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Piano Purchase

 I am going to be purchasing a piano for my choral classroom. There are two that I am looking at. One is a traditional Yamaha Baby Grand (used). It has a lovely sound and would be a fine piano. The other one is a bit more non-traditional. It is the Yamaha AvantGrand N3 ( I am intrigued by all of the possibilites this piano offers. I have seen and heard both pianos in person, and I am pleased with the sound of both of them. They are also at comparable price points. So, I am wondering if any of you out there have a AvantGrand (or other comperable digital piano) and can speak to your experience with it, either positive or negative, or both!
Thank you!
Jennifer Gaderlund
on January 21, 2015 9:52am
Having worked for a music retailer/piano dealer (including Yamaha) for several years, a couple of thoughts come to mind:
1. What is the age/history/condition of the baby grand? Have you or are you able to have it thoroughly checked by a qualified piano technician? Like most things, manufacturing processes have improved to create better-sounding, more stable pianos.
2. I am not aware of any digital piano that is comparable in design to the AvantGrand: the keyboard is taken directly from their grand pianos. The number of speakers and power amps and their placement delivers a very convincing sound and feel. The keys vibrate just like an acoustic piano. I have played each of the AvantGrand models; they feel and sound great.
3. What about the space and climate in your classroom? The AvantGrand is a bit shorter than Yamaha's baby grands (these are usually 5 feet at least). It is not subject to temperature and humidity changes and doesn't need tuning. It may not provide quite the aesthetic of a grand piano, but may well be suitable for your rehearsal space.
on January 21, 2015 10:01am
One of the virtues of the traditional piano is that its development reached its modern form over a century ago. As a result, well-made pianos (wich certainly includes Yamaha) can last a very long time with regular maintenance, and retain their value. Parts for standard pianos made a century ago are in stock at supply houses. (They also work during a power failure!) On the other hand, we all know how the world of digital electronics not only has progressed, but continues to do so at an ever-increasing rate. Digital pianos have many features that go beyond the traditional acoustic piano and require no routine maintenance, but will a particular electronic component be available if one fails in 20 years?
This is not a vote against a digital instrument. (I'm a piano technician, by the way). Both types have their virtues, but they're different. I'd suggest thinking about both your present and  long-term needs and see which choice is the best fit. This reminds me of the farmer who wanted to buy a cow and a bicycle but could only afford one. "I guess I'd look pretty silly riding a cow," he sad to a friend, who replied, "Not as silly as you'd look trying to milk a bicycle."
Applauded by an audience of 1
on January 21, 2015 11:25am
In 2003, I bought a Yamaha Clavinova, the next-to-the-top model.  It was a demo model at a piano store, which recommended it--for school use-- over a standard, and cost somewhere between $4000-5000.  I have been very pleased with it.   These were my circumstances:  I was in my 3rd year of teaching elementary music and choir; don't play piano but had a colleague at the school who accompanied the choir.  I had the usual school upright piano in the room, with two broken keys.  Due to budget cuts, there was no money to repair or tune pianos at our nine elementary schools, only the middle and high schools got piano maintenance.  I wanted our performances to be as good as possible, so I bought the Clavinova with my own money.  Some people buy a more expensive car to ensure reliability and be able to get to work in the winter; I bought a piano to help ensure my work was as good as possible (I retained ownership of course).  It was the practice of our district arts supervisor (who was half time for 12 schools) to evaluate us by observing our concerts, so I wanted a good piano for that reason too.
My accompanist was skeptical, but after trying it judged it to be quite good, certainly better than any upright school piano.  For me it had the following advantages:
1.  When a printed arrangement is too high or low for my students, the Clavinova will transpose automatically with the push of a button.
2.   When the accompanist is not available, I can play back a recording of her, and adjust tempo and pitch as needed.
3.  Never needs tuning.
4.  Has other tone colors when appropriate, like harpsichord and organ.
5.  Lighter and more easily moved.
on January 21, 2015 5:50pm
I own one of the Yamaha hybrid ( N1 instead of the AvanteGrand 3) series and a Clavinova 209.  I also have a Clavinova 109 in my office. I like all three machines for very different reasons. A consideration in your decision is the ability to record accompaniments.  Will you need to do this? The N1 has a USB connection but you may choose between a midi file and a wave file recording. At times the wave file is much more handy, especially if editing. The feel of the N1 is is closer to the traditonal piano feel. The Clavinova does not have to be tuned but it does need cleaning and minor maintainence about once a year as will your hybrid. This is another consideration.  Is there a repairman in your area? I have been told that my N1 will need regulation.  I like the fact that none of my instruments are subject to temperature/humidity conditions.  Hope this helps in making your decision. I think I would be inclined toward the digital instrument.
on January 22, 2015 5:28am
Have a close look at the Yamaha U3 upright, vey superior instrument. 
