Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Thinking about the next piano

Wow, two posts in one day? And to think, the admission price is the same as it always is. Truth is, I had two thoughts I wanted to bring today, but they were so unrelated, I figured I'd split them.

The first thought is below, on Jillian's lesson yesterday. Go read that first, I'll wait.

You're back? Ok, next topic. It sure is fun to think about buying our next piano. Hopefully you won't get frustrated watching this play out over the next, oh, 4 months or so. It could be less, but it will likely take that long. We are typically very deliberate when it comes to large purchases like this. The process includes lots of late night talks over bottles of Shiraz, and maybe an overly complex Excel spreadsheet or two. This piano buying process has all of these, and it has barely gotten underway.

The first question (digital or acoustic) still isn't answered. I know which way I lean, but I want Jillian (heck, the whole family) to be part of the conversation. I want to try out instruments with her, and talk about them afterwards. So you'll know this is getting serious when we start visiting places and having these conversations.

In the meantime, I merely think about it, and participate in various pianoworld.com topics. As of today, I feel like the best use of our money would be to buy a midrange digital (think Casio Privia or Yamaha P85), and use it for a couple of years. In the interim, we'll have a good feeling for whether and how serious we are about the piano, and will either upgrade (or not) to a good upright. And of course, we'll still keep the digital... after all, starting next year, we're adding a third piano player (Jason, who is 5) to the budding ensemble, and bench time is already pretty scarce as it is.

Thing is, my dear wife is dead-set AGAINST a digital. I am sort of taken aback by the vehemence of her stance on this. As you know, I am often out on Youtube learning how various pieces go... all my Youtube "teachers" have digitals, and honestly, the sound is uniformly awful. She actually commented yesterday how annoying Little Brown Jug sounded on SolHeart's Channel. And to be honest, she's right... it sounds like the organist in between innings of a minor league baseball game. (Still helpful to me, however... thanks, SolHeart, keep posting your vids!)

Anyway, it remains possible, perhaps even likely, that we'll end up with an acoustic after all, even if it's not the best use of our (perhaps scant) financial resources. Remember, we're building a house, should be in the new place in 3 months. We'll have some money left over after closing, but things like landscaping are going to compete for those funds. So if I walked into a piano store today, and was asked for a budget number, I would have no idea how to respond. Which would make me GREAT fodder. Don't know what you want to spend, eh? Well, have a seat in front of this Bechstein here, you'll love it... (and I probably would).

Anyway, because an acoustic is still a possibility, I carry my Larry Fine supplement around and read it when I am on the train. I have several retailers bookmarked, and visit their websites periodically to see how they are doing. And, for a real treat, I muck around in various pianoworld.com topics, where dealers and various industry types argue amongst themselves. I try to stay out if it, mostly, because:

a) I really don't know what I am talking about, and
b) It can get kind of ugly, and there is enough of that in the world without actually looking for a fight on an Internet forum with people I don't already know.

But it is often very educational. And through those conversations, I have concluded that it is highly likely that, should we elect to buy a new acoustic, we'd end up with a Chinese-made piano. I am particularly impressed with what I am hearing about Hailun, Palatino, and Perzina. So whenever a thread comes up on these brands, I'm interested.

It was in one of these threads (this one, in fact... Hailun Pianos) where someone pointed me to a downtown Chicago retailer PianoForte, who stocks these models:

- Fazioli
- Schimmel
- Grotrian
- Vogel
- Wendl & Lung

At first glance, to a member of the unwashed masses such as yours truly, this seemed like a pretty standard, albeit high-falutin' list of European makes. I've been reading enough of Larry Fine to know that a couple of these makers could sell me a piano for upwards of $200k. So why on Earth would someone suggest I visit this place? Because the last name on that list, Wendl & Lung, is a maker of inexpensive (but apparently well-built, so I'm told) Chinese pianos. One of these things is not like the other...

It's a very intimidating website. But as soon as I get over that, I'll visit them and report back. Discopalace, you feel like stopping over there one day?

BTW, Jillian has already weighed in on what kind of piano she wants. "A big flat piano, like the one at church. " That would be a 6 and a half foot Charles Walter grand.


Anonymous said...

Well, a CW 6 footer would be a *nice* piano! :D

On the digital note, when I went looking to replace my cheapy Casio last year, I had the same problem you do- didn't like the sound of most of the less expensive (relatively speaking) digitals. I also knew I did not like the feel of the Privias, tho the sound is not bad. I play a Privia every week at my lesson and the "key thunk" is quite annoying. I went out looking, testing and playing at several music stores. My overall favorites are Yamaha (their new CP line is really nice) and Kawai. I ended up buying a Kawai MP4 (which is now discontinued and replaced by the MP5). When I played that one at a dealer who mostly sells acoustics, my husband, who had wandered off while I was trying it, came back and said he actually thought I had given up on the digital and moved to one of the acoustic uprights. Yeah, they are a bit more money than the Privias and the like, but the overall feel (there is still a bit of thunk- I don't think you can truly find a dp without some- but it's not frustatingly annoying) and sound are worth it, especially if you intend to keep it and use it often. IMO. YMMV. And all that.

discopalace said...

Ya know... actually there's more of a quality range than just the Wendel & Lung. Your Faziolis and Grotrians will truly be out of this world. But from what I remember, a Schimmel is a step down - probably comparable to a Yamaha U-series, a Petrof, etc. From what I understand, Vogel is a Schimmel offshoot that is targeted for a lower-end market. So... this piano place might not be too bad or too intimidating. That sad, let's go check it out!