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common mistakes of first-time piano buyers

Every day we see families fall into the same trap. They do one of these things that endanger their own or their children’s chances of success at the piano… Do you know that 80% of children quit the piano before completing the level 2 method book? We’ve discovered that the vast majority of these 80% were playing on pianos that are in disrepair or are out of tune. If it’s an electronic piano, they are using a cheaply made keyboard without weighted keys. What if we could greatly increase the odds of your child succeeding at playing the piano? We’ve found that the people who avoid these common mistakes flip their odds, with an 80% success rate! And know that by increasing the odds of your child’s success at the piano, you are also increasing their math comprehension, their reading comprehension, their self-esteem, their chances of success in college, and so on!


mistake #1: purchase a cheap keyboard or digital piano online 

The problem with a cheap keyboard is that it feels nothing like a real piano. The child will practice every day and get their new piano piece ‘just right’ for the teacher. But when they go to the teacher’s piano studio, they don’t play the song correctly! The teacher thinks the child didn’t practice, but in actuality the child did. The problem is that the GOOD piano in the teacher’s studio feels like a foreign object to the student. The keys feel different. The touch feels different. The piano even sounds different!  Asking your child to play and learn on a cheap keyboard is like asking a 16 year old to learn how to drive a car on a 4-Wheeler ATV. Both might have 4 wheels, but beyond that, they have NOTHING in common. Most keyboards, and even some online name brand digital pianos, are built to be disposable. The manufacturers build them in a way that it is not cost effective to repair, and the consumer is forced to buy a new one after as little as a year. The cost difference is in QUALITY and CRAFTSMENSHIP. ‘Members Only’ Discount Clubs are also guilty of offering inferior products. In our opinion, the only thing familiar about the discount club Name Brand Indonesian or Chinese Made Piano to the excellent quality Japanese Made Name Brand Pianos at Whitesel’s is the logo itself.


mistake #2: buy (or get for free) an old worn out piano

An old ‘upright’ piano poses some of the same problems as a cheap keyboard. Almost all old uprights and consoles in the paper and many on craigslist are completely worn out by the time they go up for sale. If you were comparing a piano to a car, the engine would be the action. Just like a car’s engine, the action in a piano has hundreds upon hundreds of moving parts. These parts wear out over time, and must be replaced. Most pianos in the paper that cost $0-$1000, are comparable to a ford escort with 300,000 miles on the engine. And remember, if you have a car with that many miles on it, and you replace the engine, it doesn’t mean the transmission won’t go out tomorrow (or the radiator, alternator, tires, etc.)! Another consideration is that a Ford Escort isn’t a car worth fixing up. You’ll never see a return on your investment if you gave it a complete overhaul, and even if you did, you wouldn’t have a Cadillac…you’d still just have a Ford Escort! An old upright typically no longer holds its tune properly. Children are very impressionable and like sponges. They soak up and learn from everything. If your child’s home piano is constantly out of pitch, their brain is ‘learning’ that this is the appropriate and proper way for a piano to sound. This can cause serious consequences later in their learning and ear training process, not only on piano, but on any instrument, and even singing.


mistake #3: pay too much for a used mediocre piano

The other big mistake first time piano buyers make is purchasing an incredibly overpriced used piano at a dealer. We see it all the time. A dealer will get a popular name brand console piano that was made in the 60’s or 70’s, and price is at $2,495. The cabinet of the piano might look like new and be very attractive, but remember this is only one reason of many as to why you purchase a piano. The inside is equally, if not more important. A piano at the 30-40 year mark typically needs some internal work. The dealer might say they performed extensive work on the instrument, but most likely it was some minor action regulation, cleaning, and reshaping the hammers so they look like new.


The other issue with many $1495-$2495 pianos at dealers is that they will immediately drop in value as soon as you make the purchase. Add even just minor technician work to that cost, and you’ll never see that value back should you ever sell. Just because the cabinet looks great, and the name on the front is one that you recognize, doesn’t make it a good piano! If you aren’t buying your piano from Whitesel Piano and Organ Company, it’s worth it to have a reputable technician THAT DOESN’T SELL PIANOS to take a look at a piano before buying it. You would take a used car to a mechanic before buying, so why wouldn’t you do the same with a piano? And if you’d like a technician to take a look at a piano at our showroom, we’d be happy to have them come by for an inspection. When it comes to value for the money though, you might be much better off to purchase a new quality digital piano with weighted keys, or a new piano from a reputable dealer for only a little more. You’ll get a lot more value, and it might be the first and last piano purchase you’ll ever have to make!


mistake #4: relying solely on a musician's advice

There is no single piano or piano brand that’s the best piano for everyone. We carry many different brands not because one is better than the other, but instead because one will fit a customer’s needs better than the other. Have you ever met a ‘Chevy’, ‘Ford’, or ‘Dodge’ family? For a series of reasons, this family has decided that a particular car manufacturer fits their needs the best. At some point, this realization will sometimes turn into a distorted view that all other car companies are somehow inferior to their particular choice. These people will relentlessly and prejudicially defend their choice with no real basis other than for the fact that it was best for them.


Similarly, that’s why the only right answer about the best sound from a piano can come ONLY from you! You and your family will be the ones living with it, not your teacher, or friend, or neighbor. Remember this when looking at piano choices. Start with a reputable dealer, unbiased technician, and an open-minded musician.


mistake #5: buy on brand name alone  

There was one time when you could buy on name alone, but understand the piano world has changed. There are different quality levels of pianos within the same manufacturer. Unless the dealer gives you this information, you might be led to believe you are buying something you are not. For instance, a piano dealer might say things like ‘Japanese Company’ or ‘Japanese Design’. If you hear phrases like this, it’s a good indication the piano they are showing you is the lesser quality Chinese or Indonesian Made version. Sure it's a Japanese Company, but does that mean it is actually made in Japan? Let me state that these are not BAD pianos. They are very good, but you should know the differences, and many dealers won’t offer details, or simply don’t know themselves. This applies for almost every major and minor manufacturer in the piano industry. The owner once assisted a church with the installation of a new church organ. They had recently purchased a new grand piano (from another company) that their music director assisted in choosing. They were so proud of this piano, and stated how the music director searched high and low, and discovered that this piano had something the others didn’t. They had to travel outside of their geographic region to purchase this instrument. We will qualify this by letting you know the piano was indeed a fine piano. But the humorous fact was that the piano this church searched for was made on the same factory line in China, by the same people, and in the same manner as another equally good piano manufacturer that the church said was inferior. What we are saying that you can’t buy a piano based on the name alone. If you work with a reputable dealer, you will discover you can find a much higher quality instrument than what you were originally considering for the same or even less money.

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