One of the finest things that you can own is a grand piano.
Besides being able to produce music that can inspire and motivate, they’re works of art.
If you’re in the market for a grand piano, then the expensive price tag may surprise you.
Here are 10 reasons grand pianos are so expensive.
Why Are Grand Pianos So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
1. Top-Grade Spruce Wood
Part of the construction of a grand piano is spruce wood.
It’s used in several parts of the piano.
One of the most important is its braces.
The braces hold the various parts of the piano together.
Without top-quality spruce wood, the pressure and weight of the piano could cause it to collapse on itself.
The finest quality of wood is also selected because it needs to enhance the sound of the piano rather than inhibit it.
Wood tends to absorb sound.
It can make the sounds of a piano sound muffled or not as clear.
That can completely change a performance.
To avoid that, piano makers use top-of-the-line spruce wood.
It’s a hardwood that enhances the sound rather than deadens it.
This type of spruce is also used to make guitars.
The problem with spruce is that it can run on the expensive side.
Because only the best spruce is usable, piano makers spend a lot of time looking through the various samples until they find the perfect one.
They might go through several tons of lumber before they find what they’re looking for.
Since the quality they’re after is so rare, it comes with a hefty price tag.
If the grand piano is particularly large, then they’re going to need a lot of it.
That can increase the price of the piano significantly.
2. Maple Wood
The other expensive type of wood that’s used in the production of a grand piano is maple wood.
Maple is a preferred choice because it’s hard and looks great.
Some designers prefer to use an even more expensive type of wood or material, but the majority choose maple wood.
This type of wood has a reputation for being strong and durable.
Considering that pianos take a lot of abuse when they’re played, durability matters.
It’s also known for being dent-proof.
Those who buy grand pianos as art pieces find this feature especially attractive.
A grand piano requires a lot of maple wood in its production.
During its creation, the maple goes through a lengthy process until it becomes long strips.
Those strips then go through an even longer process to achieve the shape of the piano.
They’re put through a bending process that uses a metal press to force them into shape.
When they’re bent into the right shape, they become the inner and outer rim of the piano.
This process is repeated several times until there are several layers of the rim.
The usual number of layers is 22.
Before each layer can start to adhere to one another, they’re put through a seasoning process.
This process involves exposing them to humid temperatures.
It helps weather the wood to ensure it’s able to hold up well in those types of temperatures in the future.
It also ensures that the rim layers don’t lose their shape.
Once they’re seasoned, the piano maker glues them together with resin.
Besides making the rim of the piano, maple is also used to make the pinhole.
Pinholes are what the piano’s strings go through.
They help hold the strings in place.
Since they play a vital role in ensuring the grand piano performs well, only the best maple is usable.
They traditionally use rock maple to create pinholes.
Maple influences the price of a piano because a lot of it goes into its production.
Maple wood is, on its own, expensive.
It’s only slightly cheaper than oak wood.
It’s also commonly used in construction because it’s strong and durable.
Since a lot of different industries use this type of lumber, finding the highest quality sample can be difficult.
Because it’s rare, and because the piano makers need a lot of it, the price is steep.
That drives up the price of the grand piano.
3. Carbon Steel Piano Wires
Another production step also adds to the price of a grand piano.
Pianos use carbon steel to make their strings.
Not only are they durable, but they create a sound that gives the piano the ability to make incredible music.
The production of the piano wires is expensive.
Not only do they need to make carbon steel, which is expensive, but they also need copper wire.
Copper wire wraps around some of the carbon steel wires to further give it its sound.
Not every string needs copper wiring, however.
In a standard grand piano, it’s not uncommon to see 17 different string diameters.
The length of the string is also important.
There are long strings and short ones.
The length influences what kind of note the piano makes and how long it’s able to sustain.
Piano makers will spend a lot of time measuring, cutting, and winding until the strings are correct.
Since it’s usually a case of trial and error, more materials are sometimes needed to cover the deficit.
Installation of the wires, once they’re finally made, is another lengthy and expensive process.
Each wire needs a metal block and a bit of spruce wood to keep it in place.
Since only the best carbon steel is useable for piano wires, it can add to the price of the grand piano overall.
4. Wool Felt
Wool felt is a very expensive material.
It comes strictly from animals.
To make the best quality of wool, the animals have to have a good diet and need to be healthy.
Wool felt covers the hammers inside of a piano.
It helps create the sound.
Not just any wool felt will do, however.
It needs to be of the best quality.
When a piano is being made, specialists will look for the best wool on the market.
Once they find that wool, they’ll comb it, card it, fold it, and then compress it.
Their goal is to make tapered strips out of it.
Only premium wool will do, and that’s not cheap.
The next step in the process is to separate the narrow strips from the wide ones.
The narrow strips cover the hammers for the treble keys.
The wider strips cover the hammers for the bass keys.
Since it can sometimes take several attempts to find premium wool, and considering the price of the wool in itself, this part of the construction of a piano makes it extremely expensive.
5. Ivory And Ebony Keys
Traditionally, ivory and ebony were the materials of choice for the keys in a grand piano.
Efforts to curb elephant hunting have stopped most of those efforts.
Instead, many piano companies choose to make their keys out of plastic.
However, the cost of ivory and ebony keys used to be a big reason pianos were so expensive.
It’s also why many grand pianos that do have these materials in their keys are so coveted.
Ivory is rare to find in the world.
Only a few animals produce it.
The problem is that the ivory trade led to an increase in poacher activity.
Since ivory has a high value, poachers took to killing elephants in unregulated numbers.
