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Helpful Tips for Buying a Used Piano

If you are considering buying a used piano for your piano lessons or voice lessons from a private individual rather than a store, keep in mind that stores usually perform necessary repairs and tunings before the sale and in most cases, provide a limited warranty.

When you are purchasing a piano from an individual, it will be helpful to follow these guidelines to avoid making a costly mistake. You may consider printing the following text for reference.

  1. Identify the dollar range of your investment (i.e. $500-$750).
  2. If you are using a resource such as the local newspaper or PennySaver, make a list of all pianos $300 above your initial range (i.e. $800-$1050) to allow for possible repairs.
  3. Contact each of the individual sellers and ask for the brand name (if not included in the ad), the serial number, and the last time the piano was serviced. The serial number is often on a brass plate mounted inside the piano. When you share this information with a technician later, he or she will be able to give you the following information: the exact year the piano was manufactured; background on the manufacturer; and the ‘Blue Book’ value of the piano based on its current condition.
  4. At this point, contact a piano technician and discuss the results of your search. If the technician advises you to not consider a certain piano, take their word for it.
  5. With the information given by the technician, contact each remaining seller again (those not ruled out) to arrange for an appointment to see the prospective pianos.
  6. When looking at the piano, as you walk up to the piano, and if the keys are visible as you walk up, note if the height of the keys resembles a roller coaster from one side to the other. If they do, politely thank the seller and move on to the next. If the keys are covered, uncover them, step back, and check them.
  7. If the keys are okay, check the keys for looseness – left to right – by placing your finger on the front of a key and moving left and right. If it moves more than 1/16″ in either direction, note it for the technician. Check mostly those keys in the middle, the ones played most often.
  8. Starting at one end, play every single key (black and white), noting any unusual things such as keys sticking, odd sounds, no sound, etc.
  9. Open the piano lid. Check the felt railing inside where the hammers come to rest after striking the strings for deep indentation. Note condition of this railing as well.
  10. Check the hammers of the middle keys, and the ones at each end, for split, chipped, cracked or missing heads that strike the wire. Note this also.
  11. Examine the entire piano cabinet for scratches, gouges, chips, etc. to determine how the piano has been treated. Note these.
  12. Check the bench to ensure it was made by the same manufacturer. It should have the same wood tone.
  13. If the overall piano seems to be in fairly good condition and the price seems fair, call the technician from the seller’s home and discuss the findings with him. He may ask you to put the phone near the piano and play a certain note to check the condition of the tune.
  14. At that time, the technician will probably tell you the approximate value of the piano in its present condition and the estimated cost of repairs, if any. You may then choose to offer the seller a price based on your knowledge.

Good luck with your search!
— California Music Studios

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