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Hi everyone. A non-piano player in need of some help.

Context: I am looking for a piano for my 5 children. I don't play myself but my kids have been learning for some years. My 15 year old has just completed her grade 5 AMEB exam and is working towards Grade 6 for mid next year. Two 13 year olds who will sit grade 4 exams early next year and then move onto grade 5. A 10 year old who is preparing for grade 2 and an 8 year old who hasn't started exams yet. They have been playing on a good quality Roland digital piano but we obviously need an acoustic piano (Well overdue, really) for the older kids getting into higher grades. We live in Queensland in Australia so the climate is very hot and humid, if that makes a difference.

We are also on a budget. Wanting to spend under $4000 (AUD). There are some lovely smaller (108cm) pianos in that price, but from what I have read online, we need at least 121cm in height for the kids going into grade 5 and 6.

I can buy an old, second hand Kawai or Yamaha from a private seller. There are several in my area for around $3000. Most of them (from serial numbers) are made in the 1970s. One Kawai (KU3B) has apparently been refurbed 10 years ago but I only have the seller's word for that. Or a Yamaha No.U1 made in 1975.
I can also get a refurbed Alex Steinbach from a dealer (one who comes highly recommended) for $3900 or a refurbed Kawai BS20 from the dealer for $4900 (starting to push our budget though).
Then there are obviously the usual host of old pianos that people are giving away that would need refurbishing. Several old Beales which are apparently a make worth fixing.

I guess my question is, is the Yamaha/Kawai name really worth the extra cost? $3000 seems a lot to pay for a 50 year old instrument that will need maintenance.
Is it ever worth fixing very old instruments that people are throwing out (circa 1880-1900).
Am I just kidding myself, will I need to just bite the bullet and buy a new instrument at full price to save myself extra expense in the long term? Or can I really get a decent second hand instrument that will suit the needs of advancing players over the years?
If you made it this far, thanks for reading and for your assistance with my vague questions. I'm a bit lost!

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I wouldn't put too much stock on "121 cm" as the make or break threshold - the piano height measurement simply says how tall the top of the cabinet is from the floor, wheels and everything! It is useful in comparison of several models in a series (for example Kawai K-200, K-300, K-500 at 114, 122, and 130 cm respectively), but not necessarily for comparison of pianos of different designs. In fact, it's not unheard of that two models have cabinets of differing heights but are otherwise identical internally. Also, some of the most expensive uprights are below 121 cm, so it's not a prerequisite for a good piano.

With that in mind, a casual look at a Brisbane store website says that you can get a brand new Beale (115 cm) for AUD 4500, or a 118 cm one for 4900 - and these are MSRP before discount. I have no idea how good these pianos are, but you're getting a brand new piano with warranty. It pains me to think that one is paying the same $ but the choice is limited to 50 year old pianos. Anyway, good luck and I hope you find the piano for your kids!


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Originally Posted by cygnusdei
With that in mind, a casual look at a Brisbane store website says that you can get a brand new Beale (115 cm) for AUD 4500, or a 118 cm one for 4900 - and these are MSRP before discount. I have no idea how good these pianos are...

Beale might have made good instruments back in the day as an independent Australian company, but they're now a stencil brand of the Chinese giant Pearl River, selling in the economy end of the market. They might be fine for the money, but I wouldn't expect miracles for <$5000AUD brand new!

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Is it ever worth fixing very old instruments that people are throwing out (circa 1880-1900).

Almost never, unless you have a particular love for the ornate cases, and you have modest expectations and/or deep pockets. You could be extremely lucky and find a good quality instrument that has spent its 130 years in a good environment and therefore has no structural problems and still holds a tune, and maybe it has been lightly used so it only needs a moderate investment to bring it back to a reasonable musical level.... The odds are low though, and even a good survivor instrument might not appreciate the high use of 5 children practicing on it.
There are companies who rebuild these old instruments, but the rebuild cost can be higher than that of new piano of the same performance level. This is perhaps particularly true when you're talking about upright pianos, since the cost to rebuild an upright piano is supposedly not much different to the cost to rebuild a grand piano.

Is the Yamaha / Kawai name really worth the extra cost? It's a bit like the Toyota name - some bemoan the "Toyota tax" but there must be some degree of justification for it. Even a Toyota can wear out though, so when you're talking 50-year-old pianos, the standard advice on this forum would be to pay a technician to inspect any that you're keen on. That's after you've played as many as possible and compared the tone and the touch to that of new pianos of the same price. Perhaps your children would like to be involved in this. smile


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Beale pianos are built by Pearl River in China. Alex Steinbach pianos are basically rebadged Samicks built by Samick in South Korea.

