Category Archives: Buyer’s Guides

Ask James – Which Pianos are the Best?

One of the great joys of working in The Piano Business is meeting people around the World who share your love of music.  Invariably, when I travel, I encounter at least a few people who ask me what I do.  When I tell them I work in The Piano Business, they light up – full of personal stories that either make them glad they play or wish they did.  The second inevitable question they ask me is really The Great Question of our Business:  Which Pianos are the Best?  I usually try to deflect the question – citing personal presence, differing student needs and budgetary limitations… but every once in awhile, I encounter someone who really wants to know how I determine which pianos to represent and what criteria drive my interest in new brands.  Obviously, that question requires a more detailed answer… so I thought I would make it the topic of my next blog.

Growing Up Steinway

Every piano store has a “headline” brand (a company they promote heavily due to a number of factors, including quality, value, reputation and performance).   My company is no different.  In fact, Gist Piano Center began their relationship with Steinway & Sons in 1975 – a year before I was even born.  You can read more about how that relationship formed here.  For almost 39 years, Gist Piano Center promoted Steinway as “The World’s Finest Piano” due to its handcrafted quality, vast history and brand name recognition.  The truth is, however, there are many other pianos who could claim to be “The World’s Finest Piano,” including such illustrious brands as Bosendorfer, Fazioli, Grotrian and more.  Gist selected Steinway & Sons because they were made in America and because they were far less expensive than their European competition.  This is what made Steinway & Sons a fantastic “headline brand” during those years.

steinway pianoI worked part-time in the piano business during the mid-90s, but I joined The Piano Business as a career officially in 2001.  I started at a small piano store in Illinois that also used Steinway & Sons as their headline piano brand.  They also carried the Steinway-designed Boston piano, Essex, Kohler & Campbell pianos, Knabe and Roland Digital Pianos.  It was a great mix.  I grew up in The Piano Business fully immersed in Steinway product (as well as a few others).  I even went through five years of Steinway training and to graduate from “William Steinway University” (a marketing initiative designed to help piano retailers learn the Steinway system of brand promotion).    Thus, when I decided to move out of my small town and into a larger community, Gist was a natural fit – considering that they carried all the same brands I did in my small town piano store.

The Changing Face of Retail

When I first came to Gist, I was surprised at how comparable most things were to my experiences in Illinois.  Granted, folks in Kentucky preferred mahogany woods over walnut, but things were otherwise very similar.  The winds of change were blowing, however, and I eventually began to see problems with our piano selection.

First of all, The Great Recession of 2008 made it very difficult to sell high-priced, handmade pianos in Kentucky.  There just wasn’t much market for a piano that retails for over $50,000.  We had no problem selling used ones (a practice we have continued to this day), but selling NEW American pianos became increasingly difficult.piano prices

Secondly, despite a total lack of inflation, these high-priced pianos continued to increase in cost annually.  Having just seen this phenomenon in the housing industry, we realized that carrying new, high-cost pianos with inflated price tags would only push clients to shop for used or rebuilt pianos.  It was a bad decision for our clients and for us.

Around this same time, we began to see how mobile devices were changing the face of piano education.  More and more students were purchasing digital copies of print music and using play-a-long material in their daily practice.  In order to stay relevant in to today’s piano students, we needed to partner with a company who understood the future of the piano industry.

It was time for us to make a change.

Finding New Brands

Immediately after cancelling our relationship with the American piano brand, we decided to take on a famous Japanese brand.  …and, at first, we were pleased with the decision.  They we were well-respected, they had a ton of great resources and they had a strong focus on technology.  Unfortunately, we discovered that they had their own set of problems.

First, their technology was pretty expensive.  Most of the technology they offered put their pianos out of reach for beginners with a limited budget.  Instead of buying a piano with factory-installed headphones system, our clients would purchase a “silent” system and have it installed yamaha clavinovaon one of our other piano brands – for a lot less money.

Secondly, the acoustic piano market was flooded with used pianos shipped in from Japan and China (with just a little cabinet polish and hammer filing).  In many cases, these used pianos were better deals than the new ones – and the “Grey Market” argument we were given to disavow them was so shaky even my factory rep had a hard time believing it.  Again, selling used pianos was easy.  Selling new ones… not so much.

Finally, after only two years, we made arrangements to go our separate ways.

A Way Forward

During this low point, I began to look back over our brand history and I noted that Gist has carried over 35 different piano brands throughout its 45-year history.  Famous brands like Petrof (1996-2003), Estonia (2009-2011), Kawai (1998-2005), Kimball (1988-1996), Story & Clark (1979-1981), Wurlitzer (1975-1981) and Pearl River (2004-2005) had all been a part of our past.  We sold a TON of them even though they weren’t our “headline brand.”  …and that made me question whether or not we needed a “headline brand.”

