Advice on Buying a Used Piano

Advice on Buying a Used Piano

When parents decide to sign up their child for piano lessons, they are faced with several decisions. The first being based around buying an instrument. 

  • Is buying a used piano okay, or do we need to invest in new? 
  • Will my child quickly lose interest in playing the piano?
  • A piano is a piano. They can start to learn on anything; can’t we just upgrade when they show interest? 

Of course, many parents wind up selecting a piano that doesn’t motivate their child to take action. And their interest in music wanes. 

Why?

If a piano is too old, doesn’t play well, or doesn’t provide the proper resources for a child to learn with, it becomes useless to a child. But a child can’t express this. They don’t understand what’s wrong. They just know their playing isn’t satisfying, they can’t achieve the results their teacher is looking for, 

For these reasons, we recommend learning all you can about a piano before you buy. 

Buying a used piano doesn’t have to be difficult. Your child can do quite well by learning on a used instrument. The key is in what you buy. 

Yes, you can find used instruments on Craigslist. You might even be able to find them for free. 

But if you do a little investigation, their story is often something like this. You call up the owner and they say:

“It was my mother’s. I’ve had it in the basement for a couple of decades. It’s in good condition. Nobody’s played it for years. But the finish still shines.”

The finish isn’t what matters. It’s the internal workings that create a piano worth playing. And if it’s been sitting there that long, untouched, chances are the wood and strings and other components aren’t in their best condition. They’ve slowly degraded over time. 

Without proper tuning, it won’t sound its best. And there’s a chance it can never return to its proper sound. 

Is that what your child will be learning on? 

5 Unusual Things To Consider When Buying A Used Piano

5 Unusual Things To Consider When Buying A Used Piano

Buying a used piano doesn’t mean you have to scour online resources to find a good deal. When you buy from independent sellers, you’re always taking a risk. 

  • You have nothing to compare it to
  • They don’t offer any type of guarantees
  • They won’t tell you the history
  • Are you really getting a fair price?
  • Is it something that will give you playability for years to come?

Luckily, there are a few unusual things you can look for that will ensure you are purchasing a high quality piano. 

Look for the serial number

You’ve probably grown accustomed to looking for VIN numbers when you buy a used car. You can use it to find out all kinds of information about its history, including if it’s been in a wreck. While pianos aren’t tracked in the same manner as a car, the serial number can tell you its age. If you can’t find it, it’s a good indication someone is trying to hide its history. It may have been a less-than-stellar refurbishing job, or simply a homeowner trying to do the work themselves. 

Ask for tuning records

If an independent owner has had the piano in their home for years, they should be more than willing to share their maintenance schedule with you. How often has the piano been tuned? What work has the piano technician performed over the years? It can also help you continue the schedule, and maybe even point you in the direction of the technician who already understands the nuances of the piano you’re buying. 

Play every note

People naturally gravitate to middle C. They may place their hands on it and run through a scale or two. But what about the other keys? Sit down and run through all of them. Play them all one at a time and listen to the tone they create. Do you hear a clue that it’s in anything but stellar condition? You should also run through all the keys while pressing the right pedal to check the repetition. 

Integrity

Do a thorough walk-thru of the entire piano, inside and out. Look for small cracks in the structure. Look for missing pieces on the inside. Look for varying qualities of artistry, which can tell you it’s been rebuilt by someone who didn’t understand quality. Even if you don’t understand the workings of a piano, you can usually pick out differences in quality. 

Bring a technician with you

Depending on the price tag of your purchase, it might be a good idea to bring a piano technician with you. They may see things you won’t. It also gives them an opportunity to assess how well a piano has been cared for over the years, and what it would take to keep it that way in the future. 

Are you ready to buy a used piano? Do it the right way and you’ll ensure an instrument you’ll love to play for years to come. 

Buying A Used, Cheap Piano … Really

Buying A Used, Cheap Piano … Really

We Google just about everything. How many times have you pulled up Google and typed something in today?

