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Good Acoustic Pianos


Jazzwee

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I'm a noob and ...(ok...scratch that).

 

I've just sold my "Studio" sized Vertical piano and am looking to upgrade to a higher grade vertical. I've been checking out the Yamaha U3's (52") because that's one that I'm familiar with. I've played with it many times and it has a very light touch and warm sound.

 

There could be other brands and specific models that perhaps some of you have at home or have regular access to that are really high quality and that I should consider. Perhaps you can share the model information and a description of the piano.

 

I'll personally have to exclude that are above $4K used (like Steinways) as that is outside the range.

 

Thanks everyone!

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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Originally posted by Jazzwee:

I'm a noob and ...(ok...scratch that).

 

I've just sold my "Studio" sized Vertical piano and am looking to upgrade to a higher grade vertical. I've been checking out the Yamaha U3's (52") because that's one that I'm familiar with. I've played with it many times and it has a very light touch and warm sound.

 

There could be other brands and specific models that perhaps some of you have at home or have regular access to that are really high quality and that I should consider. Perhaps you can share the model information and a description of the piano.

 

I'll personally have to exclude that are above $4K used (like Steinways) as that is outside the range.

 

Thanks everyone!

I went through the same thing about this time last year and the Piano World Forums were quite helpful. You can search those archives for days - seems to be a LOT more heavily trafficked than KC, at least it was last year.

 

I ended up with a used Yamaha upright in your price range - see this thread for more info. Also, if you search under my user ID for pianos, you might find some other inquisitive posts with responses.

 

The other piano I really liked when I was shopping was a Charles Walter upright. I was about to buy a new one of those when I found the Yamaha. But it was more expensive and I decided that the Yamaha was everything I needed.

 

The only other recommendation many people provide is to get yourself a copy of Larry Fine's The Piano Book. You can actually download it for a nominal charge - that's what I did last year. Between this, the Piano forums and many trips to multiple dealers (and maybe a little bit of luck), you should be able to find yourself a nice piano.

 

Beware as some piano salesmen come off as pretty pushy. 3 out of 4 of the shops I visited got a thumbs down from me simply due to the high-pressure sales tactics. Examples: "We had 3 people looking at this piano this morning and it will probably be gone tomorrow - better put your name on it now!" or "I can only offer you that price until end of day today...our summer sale ends tomorrow." Also, be careful about giving out your number, because piano salesmen like to make follow up calls. Like they are suddenly your best friend and must talk to you every day. I am not kidding.

 

Good luck!

 

Regards,

Eric

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There seems to be a load of Yamaha U1s and U3s around from the late 70s and early 80s doing the rounds atm. The information I get on the web is all over the place... some people say avoid these pianos as they all sound thin and the newer U1s and U3s are vastly better pianos... then theres the thought that the P121 (nothing to do with the digitals :D ) is just as good (in fact just the cabinet is different) at a lower price point.

 

I am looking at perhaps getting a P121 or U1 but am worried about the noise level. i'm going to check them out this week sometime.

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To my ears, the best acoustic pianos I've ever played are from Bechstein (grand and upright). But they are very difficult to find new or used.

 

The upright I played was a Bechstein 8A. Probably quite expensive, but with almost the sound of a grand in terms of dynamics and equilibrium between registers.

 

But here again, it's not a matter of what I like. It's a matter of what you like. But if you see a used Bechstein around at your price, please test it before you make your final decision. :)

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Originally posted by Cydonia:

But here again, it's not a matter of what I like. It's a matter of what you like. :)

That's the FIRST thing she said. :freak::P
"Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent." - Victor Hugo
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I have an eye out for a good upright and recently played a Pearl River Piano from China.

They just signed on to build pianos for Steinway.

Worth a look see, though not as good as a Yamaha U3 or the Kawai 54" still a very playable piano and half the price.

 

www.pearlriverpiano.com

Jimmy

 

Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others. Groucho

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Thanks guys, keep the comments coming.

 

Hobo - I did check out the Pianoworld.com. Lots to go over.

 

Eric, those were nice pics. Thanks for the link. How is a Yamaha WX1F as far as bass and loudness compared to a U3?

 

Cydonia - You're right, I haven't encountered a Bechstein yet but I'll keep an eye.

 

Blueskeys - thanks for the tip. I did try out the Pearl Rivers (new) but I wanted to go higher end so I'm budgeting only for used.

