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Expert advice on sourcing a good family piano

by Laura Vida

For nearly a decade, Jack Newlands – owner of Newlands Pianos, Edinburgh – has been supplying families and schools with good quality acoustic pianos, both new and secondhand. A true piano aficionado, he was mentored by some of the most respected piano shop owners, tuners and technicians in the UK. Jack’s showroom is based in North Edinburgh opposite a sizeable workshop, where he repairs and restores the instruments.

What makes a piano suitable for a young learner?

When sourcing a piano for a child, you don’t want the touch to be too heavy or too light. If it’s too heavy, the child may struggle with the weight of the keys; if it’s too light, they won’t build up technique or muscle memory. So in an ideal world, you would choose a piano with medium touchweight.

It’s also important to ensure the piano is in good working order: a learner can quickly become discouraged by a defective instrument.

How do I know if a piano is in good working order?

An expert will be able to tell you whether a piano is tuned to concert pitch – which makes it playable – or merely, to itself. In order for it to retain condition, a piano should, ideally, be tuned roughly every six months. When a piano is badly out of tune, this is an indication that there are other problems – the strings may have developed metal fatigue, pins may be coming loose etc. The longer a piano is neglected, the more unstable (and untunable) it tends to become.

Should I purchase a new or an old piano?

This really depends on personal preference, aesthetic and budget. Some players prefer the feel of an old piano; others like a more precise, firm action.

New pianos tend to be more expensive – a brand new Newlands piano costs between £3000 and £4000. If buying for a beginner, I’d generally recommend sourcing a well-refurbished, secondhand piano for around £750-£950. You could also find a secondhand baby grand for as little as £2000.

Could I not just source a free piano online?

There’s no such thing as a free piano! Or rather, if it’s free, it’s free for a reason: such a piano is often in need of restoration, or beyond repair. I’d always advise getting expert advice about any piano you are thinking of buying. And of course, you’ll need to try it out.

I’m not sure that my child will want to continue playing. Can I rent a piano temporarily?

In most cases, once you factor in tuning and delivery fees, it’s more economical to purchase a mid-range, second-hand piano. If you look after a piano well, you should be able to sell it on. In just a few, exceptional circumstances, it makes sense to rent. For example, if a student is only going to be in the country for 6 months to a year.

Is it a myth that a piano lasts a lifetime?

Yes! A piano’s lifespan will depend on how well it was made and looked after. A well-maintained piano can last for over 200 years. After WW2 there was a shortage of supplies, so a lot of piano makers were using basic, budget materials. Those pianos generally don’t have much life in them today. But many mid-19th pianos still play very well. This 1907 Bechstein, for example, has just been reconditioned and plays like a dream. It ought to last for at least another 100 years.

How do I preserve the condition of my piano?

Pianos don’t respond well to extreme fluctuations in temperature. So avoid positioning a piano in the conservatory (say) or beside a radiator.

When moving house, always use professional piano movers to avoid unnecessary damage. Your piano will need time to settle in its new spot before it is retuned.

Make sure the piano is tuned regularly — ideally, every 6 months.

For more advice or to arrange an appointment:

Phone: 07854 120 364



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