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When looking for a piano to buy, should I be taking note of the brightness of the sound of the piano?

What kind of piano sound would I be looking for for romantic period music and arranged music?

Basically, do I want a bright sounding piano or a mellow sounding one.

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Your third question is a matter of opinion and can't be answered here. Pretty much the same with your second question. I'm pretty sure everyone would agree that the answer to the first question is "Yes". You should pay attention to the brightness, but how bright it should be is a matter of personal taste.

Important note: Pretty much all pianos get brighter in their first couple years as the hammer felt hardens, and they will more slowly continue to brighten over time, although string corrosion (fairly slow on most pianos) can darken the tone somewhat. So you should buy a piano that is a bit more mellow than you really want it to sound, unless you're buying a used piano.

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  • The soundboard gradually bowing under the stress from the strings (especially on old and/or cheap pianos) is probably a more significant cause of the tone darkening than corroded strings - and unlike corroded strings, it is not repairable. On a grand piano that hasn't been "loved", just vacuuming the dust off the soundboard can make a difference! In general, re-voicing a piano to make the tone mellower is much easier than trying to make it brighter.
    – user19146
    May 9 '16 at 16:37
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Rather than deciding between "bright" and "mellow," I suggest searching for a good sound in general and a long sustain. A good piano, one that's properly tuned, voiced, and regulated, will allow you the full spectrum of colors, from bright and brilliant to dark and lush, and the sound should last forever. Even if you prefer one of those two sounds now (bright vs mellow), a piano is a lifetime purchase, and your musical tastes may change over time. A good piano with those basic traits should give you all the colors you want, today and tomorrow.

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I agree with Todd's answer; it's mostly a matter of personal preference. However, it should be noted that a lot of the sound depends both on the style of the piano and the tuning. The style may not be an adjustable factor depending on your circumstances.

An new upright piano will generally be more mellow than a grand, for example. And like Todd says, they can get brighter with aging. With uprights you will also be more likely to find that the soundboard softens after many years which will dull the tone.

Tuning an instrument a little higher will also give a brighter sound, as was seen historically with pitch inflation. With a piano with multiple strings for each key, you can also offset the strings very slightly from each other to give the effect of a tack or ragtime piano (which is sort of bright and muddied at the same time).

Given the great electronic pianos we now have with key weighting and touch sensitivity, you might want to consider one of those — most come with several different timbre presets so you can select a brighter or mellower sound at will. I really enjoy having the ability to select a harpsichord sound for certain pieces, myself.

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It's really up to you. I like bright pianos as opposed to mellow ones. They are more happy sounding and when you play fast there is more dexterity in the sound. They are beautiful for romantic music. But for me they are more heart warming.

I'm a Bechstein lover and also love Yamaha because many of them are bright. But be careful not to go too bright so as to lose depth of tone. Pianos I can recommend: Bechstein, Zimmerman and Yamaha.

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