It seems everyday there are more and more used ‘free’ pianos up for grabs in online buy and sell ads. This can be a very enticing offer to someone that’s entering the world of piano ownership. As with anything that’s being given away there’s always the potential of great finds out there, but with used pianos it is extremely rare.
In this article we will examine the world of the free used piano. Although the allure can be very strong, we will explain why choosing to take on a free used piano is almost always a loosing cause.
Let me ask you this: Why would a used piano be given away for free? Doesn’t the piano have value to the owners? Why don’t they want it anymore?
There are a number of reasons why these free pianos show up online. Let’s explore each of those in a little detail.
Reason 1 – The current owners no longer use the piano.
This is one of the most typical answers that you’ll get from the owners, and it’s most likely the main reason. Sometimes people take on a piano from a family member with the thought they will make use of it, and it ends up collecting dust until the decision is made to offer it up. This is understandable – many pianos get left alone without being played. The concern is that if the piano was never used then it was most likely also not maintained – that means no regular tunings, potential exposure to swings in humidity (some owners just stick the old piano in the garage), no cleaning, and a number of other exposures that happen to unwanted pieces of furniture (sunlight damage, water from spilt drinking glasses, etc).
Reason 2 – The current owners are moving and do not want to move the piano with them.
The owners have written their old piano out of their future plans – chances are that if they’re not taking it with them, then they have probably shown the piano the same neglect that I outlined above. If they do end up moving the piano with them, it’s very unlikely that they will use piano movers – why would they want to pay extra to have a piano moved that they didn’t really want to keep? If it ends up going with them, more caution should be applied when someone else finally does get around to taking the piano off their hands.
Reason 3 – The current owners know it has no value, either monetary or sentimental.
In this case, the owners are aware the piano has no value – they may have even looked into it and found that they cannot get any money for it based on it’s condition. If a piano has been well maintained and is in good operating condition, then the owners will get some money for it. Older pianos that have been maintained can continue to be very useful for many decades.
Ok, so now we have some understanding of why these pianos show up for free.
If it’s being offered for free, why not take the piano? The truth is that almost all pianos that are given away for free are not worth the cost of having it moved into your home. If the piano has experienced some of the neglect that has been mentioned above, you may be in for a costly transition to get your ‘free’ piano to a point where it can operate sufficiently. As always with taking on any used piano, it is advisable to bring in a piano technician to determine the condition of the piano before to decide to take it home.
(NOTE: The simplest of piano moves – main level home to another main level in a home – will cost a minimum of $250. Plus, then after you get it home and find out it cannot be tuned or fixed, for a reasonable price, that you will then need to pay to have it disposed of – that will cost an additional $300 min.)
If you haven’t had a chance to read through any of the other Master Piano Services posts on piano inspections, here’s a brief listing of some of the conditions that are covered during the typical inspection of a used piano:
- Condition of the Keys: Key tops missing, keys level, side play, chucking, sticking or broken keys.
- Condition of the Soundboard and Bridge: Signs of dryness (cracks, warping, etc.), condition of bridge pins, ribs on back of soundboard.
- Condition of Tuning Pins and Strings: Tightness of tuning pins, corrosion on pins or strings, condition of bass string windings, missing strings.
- Condition of the Hammers and Action Parts: Dryness and wear on hammers, alignment of hammers to strings, loose play in action parts, missing action parts.
- Condition of Pedals: Missing parts, loose pedals or trap work, squeaks, missing lift rod cushions.
- Condition of Dampers: Alignment to strings, unified movement, missing felt, dryness of felt.
- Condition of Cabinet: Overall appearance, scratches, missing hardware, damaged casters or hinges.
These inspections are very thorough and will help to prevent you taking on a free used piano that may lead to very costly repairs.
Ensure that you and your family have a great experience with music and owning a piano – take the time to understand the world of used pianos, and be cautious with the free used pianos out there. Read as much as you can about them before buying and owning. Ask questions with an experienced piano technician – we’re always here to help! We want your piano experience to be an enjoyable one.
Certified Piano Technician
Master Piano Services