Tips for Buying a Piano
1) If you can afford it, go for a full-sized, new grand piano. Steinway is the best-known of the more prestigious makes but many say a Baldwin piano is actually better. Ask for advice from the sales assistants in your local music shop and take time to try out the different instruments – or buy online at Amazon UK/Amazon US or there are a few grand clavinovas and grand pianos at Musicroom.com. Second choice would be a large upright: larger pianos are generally better than smaller ones. Again try upright pianos at Musicroom.com or Amazon UK/Amazon US.
2) If buying a second-hand (used) piano, consider visiting places where they are reconditioned, tuned and delivered – along with a guarantee.
3) There are thousands of makes of piano yet most of us have only heard of really famous ones such as Yamaha. If you’re interested in buying a particular piano, check out the make by looking it up online.
4) If cost is the main issue, look for pianos for sale in your local newspapers: some people will even give one away as long as you have means of collecting and transporting it yourself.
5) Try online websites such as eBay.co.uk/eBay.com. Set a short ‘distance’ preference (i.e. around 40 miles) and you may pick up a real bargain, as there are rarely many people bidding for a piano within a small area. However, make sure you don’t pay for anything until you’ve actually seen and played it.
6) Carefully measure the space you have available to ensure the piano you’re considering will fit. Also make sure your doorways are big enough for it to pass through.
7) If buying from a private seller, try to take a piano expert or tuner along with you.
8) Ask questions about the history of the piano: why is being sold? (if the answer is shortage of money this may indicate that the piano has not been well cared for); how often has it been played?; when was it last tuned?
9) Check the appearance of the piano casing: will the colour fit in with the rest of your furniture?; is the wood cracked or scratched?; are there any signs of woodworm? Is the piano stored in a damp room or next to a radiator (either of these things may have damaged it).
10) Take your time trying out the piano. Are the touch and tone to your liking?
11) Check each key very carefully. Sticking keys are generally fairly easy to fix, if they cause a buzz or rattling noise, that’s a more significant problem – or worse still if they sound like two keys played at once which can be very costly to fix.
12) Make sure the pedals go down easily and do the job they’re supposed to.
13) Even if you’re not able to take an expert with you, it’s worth asking for the piano lid to be opened. Check the general appearance inside and make sure that none of the felt is mouldy or fraying and that there is no sign on rust on the strings.
14) Make sure you ask for a receipt for the piano as you will need this for tax purposes. If possible, try to get some sort of guarantee as well.
15) Check if the seller has anything else to offer you – a piano stool, for instance, or maybe a metronome … or even some sheet music.
16) Most people feel the need to have a piano tuned as soon as they get it home but this may not be necessary if the tuning is up-to-date.
17) If you really can’t afford/don’t have space for a piano, you may have to purchase an electronic keyboard instead – but I would only do this as a last resort. Buy the biggest and best you can – ideally one that is touch-sensitive and with a pedal attachment. There are plenty of touch-sensitive keyboards at Musicroom.com or from Amazon UK/Amazon US and eBay.co.uk/eBay.com.