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No piece of furniture is more indicative of taste and refinement than a piano, with the grand piano making the boldest statement.

Some piano manufacturers are legendary: Steinway, Yamaha, and Baldwin. But choosing the right piano for you may not mean buying the best concert piano made. With top of the line grand pianos costing $50,000 to $100,000 and stretching up to nine feet in length, they are usually reserved for concert halls and the spacious homes of the true pianists. Upright pianos, the much more affordable and space conscious choice can be excellent music instruments, but they do lack the image of the grands. For those just seeking the keyboard experience and not a showpiece, there are electronic keyboards which have overtaken much of the traditional piano sales because keyboards are considerably less expensive, a lot more portable, and offer more choice of sounds than a traditional piano. Keyboards make an excellent investment for a family with a student learning to play.

Shopping for a piano is like shopping for a painting or a used car -- even when the piano is new. Each piano has individual characteristics that affect its sound quality, with some models of pianos better suited for different types of music. That is, pop, rock, and modern jazz music tend toward a piano with a crisp action and bright timbre whereas orchestral music tends toward rich overtones. But like buying stereo speakers, the sound you hear in the showroom may not match that which you hear at home because of the difference in room dimension and acoustics. Whatever piano you choose, there are lemons among even the top pianos brands so avoid pianos that creak or make thuds when playing.

Lastly, remember that a piano requires care. Keep it in a room with relatively stable temperatures and 40-45% humidity; keep the

piano away from windows and vent and out of the way of direct sunlight. You want to avoid all things that might cause the instrument to frequently or unevenly warm and cool or to warp as these conditions will effect the musical tuning of the instrument. And periodically, you will need to have your piano cleaned of dust and tuned to compensate for the stretching of the strings.

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