We use Google maps for directions. We search for product reviews. We look up concepts we may not know.Buying A Used, Cheap Piano … ReallyBuying A Used, Cheap Piano … Really

Yep, Google is like having an all-knowing best friend in our back pockets.

Pull up “Buying A Used Piano” or even “Buying A Cheap Piano” and you’ll receive millions of responses. (As of this morning, over 10 million.) Many of the ranked titles you’d expect.

  • What to look for in a cheap used piano
  • 8 things you must know before buying a used piano
  • How to buy a used piano on Craigslist

Then I added new search terms – “high quality” and “good.” My results went down. And so did my choices. My returned results looked something like this:

  • Tips for buying a new piano
  • Choosing the piano that’s right for you
  • How to buy a good piano

Yep, very few related to finding a high quality used piano.

Buying a used piano isn’t hard. In fact, it may be a very easy thing to do. You can probably find a lot of used pianos right here in our community. Ask around. Or do a quick search.

Look on eBay. Or head to Craigslist. You’ll find them there.

But used pianos are not all the same. Sure, you’ll find a few great pianos out there. Pianos that have been well maintained, well cared for, and will still give you years of useful life. And you may find it on your first try.

Or not.

Are you willing to take the chance?

7 Things To Look For In A Used Piano Before Buying It

7 Things To Look For In A Used Piano Before Buying It

“I am considering buying a used grand or baby grand piano for my home. I’ve played piano since I was a kid, and now that I’m approaching retirement, I would like to spend more time playing. I want an acoustic piano, not a digital, and having the old, elegant style becoming a centerpiece in my living room is as important as the music it creates. I know a lot about playing the piano, but I’m not sure about selecting a quality piano that will last me for years. What should I look for in a used piano before buying it?”7 Things To Look For In A Used Piano Before Buying It

Great question. And because of the amount of used pianos there are on the market today, it’s one we get quite frequently. Putting looks and sound quality in the forefront of your mind is an important starting point.

Other things to consider:

The condition of the piano
The best place to start is with a quick overview of the piano inside and out. You can quickly tell if a piano has been well cared for, or if it has been neglected. Look for signs of neglect and signs of abuse. You can also judge based on where the used piano is – a piano in the corner of a dark and humid basement will tell a different story than one on a piano dealer’s showroom floor.

The value of the piano
No, you don’t have to invest in a Steinway to have a quality piano in your home. However, certain brands will provide a higher quality tone. Ask questions about the brand and do a little research online before you buy. You can learn fairly quickly about the pros and cons of each piano brand.

Look at the interior
The soundboard is a wooden plate at the bottom of the case. All reinforcement ribs should be properly glued and in place. The bridge should be solid, straight, and uncracked.  The strings should be properly conditioned and in place. Look for deep grooves on the hammers; the more worn they are, the more harsh tonal quality will be. The pin block should also be evaluated to make sure pins are properly placed and aren’t loose or broken.

Look at the exterior
Are pedals attached? Do they move properly and impact the tonal quality? Are all keys in place? Strike every key to make sure it plays and functions properly. If it sounds like they strike twice, are dead, or seem sticky, it’s a sign repair is needed to bring it back into proper working condition. Also look at the finish. If its faded or shows weather damage, you can assume it wasn’t well taken care of.

Ask about the history
One simple question can release a lot of clues about a piano’s well being. Many people will launch into a long, elaborate story about where the piano originated from, and the status of the piano over time. While it may not be a fail-safe way to determine quality, you can make instant judgement calls when someone says “It was stored in the shed for decades” versus “It sat lovingly in my grandmother’s living room for years.”

How much immediate repair the piano will need
As you analyze each part of the piano, you can quickly determine how much money will go into repair before it is operational. A used piano sitting on a dealer’s showroom floor will be ready to play the moment it arrives in your home. A “good deal” on Craigslist may require months of work and hundreds or even thousands of dollars of repair work to bring it into playable condition.

