Skip to main content

I'm not a piano player but wish I would have learned more than the guitar some days. I'm in the market for an upright piano now. Can I find something good in the price range of 3500.00? What brand or model do you recommend. New or used isn't a concern. Any tips or suggestions would be appreciated.


JoeH Mon, 01/08/2007 - 21:11

Well, first thing I'd say is take your time and look around a bit. If you're in a big city, check Craig's list under musical instruments, lots of folks are practically giving them away, or charing way too much, and finding out that used spinets and uprights don't sell all that well.

Don't fall for the "100-Year-Old-Priceless Antique"-with-pictures sale; old pianos are NOT like old violins; unless they've been meticulously maintained and tuned in a good environment, they don't go up in value much. I recently went out to look at a GORGEOUS Rosewood 1904 6' concert grand selling for $2500, that looked great in the ad's picture. In person, it was a P.O.S., and needed at least $15k of work to make it even remotely usable.

Yamaha, Young Chang, Baldwin and many others make fine upright pianos- good for practice, pubs and dance class use, etc. etc. (Are you sure it's an upright you want? Is space an issue?) Good uprights are actually small baby-grand piano cases turned vertically, unlike spinets which are just cheesy and never sound good, regardless of what you do to them. (It's partially due to the thick - instead of long - low strings in spinets. You can't cheat physics in this case, and the ear knows it!)

Beware the "project" piano - one that looks good, but needs strings....and then maybe sounboard work....and then hammers, action, etc. You can pay $2500 for a nice looking piano in bad shape, only to have to spend another $5-25K getting it up to spec. Make sure you bring a competant tuner with you to check it out - not unlike having a mechanic check any "used car" you might buy.

That's a start, anyway.....

BobRogers Tue, 01/09/2007 - 06:29

I had very good luck with my Yamaha U1 (48"). Good tone, held tune. I sold it when I got the family Steinway grand. Joe's advice on old pianos is on the money. A good way to look for used pianos is to contact local piano tuners. They may know of something good for sale, and you can pay them to evaluate ones you are looking at. You probably want to get it tuned a month after you move it in anyway, so you might as well get to know the tuner.

BTW $3,500 easily covers good used uprights, but is in the low/middle end of the good new ones.

bap Tue, 01/09/2007 - 09:14

For $3500 you should be able to dandy upright piano. As you probably know, if you buy from a private party you should have (pay) a good technician to evaluate it's condition. Tuning pin size/tightness or torque are a consideration as is condition of the pin block. There are many other things to look at as well. A reputable dealer should gaurantee the piano's soundness of condition.

I would look for a Studio Console - usually 48 to 52 inches tall - and be sure not to buy at first sight.

dementedchord Tue, 01/09/2007 - 10:39

all things considered... why not an electric??? being a pianist i can assure you that most good electrics fell more like a grand than the most expensive uprights ever made... it has to do with the changes necessary to get the thing upright to begin with and then the difference in the physics of a verticle hammer and in a lotta cases whats called a drop action... though admittedly they can sound way cool in a room... also if your intending to record it at all the noise from a verticle action is 2-3X's what a grand does just from the pedals... not wanting to talk you out of it ... just apprising you of other cnsiderations...

BobRogers Tue, 01/09/2007 - 12:19

Actually an electric is a very good option and I usually recommend them to people who are starting out. (I like the Yamaha stage pianos, but this is really a matter of taste between several brands in the same price range.) Through a good speaker system a good stage piano will sound as good as anything but the best uprights. If you already have an appropriate sound system you can save a lot of money. You never have to tune it. You can transpose at the touch of a button. It's much easier to buy, sell, and transport. You can practice with headphones while the kids are asleep.

On the other hand, a good upright or grand sounds better (as long as it's in tune), and you probably have enough experience to recognize the difference.

AzureCrystal Mon, 01/29/2007 - 16:33

audiokid wrote: I'm not a piano player but wish I would have learned more than the guitar some days. I'm in the market for an upright piano now. Can I find something good in the price range of 3500.00...? What brand or model do you recommend. New or used isn't a concern. Any tips or suggestions would be appreciated.

