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Upright Pianos
Old 22nd August 2007
  #1
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mizzle's Avatar
 

Upright Pianos

Just curious what some of you out there consider the best deals on upright piano models in terms of price/performance ratio. I am looking at new and slightly used models for practicing, composing and recording. What are the standout models for sheer musicality (as opposed to living room furniture pieces)?

Thanks in advance!
Old 22nd August 2007
  #2
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Pianos

There are a lot of cheaper brands but Yamaha's are great. Most Jazz pianists prefer them. In europe but I imagine also in the US, Yamaha sells some factory refubs, usually U2's and U3's, older models totally redone. The U3's go for 4000-4500 euros ($5200-6000) which is about half price compared to new. They're fantastic (I own a U3). If you want also to record it, you'll want the U3 which a bit higher (longer strings - much richer, better sound)!

Good luck
Old 22nd August 2007
  #3
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I agree about the Yamaha's. The two main models in the States are the U1 (48") and the U3(52"). I have a U1 and it sounds very good next to my C2 baby grand. I bought it used for less than $2000US.
Old 23rd August 2007
  #4
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Thanks for the replies.

So, on the the Yamaha site I see information on the U-1 and U-3, so I am assuming the other U models (2, 5, 7 maybe more?) are not in production at this point.
Have these models maintained quality throught the years? Are there any bad years or models discontinued due to design flaws?
Of the reviews I've read on this series it sounds quite promising. Any comments on action/response? This is the area I am most sensitive to, if I have to choose a priority.

Also, on the budget side, any comments on Pearl River or other recent Chinese manufacturers?
Old 23rd August 2007
  #5
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hle144's Avatar
 

Micing up an upright is a biotch not to mention, I have yet to ever record an upright I thought was good outside of that 'upright piano' sound. What did I just say?

Buy a cheap one that stays in tune. Forget recording unless you want that distinctive upright piano sound. Really.
Old 23rd August 2007
  #6
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espen askelad's Avatar
See, I *love* the upright sound, WAY more than the grand sound. Upright to me is just what I want piano to sound like - a little funky, fat/warm, a little murky. How much space do you have? People are usually giving uprights away... I've seen amazing funky 100 year old pianos that needed some obvious TLC but being given away or off to the dump... had I the space, I'd have rescued a few of them. Upright pianos, they've (potentially) got awesome "character," which I really value. I love mic'ing them, and wish I got to do it more often. They're totally fun instruments to experiment with, maybe because they're not so "precious" as grands.
Old 23rd August 2007
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by espen askelad View Post
I've seen amazing funky 100 year old pianos that needed some obvious TLC but being given away or off to the dump...
Theres a reason for that.

You can have the pick of the litter if you really are into that sound. I am not a piano player but as an engineer, we are the 2nd highest appreciators of pianos. And when I did sessions with Geri Allen, and Cecil Taylor,...they did'nt ship in their personal uprights for the recording..... I'm being silly now, sorry.


Great that you enjoy that sound. IMHO, They're still 'one trick ponys' as far as recording applications.

Good luck
Old 23rd August 2007
  #8
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numrologst's Avatar
i too prefer uprights to everything but a steinway b...both for playing and recording.

If i had the space for a grand that would be one thing... But I have a Yamaha m1a, u3, and a early 20th century cable nelson. I prefer the m1a to everything
Old 23rd August 2007
  #9
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mizzle's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by hle144 View Post
Theres a reason for that.

You can have the pick of the litter if you really are into that sound. I am not a piano player but as an engineer, we are the 2nd highest appreciators of pianos. And when I did sessions with Geri Allen, and Cecil Taylor,...they did'nt ship in their personal uprights for the recording..... I'm being silly now, sorry.


Great that you enjoy that sound. IMHO, They're still 'one trick ponys' as far as recording applications.

Good luck
...and when I did sessions with John Lennon and Bach, they didn't ask for you to be on the date. If you are not going to attempt to answer my questions you can feel free to check out the numerous other threads here, or maybe you can just advertise your phallus on one of the banners.
Old 23rd August 2007
  #10
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I am currently trying to record my upright piano. It sounds pretty good in the room but i cant get it to translate well onto a recording.
What mic positions / mics / tips have people got to record an upright
Old 23rd August 2007
  #11
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Koed's Avatar
 

Big Kawai fan here. Owned several Kawai uprights.
I'm expecting a new one in a couple of weeks.

But it's a matter of taste.
Old 23rd August 2007
  #12
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espen askelad's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by StudioKing View Post
I am currently trying to record my upright piano. It sounds pretty good in the room but i cant get it to translate well onto a recording.
What mic positions / mics / tips have people got to record an upright
Keep in mind I like upright as a character piece - but I like to go with a PZM on the soundboard and/or two SDC omnis inside with the board up placed wherever I'm getting the best balance of the high and bass ends. A guy who's ears and skills I totally trust loves the Milab mics on uprights but I don't remember where he places 'em - I remember it was pretty unorthodox, though. I really dislike trebly piano with lots of attack, so I tend to go with neutral or midrange-emphasizing mics into pres with a nice low end (present, but won't go to mush on dark-sounding low strings.)
Old 23rd August 2007
  #13
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Man, so many strange opinions in one thread!

First of all, I am a serious piano lover.

I have recorded a lage variation of classical and jazz albums, where the pianos have to be of a certain standard. Selecting pianos for those sessions has sometimes involved shootouts of up to 5 different pianos all lined up. Including uprights.

Yamahas are loved because they are cheap. As instruments they are boring.
We have a great grand in our studio, but our neighbour studio has a great upright that sounds more like a huge steinway than any yamaha I have ever heard.

