When you’re in the market to purchase your first piano or looking to upgrade to a high-end piano, knowing your brands and doing your research is key.
In this guide, we’re going to list the eight best piano brands in the world, so that you have frame of reference when you’re purchasing a piano.
Obviously, buying a piano from any of our recommendations will insure that you end up with a top-quality instrument.
Unfortunately, most of these pianos cost a small fortune.
You should not be afraid of buying budget pianos – and some of these brands offer budget models – but you should also know what makes a great piano great, so that you know what to look for when you are testing them out.
We’ll also go through a few things that you should know and understand when you’re picking the right instrument.
Steinway & Sons Is A Respected Piano Maker
Let’s just get Steinway & Sons out of the way – they are one of the most recognized piano brands and one of the best in the world.
Legendary for their precision and detail, Steinway is a favorite amongs Classical musicians.
Pianists like Lang Lang, Mitsuko Uchida, and Martha Argerich endorse Steinway pianos.
They’ve been building pianos for over 160 years in New York City and you can still find their headquarters there today.
Steinway offers many models, which are often chosen based on the size of the space the piano will be kept in.
The most famous model on offer from Steinway is the Model D – arguably the best grand piano in the world.
But the Steinway D runs from $30,000 to $100,000 or more, and if you’re paying that much, you should probably go test it out in-store, which requires finding a store that sells these expensive instruments.
Steinway also makes the Boston Performance Edition piano – a mid-level option for professionals and students on their way to becoming professionals.
Even that piano costs over $10,000.
But they also offer the Boston Essex upright piano, which is marginally more affordable.
If you’re looking to own a Steinway for a reasonable price, the Essex is your best bet.
It’s also the only piano you can purchase online and have delivered.
The Essex upright will also fit in an apartment or home studio.
Another highly-recognizable brand, Yamaha offers sturdy, well-built pianos with a signature bright sound.
These pianos are preferred by pop players and jazz players – Chick Corea, Elton John and Alicia Keys all endorse Yamaha pianos.
Yamaha offers a diverse line of pianos, which is great if you are in the market for one.
They have an array of options in acoustic pianos – from grands to uprights – and many digital options as well.
One of their more innovative options is the silent piano feature on some of their acoustic/digital pianos.
You turn it on, and it silences the piano, but you can still hear it through headphones – practice time is now any time!
Yamaha makes expensive, high-end concert grands, but generally their options are more affordable.
The Yamaha YDP series is a great option for a budget piano, and the U1 and U3 are common and respected upright pianos.
The CX series provides customers with a budget grand/baby grand option.
While Yamahas are great options for most players, they do have a few downsides.
For one thing, the value of a Yamaha piano will not go up over time, while Steinways and Baldwins stand a better chance of holding their resale value or even going up in value.
While the engineering is precise and high-quality, some of the materials are not of the same quality as those used in Steinways and Baldwins.
This leads to lower resale value and less durability.
That said, Yamahas should be considered in the top five piano brands in the world; they are precision made in Japan, have high standards for manufacturing, and are widely used in studios, practice rooms, and concert stages across the world.
Kawai Is A Japanese Piano Brand
Kawai, another Japanese brand, also offers high-end pianos in a reasonable price range.
They have a few interesting features, which make them stand out in a room, and make them the piano of choice for players like Joe Yamada and Steven Curtis Chapman.
Features like slightly longer keys for technical playing, a soundboard made of local wood and the use of plastic and composite in their construction make them feel like a true modern piano.
They are sleek and sophisticated looking, and well-made.
Kawai only puts out around 250 pianos every year.
Kawai also makes beautiful sounding digital pianos.
While I no longer own a true digital piano (just stage pianos), when I was testing out digital pianos, my favorites were always Kawais.
The detail and polyphony available in the samples is stunning.
The only downside to Kawai acoustic pianos is that the components used in structurally unimportant areas are flimsy and their digital pianos are more expensive than Yamaha digital pianos.
Still, I think that the higher price is reflected in the quality of the tone from their digital pianos, and their acoustic pianos are beautiful looking, with professional tone.
Fazioli is Italian company that makes highly-unique and artfully crafted instruments.
They are easily one of the most expensive pianos on this list, with price tags ranging from $100,000 to $300,000, and they are also one of the newest companies, established in just 1981.
Paulo Fazioli wanted to make the best piano in the world, and while it’s hard to claim the title of best, Faziolis make a decent case for themselves.
For this reason, Fazioli only makes grand pianos and concert grand pianos.
After all, why compromise your sound with an upright?
Of course, this along with the price tag makes Faziolis hard to own.
While they may not be an at-home piano for most of the world, they are worth mentioning, simply because they are continually pushing the boundaries of piano-making.
They have the longest and largest concert grand in the world, the F308, which weighs 570kg and measures over 10 feet in length.
They make a piano made with 24-carat gold leaf.
They make pianos out of unique, rare woods like red elm and ebony.
They are truly works of art, and are played by the likes of Herbie Hancock, Matteo Fossi and Lucas Wong.
Faziolis purportedly have an interesting touch and sound – loud, strong projection, incredible sustain and clarity, but they are also sensitive.
You must play them gently, as they are not always warm.
The bass notes in particular stand out as being brighter than you’d expect.
Bechstein Manufacture German Pianos
Bechstein is a German manufacturer that has been making pianos since 1853.
These are great pianos that have been played by the British Queen, and are played in many famous studios.
If you have the capital to buy a high-end piano, but not the room for a grand, you should consider the Bechstein upright.
