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Tips for Buying a Piano

Pianos offer an interesting mix of form and function. They give musicians in the home an instrument to play and offer a centerpiece that can add to the décor and aesthetics in your home. Buying a Steinway piano or any kind of piano of your own is a big step in your musical career, so here is a tip for choosing the right piano.

Listen for rattling or buzzing. The soundboard, located underneath a grand piano and behind an upright, is strengthened by a series of ribs. Cracks in the soundboard can cause these ribs to come undone.

grand piano with seat
Buying a grand piano or any piano boosts your musical career.

New and Used

You may have some stigma against buying a used piano, but realize that a used Steinway with a little age in its ivory plays just as well as—sometimes better than—new Steinway grand pianos right off the line.

The real difference comes when you have to choose between a retail dealer and a private seller. And not all retail dealers are representative of retail dealers in general, and the same is true of private sellers. Some private sellers offer warranties, some do not. Some retail dealers have a wide variety of options, and others don’t. Be sure to research and weigh the pros and cons of piano sellers in your area. You can also choose to buy a piano that’s far away and have it shipped to you.

Just a Check Up

  • Keys that don’t play actually aren’t a big problem and are usually caused by something that has broken or come loose, which is easily fixed with a little glue.

  • Listen for rattling or buzzing. The soundboard, located underneath a grand piano and behind an upright, is strengthened by a series of ribs. Cracks in the soundboard can cause these ribs to come undone. The loose ribs then vibrate against the soundboard, leading to buzzing and rattling.

  • Loose bridge pins can also cause the strings to rattle.

  • Hammers may have deep grooves from overuse, sacrificing tone. Generally, you can remove layers of felt on the hammer to restore its rounded shape, but sooner or later, you’ll run out of felt. Hammer replacement is expensive as you can’t just put new felt on them.

  • Listen for notes that sound especially out of tune. In most pianos, each note consists of three strings. A slipped tuning pin will cause one of the three notes to go way out of tune, as though you were playing two different notes. You will need to replace the pinblock or completely rebuild the piano.

Your best bet is to contact a registered piano technician to look at the piano before you purchase it. Good luck, and don’t rush your decision.