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— During this period, American companies started feeling the competition from Japanese (and, later, Korean) makers who could undercut their prices.
The result was that the few remaining American makers of inexpensive pianos began to cut as much cost as they could from their production.
In addition, small pianos, especially spinets, were heavily promoted for their cabinet styling at the expense of their musical qualities.
Spinets, which are 36" to 40" high, have a recessed, or “drop,” action that is connected to the keys with long “stickers” of wood or metal.
When a piano’s action can’t be regulated to the correct touch, or its strings tuned to a harmonious sound, the student, unable to duplicate what was taught in a lesson, will become frustrated and discouraged, and will lose interest.
And when you include other factors — the costs of moving, tuning, and repairs; an older piano’s shorter remaining life; lack of warranty protection; the need to hire experts to make repeated trips to evaluate the conditions of various older pianos — a new or more recently made instrument may start to look like a bargain in the long run.
Note that this list applies to the use of these names only during the mid to late 1900s.
However, a bad purchasing decision at this point in a student’s learning tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The names in the left column were some of the many brand names owned and made by the Aeolian Corporation, which went out of business in 1985.
Many of these, and other names not listed, were “stencil pianos” — essentially identical instruments with different names applied to them, to meet dealers’ needs.
In many cases a piano that is too old, too small, or simply not good enough will soon become useless to the student.
Students don’t have enough experience to distinguish between a bad piano and their own lack of ability.
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Most reputable piano dealers offer month-to-month rental programs.