How to Check Out a Pre-Owned Piano Before Buying: Part Two

Equipping yourself with essential basic knowledge of piano parts, their function, and critical problems to look for will undoubtedly prove helpful while shopping for a pre-owned piano.

As we discussed in the previous article, you will likely make an initial assessment of a piano on your own while searching for the ideal instrument to purchase. This article continues the highlights of checking out a piano and gathering vital information to discuss with a professional technician before buying it.

Evaluate the Condition of the Action

Getting an overall view of the action is a crucial step to include in any piano evaluation. The action consists of numerous working parts within the mechanical assembly needed to make a piano playable, and these parts should appear evenly spaced and uniform.

The action parts of a vertical piano tend to be easily seen and inspected by looking inside. However, a grand piano’s action is more difficult to view without removing it, and we recommend leaving that to a professional. Once again, taking careful notes and discussing troubling issues with your chosen technician is best.

Test each key to ensure that it works without sticking and that each damper properly functions as it returns to the string. Moth damage, brittleness, broken parts, and signs of deterioration are all conditions that should flag your attention as possible problems. In some instances, action parts are easily replaceable and not costly. In contrast, if the action appears to be in deplorable condition with extensive breakage, it may not be worth repairing.

piano keys close up photo

Scan the Keys for Appearance and Irregularities

Examining the keys is a relatively straightforward part of checking out any piano. Identifying any missing, chipped, or damaged keys is essential, regardless of whether they might be plastic or ivory. Replacing keys is generally easy and relatively inexpensive if you are contemplating buying a piano that needs new ones.

Next, take time to press each key at its front and try to move it gently left and right, checking for looseness and odd noises. The key bushings, which are pieces of cloth that buffer the key wood from the guide pins, sustain the most wear in the center part of the keyboard. If they are excessively worn, repair work in this area is usually a moderate cost but creates a smoother and quieter key action.

Scrutinize the Hammers for Grooves and Alignment

The hammers are undoubtedly the most crucial part of a piano’s action mechanism since they directly strike the strings which create the sound. Looking closely at the surface of the hammer at the point it hits the strings will allow you to see any noticeable grooves. Deep grooves likely suggest the piano has seen tremendous use throughout the years and may need the hammer heads replaced to improve the piano’s tone quality. This decision could be somewhat dictated by who will be playing the piano, whether that is a beginner student or an advanced musician.

You can also check the alignment of the hammers by observing the appearance of three well-defined grooves that line up precisely with the three strings it strikes. View the hammers’ position by pushing them toward the strings to see if they move to the correct point. If numerous hammers are badly out of alignment, potential problems with breakage become a concern.

Another necessary inspection of the hammers includes checking for looseness. Poorly defined grooves or a broad, flat spot where the hammers strike indicates excessive side-to-side motion. A quick check you can do is to gently glide your fingers over the tops of the hammers, noting any that have unusual movement. In a final review of the hammers, be sure to test if any or all hammers respond sluggishly or make clicking noises.

If you observe problems, it is best to let your technician know and allow them to examine it more closely to determine the cost and scope of needed repairs.

piano action with hammers and wooden keys

Ensure that the Dampers Operate Correctly

The dampers in a piano are the recognizable wedges and felt pads that rest against the strings, preventing sound production until pressing a key. Dampers can be tested by playing each key on the piano and releasing it to ensure that the tone and string vibration immediately stop. Remember that the top portion of the treble side does not have dampers, and the strings will continue to ring until the sound disappears.

Try listening for buzzing sounds as the dampers return to the strings since that could indicate a need for new felts. You will also want to press the right-hand pedal to slowly lift the dampers and check for precision as they rise from the strings. Although problems with dampers can sometimes be tricky to solve, they are often not severe or too costly and likely will not sway your decision to buy a piano.

Inspect and Test Each Pedal

Assessing the condition of the pedals is another fundamental part of your piano inspection. The main observation will simply be to find out if they work and how they function. Vertical pianos possess a more straightforward pedal system and may have two or three pedals. However, if there is a middle pedal, it will likely not be a true sostenuto pedal as found on quality grand pianos. Check for cracking, bending, or disrepair in the board where the pedals attach.