Hiya audiokid, You can't go wrong with a Yamaha upright, their keyboard will probably be the best in that price range, and they last a long, long time. I've had a number of other brands, and some have a nicer sound, nicer touch, etc, but once you break them in, the Yamaha wins hands down, only the Yamaha maintains the keyboard touch that people love :-)

audiokid Sat, 05/05/2007 - 13:29

Thanks everyone for your help here!

Okay, I'm increasing my budget now.

I'm going with a baby grand, around 5' or so and prepared to spend 5 to 10 thousand, maybe a bit more if its nice.. I'm sold on older Yamaha's, however, I've been learning that they are being build in China or Malaysia now to compete more. Buying a new one is questionable because of this maybe?

Our piano instructor has a small Kawia baby grand, and she is thinking of selling it for around $7 K. What are your thoughts on Kawai piano's?

AzureCrystal Sat, 05/05/2007 - 13:47

Kawai Pianos...

The action of the Kawai will be smooth and the sound crystalline, this is the best description I can give you. If I could choose between a Yamaha & Kawai at that price point, I would choose the Kawai. The Yamaha will have a slightly stiffer(good for pro classical players or students needed to workout their wrist muscles, but not good for mere mortals like us) action, and the sound will be less bright, mainly because it will require much more pressure to coax brightness from the Yamaha. I LOVE Kawai pianos, they have this magic feel and sound...

AzureCrystal Sat, 05/05/2007 - 14:38

audiokid wrote: Hi Stephen, nice to read a post from you. My daughter is learning classical, and doing very well. We are (together) going to focus on Jazz and blues. Our room has a bright sound.

The Yamaha is a brighter sound yes? Kawai is warmer. I like warmer I think if this doesn't mean less quality in soundboard etc.

What has a better trade-in?

Happy to hear your daughter has taken up music, I tried with mine and they were all bored with lessons !! I'm going purely by memory here Chris, really can't tell you what has better value, depends on the musician I guess, my fav pianos are Bechsteins & Steinways, I love the sound of the top of the line Baldwins, but the grands have such a deep action, your fingers just sink deep into the keys before you get a sound from them, lot's of carpal syndrome from playing those, certain Steinways have IMHO, the perfect, light action for overall playing unless your Rachmaninov of course !!

In my music college days, all the practice rooms and the Concert Grands were Baldwins, and I did a few recitals on Baldwins that really took a lot of muscle to play loud !!

dementedchord Sat, 05/05/2007 - 20:10

i actually prefer the kawai to the yammies... especially at the lowere levels... kawai weight all their keys so the action is much smoother overall(consistant top to bottom) and after all it was mr kawai the taught mr yamaha to make pianos... since you've decided to look for used grands if you get a chance to play a "viennese edition" kimball do it!! for a while there kimbal owned boesendorfer and the vienese is boes spec built by kimball in usa... while working at a store in DC back in the early80's i had acces to them all and still i found myself playing one of those jimbals more than anything else...

Thomas W. Bethel Mon, 05/14/2007 - 04:57

The music conservatory near my studio has more Steinway's than another place on earth except the Steinway factory. They also replace pianos on a regular basis and have piano sales that the public can attend. The pianos have all been maintained very well and are usually in very good playable condition. You might look around for conservatories and or schools of music near you and find out if they are planning to sell any pianos. The one thing to note is that most times they want to get rid of pianos that are older or are starting to be hard to maintain so you have to be careful as to the instrument you are buying. Depending on who does the rebuilding you can sometimes get a very good deal on a rebuilt piano. It will have new strings, new action and will usually be in like new condition. Again buyer beware. The idea of taking along a good piano tech is a good suggestion if you are looking at used pianos.

I had a friend, who was a piano tech, he purchased used a Steinway for $3,000.00 It was a turn of the century piano and the person who sold it did so because his mother passed on and he did not want the piano since he lived in a far western state and could not transport the piano. My friend redid what needed to be done (not much) to the piano and sold it for $15,000. So there are good deals out there if you know where to look.

