Buying a 2nd Hand Piano

General discussion about piano makes, problems with pianos, or just seeking advice.

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Kentos1978
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Buying a 2nd Hand Piano

Post by Kentos1978 » 17 Dec 2012, 16:12

Second attempt! First post went AWOL. I am looking for some general advice on buying a 2nd hand piano. I realise this area is a minefield and general advice appears to be don't bother but I do not think our budget will stretch to a new piano. This is a second piano for me. My first was bought by my parents for £70 with great intentions but they knew nothing about pianos. Sadly, despite my dad doing a great job french polishing it, it is a bit of a clunky and neglected piano. It never tuned to concert pitch and there are vast accumulations of dust and dirt inside the frame. I am fond of it though and it got me through my grade 6 with no problems but realistically if I can find a replacement, I think I will be lucky to get someone to take it away for free. I have let my piano playing drift over the years and am not the player I once was but since having kids, have started playing again and the children, though young, are also starting to show an interest. With a view to the future and possibly getting back up to scratch (maybe even taking my grade 7 at some point) and the kids maybe getting lessons, I would like to get a better model. I feel a bit overwhelmed by the task though and had thought for up to £500 we might chance upon something a bit better than what we have. Now that I have done a bit more looking, I think I probably need to increase the budget - but by how much? I did find a nearby Bluthner for sale for £250 and have emailed the owner with some questions. The pics appear to show it is underdampered and some of the keys are chipped but it has been tuned to concert pitch in the last 6 months. I am trying to get a bit more information on the piano's history as it is currently in storage. Can anyone offer advice on where to start with the search? I think if I got satisfactory answers to the questions on the Bluthner I would take along a tuner to view the piano given its price and proximity but otherwise, I feel slightly like I am shooting in the dark. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

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Re: Buying a 2nd Hand Piano

Post by Colin Nicholson » 17 Dec 2012, 18:26

Before you may be given false or misleading information about a piano (even us here can't comment on a piano unseen, unheard & untouched)..... its best to book an appointment with a piano tuner so they can inspect it fully. No one will know its condition until it is looked at. Personally, if you are around grade 7 standard (ABRSM?) , then £250 is far too cheap really, and the piano may do you less favours.
Bluthner are a reputable name, but even then, a piano about 100 years old will need attention. If you look at it, tell us the serial number - this is inside the piano, near the tuning pins (facing the front). The keys may be ivory aswell - chipped ones can be replaced, but it depends on the overall condition of the titanium white glue, which should be used since ivory is transluscent.

The most important thing about any piano is the condition of the wrest plank, tuning pins and strings. If the strings are very rusty, or some have been replaced, then walk away. Shop around and look around 2 or 3 different piano shops.... and becareful buying on-line. A recent new member bought a piano on Ebay for FREE! ...... but the mechanism doesnt work at all, and needs around £300 - £400 spending on it to get it re-pinned. So remember, there is no such thing as a "free piano" or "cheap piano".... you will pay the price eventually!

If you do look on Ebay, get back to us and send us the link so we can have a general look.

Hope that helps


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Re: Buying a 2nd Hand Piano

Post by mdw » 17 Dec 2012, 18:39

Go to, speak to and buy from your local piano shop as you really need to try the piano yourself. If you get the right one it will be with you long term. There are pianos at all sorts of budgets so set you limit and get the best one you can at that price. There will always be one better right up to £80-90k so decide what is important to you and get the best you can in that bracket. Try to get something 1970 onwards. A £250 piano is going to be a bit of a dog unless you are very lucky. If you want something thats not going to fall short in the near future then around £2500 is your bracket.
Buy from your local piano shop as they will probably be looking after it for you.

Re ebay . I get people ring every week trying to offload their 1910 junk pianos. We charge £160 to take away, break up and skip which people dont want to pay. So guess where they end up .............yep ebay.

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Re: Buying a 2nd Hand Piano

Post by Kentos1978 » 17 Dec 2012, 19:44

Thank you both for your replies - incredibly helpful. I have asked for more information (serial number etc) and pictures re. the Bluthner so will post again when I have something substantive to pick your brains on (or anything else I might see in the meantime). £2,500 is way over the budget I had in mind - that's not to say I could/would not spend that, it was just not anywhere what I was hoping to pay. The thing that I find a bit difficult is that I have played for years on a complete rustbucket of a piano. I always knew it was not the best but it was absolutely fine for learning and sitting ABRSM exams etc. A best friend (also a piano player) at school had a baby grand Bechstein and I thought it was incredible to play compared to what I was playing on but I still never felt that mine was so bad that I had to do something (or get my parents to do something) about it. I guess I want an improvement but not necessarily £2,500 improvement. I will seek out the local piano shops as well and see what they are able to offer (preferably in the sub £1000 bracket - if that is realistic?). At the prices discussed though, I would certainly feel motivated to get on with my grade 7 if nothing else! Thanks

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Re: Buying a 2nd Hand Piano

Post by Withindale » 17 Dec 2012, 21:19

Unless your piano is completely beyond redemption, perhaps the first thing to do is to take a vacuum cleaner and a "feather duster" to the inside and then ask your tuner whether it could be improved by tightening up its screws and making some adjustments. You will be a little less in the dark after that.

Maybe the Bluthner will prove to be a hole in one, otherwise you need to find out what you really want by playing a selection of pianos on offer at several shops. When I visited our local shop I thought there was only one piano worth buying, a little used 1970s Knight at £1750, among all the shiny new Far Eastern and secondhand Yamahas.

Private sales offer both the best and the worst value so you have to know which is which and be prepared to pay a piano technician to work on the one you choose.