Grand pianos have a more complicated pedal system, with some parts located behind the action mechanism. Once again, examine the points of attachment to ensure nothing is loose or falling apart. Be sure to test the middle pedal to see if it is a functioning sostenuto pedal if you desire this feature.

Piano pedals are sometimes noisy, loose, or missing a dowel, but overall, many issues can be fixed or adjusted at a relatively inexpensive cost. 

Gauge the Need for Regulation Service

All pianos suffer the effects of normal wear, humidity, and temperature changes impacting the wood and cloth parts of the action. Restoring the precision of the piano’s action to its original specifications is known as regulation. This maintenance expense can fluctuate widely and ultimately requires a professional evaluation to determine if it is necessary. Even so, as you check out a piano, you may try a couple of tests that indicate a potential need for this service.

Evaluating the keyboard’s repetitive ability is an excellent first assessment, helping discern if there is excess friction in the action parts. Press and hold the right pedal, then use alternating hands to repeat a single key observing how it responds and returns to its resting position. Make sure to try this on multiple keys across the keyboard. Secondly, try playing numerous keys as softly as possible. Irregularities, such as skips or misses in the sound, suggest that the piano might need regulating.

black and white close up photo of a piano hammer and stings

Find the Serial Number and Write it Down

Your piano inspection should include locating its serial number, generally found somewhere in the interior. This number usually contains four to eight digits and can be used to determine the piano’s manufacture date. Serial numbers are often printed near the tuning pins or on the plate or soundboard. Vertical pianos sometimes have serial numbers engraved on the top or back, while a grand piano might have its number on the front edge of its keyframe.

Try finding an online piano blue book source, enter the serial number, and discover the manufacture date of any instrument you consider purchasing. You can also consult with your preferred technician, who may have a printed guidebook of piano manufacturer information. Without the serial number, a piano’s case styling or unique technical details will likely help a technician determine its age.

Close the Piano Lid and Complete Your Assessment

With your examination of the piano’s interior now complete, close the lid in reverse order from previously opening it. Be sure to return the music stand and fallboard to their initial positions.

Take this last opportunity to play the piano again, carefully listening to its tonal quality, brightness, and volume. Pay attention to the transition of sound as you play the keyboard from its lowest to the highest end, recognizing anything muffled, significantly out of tune, or odd.

Remember that other factors, such as room acoustics or needed maintenance, might affect the sound but note anything unusual to discuss with your piano technician.

Final Reflections

We hope this brief guide provides helpful insights into examining the components of a piano and how to relay pertinent information to a professional piano technician. Feeling equipped with vital piano knowledge will inspire confidence in searching for and choosing a used piano.

The trained staff at Hulme and Sweeney are always ready to assist families as they explore options for an excellent piano and answer any questions about the instrument that best suits their needs.

How to Check Out a Pre-Owned Piano Before Buying

Shopping for a used piano is an exciting venture, and buyers should have a plan in mind to do a preliminary check of the instrument’s condition before purchasing. Ideally, the best option is to have a pre-owned piano entirely inspected by a trained technician, but often a buyer will take a first look at the instrument on their own. As a precaution, it is wise to take time to learn about the crucial aspects and mechanics of a piano to feel comfortable making an initial assessment.

Prepare for an Overall Evaluation

Plan to inspect your potential piano by bringing along a few items, such as a flashlight, a soft brush for sweeping away dust inside, a screwdriver, and a tuner to check the piano’s pitch. These small tools will prove helpful in looking at strings, the tuning block, bridges, and more to help you determine the condition of any used piano you consider buying.

Take notes about parts that appear too worn, broken, or unusual, and plan to discuss all of these with a skilled piano technician. Remember that a fully equipped professional technician should make the final evaluation since what seems acceptable to you could be a significant problem.

Consider Looks, Styling, and Finish that are Appealing

The first impression you will likely get from a potential piano is its appearance, style, and finish. If you cannot envision this instrument in your home because of aesthetic reasons, then do not purchase it. Changing the cabinetry or finish to suit your taste is possible but likely not worth the cost.

