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.

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.

Choosing the Best Piano for Your Home

The modern piano market offers a vast array of beautiful acoustic pianos, functional digital pianos, and unique hybrids of both. Selecting the best piano to meet the needs of a young music student, an experienced performer, or even an adult who continues to play for enjoyment can be a daunting task. It’s essential to consider the elements of size, type, brand, and perpetual care of a potential instrument as you begin your search. The following tips will prove helpful as you begin to explore available resources, try out pianos, and evaluate your specific needs before making your purchase.

Consider these Aspects

One of the most significant considerations in choosing a piano is the purpose it will serve and who the primary user will be. A new student could ultimately be deterred from pursuing music if parents enroll them in piano lessons and select an instrument of poor quality and in need of critical repairs. Investing in the highest quality instrument you can afford, whether new or used, is always the best way to maintain student motivation while also retaining the resale value of the instrument. Other concerns that accompany the purchase of a piano include selecting the best size and style of acoustic or digital to fit the available space of your home. Options such as a new or used piano, a specific piano brand, and future maintenance must be examined before your final decision.

Determine Your Optimal Piano Size

The allotted space in your home dramatically impacts the size of the instrument you will want to consider. Acoustic pianos come in two styles, upright and grand, and within each category, there are several sizes to evaluate. The smallest upright is the spinet, which ranges from 36 to 40 inches in height. Even though it may be a suitable size for your particular space, it is not recommended because of the poor sound quality it produces.

Vertical Pianos

Better vertical piano options include:

The taller models of pianos offer a larger soundboard that creates greater resonance and, when purchased from a reputable brand, offers an excellent option for students and families involved in piano lessons.

Grand Pianos

Grand pianos are generally the choice of serious amateurs or professional musicians and come in several size options.

Although a grand piano is considerably more expensive than its upright counterparts, a great option to save money and get a good instrument is to purchase a pre-owned, reputable brand piano that has been reconditioned by a knowledgeable technician.

Regardless of which style and size best suit your needs, remember to allow room for the piano bench, a small space separating the wall and the piano for improved sound, and environmental concerns like extreme temperatures, drafty windows, or too much direct sunlight. These elements can affect tuning and lead to structural damage to your instrument over the years.

Comparing Acoustic and Digital Pianos

For true piano lovers, nothing compares to the sound and feel of an acoustic instrument. The richness of a spruce soundboard and the precision of well-maintained keyboard action offer the best experience to aspiring pianists. One of the distinct advantages of playing on an acoustic piano is that it provides optimal resistance needed for students to develop finger dexterity, hand strength, nuanced listening skills, and better overall control of the sound they create. A reconditioned acoustic piano that has been serviced by a trained technician and fits your budget is a worthwhile investment that retains its resale value and will be playable for at least 50 years if properly maintained.

Since the 1980s, digital pianos have offered benefits for the needs and budgets of many students and musicians. High-quality digital pianos often use recorded sounds of well-known brands like Steinway and have unique features such as headphone jacks for privacy and the ability to interface with a computer. However, the downside to digital pianos is often a shortened lifespan and significant depreciation through the years.

Best New and Pre-owned Piano Brands for Quality, Value, and Skill Level

A new piano does not always equate to the best quality or value for the cost. Take your time to explore the many brands of pianos available in today’s market, as not all brands are equal in craftsmanship and longevity. A visit to a local piano store, such as Hulme and Sweeney Piano Services, is a great way to view pre-owned selections and talk to a professional about your top concerns. A piano is a complex, mechanical instrument that should be thoroughly examined before purchasing. One distinct advantage of a regulated, voiced, and tuned pre-owned piano is that time has allowed the strings to stretch and the felts to be compressed, making it more stable. Compared to a new piano, a good reconditioned one will require less tuning and maintenance, especially in the first few years of ownership.

Piano Brands

At Hulme and Sweeney, many excellent pre-owned pianos come through annually and sell as a “like-new condition” instrument.

Hulme and Sweeney carries other well-known and reliable brands such as Baldwin, Young Chang, Samik, Weber and others, providing options to suit many preferences.