 

There's a lot of U1 and U3's around, especially gray market. Mostly very old but affordable (like around $3K) but I didn't want to miss out on some other good brand that I'm not familiar with.

 

Anyone have experience with some high end Kawai upright?

 

I'm particularly picky with the action. My last upright had extremely heavy keys, and had a bad tone for my kind of playing (although the guy who bought sounded good on it). Also, I noticed that when the piano is not very loud, I tend to hit it harder to get a louder sound so I want to get away from that habit by getting a large upright (over 50" or over).

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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When I was piano shopping some years ago, I really liked the 50-52" Schimmels (the models were a little different then). I would have been happy with one of those, but got a good deal on a grand. Plus, my wife wasn't wild about an upright replacing my old grand from an interior design point of view. :rolleyes:

 

Me... I couldn't care less.

 

A friend has a Petrof upright that has a nice, albeit darker, sound, and a very heavy "European" action. The Schimmels have a lighter, faster, what I would describe as a "silkier" action as well as a brighter tone.

 

I don't know what the market for used Schimmels is like. There will be far fewer of them than, say, Yamaha. I know that new ones have gotten incredibly expensive with the strong euro and weak dollar.

 

Have fun looking and play a lot of pianos before deciding.

 

BTW +1 on the Larry Fine "The Piano Book".

aka âmisterdregsâ

 

Nord Electro 5D 73

Yamaha P105

Kurzweil PC3LE7

Motion Sound KP200S

Schimmel 6-10LE

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Westone AM Pro 30 IEMs

Rolls PM55P

 

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Jazzwee, I did my shopping using Larry Fine's The Piano Book as well. I bought a 5' 10 Schimmel Grand with Intarsia--really a fine instrument--I never get tired of it. Schimmel uprights are great too. But a new studio is going to be out of the range. Petrof uprights might be fine for you an could come close to the range; I found the action on Petrofs to be stiffer than normal, but I did my search 9 years ago and Petrof has been making good progress--the tone was nicely dark. I think the Pearl Rivers are to be avoided. Some of the Korean makers have been improving (Young Chang, Samick, etc.) and you can learn more on the latest from Fine's book. I would avoid the Boston (Steinway's Asian-built ax); I think they can sound good for the first year but don't seem to wear well. I have not been very pleased with the tone or touch of the Kawaii uprights I've played. They are popular here and Fine rates them well, so I assume it's just a personal taste difference on my part.

 

I suggest you buy Larry Fine's book (Google him and you'll find his web site) to check out the best and get info from the book on how to search for and check out used instruments. Fine checks out lots of instruments and interviews/surveys piano technicians across the country. His book also tells you about reputable used brands, etc. It's sort of a "Consumer Reports" for the acoustic piano shopper. The great thing about Fine is you can (for a fee of course) call him and get a phone consult once you've narrowed down your choices--though for a used instrument I think this might not be as much help). (I was weighing a 6'4 Petrof against the Schimmel I finally got and he talked me through lots of other options and considerations; it was money well spent from my mind.) His book at least would help you to get 3 or 4 other quality uprights in the mix, so that when you go shopping you have more choices in mind.

 

Space available, you might at least consider keeping your eyes open for a used grand piano--you can get a much better sound from them, privide you get over the 5'7 mark and the action will almost always be superior. And if you check Craigslist carefully you'll run across a steady stream of older good quality grands in the same price range--a genuine old Chickering, Knabe, Kimball might well fall in to the range you're talking if it has not been rebuilt. You can often get a footprint for a grand from a local piano shop and check it out in your apt or home to see how it might fit. Worth opening the door to the idea, at least. I have zero reqrets about my purchase or the space it takes up, except I wish I could've afforded another foot of grand piano!

 

I spent seven months shopping--seemed like a long time, but what fun I had playing everything from new Schimmels, Estonias, etc. to old but marvelously restored Mason & Hamlins, Chickerings, a Hamburg Steinway, Grotrian, an ancient but absolutely gorgeous Bluthner...it was hard to quit once I got into it. I agree, have fun looking.

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I happen to be standing next to my favorite piano tuner (touching up the C7 for the next song) and he says Get a Yamaha WX7 or a U3.

He also said to be sure you find one that was built completely in Japan (as opposed to mostly built in Japan and finished in America).

Don't rush me. I'm playing as slowly as I can!

 

www.stevenathanmusic.com

https://apple.co/2EGpYXK

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Originally posted by Steve Nathan:

I happen to be standing next to my favorite piano tuner (touching up the C7 for the next song) and he says Get a Yamaha WX7 or a U3.

