Audrey's love for piano began at age six. She's a professional pianist for cruises, hotels and community events. Teaching is her passion..
There is something about a piano that brings warmth to a room and joy to the heart. If you're in the market for a used piano for little fingers yearning to discover music or an advanced pianist eager to play a Chopin Prelude, please read on.
This article will prepare you with professional pointers for purchasing a used piano.
7 Things to Consider When Buying a Used Piano
Why are you buying a piano? Is it to fulfill a life-long dream or for little Christopher's first piano lesson? Maybe it's for a professional pianist or teacher?
Your reason will influence the type and size of piano you want.
Here are some things to consider before you buy:
- Who will pay for the moving expenses? Is this included in the price?
- Does the purchase include a piano bench? It should.
- If there is any guarantee, it's most likely limited.
- When dealing with a private seller, it's okay to ask why the piano is being sold.
- How many previous owners have there been?
- When was the piano tuned last?
- It's a good idea to take someone along to check out the piano while looking around. A piano tuner is best as this is their specialty.
Avoid These Common Mistakes
Pianos come in all shapes, sizes, and prices. Consider the following before making your final decision:
- The size of your room.
- The color or wood grain.
- What's your budget?
- Do you prefer a used or new piano?
- Is the piano for a beginning student or a professional pianist?
- Consider the sound you like.
- Will the cost of the piano include moving expenses? (Prices increase when you have steps or stairs).
Used Grand Pianos
Two factors will determine the size of your used piano: your budget and the size of your room.
Pianos come in a variety of sizes. Let's look at the grand piano first. There are six basic types of grand pianos.
- Petite Grand is the smallest of grand pianos and ranges from 4' 5" to 4' 10".
- Baby Grand ranges in size from 4'11" to 5'6".
- Medium Grand is 5'7".
- Parlor or Living Room Grand ranges in size from 5'9" to 6'1 inches.
- Semi Concert or Ballroom Grand is 6'2" to 7 ft.
- Concert Grand is 9 feet long and the largest of the grand pianos.
The Sounding Board
The sounding board is the surface the strings vibrate against to produce sound. It's the heart of the piano. Usually made of spruce, the shallow wood dome amplifies the strings as the hammers strike them.
The sound may be compromised if the sounding board has a crack. Even though these cracks can be repaired, unless you are ready to spend some extra money, you may be better off buying a piano with a solid sounding board.
If you are purchasing an old antique piano, consider the cost of replacing/repairing several piano parts, including work on the sounding board, pins, keys, strings, etc.
The Vertical Piano
Vertical pianos are available in four different sizes:
- The spinet is the smallest and ideal for those living with limited space. It stands at around 36 to 38 inches with a width of about 38 inches. It has less power due to its size.
- The console is a little larger than the spinet, has about 40 to 43 inches, and is approximately 58 inches wide.
- The studio is around 45 to 48 inches in height and about 58 inches in width. You'll find these pianos in schools as well as some churches. You'll get a better sound from this model because of its larger soundboard and longer strings.
- The upright has a range of 50 to 60 inches with a width of approximately 58 inches. The upright has an excellent tone and puts out more power.
What You Should Know About Piano Keys
- Make sure all the keys are even, without chips or discoloration.
- Scrutinize the keyboard, ensuring all the black and white keys are in place and none are missing.
- Check every key to ensure a clear sound.
- If the sound is "tinny," or a piano key is missing, you are looking at additional costs for repairs.
- Ivory keys are found on older pianos. Some may show yellow discoloration. Ivory keys can be replaced.
There are 88 keys on the piano—52 white and 36 black. Knowing this will help you to see if any keys are missing quickly.
The Sound and Brilliance of the Piano
The sound of the piano is the top priority in purchasing any piano, used or new. The sound is dependent on the parts of the piano. If everything is in top condition with your used piano and is "out of tune," a qualified piano tuner can bring it up to par.
The length of the strings determines to a large degree, the sound. Every note sounded on the piano results from a string or set of two or three strings, vibrating at a specific frequency determined by the wire's length, diameter, tension, and density.
