Prime Piano: Tips on Buying a Piano

What is the first step in purchasing a piano for my family?

What are the key differences when buying a piano from a retail dealer versus a private individual?

How much money will be required to purchase a piano for my family?

How can I tell if a used piano is in good condition?

 

What is the first step in purchasing a piano for my family?

Purchasing a piano for your family can create a lifetime of enjoyment and intellectual stimulation. Before you spend money for either a new or used piano, some preparation is helpful so that you purchase a piano appropriate for your needs to help insure musical success for your family. A key step in choosing a piano involves establishing your musical and furniture needs to fulfill your dreams. A piano provides elegance, sophistication and beauty to your home, so it’s important that your instrument will play properly and compliment your home’s décor. Musically, you should select a piano that has the key touch and musical tone that you enjoy. The best way to accomplish this is to visit your local retail piano dealer. Find a dealer that has a large selection of new and used pianos at many price levels. It is important that you sample or have the salesperson demonstrate a large variety of pianos. When you play each different piano, discover which piano keyboard has the touch most responsive to your fingers. Listen to many pianos to discover which tone is most appealing to you. You will also have an opportunity to view different cabinet and finish styles so you can select a piano that will be attractive as a key element in your home decor. Once you discover what you want to purchase, and have an idea of the cost, you can either purchase a new or used piano from the retail dealer or attempt to locate a used piano privately.

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What are the key differences when buying a piano from a retail dealer versus a private individual?

When purchasing from a retail dealer, you’ll find:
* New pianos usually come with a manufacturers warranty, a complimentary tuning, moving, and more cabinetry and finish choices.
* Used pianos are most often reconditioned, and they usually come with a warranty from the dealer as well as moving and complimentary tuning.
* Many retail dealers have a trade up policy that will give you the full purchased price of your piano when you desire a higher quality piano.
* You can expect to pay a little more for the manufacturers warranty, and the advantage of selecting a piano from a wide variety of new and used pianos.To locate and purchase a piano privately, you can look in the newspaper classified ads. Additionally, the Internet will have many opportunities for locating a piano. Please use common sense to protect yourself when shopping on the Internet. The best way to find a used piano is to locate a Registered Piano Technician (RPT) in your area. Often they will be aware of used pianos for sale, and most importantly will be aware of the piano’s condition. If you are determined to locate a piano on your own, you are at risk buying a piano without having a Registered Piano Technician (RPT) evaluate the condition and appraise the value of the piano.

When purchasing a used piano privately, you’ll find:
* They are generally less expensive than retail, assuming the seller has a realistic understanding of the value and condition of their piano.
* Your search requires extra travel to several homes to locate a suitable piano.
* There is no warranty.
* The moving cost is commonly the responsibility of buyer.
* Less, if any, selection of furniture cabinetry and finish.
* That extra service is often required to restore the piano’s touch and tone.

Despite the obvious drawbacks and hidden costs of purchasing a used piano privately, you can still do well and save money as long as you allow a Registered Piano Technician (RPT) act as your guardian angel to guide you through this potentially confusing and once in a lifetime purchase. Although it is possible for a technician to make recommendations by telephone, on site evaluations are a very good investment and can prevent costly mistakes.

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How much money will be required to purchase a piano for my family?

Pianos are like anything else, you get what you pay for! There are pianos available in a wide range of prices. If your goal is to have music provide a lifetime of enjoyment and intellectual stimulation for your children, you need to seriously consider making a reasonable investment in their future. What most people do not realize is that young children actually require a piano with keys that are very touch sensitive. With their small fingers, if the piano keyboard mechanism is not adjusted properly, the children will have great difficulty achieving success. Purchasing a quality piano will substantially increase your child’s opportunity for success. When students play on a high quality piano with touch sensitivity and good tone, they are not just playing musical notes. They can “feel” the music and have the music penetrate deep into their hearts and minds.Parents that successfully incorporate musical training into their children’s educational curriculum generally purchase a high quality piano. They recognize the more resources and parental guidance they can provide for their children’s education, the more successful and well adjusted they will be as adults. Also, intuitive parents understand that children do not always listen to their advice and instructions. But they understand that their children pay close attention to their actions. When you purchase a quality new or used piano, they truly understand that musical training is an important part of their education. Purchasing a quality piano demonstrates through actions the value you place on their education and well-being.

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How can I tell if a used piano is in good condition?

Often problems that don’t seem that big are major problems and vice versa. Keys that don’t play are usually not a big problem. Often something has broken or simply come unglued which is easily fixed. There are a few older pianos with old plastic action parts that are much more problematic.Look for notes that sound terribly out of tune when played by themselves. Most of the piano has three strings per note. The strings wrap around a steel tuning pin which is set into a wooden pinblock. When the pinblock goes bad it can’t hold the tuning pins tightly and a tuning pin will slip. This leaves one of the three strings very flat to the others. This is not just an out of tune honky-tonk sound, but it will sound like you are playing two distinct notes. A bad pinblock may very well be the demise of that piano if it is not a quality enough piano to warrant rebuilding. On a top quality piano such as a Steinway, Baldwin, or Mason & Hamlin it may be worth doing a major rebuilding and replace the pinblock, but these pianos are considerably more expensive if purchased new and would therefore warrant the work.

Another serious problem is the presence of strange rattles or buzzes. The soundboard, which is the large wooden board you can see from the back of an upright piano or from underneath a grand, has ribs glued on it to strengthen it. Sometimes when the soundboard gets cracks in it the ribs come unglued from it in places. This can allow the soundboard to rattle against the loose rib as it vibrates. This can sound like a speaker distorting when it is played to loudly. Pianos have a wooden bridge which is attached to the soundboard and has the strings running over it. The bridges have two pins for each string to hold the strings in place. Because there are so many pins very close together, sometimes the bridges split and allow the pins to become loose. This allows the strings to rattle against the loose pins. Bridges are often made in sections that can come unglued from each other also causing buzzes and rattles.

Look at the hammers for deep grooves caused by the strings. Layers of felt can be removed to restore the rounded shape to the hammer but eventually there in not enough felt left above the wooden molding to get a good tone. The high treble has the least amount of felt and you can sometimes see that the felt is all the way worn through and that the wood molding is actually striking the strings. Hammer replacement is fairly expensive and the piano needs to be high quality to warrant this work. You can’t just replace the felt on the hammers. The felt is put on the moldings in special presses under tons of pressure.

The most important thing is to call a Registered Piano Technician to look at a piano before you buy it. You should look at the piano first and be sure it is something you are interested in. “Free” or “cheap” pianos can actually be the most expensive if the condition of the instrument will require complete rebuilding in order to be a playable instrument. Ask your RPT to check out the structural condition of the piano. An investment of a service call before buying it can keep you from buying and moving a piano that won’t be playable much less an instrument you can be proud to play and own.

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Source: Piano Technicians Guild

For further information and pricing, contact us at: info@primepiano.com, or 201-930-8588