I'm finally getting around to posting about this...
My recent piano shopping experience was not quite as involved as some others. But it was a 5-month long roller coaster of a ride.
First some background
: I've been playing piano since I was 7 years old. Took private lessons for 10 years, then went on to major in music in college.
Unlike my classmates I did not go into music education. (What else does one do with a music major?!). So after college I took a break from music while I tried to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. (30 years later, I'm still trying to figure that out)
My mom has a Young Chang G185 grand piano which she bought in the mid-1980s, and that was the piano I had growing up.
When I moved out of mom's house, I bought an Alesis QS8.1. But admittedly it was not an inspiring instrument to play. So I didn't keep up with playing the piano.
When my wife and I met 20 years ago, she had a Baldwin Acrosonic at her parents' house, which was her piano growing up.
When we bought our first place, my mom asked if we wanted the YC grand. But we didn't have room for it in our condo. We still had my Alesis, which was easy to move around.
A few years later we bought our house, then had our son. Meanwhile the Alesis was still sitting in the living room.
Our son liked to play on the Alesis, especially the drum sounds. sigh...
A family friend started teaching our son how to play piano. After a year or so we took the Acrosonic from my wife's parents.
The piano had been neglected for 20+ years. It was way out of tune, the action is too light for my liking, and the dampers bled. However I have to admit that I really enjoyed having an acoustic piano in the house. I decided that I never wanted to be one of those people that say "I used to play the piano." So despite the flaws in that piano, I started playing again, after a 20 year hiatus.
I spoke with two different technicians about repairing the piano -- regulating the action and replacing the dampers. Both of them said that the cost to repair is more than the piano is worth, so we just got it tuned and enjoyed it as-is. My wife enjoyed hearing me play (got her fooled! hehe)
And I was also trying to inspire our son to practice more. Our family friend also "graduated" him and now he's taking lessons from a very good teacher.
When we would visit my mom we would also get to play the grand piano, which I always enjoyed.
With that background out of the way, now we get to the piano search
My son has been taking lessons now for 3.5 years and is getting pretty good. He's a LOT more advanced than I was after 4 years of lessons.
A few months ago my mom reiterated her offer and asked if we want the grand piano. I was excited by the idea! My wife said that we have no room for a grand piano.
So I graphed it out, got rid of some old furniture, including a broken grandfather clock and an old TV cabinet that we didn't use anymore, and realized that we can just barely fit a 6' grand.
However when we started to look at mom's piano with a critical eye, we realized that it needs a little bit of work. It still plays very nicely, but it is 40 years old.
So we started out looking at inexpensive grand pianos, comparable to the YC. What I was finding was mostly pianos in similar or worse condition. Which means I'd have to pay for the piano AND the repairs. So then we raised the budget a bit in the hopes that we could find a comparable piano that doesn't need quite so much work.
In my search I played well over 100 pianos, and seriously considered about a dozen of them.
Early on I drove out to western NJ and played a restored Mason & Hamlin model B (5'4"). It played beautifully. But having mom's 6' grand as an option, it was difficult to fall in love with a 5'4". I played a Kawai RX2. Very nice piano, in excellent condition. But there was a period of unrest with my wife's job, so we didn't want to spend the money until we knew what was going on with the job. In the meantime the Kawai sold.
Then I found a very nice Baldwin R being sold by an older couple looking to downsize. The piano was in excellent condition physically, and for-better-or-worse it had a PianoDisc player system. I played that piano before we knew what was going on with my wife's job so we didn't rush into it. Plus at 5'8" it's still smaller than I would have liked.
I also played a few Mason & Hamlin A models, all of which needed to be restored, including one that was offered to me for free. I spoke with my technician about it and he was up for the project. But ultimately we decided not to take on that project.
Once we figured out what was going on with my wife's job we decided to move forward with that Baldwin R. I called my tech to inspect it, but he was diagnosed with covid, so he was out of commission for a few weeks. And although the piano sat unsold for months, in those two weeks it sold.