It was driving them towards extinction.
Some of the keys on grand pianos of the past may have been from poachers.
Conservationists have tried to decrease poaching by outlawing the use of ivory in many products.
Piano makers are doing their part by removing ivory in their keys and replacing them with plastic.
Ebony is another expensive material.
It comes from the Billetwood tree in India and Africa.
It’s native to that land and nowhere else.
Since it’s in a limited supply, the price is always high.
Many manufacturers want to use ebony wood because it’s hardwood.
That means it’s strong and durable.
It also has a unique color that is rare among trees.
Conservationists are also concerned about endangering this type of tree.
It’s prompted many piano makers to replace ebony wood with plastic as well.
While plastic is a cheaper material than both ebony and ivory, it still costs a good amount of money to process.
However, if you find a grand piano sold at an extremely high price, then it likely has ivory and ebony as the material for its keys.
6. Pianos Are Luxury Items
Pianos aren’t merely musical instruments.
They’re also statement pieces.
Many of those who own a piano don’t know how to use it.
Affluent people believe it looks great as a decorative piece.
It tells those who visit them that they have enough money to afford a grand piano.
It’s a sign of luxurious wealth.
They’re also pieces of furniture.
Certain individuals buy a grand piano because it goes with the aesthetic of the rest of the room.
It wouldn’t be complete without a grand piano.
Others are art collectors.
They see a grand piano as a work of art.
It’s a collector’s item.
Since they’re seen as luxurious items, they carry a price appropriate for that status.
7. Skilled Artisans Create Them
Not just anyone can make a piano.
It often requires years of experience before you start making high-quality grand pianos.
That’s because the process is difficult.
Every grand piano has at least 1,000 parts.
Many of those parts are moving.
It’s not up to only a single artisan to make the piano either.
Several of them play a role in its creation.
There are the woodworkers who are responsible for finding high-quality wood and shaping it into place.
Sometimes they’ll deal with the metalwork, too, but that’s often another set of artisans altogether.
They’ll create or provide the metal presses and buckles that will hold the piano together.
The string makers are another set of artisans.
They have a keen understanding of how to make piano strings and ensure they’re high quality.
They’ll call in another specialist, called a voicer.
The voicer tunes the piano and ensures that the strings are hitting the right notes.
If not, then the string makers need to make a new one or attempt to modify the existing wire.
The last artisan is the one who makes the keys.
Several companies specialize in this craft.
They’ll make a fine set of keys that look great and feel wonderful beneath a player’s fingers.
All these artisans charge high prices for their work.
That’s because they specialize in piano making.
There are only a few of them around.
When you add all their wages together, it comes to a high bill.
That adds to the cost of a grand piano.
8. Piano Construction Takes A Long Time
Another reason grand pianos are expensive is that their construction takes a while.
They’re not factory produced.
They’re all handmade according to a design.
It can take a month or several months for even one phase of its construction.
Finding the best quality materials takes time.
The specialists need to contact their sources, receive quotes from them, then look for any other kinds of deals that they can make.
They also need to inspect the material for themselves.
Once they have it, the material then goes through a series of steps for processing.
Once it’s in the form they need it, they can finally start construction on the piano.
If something goes wrong, then they may need to get more materials and start the process over again.
The length of time it takes to make a piano also drives up the cost.
Specialists are sometimes paid by the hour if not by the project.
If they’re paid by the hour, then a piano that ends up taking six months to make is going to be extremely expensive.
It’s also likely going to be one of the best grand pianos on the market.
The longer a product takes to make, the more expensive it’s going to be.
9. They Appreciate In Value Over Time
When you buy a grand piano, you’re making a long-term investment.
That’s because grand pianos are one of the few products that actually appreciate over time.
They’re not like your car which depreciates with time and use.
That’s because grand pianos are often priced based on their craftsmanship.
The older a piano is, the more unique and special it’s craftsmanship.
Piano makers know that.
They know that when you go to sell your grand piano down the line, it’s likely going to be for more than what you originally paid for it.
They want a piece of that price, too.
As a result, they’ll sell the piano at a high price to cover their costs and ensure they receive enough of a profit that makes sense for the quality of the product.
Grand pianos are collector’s items in that they grow in value over time.
Treat your grand piano well, and you could be sitting on a gold mine in a few decades.
Those pianos that have famous stories behind them, or provenance, are even more expensive.
If you see an extremely expensive grand piano on the market, then it may be because it’s an older one or one that is associated with a great musician.
10. Brand Name
Like any other product that has a brand name attached to it, a brand can influence the price.
Some of the most expensive brand names when it comes to grand pianos are:
Brand names carry such weight because they’ve been in the business for many years.
They’ve managed to grow a reputation for providing high-quality products that last a long time and perform well.
Some famous stories also associate with brand names, making them almost a legend.
Steinway, for example, has been making grand pianos for over a century.
Over that time, their customers have known that any product they sell is going to be high-class and immaculate.
Steinway also knows how to play the game.
They only make 3,000 pianos every year.
That scarcity allows them to drive up the price of their pianos.
That’s because there’s a high demand for Steinway pianos.
Having a Steinway piano in your home is a talking point.
It gives you status in the social world.
That’s why many consumers are willing to pay a high price for a Steinway grand piano.
It’s also why they’re so expensive.
Creating grand pianos isn’t easy or cheap.
It uses the very best of materials to create a high-quality piano that’s completely handmade.
Specialists offer their aid in its construction which only drives up the price further.
Staying away from brand names and older grand pianos may be able to help you save some money on a grand piano.