When they selected that piano they went trough the struggle of checking out 10 different pianos that people where giving away. Yes, 8 out of 10 are more or less garbage, but there is amazing finds to be had.

So we went out and found a nice upright for ourselves, again for free, it has a thick, cool character, is mechanically of a very high standard, and for pop/rock session the percentage of players who prefer it over the grand is about 40% And it still aren't as great as the neighbour's upright.

A yamaha, with it's cold, sterile sound would not have been used ever above any of those two other pianos.

Our upright sounds the best with spaced omnis or cardioids, placed 1 feet behind the player, above his head in height, and about one feet out from each corner of the piano in width, both pointing towards the center of the piano. While our grand sounds the best with otrf, lined up with the arch, almost touching the lid in height.

Again: do not take for granted that some old free upright is not atleast as playable, and lots better sounding than a new yamaha/kawai etc. grand.
Old 23rd August 2007
  #14
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Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by StudioKing View Post
I am currently trying to record my upright piano. It sounds pretty good in the room but i cant get it to translate well onto a recording.
What mic positions / mics / tips have people got to record an upright
You might try this:

Take off both the top & bottom panels covering the strings. Mic from the front, not the back (which would be the bottom on a grand, right?) Start out with 1 mic over the player's left shoulder and the other just to the right of and a little lower than the player's butt. If the player's sitting on a bench, turn it 90 degrees to make room.

And coach the player to try and not whump the pedals (which are way closer to the mic than they are on a grand).
Old 23rd August 2007
  #15
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I asked the guy I have had tune my old Fischer (1917) upright (which I adore) the same question.

He's been tuning pianos all over L.A. for I'd say close to 20 years. He says
that German and Japanese pianos are typically the best sounding and well built.

Personally, I've been playing piano since I was like 6 (1984) and I'll tell you that I wouldn't mind playing a Yamaha. I'm pretty sure they record really well too. But if it came down to my money, I'd get a Bechstein or something like that.

AFTER playing of course. Names and age don't mean anything unless it clangs they way you want it to.

In my old college they ust bought a whole bunch of console Yamahas. Boring, weak as hell. I'd always go over to the theater dept. and rattle on their old brown upright pianos. I don't know the names, but they had soul.

You are on a unique quest that requires a hands-on demo. Test thoroughly, it's like shopping for a serious girlfriend. It sounds dumb, but if you don't love it, it ain't gonna love you back. Go for the soul.

And mind the creakiness too. AND the bass strings. You want them to go CLANG, not Thump.

As far as cost, there isn't one on old pianos. There's what you want, and what you can afford.

2 cents,
-soup
Old 23rd August 2007
  #16
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Regarding action, I think Yamaha has the action that feels closest to a grand. I think it's the best for dynamic range of the action.

Someone mentioned Kawai. They are nice but they tend to be quiet, with a diminished dynamic range. The piano action also doesn't handle heavy handed players as well.

Also, to get a more open sound during recording, I get better results by removing the front panel, above the keyboard. It will be more reminiscent of a grand with the lid open. Otherwise, it can sound a bit boxey.
Old 23rd August 2007
  #17
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mizzle's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mbrebes View Post
Regarding action, I think Yamaha has the action that feels closest to a grand. I think it's the best for dynamic range of the action.
This is what I am after. Everyone has specific requirements, and my needs in this situation is maximum physical control of the instrument. Many people here suggest random aged uprights for their "charachter". While the individual nature of these instruments has something to be appreciated, I am not looking for a idiosycratic tool.
I have played alot of these types of keyboards through the years, and I do have a considerably "broken in" upright in my studio at the moment, but there is a level of precision that just cannot be achieved on one of these instruments (without a refurb/rebuild cost that can potentially equal the price of a much more predictable, newer unit). Having to continually adapt technique to the changing mechanics of a tempermental action is limiting, and leaves the piano playing you. I am currently trying to exhibit a level of control that is being substantially bridled by the moods of my mechanical keyboards (Rhodes, old upright, Clavinet), hence the search for reliability. I can spend four hours today correcting key response issues on my Rhodes, only to have a new set of issues in the matter of a week. Forget about constant maintinence on a stubborn old acoustic, that is time and money I just don't have.

As far as recording goes, if I can produce the sound I am looking for by playing the instrument, all I have to do at that point is capture it, the less bells and whistles and compression the better (for my immediate purposes).
Old 23rd August 2007
  #18
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Koed's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmyjimjim View Post
Again: do not take for granted that some old free upright is not atleast as playable, and lots better sounding than a new yamaha/kawai etc. grand.
What you mean new? I've been playing Kawai uprights for at least 25 years and that first one is still around and sounds and looks like it just came from the shop.
It's all about good maintenance and regular tuning.

I learned to play on a Schimmel Concert Grand at first and got used to the grand action.
My favourite uprights with a simular sound and feel are still the more expensive Kawai models, but the Steinway upright is looking attractive too.
That's if you're talking jazz ofcourse
Old 24th August 2007
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Koed View Post
What you mean new? I've been playing Kawai uprights for at least 25 years and that first one is still around and sounds and looks like it just came from the shop.
It's all about good maintenance and regular tuning.
My Grand has been played on by Edvard Grieg, atleast one long since dead american president, and a young Keith Jarett and still is the favourite piano by all the local jazz guys actionwise.
Some of them adore the sound aswell. We recently had a ECM artist prefering it over their usual Steinway focus.

25 years, don't make me laugh

As you said, if you take good care of a piano it lasts a LOOONG time whether you define that as 25 or 125 years.
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