Investing in a grand piano during a down economy might not figure to be a very common or smart buy at the time of this writing. Nevertheless, many families still do buy grand pianos for their homes or perhaps already deal with caring for one through multiple decades and generations. I fall under the latter category, and challenges in keeping it up to top condition or worrying about the carrying sound to neighbors have been there since growing up with a six-foot grand in my family’s living room.
While the piano isn’t in my own residence now, making sure that the house’s temperature and humidity balanced carefully usually took more precedence than the time taken learning how to play the instrument. And, yes, there’s that little issue about whether your next-door neighbors really enjoy hearing the sound of a piano on a regular basis.
If you’re deciding to invest in a new grand piano, the advantage will be that you won’t have to invest money in tuning it right away due to a previous lack of humidity and temperature control. But buying used may inevitably lead to this as an immediate expense. Long before the delivery truck arrives with the folded grand piano in tow, though, you should spend some extra hours, days or even weeks picking the right spot to place the piano in your home.
A lot of quick assumptions are going to inevitably arise if not sibling arguments.
The immediate thought with a first-time grand piano buyer might be to avoid any discussion with the family about placing it on an outside wall. Don’t avoid those spots in your house if there’s a perfect spot for the piano, depending on if your insulation is good in the house. Even though this article assumes you have a normal house made of wood, I know an equal amount of people buying any type of piano will also be living in a mobile or manufactured home. In those dwellings, it’s best that you not place the piano next to an outside wall and better to have it near the divider wall on a double wide home if it doesn’t stick out akin to a compact car sitting in the room.
Obviously, insulation isn’t going to be as durable in a home such as this, nor in shielding the sound. For a normal home, however, you can always place a piano next to an outside wall as long as there isn’t a window there. One of the immediate temptations of placing a piano in a home is to put it next to a window for natural light, enjoying the outside world while practicing (usually as much of a necessity as distance viewing after sitting at a computer) or watching angry neighbors giving you the finger for making them have to listen to you pound out a Liszt Etude while they were trying to sleep.
Not to be facetious about your neighbors: Most neighbors will love hearing you play within reason, based on my own experience. So don’t be afraid to place that piano on the outside wall, sans a window near it or a heat vent.
Yes, that problem of balancing temperature around your piano is going to be your biggest concern before and after the piano arrives.
The only thing you have to remember without making it complicated is to not let excessive cold or heat get anywhere near the piano. So if you plan to have it by an outside wall, inside wall or in the middle of your living room, you’ll have to keep the temperature in the room consistently moderated all the time. I know that might seem unreasonable when it’s almost impossible to control temperatures all year round without hiring a temperature/humidity watchman for your living room to keep things moderated. Or, you could buy the next best thing: A system installed in the piano that controls the piano’s temperature for you.
While buying these sophisticated devices is a bit of an expense (see source links), having one under the lid of the piano will keep the temperature maintained through the coldest winter or the hottest summer. Cold usually does the most damage to a piano and making the tuning a big problem and expense once spring and summer roll around. However, if you’re one of those who keeps the heat down in the winter to avoid outrageous energy bills, sometimes just investing in a tiny humidifier to place inside the piano will work well. This procedure is more common rather than buying a complete system to keep a balanced temperature.
Of course, if you decide on having either one of these devices inside your piano, it’ll mean keeping the lid open. It’s here where the balance of sound comes into play in your home. Know that if you have a moderate to large grand in the house with the lid open all the time, the sound is going to be very loud to people sitting nearby, presumably hearing you play. This also means the sound projecting to the outside world if you’re living in a typical suburban neighborhood with homes within breathing space of each other.
If temperature control and location of piano placement are the most important, so too is asking yourself whether to raise the lid or not to raise the lid. (No male/female debates over toilets allowed here.) It’ll all depend on personal preference, though I suggest keeping the lid shut most of the time unless you decide to have regular soirees where sound amplification is important to fill out the whole room.
And, if you’re placing the piano in a room as intention of entertaining there frequently, always remember to place the open lid side toward where people will be sitting so they’ll get the full effect of your playing. Arranging chairs and lounges around the piano can also be a fun interior decorating activity that can be done based on your personal preferences.
Taking these basic tips seriously and understanding you’ll have to fit annual tuning and other piano upkeep into your budget, you’ll likely have multi-generations of parties at your home where people ask you to play the piano rather than asking what’s on TV.