If you consider buying a piano that needs exterior work, know that refinishing it is a challenging and complex project for even the best do-it-yourself enthusiast. The mechanical parts are susceptible to damage if exterior work is rushed and done poorly.

While inspecting a piano’s cabinetry, be sure to check for broken hinges on the music stand, loose veneer from water damage, and any cracks. It is also imperative to avoid a piano restyled with nonstandard features like mirrors or alterations to its height.

Try Out the Piano by Playing It

A necessary step in any piano evaluation is playing it, testing each key, and ensuring the pedals work. If you are not comfortable playing, take a friend along who does play, and they can offer their opinion on how it feels and responds. If anything seems irregular, be sure to bring it up with your technician.

 Open the Lid to Examine Inside the Piano

Looking inside the piano is the next logical part of any inspection. Take time to watch a video regarding the correct way to raise and prop the lid of a grand piano if you are unfamiliar with how to do this. You might also consider removing the music stand and fallboard for a better interior view. The lids on vertical pianos open more simply and should not present a problem.

Do not be shy to ask the current owner to see the piano’s inside and to remove any decorative items before you open it. After all, seeing the internal condition is crucial before making a purchase.

Test the Pitch and Tuning

A vital consideration when checking a used piano is to see if it has held its pitch and tuning regardless of any recent maintenance. As you play a few keys, you will quickly discover if the piano is grossly out of tune or damaged or if any individual key produces multiple tones of slightly different pitches.

Next, test keys throughout the keyboard to see if they match the pitch of a tuning fork, pitch pipe, or electric tuner. Choose several keys and play them in octaves to see if they have matching tones. If most of the pitches are flat by more than a quarter step, the piano may have mechanical problems to discuss with a technician.

Investigate the Condition of the Pinblock

The average piano buyer may find assessing the condition of the pinblock, tuning pins, and their ability to hold the strings at their proper tension a bit challenging. Only a trained technician has the expertise and tools required to confirm the pinblock’s actual state and any needed repairs. However, there are a few indications that could point to potential problems.

A pinblock that is getting old or is perhaps faulty may have replacement pins slightly larger in diameter than the originals. Checking for uniformity among the pins is an essential clue to possible issues. The coils around the tuning pins should be checked, as seeing less than 3/16 inches of space between the coils and the plate might suggest a defect.

Also, examine the area around the tuning pins and plate for evidence of previous chemical use to tighten the pins, noticing any unusual dark brown or gummy stains. Lastly, do your best to look for any cracks associated with the pinblock.

Inspect Strings for Rust and Other Issues

With the piano lid open, you will need to inspect the strings. Although a small amount of tarnish or light rust is normal, observing heavy amounts on any strings could be questionable. Take notice of how many strings look newer or if bass strings appear spliced. Numerous replacement strings might signal an issue with previous string breakage.

Hearing muffled tones in the bass could be dirt buildup, and replacing the strings will likely improve the tone. The expense of restringing the entire instrument could prove worthwhile in some cases if a piano is otherwise in excellent condition.

Survey the Bridges for Damage

The treble and bass bridges inside the piano are responsible for transferring string vibrations to the soundboard, meaning they cannot have substantial cracks. Examining the bridges is an excellent time to use a flashlight and soft brush to remove dust and take a closer look. On a grand piano, follow the bass strings to their end to find the bridge, while on a vertical piano, you can locate the bridge at their bottom end. Any crack significant enough that it pushes the bridge pins sideways may reveal extensive deterioration.

A piano’s tone will be affected if the bass bridge has become loose or if there are cracks in the treble bridge. A professional technician will likely need to advise you if repairs would be reasonable or if it is best not to purchase the piano. Regardless, be cautious when considering any piano with severe cracks in the bridges.

Confirm the Structural Integrity of the Piano

The cast iron plate, supporting wooden case, posts, and beams are components necessary to keep a piano intact and playable. Although rare, a crack can conceivably develop in the plate, making the piano useless and often unrepairable. With an opened lid, the plate in a grand is easily seen and inspected for damage. Be sure to examine its legs, case, and other supports below. A vertical piano’s iron plate is more difficult to view because of its upright position. However, checking the outer structures is easy when moved away from the wall.

