Buying a used piano:
It's More than a piano tuning, it's a complete piano service!
Buying a piano can be confusing. It's a lot like buying a car, but most people know more about cars than they know about pianos. If you have cash available, you have the option of buying a piano though a newspaper ad, www.Craigslist.com, or Ebay. You can save money by doing this (sometimes 50% or more) over retail prices! You need to have some free time to shop for a deal, and I recommend having an experienced Registered Piano Technician (RPT) approve your purchase before it is final. If a piano is less than 10 years old, and has been in a home all that time, you can be fairly confident that it won't need major repair. It may simply need adjusting and several tunings to stabilize it at pitch. Most used pianos for sale haven't been tuned in years, so expect to tune it more often at first.
Watch out for pianos used in a commercial environment such as a school, church, piano bar, etc. These pianos usually see lots of abuse in addition to poor climate control and can be in worn condition. Avoid pianos with lots of rust on the strings and tuning pins, water stains anywhere, as well as those stored in a garage. Moisture will damage a piano beyond repair. Pianos can last 25 to 60 years before major rebuilding is required. If you buy a piano that is 40-60 years old or more, expect to rebuild or repair it. To figure out the age of a piano, write down the brand name and the serial # and call me and I'll look it up in the Pierce Piano Atlas. Many brands are listed in the atlas, but some are not.
Bring a flashlight, open the lid and look inside - it should look bright and clean. No rust on the strings, no water stains anywhere (look at the back as well) - felts should be white, not yellow. Look for missing parts or broken/missing strings. Try every key - one or two sticky keys is usually ok, but a bunch of sticky keys may indicate an expensive repair or moisture damage. Check all the pedals. The bottom panel (kick board) is held in place by a clip under the key area. You can remove this panel as well if you like for a better look at the strings. Look for obvious cracks in the wood. Cracks of a structural nature can be bad.
Free pianos are NEVER FREE......There is a reason they are free - and it's not a good one. They may have termite, rodent, or moisture damage, or the tuning pins might be so loose the piano won't stay in tune. Some will be un-playable. You will NOT save money by getting a FREE piano - so don't do it. Same for those pianos costing only a couple hundred bucks - they likely need major repair as well.
You get what you pay for - the more you pay, the better the piano will be. The good news is that pianos are at historically low prices right now due to the economy. I'm amazed at the prices some pianos sell for, much lower than just a few years ago. It's a great time to buy a piano!
Spinet Pianos are upright pianos less than
40" tall. They are no longer built and have been replaced by taller
pianos. Spinets are more expensive to repair than taller pianos because
the action and strings are not easily accessable. They are more of a starter
piano - good for the students first year or two. The best spinets are
the Baldwin Acrosonic and Wurlitzer Spinet.
Console pianos are 42" to 46" tall. They generally play and sound better than Spinets and are easier to repair.
Studio pianos are 48" and taller. They are found in schools and teaching studios. The longer string length and full size action make the tone and touch second only to grand pianos.
Big old upright pianos are 5' tall and very heavy. They are 80-120 years old, and usually very worn. They may have once been a player piano. These may work for the students first year or two, but not longer than that unless they are rebuilt. Old uprights often sell for very little money, and some are given away. I don't really recommend these pianos because of their age.
Square grand pianos are not playable or easily repairable. Avoid them - Tuners won't tune them.
Roll type Player pianos are also not easily repairable - not every tuner will tune them because the player mechanism tends to be broken, and needs to be removed for minor repairs and tuning. Expect to pay more to service these pianos.
Grand pianos come in sizes from 4'4" to 9'. Quality and tone usually increases with size. The better grands are at least 5'2" long.
If your kids are just starting, and money is a issue, I would suggest buying a used vertical piano from www.Craigslist.com. These can be found for around $600.00 to $1500. Have a technician check it out before you buy. Then plan on trading up to a better instrument if the kids stick with it for more than 2 years. Try to find a piano taller than 42" as measured from the floor to the top of the lid. Piano's shorter than that (Spinets) tend to be of lower quality, are harder to play and costly to repair. Call or email my with any questions you may have. Good luck with your search!
Bob Maret 407-489-9090