Own a grand piano that is at least six feet in length. Ideally a Yamaha, as I’ve played on them and heard them on recordings and in performances for years.
The short answer: the sound is better, the keys are more enjoyable to play, and the view from the seat (or any other angle) is pretty cool.
Sound: The physical vibrations from the piano are different, the sound comes from different angles, pieces played on it sound like professional recordings/performances.
Touch: The mechanism of the keys is different, i.e. the hammers hit the horizontal strings from below vs hitting vertical strings from side-on. This means that the keys are ready to hit again faster.
There are lots of other differences/benefits/reasons why a grand piano is more awesome than an upright, but I’ve decided to keep the post short.
Katie and I visited a piano store today. Most of the shop was taken up by upright pianos and a wall of electric keyboards. There was a line of acoustic grand pianos along one wall and continuing along the next; I had fun hitting the same couple of notes as I walked past, comparing the nuances in sound and touch.
At the end of the row of pianos, we wandered into the back room where there were lots more upright pianos and a used Yamaha C3 6′ grand piano. There was a bit of dust on the keys, but the touch and the sound brought a big smile to my face. I played a couple of short excerpts from favourite pieces, and it was amazing how much more professional my playing sounded. I was also quite happy at the speed the keys repeated (i.e. how soon after pressing you can play the same key again), as it would make it much easier to play two of my favourite pieces of music, Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 and La Campanella.
The piano had a recommended retail price of about $43,000, but was for sale for about $15,000 as it was pre-owned. There were two other pianos the same, except one had ivory keys. I’m quite happy to buy a used piano, because there’s some extra expenses involved in caring for a new piano and I honestly wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between used and new sound/touch. Apparently my Alex Steinback upright grand (with cool dark red finish) could be traded-in for at least $2,000, and I could easily negotiate some more price adjustments. They have a five-years-interest-free deal on, so I could pay it off at under $50 per week. It was terribly exciting and I should have asked Katie to take a picture/video of the ‘kid in a candy store’ look on my face.
Katie and I chatted a bit, then on the way out I tested the touch of the electric grand pianos. These tests had the effect of reinforcing my desire to never waste my time with electronic pianos; the touch is completely different and the sound isn’t the same physical experience (vibrations, direction, etc).
Katie and I our renting a house with two other people, and there are only two places in the house to put the piano. One is in the smallish loungeroom, which is used for watching TV. The other spot is in the open kitchen/meals/family area, which is tiled and right under both of our housemates’ bedrooms. There’s also no vent above the stove, so a lot of surfaces have a faint sheen of oil over them.
Also, Katie and I plan to buy/build somewhere to live more permanently (and on our own) towards the end of next year. If I can help it, I’d rather not move my shiny, newish, always-wanted-one-of-these grand piano.
So, I’ve decided to archive this particular list item for about a year and a half. By then, Katie and I will probably be living on our own somewhere we plan to stay for years, ideally on a large block in the country.
It’s a bit of a let down from my excitement in the store, but on the other hand I got a bit of the excitement now instead of in a few years. There are a few places I can play grand pianos in the meantime and I’ve survived without owning one so far.