Used Piano Buying – The Investigation

close up keys angle2(This is part one in a two part article on purchasing a private sale used piano)

You’ve been looking for a used piano for some time now and finally you’ve found one that fits your budget. You hired a piano mover and now it sits in your home awaiting it’s first tuning. The piano technician arrives and gives you some bad news – this piano is in need of some major repairs, or even worse, they find that this piano will not be able to hold a tuning.

Unfortunately, this scenario happens often to many buyers of privately sold used pianos. What seemed like a great deal at the time of the purchase now becomes a series of tough decisions – do I spend the money fixing up this piano, or just cut my losses and get something in better condition?

To help avoid this possible situation I’ve detailed a few things that you may want to consider doing before you look at enlisting the services of a professional piano technician, and definitely before you buy.
Start off by getting hold of some information on the piano that’s for sale. This can be done remotely via email or through phone calls, and can really help you save some time upfront. The owner should be able to provide most of this easily as it’s in their best interest when selling.

Most pianos will have a visible brand (e.g. Heintzman, Yamaha), model, and serial number. The brand is usually on the fall board – the model and serial number can be found stamped on the inside metal plate visible when you lift the lid of an upright piano or the lid and music stand on a grand. The brand and model will help get a general feel for the expected quality and general value of the piano, and the serial number will provide the year it was made. All of this can be researched online – consider it your homework, and ask a piano technician for help along the way.

Next, see if the owner will provide you with some good quality pictures – they should be taken in good lighting when it’s daytime, and should show all the outer cabinet and the keys. Good quality pictures will help to identify any major aesthetic issues (large scratches, chips in the finish), and how the keys appear. Find out from the owner when the piano was last tuned, and if there are records of past tunings as well as any repairs. Just like having a medical history, this gives you and the technician (piano doctor) and good starting point.

In part 2 of this article, we will discuss evaluating the piano’s sound and go through some of the inspection points that your piano technician will focus on during a pre-purchase visit.

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