Generally speaking, a digital piano is a less expensive option than an acoustic upright or grand piano, though you will often see free upright pianos being given away on craigslist. I would stay away from those unless you know what you are doing. They can easily be a bigger project than you might think when you consider moving expenses, tuning (can it even hold a pitch), brand, quality, etc. There are many digital pianos, however, that are more expensive than an acoustic piano, but for the purposes of this blog, I will use basic uprights and basic fully weighted 88-key digitals as the benchmarks.
Whichever you end up buying, I would suggest that you stick to a well known brand so that if you do need to sell in the future, your piano will experience less depreciation. If acoustic, Yamaha and Kawai hold their value the best. Yes you will spend more, but 30 years from now, people will still want that piano. Lesser known brands will be give-a-ways at that age. Always buy a black piano. Brown ones do not hold their value like black ones do. The majority of people shopping are looking for a black piano because it goes with everything.
If you are buying a digital piano, again, I would stick with the best brands. Yamaha Clavinova or YDP series, Roland, Kawai, and believe it or not, Casio has come up with a fantastic digital piano line with the Privia. There are so many brands like Williams, Suzuki and others that will fall apart quickly. Color is less important with digital pianos, but typically dark brown or black are the most desired.
If buying a used digital piano for sale, test the keys and make sure they all have an even consistent sound and feel. Listen for “press and release” noise. This should be very quiet so it is not distracting to the player. Make sure the pedals work. Turn it off and on again to make sure the electronics are working properly. Age is important, but anything post 1998 should be adequate because by then, almost all electronic pianos made the change from analog sounds to sampled grand piano sounds, and there has been somewhat of a plateau since then. Renting a digital piano for a beginner is not a bad idea to save money if the player loses interest, or if they have a high level of interest, you may want to purchase an acoustic piano or more advanced digital piano. Piano rental allows you to defer that decision to a later date.
If buying a used acoustic piano, check the age by serial number if you can find a source. Yamaha and Kawai post their serial numbers online so you can tell the age. Don’t be afraid of age if the piano is well maintained or rebuilt, particularly if it is a Yamaha or Kawai. Watch for “grey market” pianos. While there is nothing specifically wrong with these pianos, they were not built for the American market, so may have less value when you go to sell. Do not take on a free piano project unless you know what you are doing.
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Singing Strings rents and leases pianos and digital pianos to Northern Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland, including Baltimore.