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How do you get a decent piano?
Old 21st June 2002
Gear Addict
🎧 15 years
How do you get a decent piano?

I've been pondering this a little. I could probably have space allowed for a piano in the house outside of my allotted cave and run mics out to it. But I know nadda about getting decent piano cheap. Full grands are going to be out because of budget, and because we rent (I'm not going to move that sucker). I imagine baby grands have similar issues, and are they really any better than good uprights?

So, how and where do I get a deal on an upright and how do I make sure I'm getting a good one? Do I hit garage sales? Piano stores? Want ads? Anything that is regularly a good deal? Do I just buy a couple dfegad cheap ones and use the one I like and make the other a tack piano? (And then throw up an omni or two and stumble through "Perfect Circle" with a friend, I suppose . . .)

Or should I just get an Alesis Micro Piano? Huh? Did I type that?

dfegad Alesis

Old 22nd June 2002
Here for the gear
🎧 15 years
A Gigasampler piano will probably bring more satisfaction to your ears than a cheap upright. I have never liked uprights except to put tacks on the hammers for that "Jerry Lee Lewis/ragtime" effect. Tonally, baby grands have an edge on uprights (all other things being equal) and are a heck of a lot easier to mic up.

Old 23rd June 2002
One with big hooves
Jay Kahrs's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Does the room that your planning on putting the piano in have heat and A/C? You can't exactly leave one in the garage or tool shed because like any instrument it'll be ruined pretty fast. Actually, probably faster then if you left a drum set out there.

You might get lucky at a garage sale, I hear about that stuff coming from estate sales and auctions more often though. Sometimes you can fine one at a thrift store. Since I don't know a hell of a lot about pianos I'd start with going to the local shops and seeing what they have and ask them what to look for. Most of them will have some used pianos and they can tell you what to watch out for. I'd also get the name of a good tuner or someone to check over the condition of one before you buy it. You probably don't want one with a cracked soundboard or something, but again I don't really know jack about pianos.
Old 23rd June 2002
Gear Addict
🎧 15 years
God, yes, indoors, w/ AC and heat the 2 days a year we need it. Don't summer in Houston. Bad idea.

I'd had the idea in my head to consult with a tuner, who might also have ideas of what's affordable and sounds good.

Keep it coming, people. I imagine this isn't something most of us know a lot about, so any input could help.

Old 24th June 2002
Here for the gear
mdvirtual's Avatar
🎧 15 years
I find my Everett upright to be OK for some things, but if I need a more full, natural sound I have to turn to sampled piano (I use the piano ROM block in my K2500). The upright seems to work better on sessions that call for more of a vintage sound, or where it will be an element of the mix, but not particularly exposed.

I've done sessions with a Yamaha baby grand and it was a definitely better than the Everett. It was much easier to get a natural, balanced sound, although the low end was never quite right. I've also done jazz projects at a studio that has an older (fairly beat-up) midsized Steinway grand. Sounded good, but we ended up fighting a lot of mechanical issues - pedal noises, action problems.

Find a good piano technician and have them go over any instrument you're considering buying. It may have seen a lot of abuse both physically and environmentally, in which case it could turn out to be expensive to get it into session-ready condition. To keep it in good shape you'll want to make sure that your HVAC system is maintaining fairly constant temperature, and more importanly - humidity level.
Old 30th June 2002
Motown legend
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
🎧 15 years
In my experience there is no such thing as a "deal" on a good piano. Dealers generally have a waiting list of people willing to pay full price for a good new one and known good used ones also generally have waiting lists. Occasionally people luck out and find a good one nobody's touched for 50 years that can be restored but for the most part decent pianos really hold their value.

Sadly most studio owners jump at a "deal" which is why it's not uncommon to find pianos in studios that don't live up to their maker's reputation. I had the chance to sneak a C triad on the original RCA Victor Nashville Steinway B the other day. Believe me, good pianos ARE worth it!
Old 30th June 2002
Gear Guru
🎧 15 years
In every town there is a guy who not only tunes and repairs pianos, but also has a shop. He buys 'em, fixes 'em up and sells 'em. You know this guy or can find him.

there is a very good chance that he is not just a piano tuner but also a piano _player. Maybe he has a _band. Maybe he would like some _studio _time...

the beauty of this kind of arrangement is that you are going to get a good piano because this guy will be using it himself.

