The best player piano system?

At chicagopianos.com, we often get calls from customers across the country asking us which player piano system is the best.  These inquiries stem from the fact that we are in the unique position of being an authorized dealer for all three major player piano systems — the Yamaha Disklavier, QRS player piano systems and the full line of PianoDisc iQ player systems.   We have been told by many customers that they can’t find any dealer who truly represents all three.  The reasons for this could be the subject of another blog…a lengthy blog, so we won’t address that here but the important thing here is that you’re reading a blog entry about player pianos written by a piano dealer who A) is speaking from a distinctly unbiased position and B) has been carrying digital player systems for almost 25 years.

The notion of chicagopianos.com being a dealer for all three major player systems is indeed so unique that we had a “player piano summit” are our store where we invited representatives from each manufacturer to give a presentation to the press about “the latest and greatest”.  It was the first and only time this has ever been done.

The impetus for this particular blog is account of because of the newest player piano system from QRS.  We simply HAD to blog about it.  The below video shows the incredible ease of use the new QRS Pianomation2 player piano offers.  It’s truly amazing.  You can walk in our store, take your smartphone and within one minute you will have QRS’ entire library at your fingertips, controlling the piano from your phone.  There is no control box on the piano so there is no visual indication the piano is even a player piano.  Best of all, the most popular songs and recording artists in the world are represented in the QRS library and available for playback.  To clarify further, we mean the original recording artist’s versions play from cyberspace, so you hear, say, Billy Joel actually singing Just the Way You Are (as in the video) or Alicia Keys singing Fallin’ while the piano accompanies that original artist’s performance.

While all three player piano manufacturers offer the ability to hear original artist’s recordings, the new QRS Pianomation 2 system is hands down the easiest way to hear such music.  Please contact us for specific information about how the other systems differ.

The ease of use with the new Pianomation 2 system does not mean that this system is for everyone.  It just happens to be a breakthrough in the area of easily accessing a huge library of original artist recordings.  The features of other player systems may be of equal or greater importance to your particular needs so if you’re in the market for a player piano, please contact us to discuss this.

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A new Estonia 225 7’4″ piano has arrived…and it’s for sale…sort of.

This just in!  We’re pretty excited around here at Cordogan’s Pianoland because we have a very elusive creature in our store — an unsold Estonia 225 grand piano.  Since its 2011 unveiling at the NAMM International Trade Show, Estonia’s 7’4″ semi-concert grand model has been almost impossible for dealers to obtain without a pre-sold invoice accompanying the order, but Cordogan’s was able to receive a new, unsold Estonia 225 model because the new model is going to be the focus of an upcoming Piano Technicians Guild meeting at our store October 16th.

This means we have a 225 available to audition which is actually purchasable.  This motivated several potential buyers to come in from great distances to play an Estonia 225.  We cannot deliver the piano, however, until after October 16th, so if the future owner of this piano is reading this, we hope you understand!  🙂

The Estonia 225 joins the Estonia 168, Estonia 190 and the Estonia 274 as the fourth model in this revered product line which is widely accepted as rivaling the greatest pianos in the world.

Here is a video of Dr. Indrek Laul, the president of the Estonia Piano Factory, performing on the new Estonia 225:

And here is a video of several different pianists performing on the Estonia 225 at the 2012 NAMM trade show in Anaheim, CA.

New York Times Article on Deep-Sixing Pianos

Here’s an interesting article from the New York Times about how many used pianos are actually hitting the dumpster these days.  No surprise over here. I’d say that a quarter of the used pianos that people are trying to SELL privately unfortunately belong in a dumpster.  I’d like to add two comments to this article:

1) I don’t think the article did a good job indicating that many used pianos ARE worth restoring and that the used piano industry is exponentially bigger than the new piano industry so buying a restored used piano is definitely a viable option for many piano buyers.

