種族歧視

來美國20年,我接觸了很多關於種族議題的學術研究和討論。由於我的專業是教育,因此種族議題經常會出現在課堂上的討論以及學術研討會的議程中。舉例來說,我們領域的專業社團Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) 今年的研討會主題Woke Academy就是一個以種族議題為中心的主題。雖然常常接觸種族議題,我個人其實沒有很多被種族歧視的經驗。上個禮拜的學術研討會卻讓我親身經歷了一遭。

話說2008年Barack Obama當上美國總統的時候,很多人以為種族歧視這個美國社會掙扎了兩百多年的議題總算可以退下檯面了。畢竟,黑人都已經當上美國總統了,種族歧視的問題還存在嗎?現在看來,當時的這些想法真是太單純太天真。自從Trump當上美國總統之後,白人至上主義者受到Trump直接和間接的鼓勵,現在美國各地不斷出現美國白人挑戰甚至挑釁種族平等的事件。這一切都突顯出「歧視」是人類天性的一部份,甚難根除。

幾年前,我跟我當年讀博士班時候的一個白人男性友人一起開始了一個研究計畫。這個研究計畫是我的主意,我的朋友Ashley幫我做了一些文獻調查並且幫我收集資料。我們兩個合作的很愉快,總算在今年我們把學術論文完成送到ASHE,也很幸運的被選上在今年的研討會發表。這篇文章的第一作者是我,第二作者是我的朋友。

當我們在準備誰要負責講哪個部分的時候,我們決定讓Ashley做開場以及文獻的部分,我則是負責研究方法以及結果和討論。之所以這麼分是因為研究方法以及結果有比較多統計的細節,Ashley怕他自己講不清楚。我當然是沒有問題,所以就這麼定案了。

研討會當天,我們的發表非常的順利,一切都按照我們規劃的進行。你也可以從上面的圖中清清楚楚的看到誰是第一作者、誰是第二作者。但是,令我納悶的是當我們發表結束之後,大家都向Ashley問問題而不是向我問問題。而且他們在問問題的時候都引述”Ashley and Daniel’s study.”這真的讓我很納悶:螢幕上明明就打著Daniel and Ashley’s study,為什麼你們卻自己把我白人朋友的名字放在前面,然後把我這個亞洲人的名字放在後面呢?我知道我的聽眾們不是故意的,但是這難道不是一種種族歧視嗎?

What pianos do you recommend if I have a budget between $3k and $7k?

In this price range, you have a lot of choices. First thing first, I do not recommend you buying a digital piano in this price range, so let’s put that to rest. Categorically speaking, you have 3 good options and 2 bad options. You should also read my previous article which has some tips on evaluating used acoustic pianos.

Good options:

  1. Used Yamaha U series or Kawai K series: Used Yamaha U series (U1 and U3) and used Kawai K series (K300, K500, & K800) are the best selling pianos in this price range. You can visit any piano dealer and I guarantee you will find at least one used Yamaha U1 for sale. Yamaha U series and Kawai K series are the professional line of each brand and these pianos are known to be consistent and reliable. Plus, they can be sold quickly and keep value well. If you want to a good piano with reliable quality and good resale value, go no further. Just find a used Yamaha U series or Kawai K series piano that you like and call it a day.
  2. New Korean or Chinese vertical pianos: If you want a new piano in this price range, you can either buy a entry-level Yamaha or Kawai vertical piano (not the professional line) or a mid to top level Korean or Chinese vertical piano. Value wise, you will get a much better piano if you buy a new Korean or Chinese piano as compared to entry-level Yamaha or Kawai pianos. However, Yamaha and Kawai rule the resale market, which means they will sell faster with better price if one day you decide to sell your piano. If you decide to try out Korean/Chinese pianos in this price range, I would recommend the following brands and models:
    • Hailun HU5-P: Chinese pianos have come a long way in the past 30 years and Hailun is one of the best-known Chinese piano brands. Hailun has won many international piano trade awards in recent years. This piano is highly recommended by professional reviewers. I have never played a Hailun vertical piano, so I don’t have personal experience to share.
    • Ritmüller UH-121RA: Ritmüller is a higher-end brand owned by the biggest Chinese piano manufacture Pearl River. Pearl River/Ritmüller has also won quite a few piano trade awards in recent years. While Pearl River and Hailun have similar market share in the U.S. market, in Chinese local market Pearl River brands are more popular than Hailun.
    • Perzina GP-122: Perzina is another Chinese piano brand and their pianos are known for floating soundboard and very good sound. It is a much smaller company compared to Hailun and Pearl River. I personally have had a bad experience with a Perzina grand piano but I do love the sound and action of their vertical pianos.
    • WM. Knabe WKV132MD: Last but not least is this piano made by Samick Music Corp. of South Korea. (Note: “Knabe” is pronounced using the hard K sound followed by “nobby.”) I have played this piano and I am impressed by its tone and touch.
  3. Used baby grand piano larger than 5’3″: At this price range, you will likely find a few new and used grand pianos for sale. Baby grand is a term used to describe the smaller size grand pianos. Generally speaking, baby grands are grand pianos shorter than 5’5″ (165 cm). In my opinion, you should not buy a grand piano that is smaller than 5’3″ (160 cm). Now, you will find endless debates on the advantages versus disadvantages of baby grands in comparison to vertical pianos, but the general consensus is that grand pianos shorter than 5′ (152 cm) are acoustically compromised and perform no better than regular size vertical pianos (48″ or taller).

