Buying a used piano
As both musical instruments and pieces of furniture, pianos can bring joy to the entire family while decorating the home. But because a piano is a much larger investment than other instruments are, there is plenty to be sure of when buying a piano, and a lot to keep in mind when looking at used ones.
There are many aspects of piano ownership to consider when buying a piano. For instance, the fact that one will need to enlist the help of several people when moving it to a different location, and the extra cost of tuning it if needed, or of making any necessary repairs. Often, a cheaper used piano is the more expensive choice, as the cost of repairs can be higher than one expects.
Visiting a dealer of used pianos gives you a wide variety of different styles and different tones to choose from. Many used pianos also come with complimentary tuning (which means you will not need to find someone to tune it again for many years), and usually a limited warranty. And a good piano dealer with a reputation to uphold will not sell any instrument that is unplayable or that will need more repairs than the instrument is worth.
Buying a piano or keyboard from a private owner is also an option. Tonaton.com has keyboards and pianos for sale. Usually, a private owner will sell their instrument cheaper than the used retail price. However, it is the buyer’s own responsibility to transport their new purchase without help from the seller, there is no warranty, and there is often the cost of any repair and tuning to deal with.
There is also the option of buying a digital piano, if one is caught between getting a keyboard and buying a full piano. Both dealers and private owners also have digital ones, for anyone who wants a keyboard that can be set up in the fashion of a true piano, for the full piano experience. Tonaton.com and bananasmusic.com have digital pianos. The advantage of this is having a piano that won’t go out of tune, can have several sounds, and still makes your house beautiful.
A piano technician can assist in finding the right piano and tell the buyer what repairs are necessary, if any. However, because pianists in Ghana often have a difficult time locating a certified piano technician, there is also the option of becoming one.
The American School of Piano Tuning and the Randy Potter School of Piano Technology are two online self-study courses in becoming a piano tech. Not only can you tune your own piano once you finish the course, but you can repair a string if it breaks during tuning, and other things that someone who has not been trained has no hope of accomplishing. Having a piano technician on hand or being one yourself can prevent costly errors later.
If you are buying a piano primarily for children to play and learn on, there is more to consider, as a piano is a good first instrument for children and will impact their musical training a great deal. Children’s smaller fingers need a piano with more touch-sensitive keys, which will make it easier for them to play. If a piano is of good quality and has good tone, this will also make children want to play more and learn more than they would on a piano of lesser quality.
In deciding if a piano is in good condition, one must distinguish between what is an easy fix and what is truly a problem. A key that doesn’t play may look like a major problem, but is actually fixable. A bad pinblock that has allowed a tuning pin to slip, however, is a bigger and more costly issue that would warrant not buying the piano. This can be spotted easily, as the key will sound terribly out of tune when played. If the piano is not a very good-quality one, a pinblock that has gone bad may mean the end of that piano. And even if the piano is a good enough one to warrant fixing, a bad pinblock is a costly fix.
Rattling and buzzing are indications of another serious problem. If one of the ribs on the soundboard (the wooden board that can be seen from the back of the piano, or underneath it on a grand) comes loose, the soundboard will rattle against it when it vibrates. Rattling could also mean that the bridge attached to the sound board has split and allowed its pins to become loose and is rattling against the pins.
Another important place to look on the piano you are considering for purchase is the hammers, to see if there are deep grooves from the strings. If there is not enough felt left above the wooden molding, the strings could start actually striking the wood. If this happens, the hammer will need to be replaced, and, like a bad pinblock, this is an expensive fix that is hardly worth the cost on a lower-quality piano. Unfortunately, it cannot be fixed with something as simple as replacing the felt on the hammer, as the felt is pressed onto the moldings in special presses under a lot of pressure.
A keyboard or a digital piano is a viable option for anyone not wanting to deal with replacing any parts on a used piano, or anyone who is worried about the wear and tear they will have to deal with. But for anyone in need of a real piano, be aware of what you are purchasing if you are buying used. Simply playing the piano you are considering for purchase is not enough. Make sure you check for rattling and any broken or worn out parts, to ensure that the instrument is not only playable but also that it won’t cost you the piano’s worth in repairs.