Yesterday (Monday) I went piano shopping with a friend from church, Frank, who was looking to learn piano. We went to three stores, all of which were a BLAST!!
Store #1: The Music Den in the Ledgewood Mall
There wasn't a tremendous amount of pianos there, but the ones they had I was able to spend some time with. The only true grand piano was a 9ft Steinway concert grand--an antique! I ran up to it looking foreward to a good, loud playing of the great 1812 overture (my own arrangement) when to my dissappointment there was a sign on the music stand that read, "DO NOT TOUCH" But it was still fun to drool over. I liked one of their uprights and recomended one to Frank, a studio size upright with a warm tone and great feel, but in our price range. But, of course, we would keep looking before seriously considering anything.
Store #2: Rockaway Music in Rockaway
WHAT A STORE!! The Salespeople were very nice and helpful and understnading of my wanting to play each and every piano. There was a Yamaha C7 grand (I think, maybe C6...the 6' 11" one). Of course, this one having no signs, I banged out all my favorite music. The sound was amazing!! So warm and deep, yet has great clarity. The touch was also very easy to play and a bit on the heavy side (which I like). We decided on a used studio upright Steinway as the choice for that store. The salesman were very nice and just wanted to get rid of that piano, so they knocked $1,000 off the price, bringing it right into our price range. Very considerate of them.
Store #3: Northeast Piano
The stores just keep on getting better and better!! What a gigantic store!! So many pianos, so many brands!! Grands, baby grands, professional uprights, studio uprights, spinets, EVERYTHING!! Then...I discovered that there was a back room...a really big back room... WOW!!!! AT LEAST twice as many pianos back there as in the front. AMAZING!! In the front room there was this one piano that was (this is the sale price) $100,000.00. I played it, and it had QUITE a sound! Very rich, deep, clear, pure sound. And it was very good-looking, too. It was only 6' 4" (as opposed to some of the seven-footers) but it had a HUGE sound! What sould be a mf touch on my piano (a Baldwin Acrosonic spinet) yeilded a HUGE sound on this one. Then I played a true ff passage on that piano... WOW!!! Then there was the 7'6" grand (I forget the brand...something starting with a C, I think, that's about the same quality as Steinway). It was in a seperate room with a couple other pianos. Since it was in that smaller room the sound was REALLY lond, but the tone was INCREDIBLE!! OK, so back to reality, we found a nice upright (in between a spinet and a studio, I forget what they're called) with a powerful, clear tone and very nice looks. That's probably going to be the winner. Frank signed some sort of contract that allowed him to pay for it without it being delivered and the oppertunity to get his money back if the Mrs. doesn't approve, because two other people were looking at that piano.
But we didn't even get to the piano store in Newark that has 11 floors of new and used pianos...
Wow... I had a Baldwin Acrosonic, little chop-top, decades ago... the sound that came outta that thing! They started making the Acrosonic's in the mid 1930's, and if you see a used one around, they're often a fine choice.
There are so many great machines out there these days, though; what a huge set of choices -- it'd probably take me a year to pick one... lol.
Or worse -- I think I'd inevitably want to buy a half dozen of 'em...
Well, it has been a long time since I had that kind of fun. I remember checking out every piano in San Francisco, twice, once in 1955 or so to help my mother pick out a piano, and once in 1979, choosing one for myself. And I just remembered another time, when I checked out all the pianos on Staten Island and half the pianos in Manhattan. I had the opportunity to buy Eileen Farrell's piano, but did not then have the space. Shopping for pianos is the only kind of shopping I enjoy. Especially if it is somebody else's money!
I did not have to shop around for my current piano. It was in my store and shop, in need of serious overhaul, so I overhauled it and sold it to me cheap. Actually, when I liquidated, I just took it home with me.
After years of being a professional keyboardist and composer in Nashville, I finally got to go piano shopping last fall. I had recently remodeled my studio and when I set up I placed a huge black dining room table where my piano would go if and when I could ever get one.
I started out looking for a Yamaha C7 - that's the industry standard 'round these here parts. I've played 'em in lots of studios and they record so nicely. Anyway, I played a few here and there and thought they sounded good. Then, one day at the urging of a very reputable local dealer, I tried a Kawai. I knew they were halfway decent pianos because I actually had a job selling them some 25 years ago, but I wasn't expecting much.
I sat down at the RX7 and was instantly in love with this piano. Played a little jazz, played a little Beethoven, played a little Debussy and Gershwin. I was blown away by the full, rich tone. The pianissimo was addicting. You just barely touch a key and you hear this beautiful bell. But you smash down and it roars back at you.
If I was doing lots of rock and roll and country tracks, I might have still gone with the C7. I played one that was so bright it just about put my eyes out. But these days I love playing jazz and a bit of classical (trying to relearn a bunch of old material) and the records I do really thrive in that rich tone.
So, I gave the table away to a good home - a local fiddler actually - and replaced it with a georgeous 7' 6" Kawai grand. Claire de Lune has become a whole new experience. I think I'll have Rhapsody In Blue down in about a year! Already recorded one solo record for Green Hills Records and plan to do another later in the year. Life is good - no, its grand!!
Everyday I'm grateful to my Lord for the chance to make music for a living and touch people's lives along the way.
I've had the same experience with Kawai's (though I must note, not all that recently). Their grands I like particularly, as the ones I've played were voiced a bit more brightly -- my personal preference -- and the lower registers tend to be more than usually crisp and clear as a consequence.
We have 3 9 foot grands - a Steinway Model D, a Yamaha CFIII and a Kawai something or other... In terms of recording, I prefer the Kawai which has a quieter action, and is really easy to get a wonderful sound from. Players seem to like the Kawai best too.
Hmm, there weren't many Kawais where we went shopping. I think there were a couple. I don't remember them in particular. I'll have to take that into consideration next time I go piano shopping. Oh.... next time *drool*
EDIT: Oh, yes! It's all coming back to me now. I think at my church when I was little there was a Kawai. Actually, It was K. Kawai, if that makes a difference. I remember the tone when played softly was so much different than what a piano's "normal" sound is. I always thought it was another instrument when I heard that sound. Very cool instrument. I remember playing it too, yeah! Kawais are great!!
I have a love/hate relationship with Kawais. I've played some fantastic ones, and I've played some very bad ones. I think their tone is generally very good, while the action can be rather inconsistent. And as much as I like the tone, it seems that most of the time when a piano just doesn't sound right to me in a studio mix, I find out later from someone who was at the session that it was a Kawai. At first I thought it might be the skills of the engineer that were lacking, but as time goes on I tend to think that as much as I love their sound, it just isn't made for ensemble recordings. Of course, solo recording could be an entirely different thing.
I have to admit, however, that I'm somewhat biased towards Steinways. However, the best individual piano that I have ever played was a Yamaha. So I'm not completely closed-minded.
And congrats on the piano! I would love to have any brand of grand piano in my house right now!