A shorter, lighter string, under more tension, vibrates faster and produces a higher-pitched sound.
The shape and size also determine the piano sound. There are two classifications of pianos. ( The digital piano is another classification that would make three. We are only discussing the acoustic piano in this article.)
The vertical or upright piano is suited for smaller rooms or areas. The upright pianos are also easier on the budget, depending on the maker. The console is preferred over the spinet because the length of the strings is longer on a console, providing a bigger sound.
What About the Piano Pedals?
Grand pianos have three pedals that alter the sound of the piano:
- Una corda or soft pedal is found on the left, reducing volume, timbre, and color.
- The sostenuto pedal is found in the middle. This pedal selectively sustains notes so certain sounds can ring out while others usually fade. Only the grand piano includes this pedal.
- Damper or sustain pedal: This pedal prevents the dampers from hitting the piano strings, which results in a lovely rich sustained tone. It's the most commonly used of the three piano pedals. It is located on the far right and is used with the right foot. The sustain pedals allow the pianist to extend the sound of a note far longer than they could by simply pressing the key.
Upright pianos only have the una corda and the damper pedal. Be sure to examine the pedals to make sure they are working.
Mastering the pedals is a work of art requiring proficient study with a qualified teacher.
8 Tips for Caring for Your Piano
Once you select your used piano, you will want to care for it properly. Failure to do so can result in costly repairs and interfere with sound.
Here are some excellent tips for caring for your piano:
- Never, ever eat or drink while sitting at the piano. All it takes are a few crumbs of food to fall into your piano, and you can kiss your friendly little savings goodbye. The same goes for placing food or drink on the piano.
After I purchased my brand new Steinway L Grand Piano, I celebrated with a party and invited my college piano students. Someone placed a glass of red wine on the piano. It spilled onto the sounding board and felt hammers. That party cost me 1,500 dollars.
- Avoid placing anything on the keyboard, such as books, gadgets, clothing, or toys. Always keep the keyboard clean and the lid closed when not in use.
- No banging by children or adults on the keyboard.
- Clean the keys when needed with a soft cloth and a little warm water, and be sure it's well rung out.
- Dust the piano inside and out at least once a month.
- Avoid placing your piano by a window, draft, or heat, such as a floor furnace.
- To protect wood or carpet floors, place a furniture coaster under each leg, as shown in the photo above.
- Have your piano tuned at least twice a year and more if used regularly?
A Bonus Tip
I recommend searching for used pianos from private parties. You can get some great deals this way. Stores have a significant markup on instruments, even used ones. Search for a used piano on Craigslist, the newspaper, the internet, and even eBay.
Enjoy your piano, and thank you.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Audrey Hunt
Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on January 17, 2015:
Hello my friend. How nice it is to see you here. While putting myself through college I sold pianos at the top rated piano company in the country. What I learned about pianos and sales was invaluable! I'm always eager to help anyone in the market for pianos. So I really want to thank you for sharing this information as well as the generous vote up and ratings.
C E Clark from North Texas on January 13, 2015:
This is great information for people unfamiliar with pianos and looking to guy one for the different reasons you listed. A great article and well written! Voted up, UI, and sharing with followers!
Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on October 21, 2014:
Hi Paula -
Yes, a piano is a major purchase and most people haven't a clue as to what to look for. Thanks my friend and enjoy your day. Audrey
Paula Atwell from Cleveland, OH on October 21, 2014:
We had a piano in our home growing up. In fact, my parents still have it. I remember when we bought it. It is a major purchase and these tips are extremely useful. Thanks. :)
Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on October 21, 2014:
I just did a search on the Sterling Upright and it looks like $450 would be a fair price. Hard to tell without looking at it. If you can find the serial number that would be helpful. Try googling and add the serial number.
Thanks, Sha - Audrey
Audrey Howitt -
I sure do appreciate your support. Thanks a million!
So nice to see you here Peg. Like your story about the antique piano. I enjoy accordion music. Maybe you'll give it a try?