Bad options:

  1. New grand piano: In this price range, if you are going to buy a new grand piano, you most likely will only find grands that are smaller than 5′, aka baby grands. Occasionally, you may find new Korean or Chinese grands larger than 5’3″ for sale at the top of this price range. If you have to buy a new grand piano, please buy one that is at least 4’10” (148 cm) long.
  2. Used Korean and Chinese pianos: If you have $3k to $7k to spend, you can buy a new Korean or Chinese vertical piano. No need to buy a used Korean or Chinese vertical piano unless you find one in like new condition with huge discount.

Note: The reason I put metric unit along with Imperial unit in the size measurement is because most pianos are measured in metric unit.

This is one of the articles in a series called “Piano Buying Guide for Parents of Young Students“. You can find other articles of the series through this link.

What pianos do you recommend if I have a budget between $1k and $3k?

At this price point, you begin to see some serviceable used vertical (upright) pianos. In my opinion, digital pianos are still the better options in this price range, but if you insist on buying an acoustic piano you should be able to find a decent one if you are patient. Let’s talk about digital pianos first.

Roland and Yamaha both have good digital pianos in this price range. I would also consider Kawai digital pianos in this price range (the problem with Kawai digital pianos is that they are difficult to find). My recommendations are:

  • Yamaha Arius YDP-184 is one of the best-selling digital pianos and it is a great choice for most families. We have an earlier model in our house too. It costs around $2,200 (July, 2018).
  • Roland DP603 is another good offer from Roland. It costs around $2,400 (July, 2018).
  • Kawai ES8 is highly recommended by professional reviewers. It costs around $2000 (July, 2018).

Again, I would avoid other digital piano brands in this price range unless you really can’t find anything you like in the 3 major brands. This is also the top price range I would spend on a digital piano unless you are ready to jump to hybrid pianos, which will cost you a lot more.

If you plan to buy an acoustic piano in this price range, there are a few things you need to pay attention to:

  1. Do NOT buy a “spinet” piano.” Most acoustic pianos you will find in this price range are small vertical pianos. When buying an acoustic piano, the general rule of thumb is that the bigger the better. Smaller pianos are compromised in both sound and action. Among the worst of them is so-called spinet pianos. Spinet pianos were made primarily for decoration purpose in the mid 20th century. Generally speaking, you should never buy a vertical piano that is shorter than 40″ height.
  2. Be wary of pianos that are older than 30 years. As I stated earlier, the typical life span of acoustic pianos is 50-60 years. Piano that are older than 30 years old are on a downward spiral. Piano strings put a lot of stress on piano frame and soundboard. It doesn’t matter if the piano has been played often or just left in the corner of the house. Acoustic pianos are going to deteriorate over time no matter what.
  3. Do NOT buy a piano without actually seeing and playing it. There are more and more people and dealers selling their pianos online and promising free shipping. No matter how tempted you are, do NOT buy an acoustic piano without actually seeing and playing it. There are potential problems in acoustic pianos that you cannot detect in a video. This leads to the next point.
  4. Learn to evaluate a used piano. It is usually recommended that you hire a professional piano technician to evaluate a used piano before you buy it. The cost of professional evaluation ranges from $100 to $500 depending on travel distance and condition of the piano. At this price range, most people forgo the professional evaluation process because of cost. No matter you decide to hire a professional piano technician or not, you should learn some basic techniques to evaluate a used piano. Search “how to evaluate a used piano” on YouTube and you will find many useful instructions. Here is one I recommend: https://youtu.be/1TqTIroFaac. Also, there are a few tools you should bring with you when you go on a piano shopping trip:
    • Measuring tape – As I said earlier, it is important to know how tall a vertical piano is (the taller the better). It is also important to measure the exact dimension of the piano and make sure it can go through your house’s doorway and fit into your desirable location.
    • Camera: You can bring a camera or use your cell phone’s camera. Other than taking pictures of the piano exterior and interior, it is very important to take a picture of the serial number of the piano. Every piano has a serial number and you can find out the age of the piano by checking the serial number. In my experiences, at least two-third of private piano sellers would lie about the age of their pianos. Do NOT take the word of the seller; check it yourself. If you can’t find the piano serial number online, call piano dealers in your town and ask if they have a copy of “Pierce Piano Atlas”, which has serial numbers of all pianos that have ever been made.
    • Flashlight: If you watch the video above, you will learn how to open the bottom board. If you see cracks, water marks, or mouse droppings, that tells you something about the piano and its environment.

