“Ask James” – Where are Pianos Made Today?

The question of where a piano is made is oddly significant to many during the piano selection process. While its true that early piano designs from China, Indonesia, Korea, and Japan were noticeably inferior to those from Europe and the United States, many of the problems associated with building instruments overseas (including the differences in wood curing, cultural tonality, and warranty service) have now been resolved.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to own one of the premium piano brands in the American tradition, but these pianos are hand-crafted and quite a bit more expensive than what most people would consider for their first piano. Thus, unless you plan to spend $9000 or more on your new upright piano ($28,000 or more on your new grand), you’ll have to consider an instrument built overseas.

Yamaha, for example, builds their vertical pianos and entry-level grands in Japan and Indonesia. Kawai builds most of their vertical pianos and their entry-level grands in Indonesia (The better grands are still built in Japan). Steinway’s Essex pianos are built in China (depending on model). Boston pianos by Steinway are built in Japan and Indonesia. Knabe pianos are built in Korea or Indonesia (depending on model). Most new Baldwin pianos sold in the US today were built in China. Everybody’s building pianos overseas!

The question then becomes how a piano is made (and not where).

Quality wood and quality craftsmanship is obvious in the piano industry. Trust me. You’ll be able to tell the difference between top-grade spruce wood in soundboards and low-grade composite materials. You’ll be able to hear a difference between pianos that use “presswood” or “particleboard” cabinets and pianos that still use wood. …and most players can certainly tell a difference between a piano made with genuine wood parts and those built with plastic actions.

Don’t be fooled by outdated information. We all have that “smart friend” whose piano info – though extensive – may not be up-to-date. (Even Larry Fine of “The Piano Book” admits that his book will be obsolete shortly after its printing.) For accurate, up-to-the-minute data on pianos and the Music Industry, there is only one place you should go: Gist Piano Center. We’ll help you sort it all out and make logical sense of this ever-changing industry. Why not stop in and ask for an orientation in our new Piano Learning Center?


54 thoughts on ““Ask James” – Where are Pianos Made Today?

  1. Holly

    So if I can find a U1 or U3 for around 5K…which I think the Ritmuller dealer has…do you still like the B series “more” than the U series? I suppose it will all come down to what I like…but, I do like to know the opinions of others.

    No, my friend has not bought a P-22 recently. 🙂 He would suggest I look for Japan-made, though. 🙂

  2. James Harding Post author

    I would be pretty concerned if you could find a U1 (retails for $11k) or a U3 (retails for $14k) for as low as $5000. That is typically a dead giveaway that the used piano you are buying is either old, not in great shape or a “grey market” Yamaha. IF that is the case (…and I am not saying it is… it’s just very suspicious), I would recommend the B3 instead. Yes. Please tell your friend I’m sorry about the P-22. We all loved that piano at its height. Hahaha. Best wishes!

  3. James Harding Post author

    Hello and thanks for writing in! I can tell you that Ritmuller is made by Pearl River and has 3 different levels of quality. I can’t tell from the model number you gave me (which appears to be a Pearl River model number) which quality level you are considering. If you look at the Premium Ritmuller pianos, they are alright, but the lower quality levels are not great. I would definitely consult your piano technician before making a purchase. Good luck!

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