There are many things on which to spend money. Good old Mazlow spelled them out for us. A piano is an investment in oneself, in ones striving for culture, experience and to some gods grace. Grace can be, of course, in anything. However an expensive, craft build piano is a particularly unique example.
If you play, a piano is a means of expression, a means of communication. It has been said that a piano is western civilization’s most perfect tool for the communication of emotion. That can be external communication, directed to an audience, or internal, directed only to oneself. It can be a tool of profound exploration or simple time passing, but so can any piano, right?
Yes, of course, but also, no, obviously not. A craft built piano has 2 important qualities; musical range and a story. The range comes from the combination of carefully selected and treated materials and skilled craftsmanship. These elements DO make a difference and even the most casual piano player can tell the difference.
One common experience occurs when a fairly accomplished amateur, somebody who has a reasonable command of a couple pieces and some serious study under their belt, visits a store to try a variety of pianos. This has happened often enough that I no longer consider it a fluke. This person visits various pianos in the room, spending significant time at each piano exploring its capabilities before coming to, in my experience, the Bosendorfer. After a couple of minutes at the Bosendorfer you can not only hear the change but you can see the light bulb of awareness light up. The same musical phrase is explored over and over, a smile often crosses the face. Afterwards, almost verbatim, the comment is made: “I didn’t know I could play that well”
Their teacher had been trying to get them to explore certain chord voicings, or to shape a phrase in a particular way, but their consumer grade piano just wasn’t up to the task, it simply wouldn’t give up the goods. It’s like trying to drive a mini-van in a Formula One race. The problem is that it wasn’t clear that it was the pianos fault…it must be the pianist, right?