With all this in mind, I went to the big music trade show in Anaheim – a showcase for piano brands from all over the World.  I spent four days playing everything – from starter-level pianos to high-end designer grands.  I even played a $450,000 piano that looked like a peacock!  Phew.
My goal was to find The Best Piano for my store.  It had to have a familiar name, a solid reputation, top-notch construction, great warranty support, a magnificent sound and touch and the ability to interface with modern technology.  It also had to be affordable for more of the people in my community… and I’ll admit that I was not optimistic that I would find a brand that fits this tall order.piano trade show

Luckily, The Piano Business is going through a strange metamorphosis right now.  Over the past several years, economic factors have caused brands like Baldwin, Wurlitzer, Chickering, Ellington, and Story & Clark to go out of business – selling their brand names to larger companies who have consolidated their own offerings down to just a handful of pianos.  The Business has shrunk so much that we’re actually starting to see NEW brand names (like Kingsburg, Brodmann, Geyer and more) emerging from the ashes.  Thankfully, I was able to find the perfect solution for our company.

Introducing Brodmann

Finally, after months of research, teacher trials, performance testing and brand vetting, I am proud to say that we have found THE Best Piano… for now:  Brodmann.  …and that is really how it works.  Because brands in The Piano Business come and go so rapidly, it’s really impossible to shop by brand anymore.  THE Best Pianos are the ones who give the best performance and longevity for the best possible price… and that is an equation that can change overnight. 

Brodmann PianosThankfully, our staff of highly-trained technicians, piano historians and business leaders are constantly evaluating our inventory – making sure that our clients get THE Best Piano for THE Best Price.  …and while I’m sure everyone says that about their pianos, I can offer you something they can’t:  proof.  That’s right.  After 45+ years and over 35 different brands, we at Gist can tell you not only which brands are wonderful today… but we can tell you which ones will hold up well over their 40-year lifespan.  …and we can take pianos apart and show you what makes ours better than anyone else’s in town.

Like Gist Piano Center, I am far less impressed by a fancy logo or a high price tag.  I have seen how brand names can lead folks astray time and time again.  Instead, I am much more interested in the quality of a piano’s construction – much more concerned about the instrument’s design than its marketing… and I’m much more attracted to its performance than to its luxury price tag.  THAT is what makes Gist different.  We are working hard with our community partners to build a new generation of piano players and we are dedicated to making sure we outfit those players with THE best instruments their money can buy.  Which piano is best?  Once you take the time to get to know us, I can say this with confidence.  The best piano is the one we recommend just for you.  Come in today and see what’s new!  Better yet – ask us why we picked it!  You’ll quickly see why an investment at Gist is truly a “sound” one.

Share

Special Edition Roland Pianos Available from Gist

roland-lx-7Just in time for the release of the new Star Wars:  The Force Awakens movie, Gist Piano Center has put together a pair of exciting Holiday packages with the popular LX-7 Roland Digital Piano.  Here’s a quick look at these exciting (limited edition) kits:

Star Wars Edition

Purchase a Roland LX-7 digital piano in Walnut, Black Satin or Polished Ebony between now and Christmas and you’ll get the following items FREE:

  • $700 Accessory Kit, including headphones, piano lamp, 4 music books, 55 song downloads, tons of apps, a piano bench, delivery and unlimited technical support.
  • Revel Poe’s X-Wing Fighter Model Kit star-wars-kit(complete with sound effects and opening/closing cockpit, wings)
  • First Order Special Forces TIE Fighter Model Kit (complete with sound effects, lighted cockpit and opening/closing hatch)
  • Storm Trooper USB Flash Drive (4 Gig for MIDI and audio files)
  • Star Wars Classic Peel and Stick Wall Decals (reusable and won’t harm walls or piano)
  • Star Wars Easy Piano Play-a-Long Piano Book (with audio files!)
  • 2 FREE Tickets to see the new Star Wars Movie (Opening December 18!)

Customize your piano with Star Wars decals or just enjoy playing along with the iconic Star Wars theme music.  Whatever your goals, this special edition package will make your Christmas one to remember!  …but hurry.  We only have a VERY limited number of these special edition packages and when they are gone – they are GONE FOREVER!  May the Force be with you!

Frozen Edition

Purchase a Roland LX-7 digital piano in Walnut, Black Satin or Polished Ebony between now and Christmas and you’ll get the following items FREE:

  • $700 Accessory Kit, including headphones, piano lamp, 4 music books, 55 song downloads, tons of apps, a piano bench, delivery and unlimited technical support.frozen-kit
  • 11″ TY Olaf Plush Toy with Hershey Bar
  • Frozen Olaf USB Flash Drive and Ink Pen (8 Gig for MIDI or audio files)
  • Frozen Play-a-Long Piano Book (with audio files!)
  • Crayola Frozen Color and Sticker Book
  • Disney Frozen Embossed Carry All Lunch Box
  • Frozen Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital HD Combo Pack (Full Theatrical Movie – Home Release)

Just like Olaf, Elsa and the gang, Roland digital pianos are immune to the cold!  Take home a Roland LX-7 and get a TON of fun gifts/stocking stuffers for your kids this Holiday Season… but hurry… get yours before they are gone forever!