Their upright pianos are beautiful in their simplicity and elegant in their German design.
Bechstein is at the top-tier of many excellent German piano makers.
Beginning players, budding pros and hobbyists should look into Zimmerman brand pianos and the popular W. Hoffman brands as well.
These pianos are built with the same German precision that makes Bechstein special, but without the price and some of the more fanciful woods and parts.
Advanced players looking to invest in a lifelong piano should consider Bechstein.
Bosendorfer are favorites of players and enthusiasts with an interest in tradition and history.
Established in 1828, Bosendorfer has a long history of excellence, a well-known sound and a tradition of innovation.
Bosendorder was famous for having extended their concert grand piano to 97 keys, making the piano an eight-octave instrument.
These pianos became popular in the concert halls of the day and continue to be used in many around the world.
Regardless of their size, these pianos are well-known for having a rich, warm sound that suits classical music.
The touch is also quite delicate.
Unfortunately, these pianos are prohibitively expensive.
They’re also difficult to tune and incredibly large and heavy, leading to high delivery fees.
If you ever get a chance to play one, enjoy the privilege!
Mason & Hamlin Is An American Paino Making Brand
Mason & Hamlin are a well-known American piano maker based in Massachusetts.
They call their flagship model The Finest Piano in the World.
Their models have invented a few modern improvements; new rim presses, improved leverage on their damper pedal and longer keys on the upright pianos, to make them feel more like a grand.
While these pianos are costly, they are more affordable than Bosendorfers or Steinways, and just as respected and revered.
They have a lush and powerful sound that suits their American construction, and they are the favorite piano of many American concert halls.
Stuart & Sons
Stuart & Sons are another new piano maker – founded in 1990 in New South Wales, Australia.
These pianos are considered to be a close, modern alternative to a Bosendorfer.
They have a warm, rich sound, a gentle touch and the ability to be purchased with more keys than the average concert grand.
97- and 102-key models are available.
Their pianos also have a fourth pedal.
There are two pedals affecting volume, and two sustain pedal options.
Because they are built in Australia, Stuart & Sons sometimes build with beautiful rare woods.
You can get grand pianos made with Red Cedar, Tasmanian Sassafras or Tasmanian Huon Pine.
While Stuart & Sons make gorgeous pianos, they may not be everyone’s first choice, because their extra pedals and extra keys make them more modern and less steeped in the long tradition of piano making.
For some players, that may be a huge attraction, while other players will be turned off by these innovations.
How To Choose A Piano Brand
At first glance, choosing a piano might seem like a daunting task.
But if you know what factors to look for, the process is relatively easy.
Here are some tips on how to choose a piano:
Determine What You Need From The Piano
Figuring out what purpose your piano is serving is the first step towards making a good purchase.
How much space do you have?
Will you need to move the piano for gigs?
Will you be moving houses soon?
Can you practice at any time of day, or will you need to be quiet sometimes?
The answers to these questions should guide you to a piano that suits your needs, whether that is a baby grand, an upright, a smaller upright, a console piano or a digital piano.
Of course, there are aesthetic considerations as well.
How will the piano complement your home’s décor?
Should it be brown, black, or something else entirely?
What sort of tone and touch do you like?
Depending on your preferred genre, you may opt for bright or darker pianos.
Play The Piano
I would never buy a piano without first playing it.
I would probably try to play it more than once too.
If you’re thinking about buying a new, or even a used piano, go play it for a while.
Play it with the top open and closed.
Play loud songs and quiet songs.
Play in different genres.
How does it make you feel?
If I were buying a new piano, I would probably go play it several times over the course of weeks or months, to see how I feel about coming back to it.
Don’t Fear Off-Brand Or Budget Pianos
Just because a piano isn’t one of our best piano brands in the world does not mean it’s a bad piano.
It’s better to have a piano you can afford than no piano at all.
So long as you have played the instrument, enjoyed it, and insured that it is good quality, playable, and able to be maintained, it should meet your needs.
Have A Registered Piano Technician Inspect The Piano
If you’re not buying new from an established retailer, make sure to have a Register Piano Technician or piano tech look over the piano.
Used pianos can be cheap, as people often need to get rid of them fast.
But they can turn into expensive annoyances just as fast.
There are a few problems that many used pianos have that make the instrument useless and beyond repair.
If this is the case, and you bought the piano, you’d be stuck with an instrument that can’t be played that you need to get rid of.
Understand Common Issues
Some common issues with used pianos seem small, but are in fact deal-breakers.
And, some seemingly major issues aren’t a huge deal.
For example, keys that don’t work – not a big deal.
Usually, some part of the mechanism has broken or come apart and this can be easily fixed.
On the other hand, what seems like a mere tuning issue can be the end of a piano.
If a note is so out of tune that it sounds like two notes, the piano is not worth repairing.
This usually means a tuning pin has slipped, and it’s a costly repair.
Small rattles, distortion or buzzing may seem like a small problem, when in fact this is often the result of a cracked soundboard.
Either do your research, or spend a little bit extra to have a piano tech look over the instrument – if you’re buying a cheap piano, it’s probably worth it.
Which Piano Maker Is Right for You?
The right piano is a piano you can fit in your space, use effectively in whatever space you need to and play and sound the way you want it to.
The right piano is also a piano you can afford.
As I mentioned, having a piano is better than not having one.
If you happen upon a high-end piano you fall in love with, research budget versions.
You can find budget versions of famous pianos that are made by the same company and budget versions that are made by other companies to sound like them.
It’s even possible to get a great used find.
Just make sure you play the piano and get it checked out.