How well will the piano fare while being moved
You can’t throw a grand piano in the back of a truck and expect it to fare well during travel without a little TLC. Look for weak points and make sure they are well kept and preserved during the move.

“Cheap Piano For Sale” Isn’t Always A Good Thing

“Cheap Piano For Sale” Isn’t Always A Good Thing

As a musician, names can mean a lot.

When it comes to owning a piano, having one of the better names such as Steinway, Chickering or Knabe on display can be a source of pride and accomplishment.

But upgrading from the family heirloom that’s been passed down generation to generation, to an in-demand piano can present its own set of challenges … mainly cost.“Cheap Piano For Sale” Isn’t Always A Good Thing

Yet in today’s world, finding a “diamond in the rough” seems like a pretty easy thing to do. All it takes is a quick scan on Craigslist to find many bargains listed with great names, and even better price tags. How can you say no to a bargain?

The ads always go something like this:

Used Steinway piano in good condition

Stored in heated garage for past 15 years

Needs some refinishing work

$100

Wow! What a deal.

The picture shows the stain is gone in places, but overall, it looks like its in good condition. A little staining, maybe tuning it a little, and it should be good to go.

“I’ll take it!” And the deal is complete.

Unfortunately, if you truly want a piano you can play, that sounds good, and will add years of enjoyment to your life, you may have just made the worst deal of your life.

Here’s why.

The first step is getting your “new” piano home. You can pay to have a professional piano mover move the piano from the heated garage to your home. Or if you stick with the bargain concept, you can get a few friends to help you move it. That will involve renting a truck and finding several people that are willing to move a several hundred pound instrument into place. And pianos aren’t an easy thing to move; they are large, their weight is disproportionately placed in several areas, they are bulky, they are heavy, and they have tiny legs that can easily be broken off. And that’s just the outside. Heavy banging or sudden jarring can cause even more damage to the intricate pieces on the inside that give a piano its life and its sound.

Once you get it to its final resting spot in good condition, its time to call in the experts. If a piano has been sitting in storage for 15 years, you can bet it hasn’t been tuned in at least that long. Is the pinblock still in good shape? Are the strings in working condition? Will it hold a tune? How much time will it take to get it into tune? This is where the fun can begin, and where your real cost can start. In the best scenario, it can take a simple tuning, revamping a few strings, and regular maintenance to bring it back into playable condition. At the worst, it may not be playable without extensive restoration.

Even though it’s a Steinway, even Steinway’s have different values. Has it been damaged in its life? Is it an upright or a grand? Does it have a full range keyboard? There are a lot of variables that will determine its ultimate worth, both before and after potential restoration.

While each phase takes time, it also takes money. And unless you are a trained professional, most are projects you simply can’t take on yourself. In some cases it may take hundreds or even thousands of dollars to bring a piano back into good working condition. And if you don’t have the time or the money to do it, it may wind up back in the garage once again – only now its in your garage instead.

If playing the piano is your goal, start with a piano in playing condition from the moment it arrives in your home. And start making beautiful music tonight.

How To Inspect A Used Piano For Damage Before You Buy

How To Inspect A Used Piano For Damage Before You Buy

When you purchase a new piano, you can be comfortable you are purchasing an instrument that will provide high quality sound with a warranty to back up any potential problems in the near future. But when you purchase a used piano, it’s an entirely different process.

If you buy it from some shady dealer operating out of his home, you could be looking at BIG money to bring it up to playable standards, and have costly repairs for an indefinite period of time.How To Inspect A Used Piano For Damage Before You Buy

To avoid purchasing a used piano disaster, there are a few precautions you can take along the way to identify any potential problems. Looks can be deceiving; it isn’t looks that give a piano its playability. Use these tips to help you find the right used piano for you.

Start by examining the exterior of the piano.

