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Shopping for a piano is a fun event for the whole family, however it is a trip you don't want to take too lightly. Piano is an expensive investment and with thorough investigation and research before visiting piano stores can protect the value of your investment. You also want to familiarize yourself with some basic piano terminologies so that you can be prepared to ask intelligent questions. Visit Piano Manufacturers and Glossary to begin your research.
Space and Location - Before you head out the door, decide where you want to put the piano. The ideal location for a piano is where there is no draft, no direct sun light, and no heating vents or radiator nearby. It is also best where temperature and humidity levels stay constant. Temperature and relative humidity play critical roles in keeping your piano in good condition. Unfortunately, the weather in North America changes from season to season making it much more difficult to maintain our interior climates at a constant level. Ideally, the piano should be kept in a room with temperature around 70°( ± 5°) and relative humidity around 50% (±5%). The exact temperature and humidity is not as important as keeping as little fluctuation as possible.
There are two styles of piano - Vertical and Grand. The amount of floor space you need depends on the style you choose. Just make sure you allow an additional 2' for the piano bench and room to sit at it. If you are considering a grand piano, keep in mind that, from a pianist's sitting position, the lid of a grand piano opens to the left so that the opening on the right faces the room. If you are considering a vertical piano, allow an extra 6" between the back of the piano and the wall.
Vertical (Upright) Piano:
Sizes and Types - The standard width of an upright piano is about 5' and the depth is between 2 - 2½'. The total floor space allowance should be about 5' wide by 5' deep, including bench space. The height of the piano makes no difference in the floor space needed but it makes a major difference in the quality of sound the piano produces. The height of a vertical piano is measured from the floor to the top of the piano. There are four types of vertical pianos, based on piano height:
Tonal Quality - The soundboard and strings of an upright piano are positioned vertically inside the piano cabinet. When you press down a key, the hammer of the key hits the strings from the side to produce the sound. Because the hammer and strings are positioned vertically and the movement of the hammer is perpendicular to gravity, it may more difficult to produce repetitive notes and also harder to have tonal control. The size of the soundboard and the length of strings influence the tonal quality of a piano. Larger soundboard and longer strings produce greater volume and resonance of tone. This does not mean that all vertical pianos are not worth looking into. Some verticals actually have larger soundboard and longer strings than some smaller grands.
Sizes and Types: The standard width of a grand piano is also about 5'. The length varies from 4½' to 9½'. The total floor space allowance for the smallest grand should be at least 5' wide by 6½' long, including bench space. Grand pianos are measure by the length from the very front of the keyboard to the farthest end of the piano along the spine, with the lid closed. There are three types of grand pianos, based on piano length:
Tonal Quality - The soundboard and strings of a grand piano are positioned horizontally inside the piano case. When you press down a key, the hammer of the key hits the strings from below to produce the sound. The movement of the hammer falls back with the help of gravity, which makes the sound of repetitive notes crisp and allows the pianist better control of the keys. The size of the soundboard and the length of strings influence the tonal quality of a piano. Larger soundboard and longer strings produce greater volume and resonance of tone. However, if you were considering a Small Grand, you should also look into a higher end of a Full-Size Upright. Some verticals actually have larger soundboard and longer strings than some smaller grands.
Since the tonal quality and the volume of the piano depend mainly on the size of the soundboard and the length of the strings, you want to start from the largest vertical or grand piano you can afford. You also need to consider the space you have. The sound of a Small Grand can get lost in a large open room where a Medium Grand in a small room can be too loud. If money and space were no obstacle, I would have the following order of preference for a home:
Ideally if you were planning to purchase a grand piano, you
should consider one at least 6' long. And if you were considering a vertical,
it should be at least 48" tall. You should look into a higher quality
Full-size Upright (i.e. 52" Steinway) if you were considering a
"Baby" Grand (anything smaller than 5'). For more detailed
information, I suggest reading:
For updated piano prices use the
Any piano should be cared for as if it's another piece of fine furniture in your home. Frequent dusting is recommended to remove foreign particles off the piano surface and protect its original finish. A simple dampened cheesecloth (or any soft, lint free cloth) is all you need to wipe off dust and finger prints. Make sure the cheesecloth is dampened and wrung out; any water residue left on the piano will destroy the wood of the piano. You can also purchase special dusting cloth that contains special polishing ingredients to give your piano the extra shine. Always wipe the piano in the direction of the grain as the original polish on the piano was done. This is always in a straight line fashion, not circular.
Do not attempt to clean the interior of the piano without knowing what can and cannot be touched. There are areas you can clean with a dry cloth or even with a vacuum, but hard to reach areas should be left for the technician. Do not use wax on the piano as it would leave a build up on the surface. Do not place objects on the piano (i.e. vases, pictures, etc..) because they can affect the sound of piano.
Like a car we bring to a garage for regular check-ups and oil changes to ensure every part of the vehicle continues to function efficiently. Piano is no different, except your piano's value will increase if you take good care of it. Aside from General Care, you also need to do tuning, voicing, and regulating on a regular basis. The frequency and the type of service needed depends on the usage of your piano, the condition of your piano, and most often the environs your piano is in. Temperature and humidity play critical roles in keeping your piano in tune. Ideally, the piano should be kept in a room with temperature around 70°( ± 5°) and relative humidity around 50% (±5%). The exact temperature and humidity is not as important as having as little fluctuation as possible.
There are over 200 strings in a piano that are stretched at high tension across the piano frame. The change in humidity is the number one cause of a piano going out of tune. The bridge on which the strings rest gets pushed up and down by the soundboard whenever the humidity changes. This expansion and contraction of the soundboard change the tension on the strings thereby causing the pitch to change. It is ideally to have two tunings a year to keep the piano in pitch throughout heating and air conditioning seasons. Investment on a humidifier is highly recommended to maintain the humidity level in the winter.
The actions parts (hammer, felt, flanges, etc...) of a piano take a lot of wear after it has been played for a long period of time. Screws may loosen over time and small wooden parts may change due to atmospheric conditions. These minor parts should be regulated or adjusted during a regular tuning service. This will put off having to do a full regulation sooner than necessary. Most pianos do not need a full regulation until after five to ten years of use and can be a very costly job.
Regulating the tone of the piano is done by adjusting the density or hardness of the hammer felt. Hardening the felt produces a brighter tone and softening of the felt produces a muffle tone. A qualified piano technician is trained to apply different voicing techniques to obtain a desirable tonal quality. The frequency of voicing depends on how much you use the piano and what your preference is. The piano must be in perfect tune and regulation before it can be voiced.
Do not call a piano technician you find in the Yellow Pages without checking the qualification of the person. A qualified piano technicians may be someone with a membership with the Piano Technicians Guild. However, it is even more desirable to have a technician who is a Registered Piano Technician (RPT) member of the guild. In order to be an RPT, the technician has to go through extensive testing on tuning, repairing skills, piano technology, plus knowledge on specialized techniques. Make sure the piano technician can provide a current Guild membership card before work begins.
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