How old is the refurbished Steinbach? Do you know what was done to it?

New models of either brand would be suitable for casual home use. I'm guessing that the Beale brand would be the more affordable of the two. I agree that there is nothing magic about 121 cm, although taller pianos usually have a better bass.

Regarding the 1970 era instruments.....if you have one evaluated for you by an independent tech you will have a good sense of what might go wrong with it, if anything. smile


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FWIW regarding height measurement, the following may be illustrative. Although height in absolute terms is not a sufficient qualification one way or another, what you want to watch out for is ones that are so short, the keyboard height is also lower that there is barely enough leg room. This is indicative of serious corner cutting in the design and in my experience this would severely affect the tone quality of the instrument (think 'tinny') - not to mention the compromise on ergonomics as pointed out above.

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Personally, I would be very worried about 50 year old pianos not being a true upgrade from a good digital piano. 50 years old is quite an old piano. If interested, definitely have these pianos checked out by a technician, and let the technician know about the intended use of the instrument. If possible, I’d try finding a piano that’s less than 20 years old. I think such a piano is more likely to have more valuable years ahead, but even so, it’s probably worth having an independent technician evaluate any used piano that you are seriously considering.

I was hoping some folks might comment on the price side. My sense is that the prices you’re seeing for the used Yamahas are on the high side. Check out this article from PianoBuyer.com: https://www.pianobuyer.com/article/buying-a-used-or-restored-piano-how-much-is-it-worth/ . As you can see, a 50 year old vertical piano I’m average condition is estimated to be worth about 10% of a new piano of he same model.
Pricing in Australia will be different from the US, but I suspect the depreciation table is still a pretty good guide. Also, it seems like demand for pianos is at a bit of a high point and supply is low, so the piano market may be a bit weird these days (and more of a seller’s market). Good luck!

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Considering the amount of use this piano will get, your budget is not realistic and you won't be getting what you need. You need a new or almost new higher quality piano than the usual low level Chinese or similar. This piano will need to be strong and reliable for hours a day for many years. You need a more realistic budget.

Is 10 iPhones too much? Perhaps have your family keep their phones for an extra year and there's your new budget. It's all priorities

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Originally Posted by Carey
Beale pianos are built by Pearl River in China. Alex Steinbach pianos are basically rebadged Samicks built by Samick in South Korea.

How old is the refurbished Steinbach? Do you know what was done to it?

New models of either brand would be suitable for casual home use. I'm guessing that the Beale brand would be the more affordable of the two. I agree that there is nothing magic about 121 cm, although taller pianos usually have a better bass.

Regarding the 1970 era instruments.....if you have one evaluated for you by an independent tech you will have a good sense of what might go wrong with it, if anything. smile

Hi Carey.

Are you sure that the rebadged Samick's were made in Korea and not in the Indonesian plant?


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Originally Posted by Steve Cohen
Hi Carey. Are you sure that the rebadged Samick's were made in Korea and not in the Indonesian plant?
Thanks for the gentle nudge, Steve. When I looked into this issue last night, the internet sources I found were somewhat vague about where the Steinbach's are built. Upon further research I'm now convinced that while the brand may have originally been produced in South Korea it is now being built in Indonesia.

From Pianobuyer:

"Quality control in Samick’s South Korean and Indonesian factories has steadily improved over the years, and the Indonesian product is said to be almost as good as the Korean. The company says that new CNC machinery installed in 2007 has revolutionized the consistency and accuracy of its manufacturing. Climate control in the tropically situated Indonesian factory, and issues of action geometry, are also among the areas that have seen improvement. Many of Samick’s Indonesian pianos are priced similarly to low-cost pianos from China."

That said, I also re-read the OP's original post and realized that their youngest child in only eight - which means the family will need a durable instrument that can sustain at least ten years of heavy use. I doubt that any of the pianos the OP mentioned thus far would adequately meet that criteria - and encourage the family to up their budget and either buy something comparable to a new Yamaha U1 or find a used Yamaha or Kawai (preferably 114 cm or taller) that is less than 20 years old and in excellent condition.

Last edited by Carey; 11/11/21 12:53 PM.

