Buying & Selling Advice
How to Buy a Piano
Probably the best way to buy a piano, whether upgrading or buying a piano for the first time, is to go to a reputable piano dealer.
Ideally I recommend buying a new, quality piano or a relatively new second hand one. A dealer selling new and second hand will offer several to choose from.
Some Things to consider before buying a piano.
New or second hand?
I would recommend buying a good quality new piano if it is within your budget. However, sometimes a good second hand piano can be better than a cheap new one. Second hand Japanese pianos such as Yamaha or Kawai are often excellent value.
Pianos deteriorate and devalue with age. There will be exceptions, but as a general rule I tend to recommend instruments under about 40 years old which often offer good value and provide reliable service if maintained properly.
Grand piano or Upright piano
This will depend on preference, budget & available space. If you are thinking about buying a grand piano then newer is usually better than older. Grands are more expensive than uprights of similar age & make. An upright may offer better value than an older grand of about the same price, and could be more reliable. Do seek advice before buying an old grand piano.
Where you are going to put it? The best location for an upright piano is against an inside wall and not close or in front of a radiator. Grands should not be too close to a radiator either and if located near a window please be aware that strong sunlight can bleach the casework and affect the tuning. Avoid putting a piano in a room with underfloor heating.
Before you go shopping take some measurements of your available space first.
There are lots of much older pianos often offered very cheap or even free, and understandably tempting to anyone looking for a beginners bargain. This can be a way to take ownership of a serviceable piano, but can also result in acquiring a liability that could even cost money to dispose of. So even if it’s free it is worth being diligent and keeping an open mind in order to avoid wasting time and money.
I think it would be misleading to try and offer lots of detailed advice on how to assess the condition of an older piano. Information would have little value without practical, technical experience of the subject. But don’t despair!
Here are some piano buying tips:
Talk to the seller. Please don’t expect really accurate technical information from the seller. People will usually only know what they have been told and are sometimes misinformed, for example; told the instrument was re-conditioned when little has been done to it. However it is worth asking a few questions. How long have they owned the piano? Did they buy it from a dealer? If so it may have already had work carried out such as case re-polishing or an action overhaul. When was the piano last tuned? If it was ages ago and still sounds reasonably in tune this is a good sign, as problems with the tuning usually show up over time and by now will be apparent. It is easier to assess if you are able to play but if not you can at least press down the notes one at a time to make sure they all work. If the instrument sounds terribly out of tune or just really odd then it could have serious problems and is best avoided. Was the piano was tuned recently? Ask by whom and give them a call. The tuner may remember the piano and advise you about its condition.
Ideally it is advisable to have your prospective purchase inspected by a tuner/technician such as myself. But, most will charge for this service and, however worthwhile, it could get expensive, especially if there are several to choose from.
This is where I can offer some help. Using the following instructions just email or text me some photos and video/sound recording and I’ll get back to you with an opinion. This is not a comprehensive assessment but it may help you to make a choice. Then you can pay for a more detailed inspection if you wish, or take a chance knowing you are a little better informed.
Selling your piano
I welcome enquiries from people who have a piano for sale, and I am happy to offer advice. However I am selective about what I buy. If you have a piano for sale the following information is useful:
- The piano name or make. Usually this is written in the middle of the lid that closes over the keys (known as the ‘fall’).
- Frame number – this is useful to know but don’t worry if you cant find it. Most pianos have a frame number, from which it is sometimes possible to determine the age. Where to find it varies from one piano to another. It is usually on the iron frame or the soundboard. Here are some photos showing where the number is typically found on some pianos.
- Photos – A picture is worth a thousand words. If you are able to email a couple of photos this is really helpful.
- How much are you looking for ?
I am often asked ‘how much is my piano worth’ ? A question to which there is no straight answer. For example, what it is worth in your home is less than the price in a dealers showroom, and what a dealer would pay for your piano is usually less than it could be worth to a private buyer.
If it is not possible to attract offers from any dealers the piano is not likely to have much value. However it may still be worth trying to sell privately.
Selling your piano privately
A better price can sometimes be achieved by selling privately than by selling to a dealer. However, a buyer will need to be found, which could involve having to advertise, and also transport costs need to be considered too. Any advertising that is free or cheap is usually best to start with eg. Tell everyone you know that you have a piano for sale, cards in the supermarket or shop windows, some advertising papers offer free advertising for private ads. Internet advertising such as Ebay or Gumtree could be worth a try.
How to transport a piano
If you are selling your piano privately it is worth considering how to transport it and the cost. The best way is to use professional piano movers. They will ensure the piano is removed safely from your house without damaging it or your floors & doorways. The piano removal experts I recommend are:
Ted Clarkson (Lichfield Piano Centre) 07956411701.
Teagues Removals – Phone Linden on 07435971606.