Top 5 Piano Brands
What a powerful question. What are the top 5 piano brands? What a loaded question this is. Here is the reason it makes it very difficult to respond to when I am asked this question. After considerable research and talking with people within and outside the music industry. I found so many answers to this question it made me laugh.
After I had spoken with so many folks I decided to take it upon myself and search for the truth regarding this question and visited more than a few websites to follow the question out. I laughed out loud because the dealers sites included Yamaha (which they carry) along with another German brand that they also carry.
I went to another competitor’s website that carries Kawai (not Shigeru Kawai) and they included them in the top 10 brands along with Roland (digital piano they carry) along with Steingraeber, Sauter, Steinway, etc. It made me laugh that they would have included a mass produced piano from Indonesia along with a handmade piano from Germany but, again, they carry both lines so why not?
These are the things that dealers do that confuse consumers and give them a misleading sense of what is available in the market and what they should be shopping for.
Lets Clear Up Some Misconceptions
In order to answer fairly this question you have to consider some other questions to be sure you understand the question correctly. Is the question what are the top 5 “cheapest” piano brands, do you want to know what are the top 5 “expensive” piano brands?
Perhaps you are asking what are the most popular name brands. You might also want to know what are the most requested piano brands R. Kassman carries.
As you can see it can quickly become a very difficult question.
Obviously, Yamaha and Kawai are two very popular pianos. Along with Steinway I would have to say that these are some of the brand names that I hear the most questions about. If you haven’t had the chance to shop or if you don’t understand what you are looking for you might benefit from understanding more about the question
Where Are Pianos Made
Trying to get to the root of the question you have to consider a few things that you may not understand. While many companies try to direct you away from the realities of the origin of manufacturing, this has a lot to do with it. A few years ago a popular brand name would use a slogan “its not the country of origin” and then extol the logic of why people should by their brand name product because it was “globally sourced” and somehow that made them better.
Yamaha along with Kawai makes pianos in Indonesia and Japan and according to Piano Buyer they also have factories in China. Steinway has a factory in New York and also Germany. Price points range from $5,399 for a cheap Yamaha continental piano made in Indonesia to Steinways most expensive grand at $313,000. Are these in the top 5 piano brands? You are not comparing apples to apples. These are vastly different pianos so the answer to the question is no.
Why? You are asking to compare an American handmade piano to a mass produced instrument. One is said to take a year to build from start to end while the other takes a couple of months at the best. Not a fair comparison even if you are asking what are the top 5 piano brands.
Let’s Be Specific
So when you ask about the top 5 piano brands you need to be a little more specific in your question. Top 5 Piano Brands…..In What Category?
For many years Baldwin piano led the pack as the most requested piano brand. They had stores in every market across the country and had branched out to international markets. When I joined Baldwin we sold pianos into Mexico, France, England, Puerto Rico and Cypress. We had also made a little tiny dot in the middle east. The original Baldwin had stores everywhere. So, at that time you might say that Baldwin was in the top 5 piano brands.
However, even with their popularity at the time there was no way that you could compare Baldwin with Bechstein even though Baldwin owned Bechstein for a number of years. Not a fair comparison at all.
Where Are We Today
So let’s break it down into a few categories to perhaps make it a little more understandable.
Top 5 Piano Brands Starting With Entry Level
Trying to get a fix on specific brand names you have to understand that several companies build and/or sell pianos in several different categories. While some unethical dealers will try to make you believe that the top tier and the bottom tier of their pianos are the same – THEY ARE NOT. Logically, if they were the same then the price would reflect that.
I am consulting several different sources but using Piano Buyer as a major source of information.
In the entry level of pianos you may be surprised to learn that according to Piano Buyer you will find:
Yamaha – Indonesian – Not all models are from Indonesia. You have to check to see which is which on your own. Piano Buyer is a good source.
Kawai – Indonesian – Again, not all models are from Indonesia. You have to check to see which is which on your own. Piano Buyer is a good source.
Essex – Made by Pearl River in China. This is a piano that is sold by Steinway. Be cautious that you understand what you are buying.
Pearl River – Chinese. This is said to be the largest manufacturer of pianos in the world. They make all levels of pianos.
Ritmuller – Chinese – Made by Pearl River as a step up brand utilizing some European designs.
These are the top 5 brands you will find often in the Bay Area. Please note that each of these brands produce pianos in other categories. The models made here are not poor quality but simply a different manufacturing process and less expensive materials. In this category you should expect that the upright models will start in the $6,000 price range and go up from there and in the grand models they will start at $12,000 and go up from there.
Top 5 Pianos Brands In The Professional Level
I chose to break rank a little and combine some of the categories that are listed in Piano Buyer to make it easier to understand. The price ranges will reflect a slightly different range. In this category the upright pianos will start at the $8,000 and go up from there and the grand pricing will generally start at $15,000 and go up from there.
Baldwin – Made by Baldwin China (verticals) and Parsons Music (grands). They fit clearly into this category because of their similar scale design that is based off the original Baldwin.
Yamaha – Some in this category are made in Indonesia or Japan. Here is where you have to be aware of what you are buying and simply ask the dealer OR do the research yourself to be sure you understand.