Before and After Your Piano Purchase

Buying a piano should always involve playing and testing the instrument before purchasing to ensure the tone and feel is satisfactory to your preferences. If you are not a pianist yourself, bring a friend who plays and can provide feedback about the piano’s action, tone, and voicing. It is also advisable to postpone purchasing a used piano or accept a free one without the assurance of a thorough inspection by a trained, reliable technician. It is not uncommon to find bargain pianos in compromised condition and beyond repair or tuning. While trying out various pianos, keep in mind there are fluctuations within the same size and brand of pianos, each creating a slightly different tonal quality and feel.

Whether you ultimately choose a new or pre-owned piano, each option will require yearly tuning and maintenance. We recommend tuning pre-owned pianos twice a year and servicing new pianos four times yearly until the tuning becomes stable. Reconditioned pianos that have been properly maintained are considered more stable in their sound because of age and use and will usually require less servicing.

 We Are Here to Help!

At Hulme and Sweeney Piano Service, we hope to assist you on your journey to purchase and maintain a piano that will bring enjoyment to your family for years to come. Our store is open for you to view a wide selection of beautiful upright and grand pianos and ask questions about available models and the services we offer. Each piano we sell is thoroughly serviced with regulation, tuning, voicing, and polishing before delivery and includes 2 free tunings plus 5 years of parts and labor.

Contact us today to help in your piano search and to serve all your piano needs!

A Guide on the Best Piano Brands: Mason & Hamlin

With a storied history, Mason & Hamlin is one of America’s oldest piano manufacturers. It remained on top during the Golden Age of the Piano and still flourishes in today’s digital world. How does this North American company remain one of the most beloved piano manufacturers?

The Mason & Hamlin company is dedicated to superior craftsmanship, holding fast to its vintage scale designs and techniques that made its pianos so revered. Today, the company only has so many craftsmen in the factory to ensure every detail is on point. With this attention to detail, only about 300 grand pianos and 50 uprights make it to the market every year. Each piano is built to last and is versatile in performance. A Mason & Hamlin piano is truly one-of-a-kind.

Mason & Hamlin History

Mason & Hamlin started as a reed organ manufacturer in the United States in 1854 by a businessman and an inventor. Henry Mason and Edmond Hamlin quickly led their company to success and decided to expand into the piano industry in 1881. By 1910, the company became Steinway’s main competitor.

Edmond Hamlin (left) and Henry Mason (right)

Unfortunately, this American piano manufacturer struggled over the next 85 years. It experienced terrific highs and devastating lows. Then, in 1996, the Burgett brothers bought Mason & Hamlin, saving the company from bankruptcy.

The Burgett brothers reestablished manufacturing in the factory in Haverhill, MA. They took a long, hard look at the company’s past to see where things went wrong and where the manufacturer’s strengths lay. First, they brought back the original scale designs that made the company famous in the first place. From there, they standardized certain features while modernizing others, such as the jigs and fixtures. Because of this meticulous work, the brothers resurrected a piano with a clear tonal palette that is unmatched even today.

Mason & Hamlin Pianos

Mason & Hamlin has a line of grands that vary by length and one upright, but all have superior quality and sound. The tone of these pianos is distinctively American, with notes characteristic of German pianos. The heavy construction of the Mason & Hamlin grands and uprights allows these instruments to have a powerful bass and clear, bell-like treble. If you’re looking for a new piano, you cannot go wrong with a Mason & Hamlin grand, upright, or pre-owned instrument.

Grands & Uprights

Mason & Hamlin grands are known for their:

It is because of these distinct parts that Mason & Hamlin grands are able to maintain their quality of sound long after they have been purchased. The Crown Retention System and composite action are especially responsible for the long-term quality of these pianos. The system locks the rim in place so that it cannot expand with age or stress, and the composite actions do not shrink or swell according to the temperature or humidity, effectively preserving the rich tone of the grand piano.

While pianists can choose from various grands and baby grands from this American manufacturer, Mason & Hamlin only produces one upright model — Model 50. This vertical piano features the same durability, rich tone, and power characteristic of the company’s grands. It just has a much smaller build, making it ideal for spaces with very little room.

Pre-Owned Mason & Hamlin Pianos

Have you ever listened to your grandmother’s piano and felt that the instrument’s sound is unmatched? This is due to the fact that your grandma has put a lot of mileage on that instrument. It’s known that pre-owned pianos are well-regulated with a more stable action and clearer tone. So, when you buy a previously used piano, you’ll get the same quality of sound as your grandma’s — without having to put in all the work! Plus, you will not have to get the instrument serviced as often as newer models because the action is steady and the strings are stable.