What wonderful memories of your father and you together at the piano and singing. I had to laugh out loud, picturing that piano being rolled down the street to your house :)
Thanks my friend.
You've mentioned a very important tip. Keeping the piano tuned. Especially when selling it. So glad you shared this. Big thank you!
Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on October 20, 2014:
Audrey: Being a piano player in my youth, I enjoyed reading this and found it interesting and helpful. I haven't played the piano in 40 years but I loved it when I did. My piano was an upright, but I love grand and baby grand pianos the best. Always keep a piano tuned and especially tuned when you are selling one. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.
Mary Craig from New York on October 18, 2014:
This wonderful hub brings back memories for me. When I was very young my older brother wanted to play piano so my father got a piano. He bought it from someone up the street and I can still see him pushing it down the street to our house.
It was an upright with ivory keys and after it was tuned it was great. My brother took lessons for about a month and that was it. My Dad didn't want it to go to waste so he taught himself how to play. He would ask me to sing a song and then find the keys on the piano. Oh the hours we spent together with him playing and me singing!
Thank you Audrey for the information and the memories.
Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.
Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on October 18, 2014:
Over the years I've seen some really nice pianos for sale. This guide would be useful if I had purchased any of them. Recently, I found a wonderful upright piano in an antique store. Wish that I had taken piano lessons as a child, I would have bought it. Dad brought me back an accordion from Italy when he was stationed in the Mediterranean, but that instrument was not too cool for a teen back then.
Audrey Howitt from California on October 17, 2014:
Woo Hoo! What a great article Audrey!
Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 17, 2014:
I found this article very helpful Audrey. I have a 1936 Sterling upright that I bought from a thrift store when my son was just a toddler. My intent was to take refresher lessons (I used to play when I was a child) to regain the fluidity I once had. Now when I read music, I have to think about it whereas at one time reading, recognizing, and applying was one motion.
Anyway, I had it re-strung and tuned when I bought it. I'm considering selling it because it's done nothing but take up space in my dining room (the only spot in the house that can accommodate it). However, now 2 keys stick (B and E), so it needs some work. It's also gotten scratched over the years. I'm not quite sure which category it falls under. I took measurements as I was reading this. It stands 44" tall, is 24" deep (at the keyboard), and is 53.5" wide. It has a hinged retractable lid that covers the keys when in use. It has no bench (I use a dining room chair when I do attempt to play).
First, which category does my antique piano fall under? Secondly, how can I determine what would be a fair price to ask? I paid $275 for it back in 1996 or so and paid $75 to have it re-strung and tuned.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on October 17, 2014:
You can't imagine how many people invest in a piano and allow eating, drinking and banging. I really get upset when I see this, even though the responsibility is theirs.
Thank you for your comments Mary and the votes and sharing. Enjoy your day - Audrey
Mary Hyatt from Florida on October 17, 2014:
I bought a used upright piano. I couldn't afford a Grand. I never allowed kids to bang on it, or eat or drink near my piano.
Great Hub with great info!
Voted UP, etc and shared.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on May 09, 2013:
Oh, good morning my dear and beautiful friend.
Your creativity is just amazing. I'm talking about your comments now. You certainly know how to make a girl feel her best. How is Colin these days? And are Tiffy and Gabriel getting plenty of attention?
Hurrah for the early summer weather. There's nothing like the warmth of the sun hugging the heart.
Things are fine here - gloriously beautiful living in the forest. Sending you hugs and plenty of love!
epigramman on May 09, 2013:
1. Make sure that piano comes with Audrey playing it
2. Make sure that piano comes with Audrey singing with it
3. Make sure that piano has Audrey's smile with it
4. Make sure that piano has Audrey's charm and wit with it
5. Make sure that piano has Audrey's delightful personality with it
6. Make sure that piano has Audrey's loving nature with it
Sending you our most warm and sincere good wishes dear Audrey from Colin and his cats, Tiffy and Gabriel, from lake erie time canada 8:55am with first cup of coffee and some nice romantic violin music - our early summer weather is finally here and I hope all is well for you my dear friend and esteemed colleague
Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on April 07, 2013:
Lord - The sound of the purity of the piano tuning in to one's emotional pallet of colors is most beautiful. Your appreciation for my hub warms my heart on so many levels. Thank you dear man!
Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on April 07, 2013:
chef - I love your story about the old piano you and your friends moved. It's a huge job. My son and his friends have moved a few of mine at one time or another. Whew! The sound of the piano is in a class all it's own. Of course I'm somewhat partial :) Thanks for the vote!
Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on March 11, 2013:
Gitty - I recommend you find someone in your area to help you with a piano. The instrumet needs to be tested by an expert. Most piano tuners really know everything about pianos.
Gitty on March 11, 2013:
Hi, I'm a beginning piano player and want to buy a used piano that will provide beautiful quality sound even when I can play professionally. Is there any way to find someone who can help me buy a used piano (for a fee of course)? If you provide that service can you please call me at 201-921-3599 or email me at email@example.com? Sincerely, Gitty
Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on October 15, 2012:
cclitgirl - Oh, I do hope you can one day have your piano with you. You miss it, I can tell. And just being able to sit down at your piano and play whenever you feel like it is magical. I appreciate your comments. Take care.
ChristyWrites - Thank you so much for leaving such a nice comment. I'm pleased that you found it useful and hope others will too. There are a great many pianos out there that are used and actually have a better tone than one that is brand new. Take care, my friend.
teaches12345 - I just have to ask - do you ever play the piano anymore? I love to help others find the right piano when I can. Makes me feel good:) Thanks so much for being here.
Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on September 20, 2012:
You've answered so many of my questions with this hub! I have a 1912 upright. I'm the second owner. When I had it worked on we found a WWII gas coupon and a 1932 penny in the bottom of it.
I'm also babysitting my daughter's baby grand until she can move from her apartment to a house. I'm going to miss it when she takes it back. I hardly play, but it looks beautiful in my living room's bay window. I do try to protect it from too much light and never open the windows, but I do worry about it not being against an inside wall. If the sound is still good, do I need to worry about it?
Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on September 19, 2012:
Prasetio30 - Thank you Prasetio for enjoying this hub on pianos. It's nice to see you. The piano can bring many beautiful types of music into the home. If I lived close to you I would teach you how to play the piano to bring you fulfillment and happiness. Take care, my friend.
girishpuri - Hello. I see that you have been busy reading my hubs. I thank you for your support. Your comments left me with a smile on my face. I will be around to check your hubs out very soon. Again, thank you.
Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on September 19, 2012:
Audrey, for me a piano has always held a vision of elegance and beauty. Been in awe at the almost stately look of this magnificent instrument of music all my life, I've always wished to learn playing a piano. Not found the time yet though. But I hope, I will one day!
These are wonderful and useful tips for buying a used piano. In fact I learned quite a few things about the piano itself. The piano pictures are amazingly beautiful.
Voted up all the way and across and shared. Bookmarked this hub.
traslochimilano from USA on September 17, 2012:
Nice tips for Buying A Used Piano. Thanks
Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on August 18, 2012:
Green Lotus - Your dream of having a grand piano will come true and when it does, I'll hop the first jet and give you some complimentary lessons. Thanks for bookmarking.
drbj - I had to sell a grand piano once also and for the same reason. It was a difficult decision to make. Thanks my friend for bookmarking this and hope all is well with you.
IntegrityYes - (love the name). I appreciate your assurance that this hub will be helpful for anyone interested in buying a used piano. So very nice and thank you!
Joseph De Cross from New York on August 17, 2012:
Great Tips vocalCoach! I was close to learn how to play, but gave up. Love to hear them all the time. You did good on this one! Hopefully will help so many people interested in buying them. Thanks for sharing your heart on this hub!
Andrew Spacey from Sheffield, UK on August 13, 2012:
Great information and the hub is a delight. All my four sisters play piano,plus my partner, and I have always loved to hear it being played. Sadly I never got lessons - I'm just about satisfied strumming on an old guitar!