Kawai – Some in this category are made in Indonesia or Japan. Here is where you have to be aware of what you are buying and simply ask the dealer OR do the research yourself to be sure you understand.
Wilh. Grotrian – Made by Parsons Music. This piano is a division of the Grotrian Piano Company of Germany.
Ritmuller – This series is more labor intensive line made by Pearl River
Boston – This is yet another line that bears a Steinway logo. This piano is made by Kawai.
Now you can see the next step up still has some of those familiar brand names. Yamaha, Baldwin and Kawai, Ritmuller and Boston along with Wilh. Grotrian are now in the next category up BUT they all still bear the same brand names. This is where the whole question starts to get a little muddy. Baldwin and Wilh. Grotrian have similar manufacturing in the Parsons Music piano makers while Kawai and Boston come from the same piano manufacturers.
Top 5 Piano Brands In The Upper End
This is where the biggest changes start. Once you have arrived in this category you find yet another interesting story. Yamaha and Bosendorfer are the same company, Schimmel and Pearl River are the same company and you now will see the entry of fine european pianos. These are pianos that are made in less famous and generally smaller factories. Yamaha does make an appearance here along with Shigeru Kawai. At this level Yamaha and Shigeru are both made in Japan and experience an entirely different manufacturing process than the lesser expensive models.
You also see the entrance of Steinway and Sons of New York. This is not to be confused with Steinway and Sons of Hamburg, Germany. You will see them emerge in the next category of pianos. You will also see the pricing change somewhat. In this category the pricing is going to start at $25,00 and go up from there with the uprights and grands will start around $50,000 and go up from there.
Estonia – Hailing from the country of Estonia, this is a treasure that you have to experience.
Grotrian – A very well known manufacturer that started out with Steinway and later they parted ways. Steinway came to New York while Grotrian continued in Germany to this day.
Schulze Pollman – A small factory in Italy that has beautiful pianos. Exquisite in every way.
Schimmel – A nice piano that is owned now by Pearl River of China. This is another Fine European Piano
Steinway of New York – This is not to be confused with the Hamburg Germany piano. These are two entirely different pianos. It should be noted here that Steinway is one of only two piano companies left in the United States, the other one being Mason and Hamlin.
Now you can see how the landscape changes and perhaps makes it a little clearer why the question What is the Top 5 Piano Brands?
Let’s finish this up with the most expensive and exclusive pianos in the world.
Top 5 Pianos In The Luxury Level
In this category you will find the companies that make the most exclusive brands in the world. All of them would be considered Fine European Pianos.
Steingraeber – This company and its roots can be traced all the way back to Nannette Streicher and the beginning of piano building as it is known today. It may also be noted that they are also the only other company besides Fazioli in this category that is still owned by the original family and has never been sold to an outside firm.
Fazioli – An Italian firm that has risen to fame because of it fantastic designs and its exquisite manufacturing process. Sir Fazioli and Steingraeber are often seen together. Being such great friends often tease each other which is the best piano.
Bechstein – Although it has gone through many ownership transfers it still maintains a place at the top. Little is known of some of their ties to Asia as they have manufacturing plants there as well.
Steinway of Hamburg, Germany – Now this is the same message I had regarding Steinway New York. Hamburg Steinway is not to be confused with New York Steinway. These are two entirely different pianos. Same company – different pianos.
Bosendorfer – Although it is owned by Yamaha, we have not seen major changes in either company. They still maintain a place in the luxury level because of their styling and casework. Beautiful.
So what exactly is meant by The Top 5 Brands? That’s a question you will have to answer for yourself. Hopefully you are armed with a little more information now and can see why this is a very difficult question to answer because it has a very distinct background that has to be set first.
One Of The Reasons I Bought R. Kassman
Fine European Pianos and Ric Overton
R. Kassman has been in business since the late 70s and during that time Mr. Kassman gained quite a reputation for carrying Fine European Pianos. He told me that once he decided to sell the company that Ric Overton was the first person he thought of.
He knew my passion for Fine European Pianos so when I purchased the store from Mr. Kassman in 2019 there were a small handful of conditions. One of them was for me to be able to choose the brand names that I wanted to represent. When we finished with that part of the negotiations we were granted the franchises we have because these were my choices.
Top Choices Of Fine European Pianos
As you can see in each category above we handle a lot of the top named pianos.
I chose Baldwin and Ritmuller because of what I felt they could offer in terms of models, sizes and colors. Also their prices are more affordable as compared to the other brands. Lastly, I felt they complimented the main portion of the business of Fine European Pianos.
In the next category we chose Estonia piano which has become a great favorite by many. Wilh. Steinberg which is a small manufacturer from Eisenberg, Germany and Schulze Pollman Piano from Italy.
Finally, we chose the Mighty Grotrian piano from Germany and the the leader of the piano manufacturing globally Steingraeber piano.
Can you believe we are able to represent all of these lines under one roof. Many of our customers have called R. Kassman the best piano store in the bay area.
We are proud to represent these lines and will continue to represent them for many years to come.