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Guide to Buying Your First Piano: Sound and Touch

Guide to Buying Your First Piano: Sound and Touch

This fourth part in our Guide to Buying Your First Piano series focuses on sound and touch. To see the full article and other criteria, click here.

You may hear people talk about the importance of finding a piano with the right sound and touch for you. As search criteria though, these terms are often misunderstood. And in fact, your first impression of touch and sound on a particular piano might not be quite as important of a factor as you have been led to believe.

Understanding Touch and Sound

Before you can understand how touch and sound should affect you piano purchase, you first need to understand what these terms even refer to. For many people, evaluating sound and touch has a kind of abstract, ambiguous feeling to it. Here’s some concrete explanations to help you:

Touch refers to how a piano feels when you push down a note. Some pianos feel “stiff” or hard to push, while others may feel “loose” or easy to push. This difference in touch is caused by a number of factors from manufacturing to care to age to weather.

Sound for a piano is exactly that—the sound a piano makes when played. You’ll find that pianos all sound differently—although describing this can be difficult. Sometimes people use words like “bright”, “warm” or “mellow” to describe it.

The reason why these are hard to define and quantify is because they’re so tied to people’s own impressions—and preferences. There is not a “correct” touch or sound. The “perfect” touch or sound varies from person to person. It’s important to take some time playing on different pianos to identify what sound or touch you like. If your child is going to take lessons, have her play some notes and see how it feels to her.

Here’s the big secret though: You aren’t necessarily looking for a piano where you sit down to play and instantly find it has the touch and sound just right for you. Why? Because sound and touch are often adjustable.

Making Adjustments

If you come to our store and really like one particular piano but wish it wasn’t as “stiff” or wish it had a little “more mellow” sound, this imperfect initial match doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. Chances are we can adjust it to fit your tastes better.

Of course, there are some caveats to this. First, some touches and sounds should sound off alarm bells in your head. As described in the previous section of this guide, if a piano’s touch is incredibly loose, this is usually a sign of a deeper problem. If a piano makes unexpected noises, such as buzzing or rattling, or has a few notes that are extremely out of tune with the rest, this is likely more than a “sound” issue and you should have a professional piano technician look over the piano.

Also, keep in mind that all pianos have their limits when it comes to adjustments. No amount of adjustments can make a poorly-made piano produce the same richness in sound that a fine piano produces. But within the range available on any particular piano, adjustments can be made to alter sound and touch more than you may realize.

If you’d like more information about buying your first piano, continue on to Criteria 5: Credibility and Trustworthiness of the Seller.