Join the club. How many of us would like to have a really nice grand piano but really don't have the cash. Of course we could put another mortgage on our house, sell the car and walk to work in order to buy a six foot Steinway.
I have seen advice in books on buying a used piano that narrow the field so much that it would be very hard to find a reasonably priced piano for a young child or adult to learn on. It's best to be reasonable when looking for a lower priced piano. They won't be the best but they will work and allow a new student to begin the journey.
Check the newspaper. Most of the time that is where you will find the best prices.Be prepared to offer a lower price than asked. Usually those selling overestimate the value of what they have, especially if they lack an understanding of the piano market.
Free Pianos at (pianoadoption.com) see our "helpful websites" page on the left menu.
If you find something you like, consider hiring a good piano technician to look it over. The extra money might be well worth it. If that is too expensive, you will need to learn what to look for yourself so you won't end up with a piano lemon. Go to the library or a book store and find Larry Fines "The Piano Book". Larry's book will give you the knowledge you need to avoid the bad things and find the good ones.
Ask around. There may be friends, family or other acquaintances who have a piano they would be happy to pass on for little or nothing.
The internet is full of places to buy pianos. Most will be impractical for someone who wants to spend five hundred or less. Your best chance might be craigslist.com (see our "Links" page.) Pick your area on the site and look under musical stuff. If you find a piano through the internet, you will need to check it out just like those found in the newspaper.
Piano teachers, schools and other institutions may have a piano for sale or to give to a worthy home.
Piano stores aren't the best choice for a really low price. They need to pay for the store, sales staff, electricity etc. But check them anyway. They might have one to give away.
Don't expect too much from these instruments. In some cases if a tuner can get the middle three octave to work by switching parts that might be as good as it gets. Although, there are fully functional pianos to be had for less than $100. Keep looking!
Find An Old Upright
Something is better than nothing. It will have character and maybe even a certain charm. If your search goes well you may find an oldie but goodie that looks beautiful and still works pretty good for an old guy. See photo above.
Just so happens that the photo above is an optical illusion. Even though the photo is set on the page perfectly square, it looks like it is crooked because of the angle the shot was taken. And that's how an inexpensive piano will be. It may look a little off kilter in your home if your other furniture is on the new or modern side. But hey, .....if it functions and you or your children can use it to learn to play then give it a go.
Spilling something in a piano can cause serious damage depending on what is spilled and where it lands. Damage risk is higher for a grand piano. Because of this danger, a list has been compiled to avert danger.
Be Careful List (in order of importance)
Do not set drinks on the piano
Do not set food items on the piano
Keep cats and other pets out of the piano
Do not burn candles on the piano
Do not set containers filled with small items (<1/2") on piano
Do not eat ice cream cones over the piano
Close windows when it rains
Cover piano with blankets then plastic if there is a chance of roof leakage
No squirt guns near the piano
Close the lid for wild parties
Cost of Repairs
If the spill covers a large area and is not cleaned up expedientley, it could cost anywhere from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars to repair. If it is a small spill, in the right spot, your clean-up may do the trick.
If liquids spill in the tuning pin area and soak into the wood around the tuning pins it could render that area of the piano untunable. The cost to repair a damage like this could cost up to two thousand dollars.
If a spill falls into the action area inside the piano, moving parts could be damaged and require replacing. This kind of spill could cost up to one thousand maybe more.
The piano is a delicate but robust machine and requires some mindful consideration and care to keep it running well.
Don't Panic...Follow Plan Below
If Liquid Is Spilled
Immediately soak up any liquids with rags, paper towels etc. or suck up with a wet vac. If you can't reach the spill, proceed to #2.
Use forced air from a compresser, can or hair dryer (not too hot) or fan to help dry area.
If there are two people available, one should take pictures as soon as possible for repair estimate purposes. If only one person is available take the pictures after #1 and #2.
Make a note of what was spilled, how much and how long it sat before clean-up.
Call your piano technician.
Other Items That Spill Or Fall
Pencils - They could make noise and stop keys from working but are usually not a danger. Your technician can remove them when he comes to tune.
Paper clips - same as pencils above. If they fall onto the soundboard they can make some nasty noises. Magnets work well to pick them up.
Marbles - They make noise more than damage.
Little beads - They are the same as pencils and paper clips but harder to clean-up.
Christmas & party decorations - sometimes hard to clean.Try a vacuum for light stuff.
Food - clean it up right away. If it is thick it may leave a stain or residue.
As a matter of fact there actually is a blue book for pianos. It can be found on the internet and the address is none other than bluebookofpianos.com. (see our Links page.) The drawback is it will cost you about $20.00. That's a pretty good price for the information. You can also find the age of your piano at Blue Book.
Other Ways To Determine Value
There are other ways to find out the value of a piano that may be less expensive, but not as as accurate or as easy as the blue book site.
The Piano Book by Larry Fine. It will give you direction for self appraisal
Check local stores for a piano like yours.
Look in the newspaper to see what the current sale prices are for your type of piano.
Check craigslis.com just like the newspaper above
Bear in mind that piano sale prices in retail stores are always higher than private sale prices.
