The Most Popular Piano Brands

Charmaine Li  /  Articles  /  UPDATED May 3, 2023

Buying a piano can be very challenging. If you are shopping around for your dream instrument, you may be curious about piano brands and how much a brand’s authority impacts its quality. And while a piano should ultimately be selected because its pianist enjoys playing on it, understanding a little bit about a brand’s history can help inform one’s choice.

The following are some of the most popular piano brands today in both the acoustic and digital piano markets. Remember: a Steinway isn’t always better than a Yamaha just because it’s more expensive. The golden rule: try a piano before you buy it!

We’ll also briefly discuss whether brand really matters.

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Steinway & Sons

Considered by many as the best of the best

Steinway is regarded by many as the piano brand. If you attend a concert hall performance, chances are the house piano is a Steinway. Many of the world’s best pianists, from Lang Lang to Billy Joel, are Steinway artists. In fact, Steinway claims that 97% of concertizing artists choose their brand.

The company was founded by Henry E. Steinway in 1853, a German immigrant in New York City who achieved the American Dream. Despite deteriorating popularity in piano sales, Steinway has stood the test of time and it is one of only two surviving American piano brands (the other being the much smaller Mason & Hamlin). The more affordable Boston and Essex brands are also designed by Steinway.

Steinway pianos are notoriously expensive because they are meticulously crafted from only the finest materials, such as Alaskan sitka spruce. A single piano takes 11 months to produce and the company makes and sells about 1,100 year. And unlike Yamaha, Steinway’s line of pianos is very small—they offer just one upright model. Still, the buyer is rewarded with a warm, beautiful tone and what many consider the best piano in the world.

Product examples:

  • Upright: K-52
  • Flagship grand: Model D
  • Player piano: Spirio R
🎹 DID YOU KNOW? During World War II, Steinway parachuted 3,000 specially-made “Victory Vertical” morale-boosting pianos for American troops.


A consumer and professional favorite

Yamaha is an industry giant. Not only do they sell acoustic and digital pianos, Yamaha produces other musical instruments and even motorsports equipment.

The company is named after founder Torakusu Yamaha, a watchmaker and equipment repairer who was fascinated by Western technology. His music journey began when he was asked to repair a school’s reed organ. He then created his own organ, which was initially panned for being badly tuned. But Yamaha didn’t give up; he studied music theory and tuning and today, the Yamaha logo includes three tuning forks to represent overcoming this hurdle.

Yamaha pianos have a reputation for being high-quality without breaking the bank. They also have a bright sound that some people enjoy, others not so much. Today, the Yamaha U-1 upright remains a popular fixture in many homes and studios. The brand has a diverse line of products that includes concert grands, digital pianos, synthesizers, and acoustic-digital hybrids.

Product examples:

  • Compact upright: B1
  • Most popular upright: U1
  • Flagship grand: CFX


Piano specialists with an innovative, next-generation action

Kawai’s story actually begins with Yamaha. Founder Koichi Kawai worked in research and development at Yamaha before splitting off to create his own company. He was later succeeded by his son, Shigeru Kawai, for whom Kawai’s line of high-end concert grands is named after.

What sets Kawai apart is their use of carbon fiber technology, which is present in their current Millennium III action. Traditional actions (like those of Yamaha and Steinway) use wood. The advantage of carbon fiber is a lighter action and better durability. This allows quicker repetition (25% faster according to Kawai) and an action that is less vulnerable to variations in climate.

Kawai pianos have been described as having a “darker” tone than their Yamaha cousins, which some musicians find preferable. Unlike Yamaha, Kawai has chosen to focus on pianos and they also boast a competitive line of digital and hybrid instruments.

Product examples:

  • Professional upright: K-800
  • Premium grand: SK-EX (Shigeru Kawai)
  • Grand: EX Concert Grand


A new standard of excellence (and purveyor of striking designs)

Fazioli is a newer piano brand, founded in 1981 by Italian Paolo Fazioli and based in Sacile, Province of Pordenone. Their pianos are even more expensive than Steinways—a single piano takes two to three years to build and the brand makes fewer than 140 pianos a year. They also use Italian red spruce (as opposed to Alaskan sitka spruce) and gold hinges, compared with Steinway’s brass and nickel hinges.

The company only manufactures grand pianos, and their key action has been described as being incredibly light. Fazioli is also known for its series of custom designer pianos in buildings around the world.