He also said to be sure you find one that was built completely in Japan (as opposed to mostly built in Japan and finished in America).

Interesting Steve. What exactly does that mean? Was your tuner referring to "rebuilt" in america? Or are we talking about originally new pianos finished in the US. I do see some U3 ads saying specifically that they have been rebuilt by a Yamaha dealer in Japan vs. here.

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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Originally posted by VLH:

Space available, you might at least consider keeping your eyes open for a used grand piano--you can get a much better sound from them,

VLH, I'm considering this as a two step process. I want to start off with an upright for the moment, with the intention of moving up to a grand at a later point (like a Yamaha C3). This has to do with bargaining with the wife. I got to take what I can get.

 

This is why I'm only looking at large uprights so that I get the nice sound. I realize the action on an upright is different from a grand (even a good upright), but I'll have to make do as it will be better than relying on a digital all the time.

 

From a practical point of view, one of the biggest selling points of a grand (compared to a large upright), is repetition of notes. Playing jazz, I have not found that to be concern with what I'm playing with at the moment. I'm not a fast enough player to even worry about that. At least for now.

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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I have a Kawai upright, which is scaled very much like the U1. I've owned the piano for 10 years and I'm still quite pleased with it.

 

Unfortunately Kawai keeps changing the damn model number, so when I bought mine in 1996, it was a model NS-20. I don't know what they call the 48" upright today. It might be a K-20, but you'd have to ask a Kawai dealer, someone like Don Manino over on PianoWorld who's been around for a while.

 

You can find either used. You should expect to pay between $3 to $4 grand depending on the condition and age.

 

The U3 is a great instrument. I've seen bargains on these instruments from time to time on my local Craigslist, and Ebay, though I'd caution you not to buy an instrument you can't checkout first.

 

And with a used instrument, find a technician you can work with and pay them to look over an instrument that you've already decided you'd like to buy. Of course, Larry Fine's book is a must.

 

Enjoy. I think there's nothing more fun than buying a new piano. (Man, I'm weird!)

 

 

I'd also recommend a Damp-Chaser unit. They work really well in uprights (better than grands), keep the piano in tune and the soundboard from getting too wet or dry.

regards,

 

--kwgm

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Originally posted by VLH:

I bought a 5' 10 Schimmel Grand with Intarsia--really a fine instrument--I never get tired of it.

 

I spent seven months shopping--seemed like a long time, but what fun I had playing everything from new Schimmels, Estonias, etc. to old but marvelously restored Mason & Hamlins, Chickerings, a Hamburg Steinway, Grotrian, an ancient but absolutely gorgeous Bluthner...it was hard to quit once I got into it. I agree, have fun looking.

VLH-

 

I was going to get the 6' Schimmel (the models and sizes have changed), but the dealer shot me a great deal and I ended up with the 6-10 LE. Like you said, I never get tired of playing it.

 

Schimmel also did a great job when a (potential) problem arose. My dealer called one day and asked how my piano was, probably more than a year out. It turns out that the German equivalent of their EPA had gotten them to try a water-based laquering for the soundboards and they had some failing prematurely. At least that's the story I got. I got a brand-new model of the same piano delivered to my house as soon as it arrived from the factory. I have to say that the Schimmels are very consistent and I couldn't honestly tell a bit of difference after a bit of break-in from the first piano.

 

Also, I second the advice to take your time and play a lot of pianos. This is tough if you find a used piano that someone is looking to sell over a weekend, but patience is definitely a virtue here. Can you make an offer on a piano contingent on a technician inspecting it like you would for a house?

aka âmisterdregsâ

 

Nord Electro 5D 73

Yamaha P105

Kurzweil PC3LE7

Motion Sound KP200S

Schimmel 6-10LE

QSC CP-12

Westone AM Pro 30 IEMs

Rolls PM55P

 

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He should get a Wind Controller????

Yeah, it sounded funny to me when he said it, and I looked on the Yamaha site to confirm that the WX7 is the wind controller, and the only 52" uprights I see are the U3 and the U5.

He's gone now, so I'll have to call him for clarification.

As for the Japan thing, he seemed to be saying that some are built entirely in Japan and shipped to the US, while others are partly built in Japan and partly built in US plants. Perhaps it's like the difference between a Lexus and a Camry??

Don't rush me. I'm playing as slowly as I can!

