Best Piano Brands
Despite the pace and options of modern life, a steady number of people find themselves wanting a traditional music-making piano in their home. Although shopping around for one could take months and even years, the purchase of such a major instrument can be an enjoyable experience.
What are the best piano brands out there these days?
It depends on what criteria are important to each individual buyer.
Even if the person purchasing a piano doesn’t play a note but is looking for an expensive piece of furniture, a few certain names should be on the “best piano brands” short list. Having these names above any dabbling fingers on the keyboard signals a substantial investment in high-quality musicianship.
This nearly 200-year-old Austrian company makes only a few hundred grand pianos a year. Starting prices are above $50,000, and they require significant maintenance to perform at optimum levels. This brand has devotees throughout the world, since virtuosos often request it for their performances.
While Bösendorfers look and feel most at home in the spacious concert hall, the Fazioli grand can make a powerful statement in a smaller venue. Although the company is a relatively new player in the piano market – founded in 1981 – it has nevertheless made its high-quality reputation quickly.
Faziolis emanate a sense of all that is Italian in the history of music: the craft of fine woodworking, the delight in pure tones and technical artistry, even the opulence of high operatic style. This piano brand can be special-ordered with intricately designed finishes that may be beyond the average piano purchaser’s taste. Nevertheless, a Fazoili makes a statement that one not only appreciates a good musical instrument but also perhaps revels in the panache of a piece that is unique or even slightly exotic.
Obviously one of the best piano brands, the Steinway blends European classical taste (Steinway was a German immigrant) and the spirit of American marketing and name-recognition. Professional pianists will no doubt know the pros and cons of many impressive but less popular specialty brands, but even the piano novice can wander into his or local piano store and taste at least a few Steinways within a few minutes.
While a concert-grand Steinway comfortably runs with an oversized Bösendorfer or elaborate Fazioli, it can also be purchased in scaled-down upright models that can be enjoyed in even the most modest home or apartment. At any level, the Steinway is a good investment. To illustrate, Marilyn Monroe’s white-lacquered baby grand piano was purchased by vocalist Mariah Carey for almost $700,000, while John Lennon’s favorite piano – a light-wood upright Steinway with cigarette burns on it – still sold for over $2 million despite its unassuming appearance.
The next three top piano brands might not top the list for those looking for the best piano they can find, but they have a focus on quality that is found at the individual consumer level.
Another relatively “sage” German piano maker, this company has held its own for almost 100 years and seems to be a best piano brand of any player who insists on minute differences in touch and execution. Grotrians can be found in the concert grand market, but their focus on excellent uprights allows a wider range of musicians to appreciate noticeable difference in their sound and tone.
6. Mason & Hamlin
A cursory look at the web pages of the top piano brands mentioned so far will demonstrate that correlation between price and size of for those thinking about a piano: more money equals more piano. Mason & Hamlin, an American company, demonstrates what many call “the golden age of the piano,” where piano manufacturers sprung up quickly across the expanding United States. While still producing some large-scale instruments, this brand illustrates the shift from grand style of European classical performances to the rustic warmth of individual hearths.
For example, the “parlor” piano became a staple in many new American homes; sometimes it was a status symbol, but far more often it became a center of communal enjoyment that remained popular until radio and television eclipsed its appeal.
Another golden-age American top piano brand, Baldwin can sell a grand if it needs to but specializes in solid uprights that remain affordable for homes or studios. It remains difficult to make a great piano purchase decision over the Internet – buying a piano involves close inspection even if one doesn’t play – and transport costs prevent simple return policies. Baldwin is one of the best piano brands one might trust sight unseen.
Most local piano dealers will have a selection of new and used upright Baldwins. Even non-musicians will be able to detect a difference in quality between this top piano brand and other “golden-age” manufacturers who have since gone out of business.
The final group of best piano brands include manufacturers who can produce not only concert grands (probably not the best), highly competitive home and studio pianos (acoustic and upright) but also stellar electronic and digital products.
This ambitious Japanese company began with a focus on harmonicas and made its mark as a teaching method for not only piano but also a variety of music instruments. Elite pianists may not have Suzuki on their radar for best piano brands, but those looking for a family instrument will need to invest some time in both acoustic and digital options. The range of products is dizzying, but the right piano can be what captures the musical imagination of the next generation of performers.
Another Japanese company, Kawai is one of the best piano brands since it can produce a competitive concert grand and well as admirable but affordable uprights. Its digital piano lines are one of the fastest-growing in this industry niche, with musicians favoring what some might consider a “top quality electronic keyboard” rather than a true piano. Like Suzuki, the Kawai portfolio of piano options deserves time for exploration.
This best piano brand grew out of Japan’s expertise in motorycles, but the larger umbrella music company has since outpaced its peers in terms of instruction, breadth of penetration into educational venues, and instrument product lines. One can purchase a top-quality Yamaha grand, a wonderful (if not pricey) acoustic upright and, perhaps most successfully, a digital option that combines the best of all three piano categories mentioned so far. The Yamaha Clavinova, for example, was one of the first digital pianos to actually try to maintain the essence of the historical piano, with its touch and sound intending to equal or surpass those of the concert grand from the very beginning.
1. Pianist’s Choice
Ultimately, the best piano brand is the one that any individual piano buyer decides it is. Pianos are a tremendous investment at all levels, and buyers owe it to themselves to indulge in the process.