You will probably work out an arrangement based on how many hours of your time this piano is worth. Typically you could find out what it would cost to lease an equivalent piano and figure out how many hours at your studio rate would pay that off.

Important warning - you might consider making your contract specify that the hours expire at the end of each month or something like that. I had a friend who made a similar deal for a Hammond organ and the organ's owner let a year and half go by and then collected his hours all at once.

My friend basically had to give him a lockout for a week, not what he had in mind.
Old 2nd July 2002
Gear Maniac
wurly's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Wooden it be nice

Most upright pianos don't really sound that good for recording. I hate to say it but an evil digital sampler will probably stomp on most uprights. Having said that, I suggest that you see if you can find any Schimmel pianos. They are a semi-obscure German import piano (and semi-underpriced because of it), and I think that their uprights are damn good, and their grands are great.

My seven foot Schimmel eats Yamahas and Steinways for breakfast. Even devout Steinway snobs love my Schimmel. Good luck in your pursuit an acoustic solution to your musical needs. A great piano properly recorded is truly magical.

Samplers make notes, not magic.

wurly, the analog keyboard guy
Old 2nd July 2002
Lives for gear
Volodia's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Re: Wooden it be nice

Originally posted by wurly
Most upright pianos don't really sound that good for recording.
I actually think the contrary .For pop music there's nothing like a good upright(check the beatles) .Grand pianos should be kept for ballads where the piano is the main ingredient.
Old 3rd July 2002
Here for the gear
Donald Ashcroft's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Don't even consider buying a new OR used piano until you read " The Piano Book " by Larry Fine. Just buy it on Amazon... you really can't make a smart decision without it.

dfegad dfegad dfegad dfegad dfegad dfegad dfegad grudge
Old 5th July 2002
Gear Addict
🎧 15 years
Good tip on the book, looks like a winner.

Looks like the monkeys got to celebrating the holiday early.

Old 7th July 2002
Gear Maniac
🎧 15 years
i got an old english upright for $500 + $500 to tune it and fix it, and the little beauty has the best tone (even if some of the action is gone), especially, in our house with huge ceilings
Old 11th July 2002
Lives for gear
David R.'s Avatar
🎧 15 years
Wish I could help you on that, but can't. I just helped a friend shop for a baby grand at a piano store. The difference is amazing. Yamahahaha makes a bright piano, players have a hard time getting something after owning one because everything sounds dull in comparason. We went into the Steinway room and wow! The upper models were stunning.

A very worthwhile field trip.yuktyy rollz yuktyy
Old 23rd July 2002
Gear Maniac
wurly's Avatar
🎧 15 years
Wooden it be nice part III

The Beatles may have cut some really nice R&R with an upright piano, but something tells me that an upright piano that is worthy of living at Abbey Road Studios may be a little better than the average upright piano that you might find in your local classified ads. Does Abbey Road have an upright German Steinway? I wouldn't be surprised if they do.

And having a bushel basket of tube U47s and Telfunken tube mic preamps probably helped the sound a little bit too.

The zoom factor of a grand piano in the studio is hard to deny. I have never heard anyone rave with excitement about seeing an upright piano in a studio.

So, most grand pianos sound better than most uprights. Grand pianos look better. Grand pianos can sound good on more kinds of music. You could use a grand for rock (it didn't hurt Billy Joel), or a ballad, Whereas some uprights could screw up a ballad. And yes, some grands do suck the proverbial rodent parts.

Some uprights do sound good, and wouldn't ruin a ballad. Hell sometimes an upright would be the way to go, especially if it is a "prepared" (tack etc.) piano. But in general, I feel that a Grand piano would be the most useful and marketable.


owner of two grands and one upright
guess which one I don't record...(anymore)
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