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I agree with Carey that there's nothing magical about 121cm. Generally, the taller it is, the better the tone, but in terms of playability, you mainly want to avoid console and spinet sizes, because they tend to have internal design compromises in order to fit into shorter cases (so I would suggest avoiding anything under 112cm).

And I wouldn't fret too much about where a piano is made. It's current condition is what matters (and how much you like it, of course).

Speaking of the condition, and since you're going to invest a significant amount of money, you should have a piano inspected before buying to avoid any hidden problems or looming maintenance issues. Also, people typically have their pianos tuned once or twice a year, and with five kids playing, you may need tuning and/or maintenance more frequently than that.

I point all this out because I've heard that it's difficult to find technicians in the remoter parts of Australia (of course, I don't know what part of QLD you live in, only that it's huge). So, just be sure that you have a good tech available, and that you've factored tuning and maintenance into your budget too.

Good luck with your search.


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Originally Posted by Ben_NZ
They might be fine for the money, but I wouldn't expect miracles for <$5000AUD brand new!

That's a good point. After all, OP did say "I'm looking for miracles for my 5 children."

😋

(sorry OP, lol)


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Originally Posted by cygnusdei
That's a good point. After all, OP did say "I'm looking for miracles for my 5 children."

😋

What a meanie. :p
OP is trying to upgrade from a good quality digital piano. Last time I played a new upright for that sort of money (it wasn't a Beale, and this was a number of years ago), I think a good digital would have been preferable. :p


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Thanks folks. I appreciate you taking the time to reply, has helped clarify what I should be looking for. Clearly people are asking far too much for their old instruments here.

We are going to play a few at a dealer this week and have seen a 2018 Yamaha U1JPE (made in Indonesia, but I believe a lot of the Yamahas for the Australian market are manufactured in Indonesia these days) advertised for $4800 which seems much more realistic than similarly priced 50 year old instruments.

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Ha! You're right though, I am looking for a miracle! Champagne on a beer budget. 5 children all playing 2 instruments plus sports etc etc puts a strain on any budget. Ideally I'd like a $10000 instrument for about $5000. Surely not too much to ask?

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Originally Posted by 5playersinoz
We are going to play a few at a dealer this week and have seen a 2018 Yamaha U1JPE (made in Indonesia, but I believe a lot of the Yamahas for the Australian market are manufactured in Indonesia these days) advertised for $4800 which seems much more realistic than similarly priced 50 year old instruments.
I saw a new U1JPE advertised online by an Australian dealer for $7.6K, so $4.8K for a 2018 model seems very reasonable. You may have a winner there !!


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Originally Posted by 5playersinoz
Ha! You're right though, I am looking for a miracle! Champagne on a beer budget. 5 children all playing 2 instruments plus sports etc etc puts a strain on any budget. Ideally I'd like a $10000 instrument for about $5000. Surely not too much to ask?

You may want to be careful - before joining Piano World your budget was $4000 but now it's $5000. We are a bad influence 😅


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upgrading from digital, a Yamaha U1 is always a safe choice,
here in Indonesia older 1980-90's (Japan made) U1 is about A$2-2.5k, so once you got the condition checked, the children like its touch & sound, an A$4.8k 2018 U1 should be a good bargain.

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Pretty soon I'll be spending 10k anyway... ha!
Another question - a Yamaha U3 with serial number H2973803. Online if I include the H, it tells me it is manufactured in China in 2010. Without the H, it tells me it is manufactured in Japan in 1979.
How do I know if I should include the letter or not? It is stamped next to the serial number, same font, size etc. The U3 is embossed, larger and some distance away so it doesn't look like it is part of the model number.
Thank you!

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I recently traded in my U3... it's number was H 3079200 .. it was manufactured in 1980 I was told. I had bought it 3.5 years previously " refurbished".

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Quote
From Pianobuyer:

"Quality control in Samick’s South Korean and Indonesian factories has steadily improved over the years, and the Indonesian product is said to be almost as good as the Korean. The company says that new CNC machinery installed in 2007 has revolutionized the consistency and accuracy of its manufacturing. Climate control in the tropically situated Indonesian factory, and issues of action geometry, are also among the areas that have seen improvement. Many of Samick’s Indonesian pianos are priced similarly to low-cost pianos from China."

Since I saw my first Samick over 40 years ago, a variation of the above quote has been said every year. At some point, it's time to ignore that.

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