2) Stories like this can easily lead one to believe that if used pianos are getting thrown away, then a functioning one might only cost a few hundred dollars.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  Pianos are a lot like cars in the sense that cars often times go to the junkyard and get crushed, but it doesn’t mean that a good used car can be purchased for a few hundred dollars.  Heck, even a good used piano bench often fetches $200-300 at flea markets.  Moving a piano usually costs upwards of $300 and tuning is at least $100.  We’re up to $600 and we haven’t even mentioned a piano yet.  Add that to the countless hours of work that most of these pianos need ($75-100/hr. in-home service rates) plus replacement parts to take on new students and may have yourself a money pit.  Don’t get us wrong, we’re in the piano restoration business and love all that hourly labor work — but we also sell new & used pianos and offer sound advice to people who are wrestling with restoring a piano or buying a different one from us.

New York Times Article on Deep-Sixing Old Pianos

New York Times Article on Deep-Sixing Old Pianos

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/arts/music/for-more-pianos-last-note-is-thud-in-the-dump.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2

So long Bohemia pianos — we will miss you.

The Bohemia Piano company is the latest victim in the piano industry of the challenging global economy.  You can read more about the history of Bohemia pianos here.  This blog however, is to inform you that we recently received word from the factory representative that Bohemia pianos will no longer be produced.  This is quite a blow to an already shrinking, yet important segment of the piano industry — the handmade European piano market.

Most piano manufacturers — Bohemia included — made drastic changes in order to survive the recession, with various levels of success.  Some chose to shed inventory, facilities and/or employees…some chose to source materials or production in China…others gave themselves up to the highest bidder.  Even the prestigious Bosendorfer piano company in Vienna was recently sold to Yamaha in an effort to remain stable and continue their legacy.

Bohemia was sold several years ago to the Bechstein piano company — a move that we dealers were excited about since it stood to improve the quality level of the product even more.  And it did.  However, the economic presses and rising costs continued to demand price increases that have recently proven to be much more than the market can bear.

An ultimatum of sorts was recently imposed whereby if the US distributor wasn’t willing to purchase a very large order of Bohemia pianos at the new, higher prices, the brand would unfortunately cease to exist.  This isn’t intended to sound like a strong-arm tactic by Bohemia’s parent company, Bechstein.  It’s simply the cruel reality of what it takes to continue to operate in these times.  Without such a commitment from their US distributor, Bechstein is better off focusing on their remaining lines of pianos.  It is also understandable that Bohemia’s US distributor would be reluctant to place such a large order in these continued uncertain times — especially at new, unprecedented prices — when Bohemia pianos had already been met with much resistance in the market at the older prices.

As a Bohemia piano dealer for over a decade, we have seen the tremendous value of the Bohemia piano line and the important gap that they filled for us.  After the exit of Kemble piano company from London in 2009, Bohemia represented the last bastion of mid-priced, handmade pianos from Europe.  They, like Kemble, were the only companies to offer an interesting, higher-performance alternative to Yamaha and Kawai, without doubling or tripling the price to get to Steinway or other, even more desirable premium European brands.  They also offered unique styling, finishes and veneer options that  Yamaha and Kawai don’t offer.

So in the wake of Bohemia pianos, there will indeed be a void in the industry that won’t likely be filled for quite some time.  At the time of this writing, the only Bohemia pianos that have not completely sold out are the studio models 114 & 121 and the 160 grand model. We have sold out of all other models and they are no longer available.  Bechstein will honor full warranties on any remaining pianos.  If you have any interest in a Bohemia piano, please contact us soon because when they are gone, they.  are.  gone.  😦

Pictured here is a Bohemia 121 Rhapsody in polished walnut that is currently available for sale.  One of the unique features of Bohemia that will be most missed is their careful selection of veneers for their cabinets.  This piano’s walnut veneers have beautiful grain that Bohemia meticulously bookmatched on the sides and on the front panels.  Such detail is rarely taken into consideration in today’s pianos.

An amazing “Starving Artist” grand piano just arrived

It has been years since we have been this excited about a used grand piano in our inventory. We have recently consigned an obscure British-made Danemann 6’4″ grand piano that is a musical gem.

How it got to the U.S. is still unclear, as the Danemann piano brand was never widely distributed in the U.S., and certainly not when this one was made. What we do know is that it’s an amazingly high quality piano that has an incredibly dynamic, singing tone with an action that allows an artist to bring out the unlimited palate of tone colors it is capable of producing. The piano also has a perfect set of original, single-piece ivory keys — an extremely rare, valuable feature. It’s almost impossible that this little known brand created such an incredible instrument without gaining greater notoriety.

