As your piano tuner Wilmington DE, I am often asked what makes a high quality piano different from a lesser quality piano. Often, the underlying question is whether it is better to buy an inexpensive new piano or a quality used piano. Before we answer that underlying question, it will be helpful to give background information on the difference between pianos of differing quality.
There are three main areas that differ between expensive and inexpensive pianos. They are:
1) Resonance of the instrument
2) Sensitivity, speed of repetition, and reliability of the piano action
3) Beauty of the tone of the instrument
We will deal with each of the three main areas in a separate article. Then in the fourth article, we will answer the underlying question about which is better to buy.
Our last article discussed the first area, the resonance of the instrument. This article will discuss the differences in quality of the piano actions. Generally, there are three characteristics that are needed in the action of a piano: a) Sensitivity, (b) speed of repetition, and (c) reliability. It is relatively expensive for a piano company to produce a piano action, and even more so to produce one that is optimal for these three characteristics.
Sensitivity of touch allows the pianist to play with optimal expression. A piano which does not have a sensitive and even action is much less satisfying to play. As a result, the pianist tends to practice less and make less progress in learning. The sensitivity of the action is affected by the initial careful design, and then the careful construction of thousands of parts to specific tolerances. Once that is complete, there are ten major adjustments, and numerous minor adjustments and alignments. Any shortcuts to this process will hurt the overall result of the function of the action.
Speed of repetition is important, in that it allows the pianist to play at their optimum speed. This aspect of an action starts with the initial design, then the careful construction, and finally the careful adjustment of the action. These all take time and expense for the maker, and shortcuts compromise the result.
By reliability, we mean that the action will continue to work properly without major expense for a number of years. This starts with the choice of quality materials, then the careful construction, and finally the careful adjustment at the end. There are pianos being produced now that are so poorly made, that the actions require expensive repairs very quickly and repeatedly. There are hundreds of small joints in a piano action. If a piano needs most or all of these dismantled and reassembled in the proper way, it can cost thousands of dollars. These repairs cannot be overlooked, as notes stop working. If a note does not function, the entire piano cannot be played.
If you have any questions about pianos, please let us help. We are your Wilmington DE piano tuning experts.