If you’re interested in a pre-owned Mason & Hamlin, we recommend Model B or Model AA. The Model B is 5’4” and is considered a baby grand. Its compact size makes it ideal for any space, but just because it’s small doesn’t mean it lacks power. The Model B has rich bass notes and bright treble notes that quickly fill a space.

The Model AA is 6’2” and full of character. Its tone and projection match those of grands much larger than its size. In addition, its elegant design makes it a perfect addition to any home, studio, or institution. Both the Model AA and Model B come in ebony or mahogany finishes.

Hulme and Sweeney have Mason & Hamlin Model AA and two Model Bs ready for restoration. Please call (860) 408-4895 to inquire.

Benefits of a Mason & Hamlin Piano

Choosing a grand or upright piano is a major decision that requires careful deliberation and thorough research. A Mason & Hamlin could be the instrument you need for yourself or your young pianist. If you’re still unsure this piano is right for you, here’s more information:

Choosing a Piano

How do you decide which grand or upright is right for you? You can get recommendations from a dealer to narrow down your options, but you will not truly know which one is the perfect instrument for you until you try playing it.

When you play the piano, listen to its bass, middle, and treble tones. How do they feel hitting your ears? If they sound off, a different model may be a better option. Pay attention to how the keys feel under your fingers. Playing the piano involves multiple senses, so make sure you’re entirely comfortable with a particular model.

It’s also helpful to note that every piano will sound different based on its age, condition, and maintenance, as well as the room it is located in. Because so many factors play a role in how a piano sounds, you’ll need to play a variety of pianos (even those made by the same manufacturer) to find the one that will suit your needs and preferences.

Are you ready to test out different pianos? Get in touch with our piano technicians at Hulme & Sweeney for more information on pre-owned Mason & Hamlin grands and uprights. We’ll ensure you find your dream instrument.

A Guide on the Best Piano Brands: Kawai

Shigeru Kawai pianos have consistently made their way on an array of Top Ten lists for the finest musical instruments. It began with an ambitious goal of creating the best piano in Japan that could beat all European pianos. Now, its use of ABS Styran plastic in the action parts still amazes musical aficionados. Over a 40-year period, Kawai Corporations performed extensive research and testing to develop a piano that offers more responsive action and consistent play regardless of the humidity or temperature. As one of the largest piano manufacturers in the world, Kawai's innovation cannot be beaten, especially if you love a warm tone to your piano.

History of Kawai

Kawai Corporations' founder, Mr. Koichi Kawai, showed an aptitude for mechanical design and inventions from a young age. After apprenticing as a piano builder, he built the first complete piano action in Japan. This revolutionized the Japanese piano manufacturing industry because, prior to this, actions had to be imported to Japan.

Over the years, Kawai earned a number of patents for his designs. And in 1927, he finally decided to leave his employer and founded the Kawai Musical Instrument Research Laboratory. Just a year later, they produced the first Kawai grand piano, which became the springboard for their manufacturing success. Throughout the years, Kawai Corporation stayed true to its roots, only building acoustic and digital pianos, refusing to dabble in the production of other products like their biggest competitor, Yamaha. The company is holding firm to the belief that they can serve the musician best by doing one thing well.

Kawai craftsmen and designers introduced and optimized the use of ABS-Carbon Fiber components in modern piano actions. This design allowed for more precise action and play and is far less susceptible to shrinkage or swelling due to temperature changes.

The Japanese company’s hard work has paid off. Within the last 20 years, Kawai pianos have earned over 50 prestigious international awards, including the Music Inc. Product Excellence Award for the GX-2 Grand Piano in 2017 and the MMR Acoustic Piano of the Year for the K-3 Professional Upright Piano in 2011. Kawai pianos and their bell-like tone and warmth are truly a force to be reckoned with.