Look for any places where wooden structural parts or veneer may be unglued or separated, and check for loose hinges anywhere. These issues may not directly affect the piano’s tone but are potential safety issues.

Check for Problems with the Soundboard and Ribs

The piano’s soundboard should be assessed for visible damage since it plays an essential role in producing tones. A minor crack may not be critical, but an extensive one from extreme climate conditions will impact the piano’s life expectancy. Buyers should note any cracks fitted with wooden shims since they might denote a previous rebuild of the piano.

Running perpendicular to the soundboard are the piano’s ribs. You will want to confirm that each is still firmly glued to the soundboard and shows no signs of separation. Problems with the ribs can sometimes produce buzzing sounds while playing the piano.

Final Considerations

Most likely, your search for a used piano will require you to make an initial assessment on your own about its playing condition and possible damage. Knowing fundamental piano mechanics and structural parts will help you communicate effectively and intelligently with your chosen piano technician before you make a final purchase decision.

This article has touched on crucial aspects to look for when assessing a piano’s condition by yourself. We will continue our discussion in the next article with the piano’s action, keys, hammers, dampers, pedals, regulation, and serial numbers.

Hulme and Sweeney Piano Service is happy to assist you in your search for an excellent used piano and offers professional advice for any evaluations you may need.

Vertical or Grand Piano?

Buying a piano for your home is an exciting decision, whether for lessons or personal enjoyment. As you consider your budget and space in your home, you will need to determine if a vertical or a grand piano best suits your wishes and requirements.   

Each variation of upright and grand pianos offers advantages and disadvantages in size, quality, keyboard action, and tone. The specific person who will use the piano is an essential factor in choosing a vertical or grand. A young student and an advanced musician will need different features for their musical goals.

Environmental factors in your home also impact your choice of piano style. Your available space may be limited by heat or moisture issues, dictating the need for a smaller instrument.

In this article, we hope to provide helpful insights for choosing a grand or vertical piano and some comparisons of the pros and cons of each.

close up photo of the inside of a grand piano

Who Will Be Using the Piano?

Vertical and grand pianos come in various models of quality and craftsmanship suitable for beginner students to professional musicians. A seven-foot grand piano might be a bit extravagant for a young child but may be necessary for an advanced musician needing superior action and tone. A student can, however, make significant progress on a studio or full-size upright for many years.

While you may desire a small grand piano in your home because of its aesthetic appeal, still consider the possibility that a full-size upright might surpass it in quality and be a better instrument. If you want the best piano for your budget, compare the features of taller uprights to any smaller grand pianos you are considering, as they could be superior in some brands. Focusing on quality is always best if young musicians will be playing it for years to come.

Determine the Optimal Space in Your Home

The available space in your home will play a vital role in your choice of piano. A vertical piano is an obvious choice if there is only a small corner in one area. Many people underestimate the amount of space they need for either a grand or upright piano. You will need to allow room to place the bench in the correct position for children and adults that will use the piano.

Placing the piano away from harsh environmental elements is crucial. These include direct sunlight, heating and air conditioning vents, and drafty windows. Trying to squeeze a six-foot grand piano into an area that is not large enough could result in damage through the years from any of these circumstances.

Grand Pianos


Grand pianos generally fall into three size categories ranging in lengths from 4 ½ feet up to 9 ½ feet. These categories are commonly known as small or baby, medium, and concert grand pianos. Grand pianos are measured with the lid closed from the front of the keyboard to the furthest point at the back.

o   Small grands range from 4 ½ to 5 ½ feet

o   Medium grands range from 5 ½ to 7 ½ feet

o   Concert grands range from 7 ½ to 9 ½ feet

Each size offers a unique feature and price point for the intended user and provides a more resonant sound than upright pianos. The exception is pianos under five feet long, which tend to sound and respond with similar musical expression as the larger, more expensive vertical pianos.

black grand piano, top view

 Tone Quality and Action

The most outstanding aspect of a grand piano is its longer strings, especially in the bass and midrange areas. These longer strings create a deeper, more consonant tonal quality than an upright piano. The design of larger pianos blends the treble and bass tones better and develops the sounds in a much more pleasing way than verticals.