  • Chipped or crooked piano keys can be a sign of internal abuse. If a keyboard is showing its age on the outside, it may have problems on the inside. Strike each key several times and test out its playability. Look for keys that are silent, notes that don’t hold their lengths, off pitch notes, keys that sound like they are playing multiple notes at the same time, and any buzzing noises or strange vibrations.
  • Cloudiness in the piano’s finish, cracks or other finishing problems can be a sign of weather damage. In some cases it can be caused by humidity; in others it may be a sign of flooding. In all cases, if you see signs of damage on the outside, assume the inside has received the same harsh treatment. You can also check for signs of sun damage – discoloration in the finish can mean that sunlight has warped sections of the wood and has harmed the sound quality.
  • Also check for unresponsive pedals. If pedals are easily pushed and released, almost with a bounce-like quality, they most likely have become detached . Pedals that don’t move at all can be a sign of an even bigger problem. Even if you aren’t planning on using the pedals, pay attention anyway as they can be a sign of internal problems.

Then move to the interior of the piano.

  • Look for damage to the soundboard. The soundboard is the large piece of wood underneath the grand piano, or behind an upright. If there are any cracks or if the board is warped, it can lead to a strange buzzing or rattling sound. Also check to see if any of the reinforcement pieces have become unglued or are loose. If this happens, they can vibrate against each other, which can cause a slight buzzing sound when the keys are pressed. Also look at the bridge – the piece of wood that holds up the strings. If this is cracked or damaged, it will cause a buzzing sound and further damage is eminent.
  • Check the pinblock for damage. The pinblock is a wooden piece near the bridge that holds the tuning pins for each string in place. If this piece of wood is damaged, it can loosen the tuning pins and cause bad pitch as the notes are played.
  • Finally check the hammers and look for wear. Each hammer is covered in felt. If the hammers have been used to the point of wear marks in the felt, it can signify a compromise to the timbre itself. You cannot re-glue felt, it will impact the overall sound quality. You can tell if the timbre has been compromised by playing each key and listening for harsh or clumsy tones.

 

To ensure a quality used piano from the start, look at the reputation of the dealer you are considering making the purchase from. Its often said “you get what you pay for”, and with a piano, its definitely true.

10 Tips For Buying An Acoustic Piano

10 Tips For Buying An Acoustic Piano

1. Sample as many pianos as you can

Pianos are not a one-size-fits-all instrument. Each piano has its own unique features, which is impossible to determine simply by looking at it or studying it from an online site. Its important to sit down and play it to see how the keys feel to the touch, and how the overall piano sounds to your ear. With so many different brands, styles, sizes and options, playing is the only way to decide. Even if you have never played before, you can tell a lot simply by sitting in front of it and touching the keys.

2. Look at new and used10 Tips For Buying An Acoustic Piano

Don’t be intimidated by used pianos. The quality from brand names that have been around for decades in some cases is easily matched to today’s new pianos. However, it is important to understand the history if you are considering used. A used piano sitting for decades in a dark, humid basement could be more trouble than its worth.

3. Test out every key and pedal

Especially on a used piano, make sure every key and pedal is in good working condition. Sit at the piano and start at the bottom working your way up. Even if you’ve never played before, you can still hear if notes are out of tune, or determine which keys are sticking or don’t play properly.

4. Keep in mind where your piano will reside

Nothing can be more frustrating than loving the sound of a piano where you purchased it, only to be disappointed with the sound at home. Room size, ceiling height, ceiling material, flooring, window coverings – all of it impacts the overall sound quality your piano will have.

5. Who is moving your piano?

When you purchase a piano from a dealer, they will usually be able to accommodate your moving needs. But if you buy from a private seller, you will be fully responsible for moving your piano. Keep in mind that a piano is a delicate instrument. It can’t be jostled and thrown into the back of a truck the way you would move a couch or a table. And try getting a grand piano up five flights of stairs; difficult for even the professionals. For the safety of the movers and the piano, its best to have it professionally moved.

