Promotional vs. Premium
Many people are often confused by the overwhelming presence of brand names on new and used pianos in the market today. Because most new pianos today look strikingly similar to the consumer's eye, it becomes increasingly difficult for potential buyers to make an informed purchase decision; however, when it comes to affordable new or used baby grand manufactured in the past 15 years or less, there is a pronounced difference between promotional baby grands and premium baby grands.
Why is there a difference to begin with?
For one, there is the existence of stencil pianos. Companies such as Samick and Dongbei produce a wide range of different brands; however, the pianos are all virtually identical, with the exception of slight cosmetic differences. These pianos are often manufactured using only the cheapest materials and labor possible, which results in subsequently poor musical performance. These instruments often boast attractive cabinets and finishes, which make them a good choice for a decorative piano that will not be played very often.
Design Elements of Promotional Pianos:
- Less than 15 ply pinblocks, which results in poor tuning stability
- Laminate spruce soundboards, or cheap solid spruce that is not crowned, which results in poor tone
- A mediocre, in-house action, which limits control over the sound
- Hammers with short-wool fibers, poor construction, and often the absence of staples or underfelt
- A generic scale-design with little personality
- Rims manufactured of Philippine “luan” mahogany
- Fiberboard frame
Premium Grade Pianos: Most pianos within this category are built to endure and satisfy true musical demands. All of these pianos have unique scale designs, company-owned factories, premium solid-woods, quality actions with great repetition, and beautiful sound.
- Greater than 15 ply pinblocks for better stability
- Solid spruce soundboards that are crowned for optimal tone
- Thick inner and outer rims made out of maple wood
- Röslou German strings
- German hammers
- Maple frame
- Duplex scaling, for added harmonic richness
- Maple bridges
- Solid brass hardware
A quality premium piano always provides the pianist greater artistic resources to be musically expressive and comfortable. This is especially critical in the case of piano students. A quality instrument that is comfortable to the touch and pleasant to the ears invites the student to practice more. An unrefined instrument will often produce the opposite results.
Piano Market Today
Many pianos today come from China. Over 80% of all newly manufactured pianos are built in China, and not just entry-level pianos, either. German pianos such as Feurich and Seiler are now built in China, yet the move to China often results in increased quality, not less! China today is at the forefront of advanced manufacturing processes, precision, and consistency. No longer is a piano made in China simply a decorative item. Companies such as Hailun have made significant advancements and innovations that less than 50 years ago, only American or Germany companies would similarly achieve.
Today, the materials determine the quality of a piano and design implemented for each instrument, which is why understanding the basic design and having an understanding of piano specifications is so critical.