The keyboard action on a grand piano is more sophisticated than in vertical pianos and allows for exceptionally reliable repetition of notes and control of tonal production. Longer grand pianos also have longer keys, providing the performer with optimal musical expression.  

Advantages of Grand Pianos

Grand pianos offer the distinct advantage of size and quality, giving musicians the luxury of creating subtle musical nuance, lush harmonies, and exceptional precision. In addition to the highest craftsmanship, grand pianos often possess beautiful cabinet work with elegant finishes that make them a centerpiece in your home. Grand pianos remain the top choice for the best opportunity in musical growth and artistry.

Disadvantages of Grand Pianos

The significant disadvantages of choosing a grand piano are, no doubt, its sheer size and cost. Even a small grand can prove challenging to fit into a space already shared with many other home furnishings. Grands are often three to six times more costly than comparable vertical pianos. A grand piano also requires the assistance of professional movers should you sell it or move to a new home.

Vertical Pianos


Vertical pianos, or uprights, are generally classified into four size categories ranging in height from 36 inches to 60 inches. These categories include spinet, console, studio, and full-size or professional upright. Vertical pianos are measured from their lowest point on the floor to the highest point on their back.

o   Spinet pianos range from 36 to 40 inches

o   Console pianos range from 40 to 44 inches

o   Studio pianos range from 43 to 47 inches

o   Full-size, or Professional uprights, range from 47 to 60 inches

Decades ago, spinet pianos were popular, but we do not recommend them because their size compromises both tone and quality to the point of being a very poor investment.

On the other hand, upright pianos of at least 44 inches in height serve as great instruments for students and amateur musicians. Schools and practice rooms commonly use institutional-style studio pianos, but manufacturers also make elegant versions that look beautiful in any home.

Verticals that range from 48 inches and taller are the best quality of all uprights. Even though they seem to tower quite high, they do not take up any more floor space than the shorter versions.  

vertical piano in a light room with a few chairs in front of it

Tone Quality and Action     

The sound produced by an upright piano tends to bounce back at face level because of its vertical construction, giving the performer less control over musical expression. Shorter strings and a smaller soundboard cannot produce the same resonance as a grand piano. You also find the keyboard action is less sophisticated than a grand, making the repetition of notes feel sluggish and somewhat unreliable. Vertical pianos also have shorter keys than grands, hampering subtle musical expressions.

Remember that the larger and longer a piano is, the better quality it will be. That means the tallest of vertical pianos often possess excellent craftsmanship and even rival the smallest size of grand pianos, making them worthy instruments.

Advantages of Vertical Pianos

A distinct advantage to choosing a vertical piano is its smaller size which enables it to fit easily in a corner or limited space. They are also much easier to move than a grand piano, either within your home or to a new location.

Vertical pianos are substantially less expensive and an excellent option for young students or those with simpler musical needs. Many top piano brands such as Steinway and Sons, Yamaha, and Kawai, have a superb selection of great quality uprights to consider.

Disadvantages of Vertical Pianos

A vertical piano’s overriding disadvantage remains its limitations in tone production and action. String length, action, and key size are all compromised due to their smaller size and construction. If you are a serious musician needing an instrument that can take you to your highest level of playing, a vertical piano will not meet those needs.

grand piano with a closed lid standing in a room with wooden floors and white walls

Final Thoughts

Choosing between a grand or a vertical piano will be influenced by your home’s space, intended use, and overall quality. Grand pianos are beautiful and superior in tone, but costly. However, many mid-to-tall vertical pianos are a less expensive option for students and families that need a good working instrument.

We caution piano buyers not to compromise quality for a very small piano just because it has an ornate cabinet or is cheap. The sound and action could prove very disappointing, and you will be stuck with an inferior instrument that will not get used. Finding the highest quality piano, whether upright or grand, should be an important factor in your decision.

At Hulme and Sweeney Piano Service, we invite you to talk with us about the piano that best suits your needs, space, and budget and allow us to answer any questions you may have.

