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Piano Care Blog

Buying a second-hand piano?

Robert Langley

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Why used and not new?

Buying a second-hand piano can be about more than making your money go further. You might want a piano with the kind of tone that only an older piano can provide. Or perhaps you might want the case to look a certain way. Buying anything second-hand can be a tricky business but I intend give you the information you need to make an informed decision when choosing your piano.

Shop vs. Private Seller

There are a few pros and cons to buying a piano from a brick-and-mortar shop or from a private seller found online. The chief benefit to buying from a shop is that any piano they sell will typically come with a warranty. The terms of these warranties will differ between shops so always check the specifics of what the warranty covers before you pay for your piano. Buying from a private seller will hopefully result in a cheaper sale price. There are also hidden gems to find, if you know what you’re looking for.

When buying from a shop, ask the following:

  • What kind of warranties do you provide?

  • How do you prepare the piano for sale, e.g. tuning, regulating, voicing?

  • Do you provide after sale services like post-delivery tunings?

If they answer “no” to any of the above or are reluctant to provide details consider shopping elsewhere. A good shop will consider its reputation when selling a used piano.

When buying from a private seller, ask the following:

  • How long have they had the piano?

  • Did they buy it new?

  • When was it last tuned?

  • Have there been any substantial repairs?

  • Would they be happy with a piano technician coming to take a look?

I provide inspection and evaluation services to prospective piano buyers. If you would like a technical review of the piano you’re looking to buy, please complete my contact form here to get a quote.

Try before you buy

Never buy a piano without having seen it and played it for yourself. If you do not play the piano yet, either take someone along who does or if you are in a shop you can always ask the sales person to play the piano for you.

Be sure that you play the notes at the very top and bottom of the piano. There are plenty of pianos that might sound full and rich in the middle few octaves but have an extremely muddy or tubby bass sound. This is a sure sign that there is something wrong with the strings in the bass. A piano like this will be rarely worth buying as the cost to replace the strings may exceed what you paid for the piano in the first place.

When buying from a private seller it is wise to pay a piano technician to inspect the piano. While a piano might sound and feel good to you there may be mechanical or structural problems that are more difficult to recognise. 

“Antiques” and freebies

How ever good a deal you might think you have landed it will never be worth it if you find you have a sub-standard piano on your hands. You may end up paying more to have the piano dumped than you bought it for.

In the market, particularly online, pianos are described as being “antique”. In my experience, it is extremely rare to find a genuine antique amongst cheap and reasonably priced pianos. Generally they are just old and in poor condition.

So what should you do?

  • Ask lots of questions.

  • Always play the piano. Every note!!!

  • If you can, take a tuner/technician along with you.

  • And most importantly, pick the piano you want. Don’t let any talk you into buying a piano you don’t like.

3 steps to keeping your piano dust free

Robert Langley

Like all pieces of furniture in your home, your piano will require cleaning every now and again. To get it really sparkling, a piano technician can give it a thorough cleaning inside and out. It’s best not to do this yourself as you could damage the strings, timbers or the external finish of your piano. However, there are steps you can take to keep it looking good in between professional cleans.

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Step 1 - Keep the dust out!

The fallboard (the lid that covers the keys) should be kept closed when the piano is not in use. This protects the key coverings from accidental damage and keeps dust out of the playing mechanism.

If you have a grand piano, make sure the lid is closed after playing. For houses in humid areas, this might help slow the development of rust on the strings as well.

Step 2 - Get the dust off!

Despite looking robust, a piano’s finish is actually quite delicate. To remove dust, use a new, clean and very soft microfibre cloth. This should become your piano dusting cloth and should only be used for this purpose and no other. This is particularly important for pianos with a lacquer or polyester finish (black shiny pianos) as dirty or well used cloths can retain dust and dirt which will leave fine scratches in the finish of your piano.

When dusting, make sure you gently wipe the dust off and do not press down hard. Pressing hard will leave scratches no matter how soft a cloth you use.

Step 3 - Clean!

Abrasive cleaners should be avoided at all costs, such as polishes and most household cleaning products. In most cases, all you will need to do is dust with your microfibre cloth.

The below advice only applies to pianos with a shiny finish. If you have a french polished piano, then seek advice from a professional french polisher or piano technician.

If you have a mark on your piano, such as a sweaty handprint you might need something to help remove it. In most cases, go for a glass cleaner, Earth Choice Glass Cleaner is a good one to use as it is ammonia free. Spray the cleaner directly onto your microfibre cloth, one spray is enough. Using too much cleaning product can leave streaks on your piano. Wipe the mark gently until it is removed, making sure to wipe away residual cleaning product. That’s all that is required.

By following the above steps, you will keep your piano looking good between professional cleans.

To book a comprehensive piano clean get in touch via my booking form.