Kawai Pianos

For almost a century now, Kawai has been at the forefront of innovation in the piano industry, introducing new designs and concepts that have set the standard for other manufacturers. Blending artistry and engineering, this manufacturer has produced a high-performing piece of Japanese craftsmanship. You can enjoy the elegant design and tonal clarity of a Kawai piano with one of these fine instruments:


Kawai grand pianos are world-renowned for cutting-edge technology, rich tonal experience, and long-lasting performance. Time-tested methods have been combined with innovative components (such as parts made of carbon fiber) to produce a beautiful musical instrument that stands the test of time. Whether you need a concert grand to grace your stage or a baby grand to take up residence in your home, Kawai has the right instrument that will match your level of ability. Every time you sit down on the bench, you'll be transported to a musical world unlike any other.

New Kawai models currently available include the GX Blak, GL, EX Concert Grand, and CR40 series. However, you can still purchase previously-owned models at a much lower cost and get the same quality of sound (we would even argue to say you can get a much better tonal experience with aged pianos). Popular used Kawai grand pianos include the RX, GM, GL, and KG series.

The RX series is now the GX series. And like the newer version, the RX line of pianos is Kawai's most expensive because they have the best features, such as a tapered soundboard and thicker rim. The GL and GM series have fewer complex features so that they could be manufactured more efficiently. What this means for you is that you can get the sound of a Kawai at a more affordable price.


Experienced teachers and serious musicians will often list a Kawai upright as one of their favorite pianos because they have exceptional tone and touch. In fact, several of the major international awards Kawai received were dedicated to their famed upright pianos. These musical instruments are not just for established pianists either. They are excellent companions for students young and old.

One of Kawai's most popular line of upright pianos is the K series, which has stellar stability – the ability to maintain an outstanding tone and touch over time. For a piano that will last for generations, consider the K series, which can be purchased both new and pre-owned.

A few years ago, Kawai produced pianos under the UST series. Models under this series are still available in the second-hand market and are great options for beginners and casual users. They are designed to hold their tune well even when moved. The UST-7 is more stable than the UST-8, and the UST-9 combines the best features of the two previous models for an instrument that produces Kawai’s signature responsive and warm tone.

Hybrids & Digitals  

Never one to be left behind, Kawai now makes both digital and hybrid pianos. After years of testing, they have perfected the acoustic-like qualities of a grand in digital form. As they play, pianists will notice that the tactile feel of the keys is similar to that of a grand, baby grand, or upright.

Pre-Owned Kawai Pianos

While it often makes more sense to buy new than used, this is simply not the case with pianos. Pre-owned pianos have fantastic quality for the simple fact that they are previously used. Older instruments have a more stable action and a better tone. New pianos require frequent service appointments because the action isn’t steady, and the strings are stretching. By buying used, you can get right down to business: creating music that is out of this world.

Benefits of a Kawai Piano

Are you debating whether a Kawai piano is right for you or your child? We believe a Kawai could serve your needs well, whether you choose a grand or upright, but if you’re unsure, consider the benefits a Kawai offers:

Choosing a Piano

While a dealer can suggest which pianos you should try, figuring out which one is best for you depends on your own preferences. The best way to choose a piano is to play different models, paying attention to how the sound hits your ears and how the keys feel under your fingers. If everything feels right, you’ve likely found the piano for you, but if even the smallest thing feels off, another model may be better.

Why do pianos vary so much, even those made by the same manufacturer? A piano's sound and tone greatly depend on the instrument's age, condition, and maintenance. The sound can also differ based on the room's size and flooring. Since so many factors play a role in how a piano sounds, it’s important to play different models to understand which one will be best for you.

If you’re interested in testing out different pianos, our technicians can help you know where to start. For more information about Kawai pianos and the process of buying a previously owned model, contact Hulme & Sweeney.

A Guide on the Best Piano Brands: Yamaha

Though the Yamaha brand now makes an array of electronic devices, audio equipment, and even motorcycles, it will always be most famous for its pianos. It has been in the business of making pianos since 1887, and since then, they have fine-tuned their instrument, creating the piano with the bright and rich sound we know and love today.

The brand has a long-standing reputation for excellence and performance. A Yamaha piano will add stately beauty to any home with its fine craftsmanship and will last from generation to generation with proper care. Whether you are a beginner or professional, into jazz or rock, Yamaha's dynamic and clear tones will be everything you need in a piano.

History of Yamaha

The Yamaha Corporation began in 1887 when a watchmaker, Torakusu Yamaha, made the first Japanese reed organ. In 1899, Yamaha traveled to the United States to learn how to build pianos to grow his business.

