When you look at a piano, what you see is not what you get and you can’t gauge piano quality on looks along. But the exterior of the instrument, known as the encasement, still matters a great deal in the overall quality of a piano. Not all piano companies put as much emphasis on the encasement as others so it’s important to understand why a quality encasement matters and what to look for.
The encasement protects the interior workings of the piano from environmental damage. The encasement also adds to the piano’s value because this large instrument is much more than a way to make music. In most homes, pianos take up a large amount of space and act as furnishing and home accent. The higher quality the encasement, the more value it brings to your home, just like any other fine furniture.
A high-quality piano encasement should conform to the style and standard of other fine furniture. It should be crafted from solid wood or wood veneer with a deep stain and finished with several coats of genuine lacquer, not synthetics such as urethane resin. Synthetic finishes don’t touch up as well and are difficult, if not impossible, to repair.
The construction of the encasement matters as well. The industry standard calls for "balanced case" construction meaning all panels in the encasement are five-ply — a core-stock in the middle, cross-banding veneer on either side of the core-stock and facing veneer on the exteriors. The balanced construction prevents warping and splitting, which not only ruins the aesthetics of the piano but affects the sound quality and structural integrity as well.
Finally, all of a piano’s hardware such as hinges, handles or pedals should be made from solid brass or strong metals plated with brass. These small touches make a difference when you’re investing in a major piece of furniture like a piano, not to mention a quality instrument.
As you shop for your piano, the exterior is what you will see first and what will initially attract you to the instrument. Make sure the encasement holds up to the high standards you have for other fine furniture by knowing what to look for. Not only will your new piano look good, but you’ll know it is good as well.