The piano

I’ve been shopping for a piano for several months now. I’d really like to get my hands on a 4’11” baby grand piano but everything I’ve been seeing is SO incredibly expensive. You can get a decent used baby grand from most places for around $5000, but then you’ve got to pay about $500 to move it and another $200 or so a year to have it tuned… and every time you move it, it’s best to have it tuned again.

So I’ve been shopping the market and, like most expensive things I shop, I start getting depressed about what is available within my price range and how much I have to spend to get the right thing I want.

Considering all of these factors, I started researching the differences between electric pianos vs acoustic. There’s really no comparison. Firstly, you can’t get the richness from an electric that you get out of an acoustic. Secondly, the action on an electric always makes it feel like a toy in contrast to the real thing.

A year or so ago, I was in a music store and the salesman there was trying to push me in the direction of a Casio Privia. Man, they were inexpensive. I was really tempted, just because they’re so inexpensive, but the name and reputation of Casio had me at bay. I’d really rather get something with a name like Yamaha, Korg, Kawai or Roland if I were to go into the electric market. All I could think of was Casio from the 80’s… cheap little white keyboards with tinny sounds and campy drum beats every time you accidentally pushed a button… and always targeted to children. They were toys. I don’t want a toy. I want an instrument. I want a full 88-key piano with rich, full piano sound. I don’t care if it only has one sound on the whole keyboard if it’s the piano sound and it sounds GREAT… but I want a really good piano sound and feel.

My biggest fear about buying a piano has been that I don’t know enough about the technicals of a piano to know whether I’m looking at a good one or a bad one. I don’t know what to look for on the soundboard to know if it’s in good shape or not. I don’t know how to tell if the pins will hold their tune or not. …and I REALLY don’t trust sales people at a piano store to give me a straight answer about it.

Everything I read online about buying a baby grand points to buying one used. Pianos are like cars. The minute you write the check, it loses a good deal of its value. Now, different from cars, they drop in value and then over time, they begin to increase again. …but the consensus is still that it’s best to buy used. It does mean that every time I am serious about buying a piano, I have to hire a piano repair person to go look at it with me so they can tell me if it’s a good one to buy or not and then pay him around $100 just for looking.

I have to say that buying an electric piano is attractive from the perspective that I would never have to have it tuned and if I got one that was small enough, it would be nice to travel with it.

Last Friday, I went to Firehouse Guitars to see what kind of digital pianos they had.  They always seem to have good stock and the sales people there are all musicians with an intimate knowledge about the instruments that are available.

To my surprise, I saw the Casio Privia again.  As the salesman and I talked, I told him my reasons for staying away from Casio and he sympathized with me but said that Casio has been doing a lot of work to change their branding perception.  This includes re-building the Privias with new sound sourcing, integrating 128-note polyphony in a keyboard under $500 and focusing their attention on making a digital piano with unsurpassed piano tonal quality and weight-action.

I gave him my best skeptical look and gave it a try.

…I’ve never heard a digital piano that sounded better and the key action is excellent.  I compared it to the Yamaha and Rolands available and the Casio not only holds its own, it’s sound quality and DSP effects outclass the pianos that were 2 and 3 times the price-point.

As I played the Casio, swallowing my pride and trying to decide if it would look too bad bad to play a digital piano with a piece of electrical tape over the logo, the salesman said, “if you think it sounds good like that, try it with head phones.”

He was right.  As good as it sounded through the built-in speakers, it was even better with headphones.  I compared and contrasted the sound qualities of all of the other keyboards and pianos and it was clear that the Casio was as good if not better than all of the competition.

There were keyboards and pianos that were priced at 6 and 7 times the Privia but their tonal quality and action was either equal to or worse than the Casio.

I now have a Casio PX 120 digital piano sitting in my living room.  I still wince as my eye glances the name, “CASIO” on the top, but as soon as I start playing it, I melt at the sound quality.

I wanted a digital piano that wanted nothing more than to be a GREAT-sounding piano and was small and light enough to travel easily and Casio answered the call.

I’m still going to go to look at grand pianos on Saturday but even if I don’t find what I’m looking for, I know that waiting for me at home is a great instrument that I got for less than the price of a delivery charge for the real thing.

My hat’s off to Casio for producing a great, affordable digital piano and to Christian at Firehouse Guitars in Muskegon for curbing my perception of Casio enough to give it a try.