on January 22, 2015 8:19am
My $0.02... The church I serve had a top-of-the-line Roland digital grand, and I started out skeptical but I have come to enjoy the great sound, touch, and flexibility.  But I was told it would be 'maintenance free' and that is not the case.  It does have moving parts, and they will eventually need adjustment, repair, and replacement.  Repair costs may need to be part of your annual budget, and should not be expensive, but you should keep it in mind.
on January 24, 2015 10:59am
Thank you for the thoughtful responses! My accompanist (who is also a patron of my program) is the one who found these pianos and I am working closely with him to make the decision. He really likes the sound and feel of the digital piano. I was skeptikal at first, but after I heard it, I thought it sounded just like an amplified acoustic piano. I am intrigued by the digital piano because of many of the reasons mentioned. I like the idea of being able to record accompaniments quickly and easily. My accompanist is not there on a daily basis, so it would be nice to have the accompaniment there if we want to do a run though on a day he is not present. I also like not having to tune the piano. We currently spend $600 per year tuning pianos and the cost of that will go up once our theater is finished (it will house a full Grand). Plus, if I ever wanted to move it to different part of campus for a performance, I could do so without worrying about it going out of tune.
I suppose I could record accompaniments with an acoustic piano with a laptop and $200 worth of microphones, but I know that if it isn't easy, it won't happen. There is just too much to do on a daily basis!
I am curious about the cost of maintainence. Some of you mentioned that the digital pianos still need repair/ongoing maintainence. How much per year do you have budgeted for that?
I like the look of the AvantGrand N3, but I have to admit, when I think of an actual acoustic Baby Grand sitting in my choral classroom, I get warm fuzzies. *sigh* Decisions, Decisions!
on January 25, 2015 11:32am
About the maintenance: I'm at a church, and we are fortunate to have a couple of budget lines where we can charge an occasional repair.  When planning for the budget, I just keep in mind that we may need $500.00 or so and put it in the same line as the sound system operation.  At the end of the year, if there have not been any repair expenditures, I'm able to use the money for purshasing equipment.
I've been at the church about 6 years and I think the repair guy has been out three times, which I think is very reasonable.  We've had to have work done on the trapwork; the switches in the pedals began to fail.  We had trouble with the touch sensitivity - it only played LOUD until it was 'warmed up' - and so we had the contact sheets replaced; that's the pads the hammers strike in place of strings.  We've also had some regulation work done on some keys.  It will not need regular tuning like a traditional piano, but you will need the name of a good repairman.  Your dealer should be able to help.
on January 26, 2015 12:59pm
As a pianist, I of course prefer the real thing over the digital copy. We are fortunate to have five really fine grand pianos at my church. But, the challenge and expense  of maintaining those instruments is very real... for the most part, they are housed in rooms that have extremely dry climates (brutally dry during the heating system). While each piano has a humidification system, one has to be really diligent about making sure the pianos stay "watered" and that folks don't unintentionally unplug the humidification systems. I just bought the new Kawai CS10 hybrid piano for my office. And I must say that it is really REALLY impressive. My community choir also uses the new Yamaha NU1... and it too is very impressive.  So, on the basis of both those instruments, I'd have no problem recommending you use a digital keyboard, especially if it is a high quality instrument (Like the Kawai or Yamaha) AND you are in a climate such as ours, where the real thing is hard to maintain. Another interesting factor is that the digital pianos include alternative tunings... such as Werkmeister III...  this is very interesting in that your your choir can hear pure tunings for chords instead of equal (i.e. not quite in tune) tunings.
on May 5, 2015 8:07am
Hi Everyone,
In case anyone is still following this thread and is curious about the outcome, I did make a decision! We ended up with a new Yamaha C1X. An acoustic baby grand.
After reading your replies and discussing it more with my accompanist and colleagues, we felt that a traditional piano was the way to go. It arrived last week and it was so thrilling to watch it get unpacked and set up! It is a gorgeous instrument and has a beautiful, mellow sound. 
It may have been the "safe" choice, but I am really happy with it and it will hopefully last for a long time to come.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 6, 2015 8:04am
Congratulations, Jennifer! Last for a long time to come? How about a century or more? I'm sure your dealer has told you of Yamaha's tuning recommendations, which are pretty much standard: 4 times the first year, while the new strings are stretching and the piano getting used to the 20+ tons of tension on them, and twice a year thereafter (Steinway says "Have your piano tuned at least 4 time a year," period). The goal is to maintain the tuning (and not have to correct lt), which is especiallly important for your application as well as the structural health of the piano. For church pianos, which after all are used for public performance, I recommend 3 tunings a year: before Christmas, before Easter, and somewhere around Labor Day. Also have your technician show you how to remove and replace the fallboard (key cover); it's ridiculously easy on a Yamaha. Reason: pens, pencils, and paper clips have a way of falling down inside on top of the keys in grands and should be removed before they get stuck. Most common occurences: church pianos, rehearsal room pianos, piano teachers' pianos. 
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