In this price range, you are likely to find two categories of vertical pianos:

  1. Older used vertical pianos from established brands: In this category, you are likely to find 20+ year-old pianos from Yamaha, Kawai, and Baldwin. Generally speaking, pianos built by these brands (including Baldwin before it was bankrupted and sold) are of very good quality and I would recommend this category over the next one.
  2. Newer used vertical pianos from Korean and Chinese brands: In this category, you are likely to find all kinds of used pianos from Korean and Chinese brands. There are too many of them but the most famous brands are Samick, Young Chang, Pearl River, Hailun, Perzina, and Weber. The quality of these pianos depends on the condition and you have to evaluate each piano with its own merit.

Buying a used piano in this price range takes time and patience. It is unlikely you will find a perfect piano in this price range: some of them may have cosmetic damages and some of them may have been neglected for a long time. The most important thing to remember is to evaluate each piano individually and don’t rely solely on brand recognition. With patience and efforts, you should be able to find a decent vertical piano in this price range.

One more thing, don’t forget to include moving cost and piano tuning cost into your negotiation with the seller/dealer.

This is one of the articles in a series called “Piano Buying Guide for Parents of Young Students“. You can find other articles of the series through this link.

What pianos do you recommend if I have a budget of $1,000?

If you have a budget of $1,000 or less, your best option is to buy a digital piano. As I stated in the free piano question, free and low-cost acoustic pianos tend to have hidden cost that is not listed in the ad. At this price point, you can get a decent new digital piano or a very old and neglected acoustic piano. Which one would you choose?

If you decide to buy a digital piano, I highly recommend entry level Yamaha or Roland digital pianos:

  • Roland FP-30 is highly rated by professional reviewers and online shoppers. It costs around $700 (July, 2018).
  • Yamaha P-125 is cheaper than Roland FP-30 but is also a very good entry-level digital piano. Choose either Roland FP-30 or Yamaha P-125 that feels right to you. Yamaha P-125 costs around $600 (July, 2018).

At this price point, I would avoid other digital piano brands such as Alesis and Casio. Casio’s digital pianos receive very good reviews online, but personally I can’t stand the sound of Casio digital pianos. I find Roland and Yamaha digital pianos sound more like real acoustic pianos.

This is one of the articles in a series called “Piano Buying Guide for Parents of Young Students“. You can find other articles of the series through this link.

What are the rule of thumb for buying a used acoustic piano?

There are a few important rules of thumb to remember if you decide to buy a used acoustic piano:

  1. When buying an acoustic piano, most of the time you get what you pay for. I am not saying that there is no bargain to be had, but most piano bargains you find on Craigslist or other classified ad sites are purely junks. Good piano bargains are quickly grabbed by dealers and piano re-builders. Hunting a piano bargain takes time and you must be knowledgeable about pianos and are willing to travel. What I am saying is don’t expect a $3,000 piano to sound and play like a $30,000 piano.
  2. Don’t fall into piano dealers’ selling tactics. Piano dealers have a reputation no better than car dealers, and they both utilize psychological tactics to push for sale. Remember this: pianos are always for sale but never on sale. The big selling event that ends tonight will still be there next week and next month.
  3. Unlike cell phones or cars, each acoustic piano has its own characteristics. No two acoustic pianos play and sound exactly the same even within the same brand and the same model. Therefore, it is very important to try out the piano before you buy and only buy the piano you have tried.
  4. Generally speaking, when buying an acoustic piano, the bigger the better. There are some exceptions, but those exceptions tend to be very expensive. If you are buying a vertical/upright piano, it is recommended that you buy one that is 48″ or taller. If you are buying a grand piano, it is recommended that you buy one that is at least 5’5″ (165 cm) long. This is only a recommendation, not a law.
  5. Do not buy a vertical piano that is shorter than 40″ height or so-called spinet piano. Do not buy a grand piano that is shorter than 4’10” (148 cm).
  6. Pianos are not hot-selling items. The piano you fell in love with at the dealer’s shop will still be there tomorrow and possibility next week. It is okay to sleep on the decision but don’t wait too long.
  7. Generally speaking, it is better to buy a used acoustic piano from a piano dealer or professional piano technician than from individuals. Most piano dealers and professional piano technicians will make repairs and tune the pianos for sale and they offer warranty between 1 to 10 years for used pianos bought from them.
  8. If you decide to buy a used piano from an individual, it is highly recommended that you hire a professional piano technician (find a professional piano technician here) to check out the piano before you buy.
  9. Don’t forget to include the cost of piano moving and piano bench in your negotiation. If you buy from a piano dealer or piano technician, you can also ask for one-time free piano tuning.
  10. If you buy from a piano dealer or piano technician, the seller will usually arrange the delivery. If you buy from an individual, please hire an insured professional piano mover to move the piano. Do not hire a regular moving company to move the piano.

This is one of the articles in a series called “Piano Buying Guide for Parents of Young Students“. You can find other articles of the series through this link.