But the piano is different class. ....I once moved an old beaten up jazz piano from an Edinburgh church cellar to my house when we lived in Scotland! What a job that was. Couldn't afford to pay for delivery so did it myself with two student friends. What a work out we had! But the piano was free so in the end it was all worth the while...after a tune up it played wonderfully.
I'll vote this up.
Dianna Mendez on August 12, 2012:
I played piano as a child, and your hub brought back warm memories. You certainly have a great piano and have provided great advice for those who are interested in purchasing.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on August 12, 2012:
Martie - Always such a pleasure to see your beautiful face in my area. Thanks for liking this and taking time out of a very busy schedule to give this a going over and commenting. Take care!
Genna - There's nothing more beautiful in tone than a Steinway, especially the size you have. My Steinway was shipped from Beverley Hills, California to Hawaii, moved 4 times in Hawaii, then shipped back to San Francisco, California and moved about 7 more times. Only had it tuned a few times during all that and it held the most beautiful tone. And yes, temperature is a major factor which I probably should have wrote more about. Thanks Genna!
Christy Birmingham from British Columbia, Canada on August 12, 2012:
What a useful and well-written hub. I think this one will be a great guide for anyone looking to get a piano that just can't afford brand-new (more and more people with the current economies). Thanks for all of the work you put in here. I vote up and will share too.
Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on August 12, 2012:
This hub makes me want to get back into piano playing. It's about ten years since I've played with any regularity. I graduated college and haven't done much with my piano playing since then. Part of the problem is that I moved to NC from CO - and my piano is still at my parents' house. I haven't figured out how to move it out here without scratching/denting/chipping or otherwise causing harm to it. But you are right - it adds so much to a room. Thank you so much for sharing this information. :)
Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on August 12, 2012:
Hyphenbird - You are blessed to have a son who is so into music. Piano will be marvelous for him. It is basic for learning all instruments as well as music theory itself. How I wish I could give him his piano lessons. Let me know if I can help you in any way when you are ready to buy your piano.
midget38 - I love hearing that you take such good care of your piano. So few people do. I'm glad you found this interesting and thanks for sharing.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on August 11, 2012:
Hello remaniki - I am very glad to read your comments about the way I write my hubs. Thank you for sharing those kind thoughts with me. I hope you are still singing. It is such a healthy and soothing thing to do.
Thank you for sharing this hub. I really appreciate it. I appreciate you too!
mcbirdbks - Well, as a matter of fact, I never could keep my hands off of any piano. Whether I'm invited or not, if a piano is in a room I sit myself down and play background music, unless folks want a sing-a-long, then I'll do that. Just the way I am:) Someday I'd like to see what I can do with those 2 tin ears of yours. I'll just bet that they are both filled with perfect pitch:)
Girish puri from NCR , INDIA on August 11, 2012:
Very professional hub, you are an expert in many fields, from e,coli to Piano.. awesome and useful share, voted up.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on August 11, 2012:
josh3418 - Thank you so much for sharing this. So glad you liked it. You're the best!
VictoriaLynn - Hi my friend. To answer your question, I would say yes. Absolutely. Now, you may need to replace a string or two, but it is not to late and don't let anyone tell you it is. And it's even possible that just a tuning or two will bring it up to par. Let me know ok?
KDuBarry03 - Gee, I wish I could go with you as an advisor when you are ready to buy. Do remember that you never accept the first price quote:)
mary615 - Thank you for your visit. Like you, I don't like electronic pianos. The sound just can't compare with an acoustic. I'm going to go find that hub of your right now and read it. Take care.
prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on August 10, 2012:
Dear friend, I love you tips. I hope I can play the real piano one day though I familiar with keyboard. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up!
IntegrityYes on August 09, 2012:
Audrey,you included very useful information and videos. Many will find that article.appreciate it,and get well-informed. You mixed everything so well. WHOO! HEH-HEH!
drbj and sherry from south Florida on August 09, 2012:
What a thorough exposition for any tentative piano buyer, Audrey. I have bookmarked this creative hub to share when any of my friends decide to move into piano-buying mode. I had to sell my own piano when I moved from a house to a smaller space.
