Problems to Look for When Buying a Use Piano From a Private Seller

When it comes to buying musical instruments, it’s always best to purchase them from a reputable dealer. The problem with reputable dealers is that you end up paying much more. What if you want to buy a used piano from someone else who is trying to sell one they own? You’ll certainly save lots of money over buying pianos for sale from a dealer, but will you end up with a good piano or a piece of junk? When you go to check out a used piano you should be prepared. Look for these problems when you look over the instrument. These problems are costly to fix and you should avoid a piano with these problems at all costs.

Do the Keys Play Two Sounds?

A piano that is out of tune is easily fixed if all it means is that you need to tighten some strings. Sometimes, though, a piano is so out of tune that it can’t be fixed. That usually means that something inside is broken. Each key on a piano has three strings. If one or more of those strings are loose then the note won’t play correctly. Hit the keys on the piano and listen to the sound. If the tune sounds off but still like one note, then the strings are probably just loose. If you hear two distinct sounds, then one of the strings might be completely broken. The strings are connected to the pinblock and if the pinblock is broken then it is nearly impossible to fix the string. It will require a complete rebuild of the instrument. Even if you’re getting this piano free of charge, you’ll end up paying as much as a new piano just to fix it.

Are the Ribs Broken?

Another important piece of pianos is the soundboard. It helps create that beautiful sound when you strike the keys. You’ll find the soundboard on the back of an upright piano or on the bottom of a grand piano. Soundboards have ribs attached to them. These ribs help to keep the soundboard strong and sturdy while you play. If the ribs are broken or unglued from the soundboard then it will cause problems with the piano. Hit the keys hard on the piano to create a loud sound. Does it sound like a cat screeching or speakers distorting? If so, then chances are high that the ribs are broken and the soundboard is vibrating when it shouldn’t. You might think you can just reattach the ribs and the piano will work great again, but that won’t happen if the soundboard is now damaged. Repairing the soundboard requires a complete rebuild of the piece.

Is the Felt Missing?

When you hit a key on the piano it causes a hammer to lift up and strike the strings. The hammers are covered in thick felt that helps produce the correct sound. Over time, the felt can get deep grooves from hitting the strings. Look at the hammers on the piano. Do you see deep lines? That is a sign that the piano has been played a lot, but it isn’t necessarily unfix-able. You can remove layers of felt to remove the grooves and make the felt smooth again. The big problem is when the piano already has several layers of felt removed. Too much missing felt, meant to keep the hammer smooth, will ruin the sound. You’ll need to completely replace the hammers and that is very costly.

Where Was the Piano Stored?

Musical instruments need excellent care or the repairs become costly. One of the best ways to keep a piano safe is to keep it in a cool, dry place with indirect light and low humidity. Anywhere else, and there is the potential for costly problems. Look inside the piano for telltale signs of unwanted animals. Holes in the felt could mean the piano has bugs. Chewed areas on the felt and wood could mean the piano housed rodents or even termites. Normally, if the piano had use then the sounds and movement inside the piano would scare off the pests and kill any bug eggs. Signs of intruders means the piano hasn’t had use. Look at the bottom of the piano. Do you see any signs of wetness or mildew? Does the piano smell musty? If so, that is a sure sign of flooding inside the piano. That means the piano sat on a wet floor and the moisture got inside. There might even be mold inside that could harm your health. Any structural damage from moisture or pests means a complete rebuilding of the piece.

Are the Keys Ivory and Missing?

Older pianos have ivory keys and were built differently than newer keys. Ivory keys came in three pieces. The bottom was wood and a thin piece of ivory sat on top. A second thin piece of ivory rested in the back between the black keys. You can tell if the piano has ivory keys by look at the front. Do you see a small line separating the two pieces? Run your finger over the top of the key from front to back. Do you feel a small line separating the two pieces on top? Do the keys feel slightly rough to the touch? If yes, you have ivory keys. Are there any missing keys on the piano? Are some of the ivory layers torn off the keys? Issues with the ivory keys means you’ll have to completely redo them. Ivory keys are illegal now and you’ll have to replace them all so that the piano doesn’t have a mix of ivory and plastic. If all the ivory keys are intact then you won’t have to change them.

Musical instruments are an investment. If you plan to purchase used pianos from local sellers, make sure you’re getting a nice piece and not something that will end up costing more than a new piano.

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