Another option is to hire a qualified piano technician to give you a written appraisal. This will cost a good deal. There will be the service call fee and perhaps another charge for the written appraisal. If you can have the technician tune the piano on the same visit, perhaps the charge would be minimal.
Why Would I Need An Appraisal
To purchase insurance for a piano the insurance company will no doubt need a written appraisal to assess the value of the instrument. That way if it is damaged or destroyed they know what will be needed to repair or replace the instrument. This is very important for valuable instruments, especially those that cannot be replaced. The best appraisal for this situation is one obtained by a qualified piano technician.
If you are going to sell your piano it will help to have a written appraisal to show your prospective buyers what it is really worth.
If you are considering the purchase of a particular piano you may want to have it appraised to know the true value of what you are buying.
You may just what to know for personal reasons just what you have. Other than bringing your piano to the "Antiques Road Show", an appraisal is the best way to find out.
Sailing The Seas Of Pianos
There are plenty of resources for those navigating the rough seas of a piano purchase. The key to reaching your destination is patience and perseverance. If you have never played the piano you will need to enlist an experienced piano person. This could be a teacher, good player, piano technician, or someone that knows about pianos and the piano market in your area. Don't be overtaken by the beauty of the exterior. Concentrate on the moving parts inside. Then, after you are happy about how it plays decide about how it looks. If you are a piano player then you are sailing with the wind. You know what you like. You can narrow your search by playing several instruments. In order for you to sail into port safely the best course would be to hire a qualified piano technician. He will give the piano a good examination. Then have a serious conversation with the technician to make sure you know what you are getting. Another thing to ensure smooth sailing is to find Larry Fine's book "The Piano Book". Study it and make yourself familiar with pianos. Learn the different types of pianos, the parts, manufacturers, pitfalls and good points. This will prevent you from having to sail against the wind. Have a safe journey!
Most pianos do not have financial antique value. On the other hand, they tend to keep their value. This means that a piano will sell in a store today for about the same price that it was purchased for new. As an example, upright pianos purchased today for $100 to $500 sold for the same price in the first part of the last century. With the changing world economy and the poor quality of some newer pianos, I'm afraid, this keeping their value thing is not going to hold true for much longer. For the really good pianos it may hold true. We'll have to wait and see.
Are there piano lemons? The quick answer is yes. We know there are automobile lemons and lemon laws to help us deal with them. There are no piano lemon laws. Webster's has a definition: lemon #3 [Slang] something that is defective"
Pianos are in reality a sort of machine. There are levers, springs, weights etc, not to mention all the thousands of adjustments that affect how it functions. The piano is also furniture which incorporates engineering with aesthetics. I can say for a certainty that I have seen pianos that were not designed or manufactured very well. Since making and selling pianos is about profit for the most part, quality can sometimes suffer for the greater goal of paychecks. Hey, we all need one.
Even major piano manufacturers with well respected names have put some pianos into the market that show a lack of quality control. It's an unavoidable fact of mass production to meet the needs of the people. If you want a piano that was made by a small group of artisans concentrating on quality and beauty well, that would cost a lot of money. There are pianos made that way today. Most pianos though are mass produced for the average person who wants to learn to play or enjoy piano music in their modest home.
Many defects will not be noticed until the piano is bought and paid for. If you buy a used piano there is usually no recourse such as a warranty to right the wrong.
How To Avoid Piano Lemons
Do your research and avoid pianos with bad track records. (some lesser quality manufacturers have put out some pretty nice pianos, it's subjective)
Talk to piano owners and musicians to get their thoughts on the better pianos.
Visit al the piano stores in your area get the sales pitches then play play play or have a friend play them.
Compare the higher quality pianos to the ones in your price range. Unless high is your range, then compare the high cost pianos to one another and check them against the less expensive to see if high is better or not.
Put your prospective piano purchase through the torture test. (see box to right)
Don't be seduced by a pretty face.... I mean piano case. (what's inside is much more important.)
Lemons Aren't So Bad
Poor lemons, their name thrown to the gutter to be used to represent something lousy. With a little work, some sugar and presto, we have lemonade. So, something sour "can" be made sweet. This is true with pianos too. If we have purchased a piano lemon, chances are good that we can make it worth keeping at least for a time or maybe longer. Get an estimate, take a big swallow and make a decision.
Any trained or skilled piano player can do the torture test. It involves the following:
Fast chromatic scales for key response
Full chords played at maximum volume (Does it sound powerful or noisy.)
Single key tremolo (fast repeated strikes) Is it responsive?
Fast sustain pedal use (listen for noise.)
Push sustain very slowly without keys playing (listen for squeaks and noises.)
Push keys down very slowly without letting hammers hit the strings (listen for noise.)
Play rock-n-roll, Rach 3 or similar piece. How does it respond and hold up?
Play one key repeatedly and fairly loud. Does the sound fall apart or have power. Do this throughout the keyboard.
Play very softly and listen for tone quality. Is it pleasing.
Play in the bass. Is it round full and pleasant or noisy thin and twangy.