Buying a piano: a decision maker's guide

A collection of FAQ's and informative articles on pianos

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Buying a piano: a decision maker's guide

Post by FAQ's » 01 Jul 2004, 20:37

Buying a piano: a decision maker's guide
By Anne Ku

Most people buy a piano because they want to play it or they expect their children to play it. When you decide to buy a piano, you are also considering its return on investment, your commitment to a future of music, and your responsibility for the well-being of the instrument. For people with limited space, budget, time, and the concern that they might move house in the near future, buying a piano is a big commitment.

Unfortunately not all buyers view the pianos they buy as opportunities for music-making, for a piano can become a liability when the interest wanes. It is much harder to sell a piano than to buy one. Light brown pianos of unknown makers are generally harder to sell than black pianos of well-known makers, for example. Some piano stores allow you to rent a piano and get back the value of the piano if you choose to buy it later. Another way is to spend more money on a better instrument which will provide the assurance that you are more likely to get back what you spent on it - quickly.

Googling "buying piano" reveals several dozen self-help articles on this topic (see links at end of the article). People who buy pianos can follow a simple decision path below:
  • 1. Are you looking for an acoustic or electric piano? An upright or a grand? You will then have to look in the appropriate market (category).
    2. Are you a first-time buyer of this type of piano (ques 1) ? Yes / no
    3. If yes, you would benefit from reading self-help articles and spending some time learning about pianos, what they are worth, and where to find them. If you're not a first-time buyer of such type of instrument, you need only to familiarise yourself with the market prices (to get value for money) and find out where they are available for sale.
    4. Do you know what you want? Or are you still figuring out what is available?
    5. What is your budget? This largely determines whether you can afford a new piano or a second-hand one, although restored older pianos can sometimes be more expensive than new pianos.
    6. How much time do you have? In other words, what is your deadline to get a piano?
    7. Criteria - value for money, expected return on investment, furniture and fit, ideal of size, shape, colour, and sound?

    8. Concerns:

    - Parents are concerned about buying a piano which gets neglected because their child(ren) lose interest. A child is more likely to lose interest if the piano is no good.
    - It's much harder to sell a piano than to buy one. If you're interest is in being able to get rid of a piano quickly and not lose money, then stick to well-known makers and make sure there's nothing wrong with them.
    - Keeping it in good condition - depends on temperature, humidity, sunlight, and maintenance. If you don't have the space or the right conditions for an acoustic piano, think again whether you really want a piano or an electric one.
If you have the budget and the desire to buy a new piano, visit a piano store. If not, spend time getting to know the private second-hand market as well as piano restorers who charge on a time and materials basis for restoring older pianos.

Buying a piano is much like buying a house. You have to look around first to find out what exactly you want. By studying what is available both online and offline (piano stores, auctions, newspaper listings etc), you get a better feel for the kind of the piano you want and how much it is likely to cost. You then visit and try out the pianos. When you buy a house, you get a surveyor to look at it. The surveyor will crush any unrealistic dreams you may have of the house. When you buy a second-hand piano, you get a piano technician to look at it. A piano is essentially a black box. Unless you are an expert yourself, you won't know what to look for.

You can find many second-pianos for sale online. Save yourself a trip by asking the right questions via e-mail or by telephone. What colour is it? Is there a photo? How old is it? Who are the current owners? Is there anything wrong with it? Who are the makers? Never buy a piano without trying it out first. It's advisable though not necessary to have a piano technician check it out. Just remember that it's harder to sell it than it is to buy it!

About the author:
Anne Ku recently bought a 1909 New York Steinway model A after experiencing much frustration practising on an upright as well as borrowing other people's pianos in Holland. Meanwhile, she is selling her 5 ft 6 inch Gerhard Adam in London. Visit for her writings on pianos, composition, performance, and other subjects about music and links to mp3's of her recordings.

Piano Forums to ask questions about pianos:



Links to "buying piano" articles:

Buying a new Yamaha U1 U3 P112 B3 Vs old U1 and U3s ... 3-p121.htm

Taking the confusion out of buying an upright, epinions

Buying a new piano, where to begin, Blue Book of Pianos

Buying a piano, PianoWorld

FAQ about buying and selling pianos, Chicago pianos

Orchestrating a fair price, valuing used musical instruments ... sical.html

Buying a piano, Berkeley Parents Network ... piano.html

Buying or selling online, Piano Buy and Sell
http://pianobuyandsell.concertpitchpian ... nline.html

Buying guide, tips and hints, BBC Parent's Music Room ... icle.shtml

Purchasing or caring for a piano or keyboard, Piano Education

Used piano buying tips, Robert Lowrey

Buying a used piano, Schmitt Music - what can be wrong with them

Piano buying guide, Courtney pianos

Buying a piano, Pianoforte Tuner's Association

The ivory trade by Oliver Moor, Hackwriters

Should you buy a new or used piano, Martha Beth Lewis

Before buying a piano, Stéphane Villemin (French version also available)

How to buy a piano, Piano Net Resources

Purchasing a new or used piano, Piano Teachers

How to buy a piano by James Boyk

Buying a piano: a basic guide by Jane Brockman

Why you should not buy a cheap musical instrument, Oriscus

Buying a piano or keyboard, Andrew Horowitz

How to buy a good used piano, Thomas Lawrie

Keys to buying a piano,

Digital piano FAQ

Piano FAQ

How to choose a piano for your home, Piano Teachers

Piano buying guide, Drummond Reid

How to buy a used piano, Albuquerque Classic Piano

How to sell your piano & how to shop for a used piano

Anne Ku 2004
For the UK Piano Page