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Re: Buying a 2nd Hand Piano

Post by Kentos1978 » 17 Dec 2012, 23:37

thanks for your reply. It is interesting to hear your experience of choosing a piano. I think i have always been a bit put off piano showrooms for fear of being a bit intimidated and having others listen to me play whilst trying pianos. It sounds though that is the sensible place to start so i will give it a go. It is the only way i will find out whether paying more feels like a worthwhile thing to do. I am pretty sure my current piano is for the scrap heap. I dont like to think of what it is harbouring dirt and germ wise but the sound is quite tinny and other than tuning we have done no maintenance on it in last 20 years. It came in pretty poor condition - previous owners did not tune or maintain for the 30 odd years they had it so i definitely think i am ready to move on. I just need to get a feel for what i want and what might be a reasonable amount to spend. Not had a response to my bluthner questions so suspect that may not go anywhere. Thanks again all.

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Re: Buying a 2nd Hand Piano

Post by Withindale » 18 Dec 2012, 18:06

Good luck in your quest, I am sure you will find it most interesting. Piano salesmen like to make sales, of course, but I think most of them know some customers will want to try out many instruments, and come back again and again, before making a choice. I have found them very helpful.

By the way what make is your piano? Some of the best bargains in 2nd hand pianos are those that have stood around in drawing rooms being neglected for years, provided they were well made originally. Even a Bluthner is likely to sound tinny if you do nothing to it for 50 years!

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Re: Buying a 2nd Hand Piano

Post by Kentos1978 » 19 Dec 2012, 15:59

I wish I could answer that! I have been looking inside my current piano on and off over the years to try to find some identification markings and can't find a thing. I am not sure if I am looking in the wrong place but there just does not seem to be anything.

I have actually just had a response from the owner of the Bluthner. They say that they had the piano for 2 years and acquired it at auction. Strangely enough they have a full set of Bluthner keys and are going to replace the 4 damaged keys prior to sale. Have attached the pictures they included. My gut feel now after the advice on the forum is that I would prefer to go try newer pianos and spend a bit more as I think I am ready to spend a little more than I had originally thought but if this looks like it might be worth a visit then obviously it would be good to hear everyone's thoughts. Thanks!
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Colin Nicholson
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Re: Buying a 2nd Hand Piano

Post by Colin Nicholson » 19 Dec 2012, 18:10

The serial numbers suggests a date around 1908 for this Bluthner piano.... so thats over 100 years old. It is also straight-strung and not over-strung (which o/s is preferred). Buying any piano of this age is risky, no matter what the name says - and I also suspect there may be some damp/mould inside the mechanism etc.... as shown on some of the hammer heads. Personally, I would leave it, and invest in a better instrument. Straight-strung pianos never sound good in the bass - especially of that age, and there may be tuning/strings/wrest pin issues. There may also have been some insect damage? - as a few flat damper felts have been replaced. So, if you do decide to go ahead with this, I would seriously get it checked over first.

The ivory replacements should be the least of your concerns - and as I can only see a small fraction of the mechanism.... it looks like any very old & worn out piano - but with a few additions chucked in for good measure like damp/mould and possible mechanism problems. However, price will reflect the condition as it does!

Casework/ repolishing looks poor aswell! .... but it may play ok.



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Re: Buying a 2nd Hand Piano

Post by vernon » 19 Dec 2012, 19:05

Go to a reputable established piano shop that has it's own workshop and tuning facilities
They will let you try out their stock in private so you don't have to be nervous.
They will answer any technical questions you raise.
You will be given it's history as far as known,it's age etc.
All should be overstrung, concert pitch etc. with a back -up guarantee depending on the price.
You will get an adequate,smart sound piano from £1000 upwards.
Our mission in life is to tune customers--not pianos.

Any fool can make a piano-- it needs a tuner to put the music in it

www.lochnesspianos.co.uk

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Re: Buying a 2nd Hand Piano

Post by Kentos1978 » 19 Dec 2012, 19:43

Thanks all again! Decision made. I now know what I will be doing over the Christmas holidays. I had not quite appreciated how much a roll of the dice was involved in 2nd hand purchases but I feel much better informed now and will steer clear of alleged internet "bargains". Incidentally, this piano looks better internally than my current so that should tell you something about what I have been clunking along on all these years. Oh well - you live and learn. Many thanks.

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Re: Buying a 2nd Hand Piano

Post by Kentos1978 » 20 Dec 2012, 21:51

Hello again. Just thought those who advised may be interested to know that I made my first foray into a piano shop today and spent the afternoon trying out various uprights. It was probably the best afternoon I have had for a long time :D. There was just the owner there and he was incredibly helpful but also discrete (leaving me to plonk away to my heart's content). The experience has convinced me to spend more, although the model I enjoyed the most (Feurich 115) was quite a bit more at £3250. There were another couple that I really enjoyed playing and both were 2nd hand - one was a Kemble Cambridge Contemporary and a Brodmann 116. Both were in "as new" condition (the Kemble being older about 3/4 years), the Brodmann about a year old. The Kemble though was still the most expensive of the lot. Have decided to go back again in a couple of weeks with some more music and see whether I still think the Feurich is the nicest. I know very little about the various brands but I am curious as to why the Kemble is still the dearest despite being the oldest, I would be interested to know. Anyway, thanks all for sending me in the right direction. I am very excited to be getting a much improved instrument.

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Re: Buying a 2nd Hand Piano

Post by Colin Nicholson » 21 Dec 2012, 07:40

Buying a piano is sometimes like buying clothing! oh yes, I was in an Italian restaurant recently, and one of the Italian waiters (they are PROPER Italian there!) knows me well. He also mentioned a few piano names he was interested in for his kids to learn.... at the time, I thought my little joke was apt.... so I continued....

"Buying a piano is the same as choosing between 2 jumpers.... George Armani...... or GEORGE ASDA ! ...... you choose.
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