It's really quite vast. What is it about new pianos versus used? Well, one idea is that, well, you can buy something used, you're going to save a lot of money because like a car being driven off the showroom parking lot is going to lose a lot of value initially. Well, there's some truth to that with pianos as well. But there's a comfort level of buying something brand new. You know that everything is ... Nothing's worn out. However, interestingly, with a new piano, you're not really going to discover its strengths and weaknesses until down the line a bit as it gets broken in, gets acclimated to the environment of your home and other factors. So sometimes a gently used instrument or one that has been restored, can actually be a really safe bet.

Now it gets a little bit complicated because the other question is, what are pianos that are being produced today like compared to pianos that were produced decades ago? Of course the American piano industry was in its heyday a hundred years ago, producing vast numbers of pianos. Whereas today, it's only a little over a thousand pianos produced a year in this country. If you're into an American piano, you're going to have to spend a substantial amount of money to get a new one. I mean, a Steinway Baby Grand or Grand piano is going to be in the high five figures. This is true of just about any American piano. European pianos also are extraordinarily expensive. Well, what about Asian pianos? That's where most pianos are made anyway. Have they improved? Well, there have been many new technologies that have come to bear. For example, using plastic and other composite materials in the action has been able to reduce costs while adding to the precision of all the parts. Wood is very difficult to work with.

One could argue that some of these newer materials, carbon fiber, may have benefits. But the real quantum change in pianos has been in the manufacturing process itself. Because pianos used to be made really in the old world way, by hand, so many things done just with a team of skilled technicians. Well, all pianos require a lot of handwork even today in the most mechanized factories. However, there are many parts of the piano that can be machined with precision with robotics, bringing the cost down and the precision up. So there are actually in the very, very lowest price range, I would say that cheap pianos today are better than cheap pianos were decades ago. If you look at the bottom tier pianos from years ago made in this country, they really were not very good because it's really hard to figure out how to cut costs without cutting quality.

Well today, middle line pianos could be pretty darn good. Now, if you really want and have your heart set on an American piano and you can't afford a new one, American or European piano, it's a complex thing. You have to know a lot about pianos to understand what you're getting because number one, pianos wear out. Number two, the environment affects pianos. The question is how great was the piano to begin with? If work has been done, what's the quality of that work? If parts have been replaced, were they the correct specification of high level parts? So you have to have some knowledge in order to buy used but if you are knowledgeable enough, you can actually get phenomenal value in the used market.

But you must have somebody you can trust, a friend who is expert at pianos, perhaps a technician, someone who can help you and to guide you. You could end up getting a piano that looks fine, sounds fine and then you find out there's a crack in the soundboard that you had no idea about. And as soon as the weather changed, everything buzzed and you find out the only way to fix it is rebuilding the piano for tens of thousands of dollars. That's what you want to avoid. But if you can find somebody you can trust, a used piano could be a great, great resource for you. But there are also great new pianos out there and as I said, in the lower price points, pianos have gotten generally better over time in the lower price range and even the mid price range. I hope this has been helpful for you. Again, I'm Robert Estrin here at, your online piano resource. You're welcome to ask more questions, subscribe, and even join my Patreon. Thanks so much for joining me. We'll see you next time.
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