How to Find a Used Piano

A quality used piano can be an excellent choice for beginning your child’s piano lessons or for your personal enjoyment. A used piano tends to be more affordable than a new one and often offers superb value for your budget. Knowing exactly how or where to find an excellent used instrument, however, can be a challenge.
You may count yourself lucky to be offered a free piano as a gift or find one cheaply through a garage sale or classified ad, hoping it will be a good starter instrument. Although these scenarios may be ideal for your budget, they seldom lead you to a quality piano in good working condition.
This article will discuss people, places, and opportunities to help you find a quality used piano that suits your needs. Of course, we encourage you to thoroughly research all options before you begin shopping to ensure confidence in choosing the best financial value.

Talk to Experts in the Piano Industry

Tuners and Technicians

A first great option to begin your search for a used piano is to seek a local piano tuner or technician. These individuals are often available for a quick chat on the phone, an email, or a brief meeting. They can provide crucial information regarding what to look for in a used piano. More importantly, these piano experts spend many hours traveling to homes, churches, universities, and other locations to tune and repair pianos. They often know of pianos available for sale and their current condition and approximate value. Tuners and technicians can be vital liaisons between a potential buyer and seller looking for a piano. At least several of these experts in your area will have a website with contact information where you can begin your conversation with them.

Piano Service Companies

Perhaps the ideal place to find a high-quality used piano is a piano service company in your area. In addition to tuning, these small businesses often specialize in refurbishing, restoring, and rebuilding pianos and usually offer them for sale in their own shop. These expert craftsmen take the time to make sure each instrument they sell is properly working, tuned, and refurbished to be ready for delivery and use. Many of these same shops will also restore and rebuild pianos if that is what you desire. Purchasing a piano through one of these small businesses provides significant assurance that you will not encounter necessary repairs once the piano is in your home.

At Hulme and Sweeney Piano Service, we can provide complete assistance in your search and purchase of a used piano. We will answer all your technical questions and invite you to our showroom of available used pianos. A visit to our store is a great place to find an excellent used piano in proper working condition that provides the most value for your budget.

Visit Piano Dealer Showrooms and Walk-In Retail Stores

New Piano Dealer Showrooms

If you are interested in browsing for used pianos in person, you can consider visiting a new piano dealer showroom. Many dealers will accept trade-in pianos from individuals upgrading to a new instrument. These trade-in pianos are often available for sale somewhere on the showroom floor. It is essential to ask questions about the condition and value of these pianos to learn if they have been refurbished, tuned, or have a maintenance history.
Remember, the goal of a piano dealership is to sell new pianos, not to refurbish and restore older pianos. Therefore, it is wise to have any piano you consider purchasing thoroughly checked by an independent technician. Sales associates may try to convince you that a new piano is a better deal than a used one, but that is not always the case. Getting a good used piano at a retail store is possible, but it will likely cost more than buying from a private seller or service shop.

Consignment and Resale Stores

If you consider yourself a bargain hunter who wants an extremely inexpensive piano, check the local consignment and resale stores. In some situations, people just need to unload a piano quickly, and donating it to a charity shop or resale store provides an easy solution for them. On rare occasions, you can find a decent piano that is just in need of basic repairs and tuning. Still, you will likely have to arrange for transportation and incur the costs of needed maintenance work. It is always best to have a piano thoroughly inspected by a trusted technician before making any decisions. In the end, most pianos at these stores are in very poor condition and will likely cost more money to restore than just purchasing from a reputable used piano shop.

Explore Online Piano Shopping

Great for Browsing!

With the help of the internet, piano shoppers have access to many choices of used instruments sold by private sellers rather than in local businesses. Even if you do not purchase a piano through a website marketplace, online browsing can still help provide general comparative information. Online marketplaces allow you to see pictures of models in different conditions for an array of prices. In some instances, comparison shopping online could lead you to a unique local piano shop or piano service business that could provide an excellent instrument.
Online shopping seems convenient, but any piano you are considering should be seen in person, inspected, and played before buying. Unfortunately, not every posted classified ad is legitimate, and buyers should use caution when a deal seems too good to be true.

