expert piano reviews, guides and advice

Grand and upright piano ranking

The most recognized piano brands in the world are Steinway & Sons, Bosendorfer, Fazioli, Yamaha, Kawai, Bechstein, Bluthner, Baldwin, Grotrian Steinweg, August Forster, Steingraeber & Sohne, Schimmel, Schiedmayer, Sauter, Petrof, Estonia, Mason & Hamlin. The new Steinway D concert piano, which stands on the stage of many philharmonics in the world, is about 200,000 euros.

China has a huge increase in instrument production. Many recognized brands have their factories there, where cheaper instrument models are produced. The Chinese themselves produce pianos under the names of formerly renowned European companies.

Popular companies include: Wendl & Lung, Feurich, Pearl River, Ritmuller, Kingsburg, Perzina, Steinberg and the cheapest Kawai and Yamaha models.

Grand and upright piano ranking

I changed my mind a bit and I think that not everything that is produced in China is terrible. The quality and prices are getting better. So if someone really wants to have a new instrument - there is something to think about. I was very positively surprised by the quality of the piano Gebr. Perzina produced in China. It turns out that the instruments are made of European parts, which positively affects the quality of the piano. I also enjoyed playing the Pearl River or Feurich pianos - I was surprised by the well-working piano mechanics. Of course, Steinway pianos, Bosendorfer or Yamaha mod. CF is a different league, but so is the price ...

But let's get back down on earth... Most often we are looking for good used pianos available in our budget. Personally, I think there are a lot of German, Swedish, Czech and Japanese pianos on the secondary market that are well made and for the most part are affordable.

What is the most important thing while making a choice? First of all, the technical efficiency of the instrument, even sound and the preparation in terms of regulation and tuning. Bland or sharp sounds shouldn't be examples for our ears. So what's the nice sound? I am often asked about this. First of all an open, sonorous and rounded sound. A good instrument should have expressive bass and crystal, pearl-like highs. It's easiest for higher instruments and concert instruments - though this isn't a rule.

From the German companies, I particularly recommend the brands: Steinway, Grotrian Steinweg, Bluthner, C. Bechstein, August Forster, Schimmel, Sauter, Schiedmayer, Zeitter & Winkelmann.

Steinway & Sons factory

There are also companies such as Wilhelm Steinmann, Geyer, Fuchs & Mochr, Zimmermann - these are pianos produced in eastern Germany - DDR - often by furniture companies. These are mainly cheaper pianos. This is generally not something special - a similar level to our Calisia or Legnica. Of course, the instruments are suitable for playing, practice - but they are not very valuable pianos.

Petrof, Rosler, Weinbach are Czech productions. Well-made, solid instruments. If you want to choose a piano on your own, especially a Czech instrument - it's worth relying on the opinion of a professional. It happens that they have too bland or too sharp sounds.

Scandinavian pianos are becoming more and more popular in Poland: Nordiska, Malmsjo, Ostlindt, Svenska, Ekstroms, Nylund & Son, Fazer, Hellas. They are generally very good educational pianos - often with German branded mechanisms mounted inside the instrument.

Japanese instruments are also popular - especially Yamaha and Kawai. There are so many piano models from these companies that it's easy to get lost. Some are made in Japan, others in China or Indonesia. Their big plus is precision, fashionable appearance. Some copies may sound too clear, glassy, which not everyone likes. The best Yamaha pianos include the U series, in which we distinguish popular U1, U2, U3 models.

Yamaha factory

Now a paragraph dedicated to Polish productions. The best known are of course Calisia and Legnica. The quality of production is quite uneven - it is worth looking into the specific piano you're interested in. The older ones play quite well, later they started to turn out differently.

To their disadvantage is also the fact that there are a lot of them in music schools, community centers, elementary schools, in a deplorable state, where nobody cares about them. However, before the war, really valuable instruments were produced in today's Poland. In general, there used to be a different approach. No global production, only real crafts. And so pianos by Sommerfeld, Seiler, Fibiger are first-class machines for playing and making music. There are still some of these pianos on the market - their condition does not always allow for use and practice but it is worth taking care of them, renovating and cultivating traditions. These are instruments with potential that will repay you with beautiful music.

I do not recommend Soviet pianos - Belarus, Nocturno, Tchaikovsky. It is better not to buy them. Unless I have only a few hundred zlotys to buy an instrument, then sure. Because it's better to play even on such a piano than none at all.

It is worth remembering that brand X pianos do not always sound the same. On the one hand, it is true that instruments of the same brand have a common identity and character. On the other hand, they can be different from each other. First of all - it is not always possible to produce an instrument in the factory just as well. Production may change over the years. Secondly - in the case of used instruments - the way they are stored, the degree of wear, as well as the quality of the tuner technician taking care of the instrument affects it. Therefore, when choosing an instrument - I advise you to approach each of them individually. Also, don't think the other way and don't expect concert grand piano quality from cheap compact pianos!

I don't write about digital pianos because I'm not interested in them. I only sometimes play them out of necessity.

Grzegorz Rychlik
Author: Grzegorz Rychlik

Pianist and laureate of piano competitions, as well as piano teacher.
You can learn more about our author by visiting his website