After increasing his knowledge of pianos, Yamaha began making and selling grands and verticals under the brand name Nippon Gakki, Ltd. However, it wasn't until 1960 that the company started exporting instruments to the United States.

Now, Yamaha is one of the most internationally known piano manufacturers, and they continue to sell pianos made in Japan, China, Taiwan, and Indonesia in the U.S.

Yamaha Pianos

For more than a century now, Yamaha has been expertly blending Japanese craftsmanship with high-quality materials to make the perfect piano for aspiring and concert pianists alike. Here are some of the models you should consider for yourself or your child:


Yamaha grands have over 12,000 parts, but each part is made with the finest materials and extreme care to craft the rich, silky tones a Yamaha is known for. Historically, Yamaha pianos were known to have a bright tone well suited for jazz but not preferred for classical pieces. Yamaha decided to move away from this percussiveness. They started by reinventing their bridge construction and hammer density and then providing custom voicing in the factory to create a wider spectrum of tonal color in their grands.

Today, Yamaha’s lineup of grand pianos includes the CX series, SX series, and CF series, as well as baby grands. However, their older models are still available in the pre-owned market and are just as beautiful in tone and appearance as the newer models.

Older Yamaha grand series you can buy include the G, C, and GC. The C models have a slightly richer ton, while the G models have a purer, less complex sound. GC is an excellent option when you want a mix of quality and affordability. In terms of size, you can expect to get a model that is between 5 feet, 8 inches and 6 feet, 1 inch. Overall, the G, C, and GC are the perfect grand pianos to grace any home.


Since 1900, Yamaha has been influencing how pianists view uprights. They continue to reinvent these vertical pianos, making them better every year. As a result, the popular uprights can be found in classrooms, practice rooms, and stages across the country. Today, serious students and musicians alike prefer the rich tone and reliable action of the U series.

The U1 model is especially popular among pianists of all ages and experiences for several reasons. Firstly, this piano stands at 48 inches tall and 60” wide, making it ideal for any sized practice space. Secondly, the soundboards and ribs are made with hand-selected solid spruce to give the piano its familiar rich voice. Finally, the upright features the patented aluminum action rail to protect the piano keyboard from changes in humidity and temperature, ensuring the beautiful sound can be preserved from generation to generation.


Yamaha is continually reimagining their instruments, and one of their inventions blends the nuances of an acoustic piano with digital technology. Because these hybrid pianos are not as susceptible to changes in tune when humidity sets in, they are an excellent option for older homes, university practice rooms, and church sanctuaries with frequent HVAC issues. They're also ideal for connecting to a smart device to learn, write, or record music. The options for Yamaha hybrids are truly endless.

Pre-Owned Yamahas

If you get a previously owned Yamaha from a good dealer, you’ll be adding a well-regulated instrument to your home. Older instruments naturally have more stable action. If you purchased a new piano, you would need to have it serviced more frequently within the first three years of its life because the action is not as stable (meaning the felt is compressing) and the strings are stretching (allowing the piano to be out of tune). In this case, you could get a better tonal experience from a used piano than a new one at a much better rate.

While you may purchase a pre-owned Yamaha in good condition, they will not remain this way for long if you do not keep them properly maintained. If you’re buying a used Yamaha, make sure you consult a knowledgeable technician so they can advise you on the best way to care for the instrument.

Benefits of a Yamaha Piano

You can never go wrong with a Yamaha – whether you choose a grand, upright, or hybrid. However, if you're not sure a Yamaha is right for you, consider these benefits:

Choosing a Piano

No one can tell you which piano is best for you. You have to determine this on your own by playing different models, considering how it makes you feel when you play it. Pay attention to how the bass, middle, and treble tones hit your ears. If they’re pleasant, you may have found the piano for you. However, if something seems off, another model may be better suited for your needs.

Every piano has a different sound and tone based on how old it is, what condition it is in, and how it was maintained over the years. It may also produce different sounds based on the room size, the height of the ceilings, and the type of flooring of the room. For this reason, you must play different pianos to get a feel for what works best for you.

If you’re not sure where to start, our experienced technicians can guide you through the process of choosing a piano. For more information on Yamaha pianos, contact Hulme & Sweeny. Our experts will be happy to talk to you about the process of buying a Yamaha.