I would also like to say that if this is for your daughter the idea of an electronic piano is a good one. Just make sure the unit you are buying has weighted keys and a full 88 note keyboard so that if she later decides to go into music as a career she will be use to playing a full piano and will be comfortable with the normal action of a piano.

Best of LUCK!

Mckey Wed, 03/12/2008 - 11:40

So I know this is terribly old, but just for those searching for info on the subject. I have a Kawai mp8II and IMHO its the best stage piano ever made. I'm kind of a freak about 2 things when it comes to keyboard, touch, and sound. Go figure. Everything else isn't all that important to me. How does it feel and how does it sound. So I've played just about all the others and I can tell you this is the one. Everybody always says they love the Roland sound, but IMHO it sounds a bit...anorexic? The Kawai sounds fat and full but not OVERLOADED! Most keyboards sound decent when playing a simple chord or two, but go all Elton John on them and you get that little electric sound to it, that takes away all its believability. The Kawai does not do this. Hope this helps.

bap Fri, 03/14/2008 - 13:20

Pianos are a pain in the butt, but since I play them for a living I suppose I can't knock them.

I keep a P-90 (Yamaha) hooked up to my computer for notation and sequencing and it does a good job when I need to take it out for a gig.

I personally like expensive German hand made axes. American Steinway is nice and I've played some lovely C Series Yamaha's.

The guy's probably got his piano already for better or for worse. Hope it's for better.

SYNTHME Sat, 03/15/2008 - 00:31

Upright pianos have a different sound from grand pianos, and in some situations, that sound is certainly desirable. I wouldn’t necessarily say there are limitations, but the micing techniques somewhat different. Aside from room mics, I’ve had pleasing results micing the back of the piano (on the back of the soundboard, a few feet up from the floor) as well as hanging two mics slightly inside the lid, or both. I’ve also seen some uprights miced in a fashion that necessitates the upper portion of the piano facing the player to be removed and the mics being hung in front of the strings just above the hammers. Different micing positions will lead to different sounding results.

JoeH Sat, 03/15/2008 - 09:48

Synthme nailed it overall; i'd just add a bit more regardling the sounds of the three (or four?) main choices.

You have the spinet "sound" - which is pretty cheesy overall, but always has its place. It turns up occasionally in pop songs, and has a quaint charm to it. You just wouldn't use it for solo classical work or most backing tracks in a professional setting.

The upright is much loved as well; from the honky-tonk/rinky-tink sound that many bar rooms and tack-hammered instruments have. Even a little out of tune, they have a certain sound that fits certain songs perferctly.

Also in most cases, these two types never have the proper string length for good, serious bass, so they just don't work as solo instruments. (The strings are thicker, but not long enough for the true harmonic overtone series. It's a trick to get around the laws of physics) This is partially why a spinet SOUNDS like a spinet; no matter how much in tune it is, it will never sound quite right harmonically, nothing like a grand.

Both the spinet and the upright (and "studio" pianos) have vertical harps, which plays a big part of the projected sound too. Arguably, they sound better against a wall, too, and the room sound has a lot to do with how well it resonates.

Then of course there's the grand piano case style. The harp & strings are horizontal, and the hammers hit the strings from below, instead of attacking from the side. Ditto for the whole damper system. It does indeed affect the sound. Then of course there's the lid that helps project the sound outward on a horizontal plane. Of course, this changes the entire way of mic'ing it for a recording.

With a good concert grand - 7 feet or more - the string length vs. pitch & overtone series is true, and the bass is wonderful, not cheesy. ("Baby Grand" pianos can be just as bad as spinets and uprights; they too have shorter, thicker strings below middle C, and the first thing to suffer is the bass.)

The first thing I listen for in a piano is that low end sound. If it's not true, then it changes the whole point of the recording and the usefulness of the instrument.

It all comes down to what you need the piano sound for; Solo concert classical music vs. rock vs. pop vs. novelty.