Learn more about the Roland LX-7 Digital Piano Here:

Share

Chocolate Party and Roland Announcement!

Open to the Public

Roland Digital PianoYou’re invited to join us for a MAJOR Music Industry announcement from Legendary Piano Builder, Roland Corporation.  A Roland representative will be onhand to announce how Roland is partnering with other industry legends, including Hal-Leonard, Alfred, Sheet Music Direct and more to change everything we know about the Piano Industry.  You won’t want to miss this historic event!

Chocolate PartyTo celebrate this announcement, Gist Piano Center and Roland are joining forces with famous Louisville-based chocolatier, Cellar Door Chocolates, who will setup a full chocolate buffet – FREE for event attendees!  Gist Piano Center will also offer champagne and sodas to age-appropriate guests throughout the evening.

Finally, Gist Piano Center will introduce the all-new FastTrack program and demonstrate some exciting new things coming to Kentucky this Fall!  Here are the dates and times:

  • Monday, October 12:  6-8pm (Louisville):  Roland Launch Event (Open to Public)
  • Tuesday, October 13:  10am-Noon (Lexington):  Piano Teacher’s Event with Roland
  • Tuesday, October 13:  6-8pm (Lexington):  Roland Launch Event (Open to Public)
  • Wednesday, October 14:  10am – Noon (Louisville):  Piano Teacher’s Event with Roland

Piano Teachers

Join us for an unforgettable session JUST for you on Tuesday, October 13 (10am – Noon) in Lexington and Wednesday, October 14 (10am – Noon) in Louisville.  Piano Educator, Clinician and Roland Education Consultant, Laura Zaruta, will be here to show you how this new announcement from Roland, Hal-Leonard, Alfred and Sheet Music Direct can change the way you teach!  You’ll learn about incredible new apps, exciting technologies, our new FastTrack program and more!  This meeting will thrill you to the core!  Don’t be left behind.  Make time to be here and see how “This changes EVERYTHING!”

Roland LX-7 Digital PianoAlso, bring your smart phone and tablet.  We’ll be suggesting a TON of new music apps that will make your life easier and we’ll even help you see how EASY some of this new stuff is to use!

RSVP to Heather Hamilton (for the Lexington meeting) or James Harding (for the Louisville one).

Share

Roland Offers Special Financing For a Limited Time Only

approvedIf you have been thinking about a digital piano for your home, you won’t want to miss out on a new offer from Roland Digital Pianos.

Now through September 1, Roland is offering you a choice of three special financing offers, including a rare 12-Month SAME AS CASH special with no down payment required!

Click here for more information.

Now, you can take advantage of our Red Tag Summer Clearance Sale AND this rare financing offer from Roland.  …but hurry.  This offer is only good on in-stock pianos and for a limited time.  Don’t miss out on your chance to own a Roland!

Share

Horses, Fairies, Birthdays, and More!

As teachers are starting to wind down their year of teaching, we have some great choices for fun summer pieces!

Happy Birthday to You! (HL00143602)

Happy Birthday to You! (HL00143602)

Happy Birthday to You – Words and Music by Mildred J. Hill and Patty S. Hill, arr. By Phillip Keveren
Hal Leonard – HL00143602
$3.99

Did you know that Happy Birthday was written by two sisters from Kentucky? This arrangement is an easily accessible version for the young pianist who has yet to start reading notes on the staff. A lyrical teacher accompaniment by Phillip Keveren is included.

 

I Love Horses – by Mary Leaf

I Love Horses (W9426)

I Love Horses (W9426)

FJH Company – W9427
$2.95

This is the perfect piece for the young pianist who loves horses! (and who doesn’t in Kentucky!?) Written for the early elementary pianist, this piece focuses around Middle C and includes fun lyrics about Clydesdales and Mustangs! A teacher accompaniment is also available.

 

 

Faerie Wings (W9427)

Faerie Wings (W9427)

Faerie Wings – by Mary Leaf
FJH Company – W9427
$2.95

Faerie Wings is a magical little piece for your younger students that sometimes show up to their lessons wearing fairy wings. A lyrical accompaniment and whimsical lyrics are included.

 

 

Over the Rain from The Wizard of Oz (HL00143604)

Over the Rain from The Wizard of Oz (HL00143604)

Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz – Words by E.Y. Harburg, Music by Harold Arlen, arr. By Phillip Keveren
Hal Leonard – HL00143604
$3.99

Over the Rainbow is the newest addition to Hal Leonard’s Showcase Solo Pops series. Written for an elementary level pianist (level 2), this brand new arrangement includes lyrics and a teacher’s accompaniment by Phillip Keveren.

 

Order your music now from Gist Piano Center!

Share