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My husband is a vocal music student at college and is graduating this spring. I want to get him a good piano, but can't afford to pay alot (I don't know if we can even afford $500!) I wa thinking about getting a used piano, but have no idea how to tell a good piano from a bad one, or what 'brands' to look for. By the way, I'm tone deaf and can't even tell if it's out of tune!

Any suggestions? Thanks

-- Elizabeth Larson (, March 14, 2003


Wow, this is a tough proposition. If you know what you're looking for and do so very hard, you might find something. About two years ago I found an ancient 52' upright Mason and Hamlins with perfect ivory keys for $800. But that was luck. Anyway, go to and click on "forums" at the bottom of the page. People there are more into hardware side of thing. They will tell you much more than what you want to know :-))

-- Laura (, March 15, 2003.

Elizabeth, Are you thinking of doing this as a surprise for him? As romantic as that sounds, I would strongly advise that you not do that. You admit that you don't know a good piano from a bad one and that you are tone deaf. A piano is a major purchase, as you know, and each musician has his/her own preferences as to how it feels, sounds, etc. If you get a piano that is difficult for him to play, or that he hates the sound of, you are putting him in a difficult position. He'll feel "stuck" with that instrument for years to come. I would never want my husband to "surprise" me with a piano, even though we have talked for a few years about me upgrading to a better one. There are pianos (even in the tens of thousands of dollars range), that just don't "feel" right to me so I wouldn't want them. I'd have to choose it myself. Also, $500 is an extremely low amount to expect to pay for a piano (most band instruments cost more than that). Since he's just graduating, and I assume getting ready to start having an income, it would be so much better to wait until you had enough saved up that he could get something a bit better. A music major is not going to be happy (for long) with a low-quality instrument. I hope this doesn't sound snooty, but my piano tuner says that anything under about $1000 isn't generally worth buying, and he's talking about advice for me to give to my young piano students. (kids who wouldn't be nearly as aware of the quality of an instrument as your husband must be). I admire your desire to buy him something special, and I hope my comments haven't sounded hurtful. Perhaps a local music store has a rental program, where your husband could rent a piano until you can buy a nice one. This would also give him experience playing on a particular brand to see if he likes it. Best wishes, annie

-- annie (, March 15, 2003.

OK, I'm going to be blunt. $500 will buy you a JUNKY piano. I know, cause I've seen them. Most likely it'll be very old and won't hold a tuning very well, thus causing you to spend more $$ on more frequent tunings. I tell all of my students to plan on spending atleast $2500 for a good acoustic piano. And then, stay away from Baldwin, Kimball, and Wurlitzer (sorry if I've offended anyone!), in favor of Kawai, Yamaha, even Young Chang. A good piano is going to cost you.

Most of my students cannot (or won't) purchase a good piano in the price range above. Let's say you have $1000 and are piano-shopping. I would recommend you look into a DIGITAL piano instead of an acoustic. Yes, they plug into the wall, but they will never need a tuning and with today's technology, they have an awesome grand piano sound; far better than a little old spinit piano. Also, if you're concerned about the "action" of a digital versus an acoustic, I again prefer the digital to a $500 piano. Yamaha Clavinovas start just over $1000, and then there's the Roland line which is also good. Check out all of your optio

-- alexandra (, March 16, 2003.

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