In addition to private sales I also looked at some of the local stores. At Allegro Pianos in Stamford CT we played an Estonia L168 in African Bubinga. My son fell in love with that piano. And I will admit that when I heard him play on it, he played with a level of expressiveness that I had never heard from him before.
It was at the upper end of our budget range. And my wife was not crazy about the color, so we didn't get it.
Another store near us had a similar Estonia L168, but in Ebony. For whatever reason, or combination of reasons -- the atmosphere & acoustics of the showroom, the psychoacoustics of the bubinga color, the dealer prep -- the ebony piano was not as fulfilling as the bubinga. So we didn't get that one either. Remember, I still had the option of mom's 6' grand, so I wasn't too excited by the idea of a 5'6" piano anyway. The same dealer also had a Baldwin R similar to the private sale one. It was very nice -- I liked it a lot. But at 3X the cost of the private sale, I could not justify spending that much for such an old piano. But it was very educational to play it alongside the Estonia L168. I liked both pianos, but for different reasons.
The search continued...
I went to the Steinway store on Long Island to play a used Baldwin L (6'3"). The damper pedal was disconnected. I was pretty annoyed that I made a special trip to the store and the piano wasn't even in working order. As i was getting ready to leave their tech came in and reconnected the pedal, so I got to play it. It had a nice enough tone but the action was way out of regulation.
Went to a different store where they also had a Baldwin L. Guess what? The damper pedal was disconnected! Didn't bode well for that model.
Actually they had a Seiler ED186 which I liked a LOT. It was above our price range. But after playing that one, nothing else in the store spoke to me like that one.
My son's teacher's friend was selling a Steinway O. Restored in the 1980s. Still in very good condition. I'll admit, I liked that piano a LOT. And if my son weren't with me I probably would have bought it. But he was with me, and he didn't like it. At this time, he was used to the light action of our Acrosonic. And in our shopping excusions, he has been spoiled playing new/newer pianos with Renner actions. So this 100 yr old Steinway didn't do it for him. He also has not performed in recitals like I did when I was younger, so the Steinway brand doesn't have the same mystique for him.
I want to encourage him to practice, so buying a piano that he doesn't like would not be a good idea, even if it is a Steinway. (To me, however, that piano will likely always be the one that got away)
Then i found myself in NJ and went to Altenburg, where they had two August Forster 190 models as well as a used Boston 193. That's where I fell in love. The AF190 was a magnificent instrument. As with the Seiler at the NY store, it was well above my price range. But the Boston checked all the boxes -- color, condition, size, and it was within budget...
However... sitting next to the Forster it just did not measure up. As nice as the Boston is, I knew that I would not be happy with it after playing that Forster.
So my wife and I discussed our budget and raised it again... My mom also offered to contribute towards her grandson's piano.
Meanwhile, Allegro contacted me to let me know that they got an ebony 2011 Estonia L190 in the store.
On the advice of the good folks on this forum I also took a drive out to Forte in NJ, where they had both an Estonia L190 and an August Forster 190, and my son and I could play them back-to-back, as well as some new Shigeru Kawai and Schimmel pianos. My son and I both preferred the Estonia over the AF. (The new pianos were educational to play, but we did not seriously consider those)
Then we made our last stop. We checked out that Estonia L190 at Allegro. It was a few dollars more than the one at Forte. But it is newer and in better condition. It was as expressive as the bubinga 168 that my son liked. It was the color that my wife liked, and the size that I wanted.
And after a 5 month search, that piano is now sitting in my living room.
A few days after it was delivered I had to go out of town for work for 2 weeks, so I didn't get to enjoy the piano. And that's why I didn't post here sooner.
When I got back home, my son participated in a virtual recital.
If you've read all this, thanks for reading. And thank you for welcoming me into the group, and a special thanks to everyone who has helped me during this search.