 

www.stevenathanmusic.com

https://apple.co/2EGpYXK

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I don't think he's kidding about a Yamaha WX7 as our friend Eric (check link above) has pictures of his recently purchased WX1. So at least the letters are consistent. He says it's like a U1.

 

I wasn't aware they actually partially built new pianos here. Wouldn't it have to be a piano builder to do this?

 

I'm already eyeing the U3 and I'm checking out the ones I can physically examine.

 

Kwgm, I see a Kawai NS10 listed for a reasonable price and looks good but it looks a little small. Are you happy with a 48" or do you ever wish you got a 52"? I don't even know the issue with people going smaller since the space used is vertical anyway. I don't have a problem with sound level (don't have to worry about neighbors and such) so I prefer to max out the size and not come back later and have GAS for something else.

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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Originally posted by Jazzwee:

I've seen some references to Yamaha WX1, WX3, WX7 which are apparently pretty good. But these seem to be rare.

I actually called Yamaha US and talked to one of their piano tech guys for like 30 minutes before buying my WX1. Incredibly nice guy and he told me all about the history of the WX series pianos. I had been researching and could not find much on them. Here's the scoop. The WX pianos were only produced for about 5 years from 1990-1994 or thereabouts. They are essentially identical to the U series pianos in terms of action and internal mechanism. But the difference was in the cabinet design and the "X" backbone. This makes the piano more sturdy and also a few 100 lbs heavier. They were marketed as "pro" studio pianos because they could allegedly last longer and take more heavy playing. But they were more expensive and Yamaha could not really find a niche for them. Therefore, they were discontinued.

 

But I've heard from the Yamaha guy and others that the WX pianos, if you find a good one, would be a small increment better than a similar vintage U piano. The WX1 = U1, WX3 = U3 and WX7 = U5.

 

As for other choices, the Kawai UST pianos are very solid. I nearly bought a very used UST-7 that was very nice. Also, the Schimmels are beautiful, but pricey. If money were no object, I would have bought the $10k new upright. Absolutely gorgeous tone and extremely playable.

 

Regards,

Eric

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Thanks for the explanation Eric, that was great!

 

I haven't yet encountered a WX?. But I'll keep an eye out. There is a Kawai UST-7 available. I had the impression that was a lower grade Kawai, so this is not the case? I also see a Kawai NS10.

 

The other german brands are so far not showing up (at least at an affordable level).

 

The thing that mucks up the discussion is all this talk about Yamaha gray market. When I went to the Yamaha piano dealer I got an earful of that which made to start to doubt the validity (it was oversell).

 

Even among the gray market suppliers there seems to be some that appear more upfront than others. The ones that are reluctant to admit gray market are doubtful to me. And here's another one that's strange. A person says he is selling a friends piano and come visit it at their house. It is just recently purchased. Then I check the serial number and it is gray market and older. Obviously a scam. Making it seem new. This is a very difficult process.

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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Originally posted by Jazzwee:

Thanks for the explanation Eric, that was great!

 

I haven't yet encountered a WX?. But I'll keep an eye out. There is a Kawai UST-7 available. I had the impression that was a lower grade Kawai, so this is not the case? I also see a Kawai NS10.

 

The other german brands are so far not showing up (at least at an affordable level).

 

The thing that mucks up the discussion is all this talk about Yamaha gray market. When I went to the Yamaha piano dealer I got an earful of that which made to start to doubt the validity (it was oversell).

 

Even among the gray market suppliers there seems to be some that appear more upfront than others. The ones that are reluctant to admit gray market are doubtful to me. And here's another one that's strange. A person says he is selling a friends piano and come visit it at their house. It is just recently purchased. Then I check the serial number and it is gray market and older. Obviously a scam. Making it seem new. This is a very difficult process.

The Kawai UST series are all exceptional pianos, built like the Yamaha U series. Many folks call them "institutional" pianos because they are often adopted by schools/universities and rental backlines. But there is a good reason for this - they are built very well and can take a lot of abuse. Not that you would abuse your piano, but I did some close comparison between the U/WX pianos and the less expensive T series - definitely differences in build quality and also action weight. One of my local dealers had a couple of Kawai UST-7s for sale that had been in their rental fleet for 15-20 years. You could see the signs of wear on the cabinet, but they were well-maintained and in tune - still sounded and played great!