Online Classified Sites

Most people are familiar with popular online sites like eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace, but there are also piano-specific sites that may offer better options. These include and, which offer pianos throughout the country. Most of these sites have search features that allow you to find pianos nearby. Remember, moving and maintenance costs associated with an online purchase will generally be up to the buyer. It is also essential to determine if a warranty is included with any piano you wish to buy online and to verify its playing condition.

Utilize Personal Networking Opportunities to Find a Piano

Most of us visit with friends, family, and nearby acquaintances regularly, which leads to another option for finding a used piano. Talking to people within your circle remains an easy way to see if someone you know is trying to sell a piano they no longer use. Caution is still needed if anyone wants to gift you a free piano. As mentioned before, these instruments may often be in very poor condition and require numerous, costly repairs.
Other people to contact about a possible used piano may include piano faculty at a local university, Music Teacher Association members, or even a church that might be upgrading their pianos.
Private piano teachers in your area will sometimes have students graduate high school and move on, leaving their parents desiring to sell the piano. Another option is to visit estate sales where a family might be downsizing or relocating and cannot take a piano with them.
Finding a piano through any of these means could be a great deal, but we highly recommend contacting a skilled technician to evaluate the piano before purchasing.

Final Thoughts

Searching for a good used piano takes patience and perseverance as there are numerous places where they might be available. We recommend exploring several options presented in this article and stress the importance of a professional assessment before choosing an instrument.
One of the best options for purchasing a used piano is to check with a local piano service shop that refurbishes and restores pianos and offers them for sale. You will likely get a quality, working instrument approved by a skilled craftsman and accompanied by a warranty.
Whether you decide to purchase an instrument online, from a private seller, or consider accepting a gifted piano, feel free to contact Hulme and Sweeney Piano Service to help guide you through the process and answer your questions.

Benefits of Buying a Used Piano

Most of us love the thrill and excitement we experience from purchasing a brand new luxury item. That same feeling entices people when they walk into a showroom filled with beautiful, new pianos and envision one in their home. However, just because a piano is new, does that mean it’s the best option for beginning music lessons?

New pianos offer peace of mind when you shop, assuming they are free of defects and come with a manufacturer’s warranty. However, used pianos already have depreciation factored in, usually have a more mellow tone, and are considerably less expensive. Let’s look at how choosing a used or even rebuilt piano might be an ideal investment as you select a piano for yourself or contemplate lessons for your child.

Refurbished Pianos are More Affordable

Purchasing a used piano can stretch your budget for a better brand and maybe longer soundboard, rather than settling for a smaller, entry-level new piano. In addition to less depreciation, a first-rate used piano brings an opportunity to find unique older styles and wood finishes, plus the possibility of a richer, warmer tone. Ultimately, a good refurbished piano might allow you to get the best piano possible for your price range.

Used Pianos Have Less Value Depreciation

In glancing at a few retailer websites or showrooms, you find that many new pianos made by the top brands start at around $10,000 for consoles and reach considerable amounts for grand pianos. Not only can these instruments be out of budget, but their potential resell price also substantially drops when it reaches your home.

Depreciation is a significant factor when purchasing a new piano, unlike a used one. A new instrument will lose approximately 20% of its value by the end of the first year, then roughly 5% each year after for the next ten years. This aspect of a piano purchase is one of the overriding reasons many people choose a used piano. A refurbished, well-maintained used instrument will retain a more significant portion of its value if you decide to resell it in the future.

Reputable Piano Rebuilders offer Warranties

Quality refurbished pianos often come with a warranty on parts and labor from a reputable technician, making them a trustworthy purchase. Used pianos are also much less affected by depreciation should you or your child discontinue lessons.

Buying a used piano with a warranty, plus knowing its value will not be entirely lost if you sell your piano, provides a level of confidence in your decision. 

At Hulme and Sweeney, our pianos always come with the assurance of a 5-year warranty on parts and labor.

Used Pianos Present a Variety of Styles

Shopping for a used piano adds a potential element of fun if you like searching for something unique. Good used pianos can offer a greater variety of styles and finishes from years past that may not be found in today’s newest models.