So why is it part of Cordogan’s “Starving Artist Series?” Because the ebony finish didn’t weather 50 years as well as the piano, so we’re going to leave the finish as is in order to keep the price down and give it every opportunity to find its way into the hands of another artist.

If you’re looking for a great quality artist grand on a budget, you need to experience this piano. You will think you’re playing a Bosendorfer.

Danemann 6'4

Video coming soon…if it doesn’t sell first.

It’s official, a used Yamaha U1 piano is the most requested piano in the entire industry.

This is only news insomuch as it hasn’t been proclaimed in print as much as it has long been suspected, until now. A used Yamaha U1 piano is by far the most sought after used piano model, representing 35% of all inquiries. Considering that the remaining 65% represents piano inquiries for the entire industry, spanning literally thousands of brand names and over 100 years’ worth of products, this is quite a testimony to the popularity of this particular model number. It begs the question, why?

Used Yamaha U1 professional upright piano

The most popular used piano

We should first qualify our claims about the used Yamaha U1 piano’s popularity. Our website, chicagopianos.com, fields as much as 50 inquiries a day from people all over the world seeking information about buying a piano. Because our site has more images of new & used pianos than any other retail piano website in the country, the inquiries we receive are very broad in nature. When we first posted this blog in 2011, we studied the previous three months of used piano inquiries in our database and 43% specifically asked about U1. In 2016, the same study showed a used Yamaha U1 was mentioned in 35% of the inquiries.

While the percentage has gone down a little, it’s important to note that hardly any other model even registers on this list.  The used Yamaha U1 piano is a thing.

In all fairness to the rest of the industry, this isn’t much of a surprise for several reasons:

1) Yamaha has made the U1 for half of a century worldwide without changing the model. Very few manufacturers have models that have been available even a fraction of the time.

2) The Yamaha U1 does have an excellent reputation for being a terrific, durable, professional upright piano so it stands to reason that it is highly requested.

3) Yamaha’s competitor Kawai, changes models from time to time…and from country to country, so they don’t really have a chance to compete in this contest, even though a couple of Kawai’s taller, yet comparably priced used models (along with a used Yamaha U3) could eat a U1 for lunch.

4) Yamaha has made more U1 pianos than the total of all models produced by most piano manufacturers.

5) Many cultures ONLY request Yamaha U1’s, so with that sort of brand/product loyalty, the piano has tremendous presence.

It is important to remember, however, that not all used Yamaha U1 pianos do not weather time the same. This is why the price range for U1’s wildly varies on the wild wild web. Also keep in mind that age doesn’t often have much to do with resale value. We recently had a 5 year old U1 that rightfully sold for less than half the price of one that was 40 years old due to how it was cared for. The cabinets both pianos looked great but the insides told a different story. Used Yamaha U1 and U3 pianos imported from Asia also have a very wide range of quality…and therefore a wide price range as well. There is a LOT to know about these pianos when simply shopping price on the lawless internet, where “mint condition” has no legal definition so please feel free to contact us for more information. You can also Click here for Buying Tips that you will likely find to be most valuable if you’re looking for information on buying a used piano.

Cordogan’s tries to obtain as many used Yamaha U1 pianos and used Yamaha U3 pianos as we can get but good ones are often difficult to find — especially ones that have been cared for well, so please check our used piano inventory or call 630.584.5000 to see what we currently have in stock.  Our prices not only represent the best value you’ll be able able to find anywhere in the U.S. but you can also have the security of buying from a reputable, family-owned company established in 1950!

Does all of this talk of Yamaha U1’s mean YOU should want one? Not necessarily. It just means that it’s an easy product to research because it is widely popular on a global level and because it doesn’t have much competition given its long history and widespread popularity. There are definitely pianos that might be a better value for you, depending on your circumstances and use.

Also there are still plenty of issues to discuss if you should find yourself considering a used Yamaha U1 piano, so please contact us at 630.584.5000 for more information.