 

Another piano that is worth a look is the Yamaha P22. It is 45" tall, so not quite as big as the U1/U3, both of which are 48" and the U5, which is 52" (I hope I am remembering this correctly). The P22 is another "institutional" piano - not quite as nice as the U series, but highly playable and nice sounding with a well-built quality level.

 

As for the grey market, it is confusing. I avoided anything that looked like grey market and also did tons of research on the Piano World forums.

 

Regards,

Eric

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I am a Yamaha U3 owner for over 2 years. My U3 was made in Japan in 1980 and is 'probably ' a grey market piano. But it is still a Yamaha and has the Yamaha quality.

 

So someone needs to explain the ' grey market stigma '

 

As near as I can figure, Yamaha made identical models but had 1 group for the Japanese market and 1 group for the US market. And what happened is that Yamaha pianos for the Japan market are showing up in the US

 

So other than a 3 week boat ride I am not clear on any differences

 

My U3 is bright and cheery. The bass absolutely thumps. It is 'loud ' , my room acoustics are hardwood floors and a high ceiling . This is no somber Steinway or mellow Kawai

Why fit in, when you were born to stand out ?

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My understading of the Yamaha grey market is that it could very well be dealer BS. Yamaha supposedly builds pianos designed for the humidity/climate of the US vs. humdity/climate of Japan. Now is that the humdity/climate of the arid southwest desert, the rainy Pacific Northwest, the heater on all winter/air on all summer upper Midwest, the hot humid south? The USA is a big chunk of land.

 

Jazwee, if you're looking at used Yamaha you should be able to find a Disklavier upright in that price range. They carry a heafty price premium when new, but I've seen used in the same price range as standard Yamaha uprights. With the Disklavier you can:

 

- Play it any time day or night without disturbing others.

- Use it as a MIDI controller

- Record your performances for enjoyment/analysis

- Purchase precorded performances for enjoyment/analysis

 

I only have a MIDI grand but I play it electronically much more than as an acoustic instrument.

 

Busch.

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Hi Busch, does a Disklavier sound like a normal Yamaha piano in acoustic mode? How does the muting work?

 

What price range are you talking about on an upright? I haven't seen one yet but it is an intruiging concept.

 

Eric -- A U3/U5 is "52" and a U1 is "48".

 

I'm personally not too concerned about gray market but I am concerned that the pianos available are typically from the 70's. I'm also looking a gray U3 1981, that looks rebuilt. It seems that I can't look at price as the only consideration since the lowest price is usually iffy.

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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Is the P121NT available in the US?

 

http://www.chrisvenables.co.uk/modelspec/Yamaha%20P121-NT%20Upright%20Piano.htm

 

Its apparently a U1 in a different case at a much lower price, but the sound is practically 100% the same.

 

Theres a version called the P121NTS which has MIDI and the silent system.

 

http://www.chrisvenables.co.uk/images/large/P121NTS.jpg

 

In the UK I've seen 1980 U1s priced at £2,500 and brand new P121's for less than £3,000 with the P121NTS being around £4,000.

 

From what I've read, there is a compromise with the response of a "Silent" piano on uprights but not on the grand pianos.

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Originally posted by Jazzwee:

Hi Busch, does a Disklavier sound like a normal Yamaha piano in acoustic mode? How does the muting work?

 

What price range are you talking about on an upright? I haven't seen one yet but it is an intruiging concept.

 

Eric -- A U3/U5 is "52" and a U1 is "48".

 

I'm personally not too concerned about gray market but I am concerned that the pianos available are typically from the 70's. I'm also looking a gray U3 1981, that looks rebuilt. It seems that I can't look at price as the only consideration since the lowest price is usually iffy.

hey Jazz, I have had 3 separate technicians review my U3.

 

I have never heard any info or have doubt regarding Yamahas build quality 70's vs 80's vs 90's

 

If you have something specific, let us know. My U3 is 100 % original hammers, soundboard, etc. My technician claims it will last another 25 years. It is a well made, quality instrument

That is what I would expect from Yamaha. And this life long quality is what you pay for.

 

Now if the Yamaha you are looking at has been abused and neglected, that is an entirely different trip

Why fit in, when you were born to stand out ?

My Soundcloud with many originals:

[70's Songwriter]

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I don't like bright sounding uprights, which many of the Yamahas are. Some of the Ymahas have a nice dark tone.

I like Steinway and Mason & Hamlin.

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." Harry spends his time teaching jazz piano online and playing solo piano gigs.

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