Options and colors of wood finish, such as lacquer, satin, high-gloss, or something natural-looking, might be essential to you as you consider the room’s color schemes, furniture, and the piano you choose. Older pianos may have more exciting cabinet design features, enabling you to find something to match your home furnishings. Some pianos have beautifully carved music stands with ornate legs. In contrast, others offer efficient, industrial-style looks or even smooth, streamlined curves.

Tone: Older Pianos vs Newer Pianos

One other reason to consider purchasing a used piano is the appeal of its tone, which could significantly differ from newly made pianos. Warmer, more mellow tones were popular in early 20th-century pianos. Instruments built in recent years tend to have an overall brighter tone, as this seems to be what is currently in demand.

You may prefer one type of tone over another, but this is certainly something you should think about before investing in a piano. We suggest playing as many instruments as you can find to understand which one sounds best for your ear.

The Restored Piano Option

A similar but more costly option to a refurbished piano is that of a restored piano. The advantage of a fully restored or rebuilt piano is that a trained technician can take an older, high-quality brand piano and recreate the interior with new, modern mechanical parts.

Technology that exists today was not available 100 years ago when piano makers were crafting their premiere instruments. Thanks to innovations in carbon fiber action parts, carbon steel strings, and computer aid to correct design flaws, a skilled technician can bring an old piano to new performance levels. This means if you like the qualities of an older model Steinway, for example, but would like to customize certain features such as tone and action, this option allows you to modify the piano to your preferences.

Advantages of a Rebuilt Piano

Rebuilding a premium grand piano, such as Steinway, with all authentic parts in their New York location will cost around 80% of a new Steinway. A more reasonably priced alternative is to choose a skilled, professional independent piano builder who can use premium brand parts to rebuild an exceptional piano for a lower cost. A rebuilt piano from a trusted restoration company also provides protection from hidden defects and unexpected maintenance and will likely come with a warranty on the work.

All Students Need Good Pianos

Learning to play the piano is still essential to many children and adult students and finding a suitable piano within your budget is a vital part of this process. Parents often believe in the approach of buying the cheapest piano they find to see if their child is genuinely interested before investing in a better instrument.

The dilemma with this approach is a piano that has broken parts, fails to hold its tuning, or has terrible action will likely discourage a new student from continuing. Students become frustrated when they cannot duplicate melodies, harmonies, or technical passages they hear from a teacher during lessons. They may blame themselves for lack of progress rather than realizing it could be the piano’s poor condition.

Refurbished Pianos Offer Quality

Students learning to play the piano progress more quickly on a quality instrument. A properly working refurbished piano with unchipped keys and uniform action develops better finger strength and dexterity. A piano that stays in tune improves aural skills, while fully working pedals are essential for advancing students. Purchasing an antique instrument or accepting something for free in deplorable conditions will not provide these much-needed features for a student of any level.

Keep in mind certain piano manufacturers and models from particular decades should be avoided in your search. Many old, low-quality spinet and upright pianos are sold or given away by individuals in deteriorated conditions, and we do not recommend purchasing or accepting these instruments.

Finding a vertical console or small grand that was initially built with excellent craftsmanship is a good candidate for refurbishing to like-new conditions. We are happy to discuss the best brands of pianos at Hulme and Sweeney that we feel make excellent used instruments.

Final Thoughts

Choosing a piano for your child’s music education or your home encompasses a thoughtful search for an instrument that suits your needs and budget.

New pianos are easy to shop for at showrooms and come with the manufacturer’s warranty and no anticipated problems. However, the depreciation factor and immediate loss of financial value spur many piano shoppers to consider a high-quality, affordable, refurbished piano instead.

A restored or rebuilt piano might be an ideal option if you are looking for customized features. A rebuilt instrument is a great way to acquire a premium brand piano at a reduced cost with improvements that could possibly surpass its original condition.

Working with a knowledgeable, capable rebuilder offers a distinct advantage in being able to find or refurbish a piano to fantastic working conditions at a much more affordable price. As you begin your search, we invite you to Hulme and Sweeney Piano Service to discuss our selection of used pianos and restoration services.