Fazioli is the brand sponsor of artists like Angela Hewitt and Herbie Hancock. At the XVIII Fryderyk Chopin International Piano Competition, many winners (including 1st prize holder Bruce Liu) chose to play on a Fazioli F278.

Product examples:

  • Smallest grand piano: F156
  • Largest grand piano: F308
  • Aesthetic variations: explore here
We got a chance to play the Fazioli Butterfly. Watch the vlog!

C. Bechstein

Continuation of a centuries-long European legacy

Together with Bösendorfer, Blüthner, and Steinway, C. Bechstein is one of the “big four” piano companies of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Carl Bechstein founded his company in 1853 and his pianos were praised by early legends like Franz Liszt and Hans von Bülow. Fun fact: The iconic opening to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” is played on a C. Bechstein piano.

In terms of sound, C. Bechstein’s is often compared with Bösendorfer’s and Steinway’s (in fact, check out a neat comparison video here). In general, European pianos tend to exude a warmer, rounder tone than Japanese pianos like Yamaha and Kawai. But individual pianos can differ.

C. Bechstein offers two main piano lines: the Concert and Residence series and the Academy series. The Concert series is the highest tier because it uses higher quality materials and more work hours. The two lines also use different actions and the Concert series soundboard is built from the same wood Stradivarius violins were built with. VARIO is a digital sound system you can connect to your acoustic piano to take advantage of digital features. C. Bechstein also produces the Hoffmann and Zimmermann lines of pianos, which are more affordably priced.

Product examples:

  • Concert Series grand: Concert D 282
  • Academy Series semi-concert grand: Academy A 228
  • Concert Series professional upright: Concert 8


Majestic sound and the largest piano you can get

Another one of the great European piano makers, Bösendorfer’s pianos are known for their deeply warm, majestic tone. The brand was officially founded in 1828 by Ignaz Bösendorfer in Vienna, Austria, so it pre-dates C. Bechstein and Steinway. The company achieved fame overnight after a performance on one of their pianos by Liszt in 1839.

In 2008, Yamaha acquired the brand, but Bösendorfer states that its manufactory in Austria remains fully independent. Bösendorfer’s acquisition into Yamaha means you can access the unique sound of Bösendorfer pianos in some Yamaha digital and hybrid instruments. On the Bösendorfer side, the brand also offers Yamaha’s Disklavier player piano features.

Bösendorfer’s most notable instrument is probably its Concert Grand 290 Imperial, a grand piano with nine extra keys. This gives the Imperial eight full octaves.

Product examples:



Music tech specialists who have revolutionized the industry

The Roland Corporation is an electronic music powerhouse. Among its achievements are the BOSS stompboxes for guitar, the Jupiter line of synthesizers, and numerous other mixers, workstations, and other tools for cutting-edge music-making. Roland is responsible for numerous musical milestones in the 70s, 80s, and beyond, when synthesized sound ruled (and continues to rule) music.

In the piano realm, Roland’s line of products is diverse. On one end, there are grand pianos like the GP09, which combine the traditional acoustic grand experience with digital technology. Roland’s portable digitals are favorites among pianists as well—these include the brand’s flagship FP series and the RD-2000 stage piano. Acoustic purists: don’t be fooled by Roland’s digital pedigree—Roland’s SuperNATURAL sound engine is well-regarded for its sound quality.

At Pianote, our studio piano is a (discontinued) Roland V-Piano Grand.

Product examples:


Reliability in digital form

Yamaha’s reputation as a master piano maker extends to its digital instruments. Again, Yamaha offers a lot of choice here, including the portable P-series, the Clavinova, and Arius home console pianos, and the CP and YC stage pianos used by gigging pros. There are several types of digital action available, including the Graded Hammer Standard (GHS), Graded Hammer 3 (GH3), Graded Hammer 3 With Escapement (GH3X), Grand Touch, and Natural Wood X.

Their hybrid pianos are worth mentioning. The AvantGrand series features instruments with acoustic upright and grand actions paired with digital sound engines. This means you get the best of both worlds: an authentic playing experience and all the advantages of a digital instrument!

Product examples:


Excellent actions in digital form

Kawai has invested a lot into creating the best digital actions possible. In fact, there are nine digital actions available. The CA series offers a professional-grade playing experience. Meanwhile, the MP11SE is a unique stage piano that includes real, full-size wooden hammers (which, as a downside, makes that instrument quite heavy). The R.H. III action deserves an extra shout-out—it’s so good that Nord integrated it into their Nord Grand.

