Why does almost every house of worship include music? Music has the ability to speak to every part of man: his spirit, his mind, his emotions, his will, his body and his flesh.
Selecting a piano for your place of worship is very different from selecting a piano for your home. A piano is a major investment for a church, and involves many more elements than a private residence.
The size of your church and the seating design is the first consideration. Not just the weekly services, and the normal congregation. Will there be special events where extra seating and larger spaces need to resonate with music, like an Easter Oratorio or Handl’s Messiah service that might extend beyond ordinary seating. It pays to imagine what the needs for the future and growth of the congregation may be, since a piano isn’t something that is frequently purchased.
Be realistic. The youth room may not need a new piano, and a used one may do just fine. However, it is the attitude of most church officials that the worship center deserves the finest music for God’s glory the church can afford.
Pianos are manufactured in a variety of grades. There are “price point” pianos, which are inexpensive and for light duty. There are medium-grade pianos appropriate for classrooms, rehearsal rooms or a chapel. Artist-grade pianos, grands and concert grands, are well made, have a refined touch and wonderful sound, and are the first choice for worship, professional concerts and rehearsals. There are grand pianos and uprights in every grade. Pianos vary widely in price. Determining the appropriate quality of piano you need is a crucial step.
For most church worship centers, a grand piano is the best choice. The longer in length, the better the instrument, depending on your budget. The advantage of a longer piano is that the strings are also longer, and that is what produces the great power and richness, allowing them to be easily heard clear to the back of a church. The workmanship that goes into grand pianos gives them the ability to retain harmonic balance, ensuring that close or spread octaves alike have the purity and brilliance to produce virtually beatless perfect fifths.
The size of the grand piano depends on the size of your sanctuary, how many instruments or vocalists will be playing with it and a variety of other environmental concerns. If at all possible, plan for a piano that is big enough to be heard without amplification. Mic’ing a piano often ruins its tone.
The Moorings Church in Naples, Florida
A black or polished ebony piano is standard on most worship platforms. Black is the least expensive color for most grands, it’s the most durable and it’s easily repaired if damaged. If your church has bright stage lighting, you may want to choose a satin finish. Glare from stage lighting can cause distractions or discomfort for some members of the congregation. If your stage lighting is subdued, a polished finish will work very well.
Whether you’re officially affiliated with your church’s piano selection committee or you are an independent congregation member who would like to donate an instrument, you should map out a plan to make sure the piano you select represents the best long-term investment for your congregation. Buy the best piano you can afford.
“For whatever reason, churches have bought into the mentality that it’s okay to spend several hundred thousands of dollars for a great organ, the best pews and a killer sound system, but the piano – their main worship instrument – is an afterthought!”
(Bob Dove – Chicken Soup for the Soul)
Dr. Marie Kavana delighting the congregation on their new Schimmel concert grand piano
Consider how the sound of your worship instrument will edify those to whom it ministers. Its tone should be warm and pleasing, not overly brilliant or abrasive. As your primary worship instrument, your sanctuary piano should provide the highest level of music your congregation can afford.
Your next step should be to set up an appointment for a consultation with a reputable representative.
Don’t waste your time phoning random piano stores and speaking to salesmen who might know a little but not nearly enough. Pianos are for sale all around us. A worship piano, however, will require a regular regime of care and maintenance that many piano sources simply cannot provide. Avoid selecting your piano from an online auction site, a private owner or a long-distance warehouse.
Buying a piano from a private owner might be financially advantageous IF you do not need safe delivery or a warranty and you fully understand its true condition. Having a technician check the piano may or may not be worth the cost. If you purchase a piano for your church from a neighbor, the newspaper or the Internet, you may save a little money but purchase many headaches. The money you save is money you’d gladly spend for the proper technical and delivery services that good pianos need. Ask your own pianist about past experiences, and you will likely get an earful.
So find a reputable consultant. It’s important to develop a relationship that extends beyond a single transaction. Don’t forget, you will want your piano safely and professionally moved, (more involved than one might guess), tuned, maintained, possibly repaired, and you will require someone who can be a professional resource in all areas of the piano business. Sit down and get to know who you are dealing with, ask for references. check out warranties, warranty tunings, technicians, movers, and what they can offer your church in the way of excellent quality and ongoing service.
The diligent effort to purchase a piano for God’s kingdom is an act of love, The reward is heard and felt every time the piano is played.
In Naples, Florida, some churches like Naples United Church of Christ, and Unity Church of Naples, did their homework and purchased high quality instruments. What was the impact on their music program after they acquired a new concert grand piano? Naples United Church does a lot of fine concerts. They have two Bechstein concert grands and work closely with the Naples Philharmonic. Their concept of service to the community has thrilled their congregation as they are leaders.
Moorings Presbyterian Church having only a small Steinway on stage, needed to rent a concert grand Fazioli for the big performances it undertakes. (Arts Naples Festival, their Hyacinth Concert Series.) They have begun the process of selecting an instrument to purchase, seeing the wisdom of not having to move pianos in and out during the year.
Having a good quality piano on stage in a church is an investment and a showcase for the best of musical programs, singers, and services.