Hillary from Atlanta, GA on August 09, 2012:
We have always dreamed of having a space big enough for a baby grand. This Hub is bookmarked for future dreams coming true :)!
Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on August 09, 2012:
Excellent hub! I have a mid-sized Steinway grand that’s been in the family for generations. It has needed repair over these many decades, and the soundboard has been repaired twice. But the tone is quite remarkable. Heat and humidity are also a factor in that can impact the overall tonal quality. Up ++.
Martie Coetser from South Africa on August 09, 2012:
Vocalcoach, you have a beautiful grand piano. How I envy you! I agreed all the way with your 6 Important Steps To Buying A Used Piano :)
Michelle Liew from Singapore on August 08, 2012:
I have had an Atlas piano for 30 years, and maintenance is the key, as your hub has rightly pointed out!! I always turn on the heating rod and make sure I play it too. I wouldn't buy one that sounds off, because it means that the owner hasn't taken pains to tune it. Useful information, am sharing!
Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on August 08, 2012:
This is such wonderful information. We may purchase a piano next year. My son loves music and is going to start lessons soon. Right now he only has a keyboard. If he does well with the lessons I plan to get a piano. Thank you so much for all the detailed information and what to look for when buying a piano.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on August 08, 2012:
rcrumple - Oh dear, I'm so sorry to hear about the terrible cobra bite on your hand. How awful. And what makes me feel so bad is that you have an "ear" for music. That is a gift. Thank you for your comments and do take care.
mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on August 08, 2012:
Hi Audrey, I bet you are the hit of every party you go to that includes a piano. That musical note border you selectred compliments the hub layout very well. Excellent hub. Notice I cannot say anything about buying a piano owning two tin ears. :)
Rema T V from Chennai, India on August 08, 2012:
I have never handled a piano but have always been attracted to the music from one. Having had nothing to do with it except for singing songs at school to its music, I learned a lot about the piano and all the things that go with its purchase and maintenance here on this beautiful, well-laid out hub.
I think the power of your writing lies in keeping such a novice like me read your hub from start to finish. Wonderful hub. This hub has to be shared and I am doing it right away. Cheers, Rema.
Mary Hyatt from Florida on August 08, 2012:
I've had so many different pianos in my lifetime. I could never afford a beautiful grand piano such as yours. I just had spinets. I recently bought an electronic piano, and I just didn't like the sound. I gave it to one of my granddaughters who plays and she is thrilled with it. I don't practice anymore as I should.
Did you ever read my Hub about the lesson in love (I can't remember the exact title right now)? It is a true story of how I got my very first piano.
I voted this Hub UP, etc.
Audrey Hunt (author) from Pahrump NV on August 07, 2012:
billy ~ Look at you! The first to read and comment here. Do you have any idea how good that makes me feel? I'm like a little girl at Christmas.
With every hub I write I am filled with anticipation at how it will be accepted. I accept your kind comments with deep gratitude.
KDuBarry03 on August 07, 2012:
I have been meaning to buy a piano. There's a store by my house that sells a beautiful collection of them. When I find the room in my house, I will definitely take these notes and tips for consideration.
Great hub, vocalcoach!
Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on August 07, 2012:
Nicely done hub. Hey, I have a question. I have a piano with a great sound that I got at an estate sale over 15 yeas ago. It hasn't been tuned since I got it. While the sound is rich, some of the keys are off. Do you think a professional tuner can save it even though I've waited so long?
Joshua Zerbini from Pennsylvania on August 07, 2012:
Awesome presentation Audra. This hub looks beautiful! Very informative hub, Thanks Audra! I have shared!
Rich from Kentucky on August 07, 2012:
I always wanted to learn to play! I would tinker around, and could actually do much by ear, but never a formal lesson. Alas, a bite on my right hand by a Cape Cobra in South Africa, many decades ago, ended any hope of doing so.
Great Hub! Very professional!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 07, 2012:
I am always so impressed by the layout of your hubs. They are so professionally done and so attractive to the eye....not to mention the fact that they are brimming over with useful information. Excellent job; you are the teacher and I am the student!