Grand Piano Buying Guide

Acoustic grand pianos (inclusive of “baby grands”, which are simply smaller grands) are a major accomplishment of musical engineering — peerless in all of the families of instruments. A grand piano consists of over 10,000 moving parts that work together to make an extraordinarily complicated and rich sound. It has more moving parts than your car engine, and in fact will likely be the most complicated piece of machinery in your household!

When you have the opportunity to view a piano “hospital” such as the one at our Geneva facility, where you can you see pianos undergoing various surgeries, you can’t help but marvel at the instrument and its ability to survive well over a century in its modern form without any significant improvements. It’s really a treat for the whole family and a great opportunity to gain an appreciation for the largest item that will soon become a part of your home!

Grand pianos have a rich history all across the world and their popularity endures. So long as there is an interest in music, there will be the grand piano. What other product could you have at home that could be over 100 years old and still have several thousand people in the country trained to make repairs with readily available parts? So how do you actually choose one? Please view our categories about Buying and Selling and “Buying Tips” for candid buying information.

Grand pianos differ from vertical pianos in several ways.

1. Grands obviously look different and usually rest on only three legs. There is an important advantage to this simple design feature. The floor underneath a grand piano can be uneven and a grand piano doesn’t care because it comes to rest on only three points. The iron frame inside the grand piano which houses 20,000 lbs. of tension basically floats on those three points and remains unaffected by an uneven surface. Add a fourth leg, and the 500-900 pound piano would ultimately need to twist and give in until all four legs touch the floor. Vertical pianos often rest on four points, so the tuning stability of a vertical piano can be affected more by uneven flooring.

2. Grand pianos are horizontally designed and the sound is more open. Direct sound comes through the top and through the bottom of a piano. It comes out the front, the back, the sides. it reflects of the rim and lid – basically everywhere. It’s a piano in 3-D! The sound of a vertical piano is boxed in, only coming out the back, which is usually only inches from a wall. Not the best situation for sound quality, but verticals certainly take up less room!

3. The design of a grand piano action is superior to the design of a vertical piano action. In a grand, the hammer strikes the string from below and gravity is on your side to help bring it back to rest. In a vertical piano, the hammer strikes the string like a woodpecker strikes a tree. It’s not as desirable of a design. There are many issues related to a pianist’s command over the keyboard that drastically favor the design of a grand piano action. It is important to distinguish however that all grand actions are not better than all vertical piano actions. A vertical piano action from a top level piano maker can easily perform better than the action of a low quality grand piano.

4. Grand pianos typically cost several times more than the same brand’s vertical pianos.

An important consideration when choosing a dealer is to find one that is truly in the new AND used piano business. Park Avenue Pianos is as active in the used piano business as in the new piano business. This is an important distinction. Strip mall piano stores are clearly in the business of selling new pianos or even simply “pushing boxes”. Used pianos in these stores are often just shills – intentionally never brought up to their full potential because the pianos are really just there to help sell the new pianos that can easily be reordered. If you’re in a piano store and you don’t see a full restoration shop, they’re not really in the used piano business!

To truly be in the used piano business, a company needs to have (and you need to be able to SEE) a full restoration shop with work benches, hoists, machines, a refinishing booth, and most importantly, skilled employees to work the above! Park Avenue Pianos actively buys and restores pianos every day to offer a wide selection of new AND used pianos. They remain unbiased when making appraisals, passing along the virtues of each piano and letting you decide which is right for you!

The piano industry is a tangled web of brand names, all stemming from a very small number of manufacturers — including many recognizable American brand names that actually have far less American involvement than what you might think or aren’t even made anywhere near America.

Here are some considerations that may affect your purchase.

1) Budget. If you have a set amount of money to spend on a piano, that’s that. For you, we simply need to help you find the best piano possible for that amount of money.

2) Performance. If you play piano, you’ll be able to use your skills to help decide at what point you’ve got enough piano in front of you.

3) Pride. If you don’t play, but you also don’t want your sister-in-law with a master’s in piano performance to scoff at your purchase, then we will lead you to the quality level that will keep your musical friends and relatives from whispering behind your back!

4) Image. If the piano is being purchased largely for decorative purposes (musicians, please walk away from the computer for a moment), you may wish to consider the quality level of your other furnishings when considering the quality level of your piano. Luxury homes with heirloom quality furnishings for instance might not be the best match for an entry-level grand piano, especially if you might have musical friends and relatives that may wish to log some time on your ivories.

5) Value. There are definitely situations where some pianos represent a better VALUE in the market. Sometimes a particular economic factor (currency exchange rates) helps to favor a brand’s value, maybe it’s a distribution issue, a manufacturer’s special offer, a design or engineering issue – whatever the case, our staff is certainly capable of helping you understand the value of the various pianos in the marketplace.

If you’re looking to buy a piano, including Steinway & Sons, Yamaha, Chickering, or Baldwin, call Park Avenue Pianos at (800) 463-8120 or email

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