Along with Yamaha, Kawai offers best-of-both-worlds hybrid pianos too. They have two: the Novus NV5S and the Novus NV10S. The NV5S is unique in that it employs a real spruce soundboard. The Millennium III Hybrid grand piano action in the NV10S is almost the exact same thing as the action used in their grand pianos.

Product examples:


Piano power packed in slim, low-profile elegance

Casio doesn’t just make alarm clocks and watches; they also create a wide variety of keyboard instruments! These pianos have become quite popular. On one end, there are accessibly priced, portable instruments for casual players, the smallest of which are essentially very nice toys. On the other end, their Privia line of portable digitals is well respected. They also offer hybrid digital instruments like the GP-510 that uses a Bechstein action.

Casio excels in making instruments that are very slim and portable, making them suitable for casual players, those who are low on space, or musicians who want to bring their instruments on the go. The Privia PX-S7000—which comes in a variety of colorways and a stylish, modernist stand—is especially eye-catching.

Product examples:


The #1 choice of the performing pros

In recent years, Nord’s eye-catching bright red design has appeared in many stage musicians’ videos. Designed especially for stage performers, Nord offers synthesizers, digital pianos, and an organ. Their stage piano combines elements from all three major keyboard instruments into one portable, killer package. Hand-made in Sweden, these instruments aren’t cheap, but there must be a reason why they are popular among professionals (including Pianote Coaches Jesús Molina and Summer Swee-Singh). Indeed, Nord’s target customer is a professional musician willing to invest in a high-quality instrument suitable for touring and gigging.

Pianists will likely be most interested in the Nord Piano 5, Nord Grand, and Nord Stage 3. The Nord Grand even uses Kawai’s R.H. III Hammer Action. The many knobs and switches on a Nord instrument may seem intimidating, but the brand argues this is more tactile and straightforward to use than a screen based interface.

Product Examples:


Beautifully designed instruments, with beautiful sound to boot

Handmade in Italy, Dexibell pianos are beautiful instruments. They also produce a beautiful sound: their T2L (True to Life) sound engine and unlimited polyphony create an authentic and nuanced sound that includes crystal-clear hammer noise and key-off. Aesthetically designed, Dexibell produces both upright and grand digital pianos including the eye-catching Mini Grand Piano, VIVO H series of home pianos, and the beautiful S-series of stage pianos.

Product examples:


Synthesizer legend now innovating in the digital piano sphere

Another major brand from Japan, Korg is best known for its synthesizers and music production gear and tech. Their first major product was the Doncamatic auto rhythm machine (so named after its don-ka, don-ka sound), produced under the original Keio brand. Throughout its history, Korg has also worked closely with Yamaha.

More recently, Korg has delved into the digital piano market using their many decades of related knowledge. One of their newest pianos is the Liano, an ultra-compact portable that is 7cm thick and weighs only 6.2kg. They also make the toy tinyPiano. Note that Korg’s RH action is its own thing and not related to Kawai’s RH action.

Product examples:

  • Ultra-compact portable: Liano
  • Digital piano: B2
  • Vintage-style stage piano: SV-1

Which piano brand should I buy?

We can discuss piano brands and their specs all day, but how a piano feels when you play it is a very personal experience. The best way to figure out which piano brands to buy is to try a variety of instruments. 

If you’re shopping in the digital market, you may want to choose an instrument based more on its action than its sound. Because while sound can be customizable (you can download VSTs for most digital pianos), once you buy a piano, you’re basically stuck with its built-in action.

Some quick tips for buying the best digital piano to learn on:

  • Try your best to get 88 keys. This is a standard, full-size keyboard. Even beginners will find they’ll run out of keys pretty soon if they have fewer than 88 keys.
  • Look for fully weighted, touch-sensitive keys. This means a piano will sound soft when you play it softly and loud when you apply more pressure. Having this mechanism is essential to developing good technique.
  • Look for graded action. This means the keys in the higher register will feel lighter than the keys in the lower register, just like an acoustic piano.

Buying a piano is a very personal journey and there are no right or wrong answers. Every musician has their own preferences when it comes to price points, tech features, action, and sound. Some people may prioritize how an instrument fits with their home aesthetic—that’s okay, too.

If you want to learn more about pianos (and buying one), check out the following articles:

Also check out some of our reviews:

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Charmaine Li is a Vancouver writer who has played piano for over 20 years. She holds an Associate diploma (ARCT) from the Royal Conservatory of Music and loves writing about the ways in which music—and music learning—affects the human experience. Charmaine manages The Note. Learn more about Charmaine here.

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