6. Do your homework first

Buying a piano can be a big investment. Rather than purchasing the first one you find, shop around and do a little research online. You’ll find many articles on this site, and with a quick Google search you can read more about major manufacturers and the quality of individual brands.

7. Restoration isn’t a bad thing

In some cases, the word restoration can bring suspicion into the equation. If someone tells you a used car has been restored, it may signal a major accident, which could cause more problems down the road. Not so with a piano. Pianos from yesteryear often were built with the highest quality. Restoration is usually performed because the piano still has value, and with certain parts, such as strings and hammers replaced or reconditioned, it continues to increase the value of the instrument. Restored pianos can be a great investment.

8.Tuning is a part of the process

New pianos must be tuned several times in the first year as the piano settles into its new home. Over the years, a piano needs to be tuned on a regular basis to continue working at its peak level. Numbers of hours played does not signify how often a piano must be tuned. Outside conditions continue to impact a piano whether its being played regularly or not.

9. Quality sound can help with longevity

I hear parents all the time say they want an inexpensive piano to start, with the intention of upgrading if their child sticks with it. Instead of starting with a low quality piano, think longevity instead. If you purchase a low quality, out of tune piano just for start up purposes, your child will have trouble “hearing” the sounds of the piano. It won’t sound the same from your home to the instructors room, and its easy to get frustrated and abandon the practice. Quality matters, even to a beginner.

10. Trust a professional

When buying from a private seller, they have one goal in mind: get the piano out of their home. They will do and say anything to make the sale. A professional takes a different approach. A professional wants you to be well informed about your options, and make the best choice for your situation. They want you to be happy with your final selection and have years of enjoyment from your purchase. And if they have been in business for decades, reputation matters, so you can rest assured you won’t be pushed into a quick sale for the money alone.

6 Warning Signs The Used Piano You Are About To Buy Is Bad

6 Warning Signs The Used Piano You Are About To Buy Is Bad

You’re in the market for a used piano. What should you look for? What should you avoid?

When it comes to buying a piano, it can be as intimidating as trying to find a good used car. Sure, it may look good on the outside, but does that guarantee you’ll have success with it down the road?

To avoid buying a piano that is anything less than perfect, you’ll need to know how to find its hidden problems.6 Warning Signs The Used Piano You Are About To Buy Is Bad

Start by inspecting the keyboard. The most used part of a piano is its keys. They take a beating, and can be a clear indication that the piano was abused instead of played. Look at the color, look for chips, and look for keys that simply don’t line up. Then strike each key a few times and try out pitches, length of note, and volume. Signs of damage can show up as a buzzing noise or a vibration, notes that are off key, notes that sound like two playing at once, or simply a key that won’t play at all.

Look at the piano’s finish. Don’t just stand in front of it; walk all the way around, looking for chips, cracks or even signs of warping. If a piano was subjected to different humidity patterns, it will show up in the finish. Which in turn will tell you that the inner workings may have been compromised.

Head down to the pedals and make sure they respond. Piano pedals can become unresponsive or simply not work at all for a variety of reasons. They may have received damage in a move, or they simply may have been mistreated throughout its life. Test each pedal with the keyboard and look for clean, balanced tones.

Next move to the inside of the piano and check out the soundboard. The soundboard is located underneath a grand piano, or behind an upright. It should be a clean, straight piece of wood fully connected and reinforced to the piano itself. If any cracking or warping has occurred, it may lead to strange buzzing or rattling sounds.

The hammers should also be checked. Each hammerhead is covered in felt. The felt should be clean and smooth, not worn down or uneven and with grooves. If the wood is exposed through the felt, it may have caused extensive damage to the strings themselves.

And finally look at the pinblock. The pinblock is a wooden piece near the bridge of the piano that holds the tuning pins in place for each string. If the wood is damaged, the pins can loosen, which can cause a buzzing sound and bad pitch. Make sure there is no cracking or splintering, and that pins are snug and secure, without rust or other damage.