Nothing compares to the sound and feel of an acoustic piano, so if it were feasible, I’d advise everyone to buy an acoustic upright or grand. When you play an acoustic piano, you feel the vibrations of the strings through the keys and even if you just strike 1 key, there are subtle overtones over many different pitches that hum underneath the main pitch that you hear. That is what gives the piano its unique, beautiful sound. It is very fulfilling to play a real, acoustic piano.
The way you strike a key, determines how the hammer inside the piano will strike the key, which determines what kind of sound the piano will produce. There is no limit to the types of sound that can come from a single instrument. The best digital pianos come close to replicating this, but they do not compare to the experience of playing an acoustic.
Each acoustic piano is different. Some pianos have very loose action, meaning that the keys play very easily, while others have a firmer action and require more force to produce a sound. Some pianos have a mellow sound, some have a bright sound. Some pianos have a rich, full sound while others are sound more “tinny” and shallow. The sound of a piano can even evolve over time. They are almost like a living, breathing creature, and as you might imagine, people can become very attached to their instrument once they learn all of the intricacies of it.
Unlike digital instruments, acoustic pianos do require a bit of maintenance. They need to be tuned at least a couple of times a year. They are sensitive to extreme temperatures and climate changes. There are so many moving parts in a piano that will inevitably break or wear out. When you buy an acoustic piano, you should commit to having it maintained, just like you would maintain a car. The good news is, that even with the bare minimum of maintenance, a piano should have a very long, productive life! I recommend finding a piano technician by searching for your location through the Piano Technician’s Guild Website, ptg.org.
The cost of an acoustic piano is anywhere from free to tens of thousands of dollars! Before you begin shopping for an acoustic piano, there are a number of things to consider when setting your budget. I would mentally prepare to spend at least $1000. It may be substantially more, but there’s a chance you could score a decent piano for less than that. Keep in mind that in addition to the cost of the piano, you may need to pay to have it moved into your home, and then you will also need to pay for your first tuning and any other maintenance that it might need.
It would be wise to look into both new and used options. Most cities have at least 1 reputable piano dealer where you will find both new and used pianos. Used pianos can also be obtained through estate sales, individuals or churches who are looking for a new home for their pianos. Buying through a dealer will likely have some perks – sometimes they include moving and an initial tuning. They are also a good resource if you have any further questions or concerns about your instrument. They also usually have financing options and If you decide to sell or trade in your piano down the line, your piano dealer may have a be able to offer a good deal.
If you buy from an individual, be sure to ask a lot of questions before making a deal. How old is the piano? Has it been maintained and tuned regularly? Has it ever been moved? You can usually find a serial number just inside the lid of the piano. If you google that number along with the brand of the piano, you can probably find the year it was made.
I personally wouldn’t bother with a piano more than 60 years old. Pianos are not instruments that age well and after about 60 years, they likely need too much work to be useful to a novice player.
As you can see, owning an acoustic piano can be a big responsibility, but it will likely be one of the most rewarding purchases you ever make. As with any large purchase, do your research and ask a lot of questions!