How to Buy a Used Piano

Want to know the secrets of buying a good used piano? Read the following for step by step instruction:

  1. Take a electronic metronome with A 440 pitch. Play A above middle C and compare to metronome. Both should sound at same pitch.
  2. Play each key (yes, all 88 of them) 4-5 times per second. Note should sound each time key is struck.
  3. Also, as you play each key, listen as you release the key to make sure the dampers seat on the strings and stop the strings from vibrating. How to Buy a Used Piano
  4. For uprights, open the top lid and gently push groups of hammers until they touch the strings. Release hammers and watch how they fall back. For grands, remove the music desk (the part that music sits on) and observe the hammer action as you play each note.  Hammer should return to their resting position simultaneously and quickly.
  5. Listen to each individual key/note for one pitch per key (good). Multiple pitches for single keys is bad.
  6. Look inside piano for clean felts (hammers & dampers have all felt present & not moth eaten), no broken strings or missing parts.
  7. Look inside piano for non-rusty strings and tuning pins.
  8. While piano is open operate pedals to check for proper operation. For uprights, left moves hammers up, right lifts dampers off strings, middle pedal either operates quiet bar or lifts bass dampers.  For grands, left moves the keys/action a small distance to the right, right lifts the dampers off the strings, middle usually allows you to sustain one note.
  9. For uprights, slide the piano out from the wall and look at the back of the piano.  Find the flat piece of wood that is furthest into the back of the piano (soundboard – tap with knuckle and it sounds kind of like a drum) and inspect for cracks.  For grands, look at the large piece of wood under the strings from both above and below the piano.  If you find a crack that a piece of paper or business card can move through – walk away.
  10. Either play the piano yourself or take with you a pianist who can play the piano to verify that piano operates correctly.
  11. Buy a piano that is less than 40 years old and has never been stored in a garage or non-climate controlled storage facility.
  12. Also, it is a good idea to stay away from spinets and old tall uprights. (see this article to learn more about different types of pianos  Do not buy a piano that needs significant work done other than tuning.

Once you find a piano that meets criteria 1-12 at an agreeable price, buy it!

Rick Bazemore
Registered Piano Technician