Considerations for buying a Second Hand Piano.


In the post entitled Buying a Piano or Keyboard….. we explored some of the issues you need to consider before buying a piano/keyboard.

Some of these issues will also apply here too as this post is about buying a second hand Piano. I recommend that both posts are read in conjunction with each other.


  1. Do your homework before you leave your home.

    In this research you want to:

    (a) learn about its background.
    (b) find out its brand, model, year of manufacture, and if possible, the piano’s serial number.
    From this information, you can assess the piano’s value.

    The more information you acquire about it, the better position you will be when you meet the seller.

Of course, if the used piano is a family heir loom, remember without upsetting the relative to still do as much homework as you can.

Apart from space in your home, there is more to just getting the body of the instrument refurnished. It is the inside of the piano that is where the real issues will lie.
For example- look at the keys- are there any keys at all that are lower than the others. If so, how many. If there are only a few, this could mean that the dampers and felt are worn and need updating. It may or may not be too costly depending on the number of notes at fault.

 2. Why Are They Selling the Piano?

The reasons people want to sell a piano are varied but if you cannot be sure that the seller is giving you the truth on his/her reason for selling, then the chances are they may not be honest about the true condition of the piano itself. This could mean that the piano is going to cost you extra in repair and/or maintenance.  Be on the alert for reasons such as  “It’s taking up space,” or “I could use the money.” Both these reasons could be true, but it may allude to neglect especially when cash is limited . The likely situation is that if they need the cash, then the piano has not been a priority in their lives which in turn means that maintenance has been neglected.

You should also ask whether they’ll be purchasing another piano, and if so, why they prefer it to the one they’re selling.

3. How Often Was the Piano Tuned?

Pianos need a regular tuning schedule. If the piano is used regularly, then twice a year tuning is essential.  If the person using the piano is a beginner, then once a year may be sufficient, but twice a year is still highly recommended. Was the tuning schedule consistent?

When the piano has not had a regular tuning schedule, it could mean  extra special tunings or other maintenance will be required.

Asking the contact details of the Piano tuner can give you an indication of whether they had a piano tuner at all or whether the piano has had regular maintenance.  Ringing the Piano tuner can be most useful in finding out the details of the maintenance performed and its timing.

If the piano is out of tune, purchase at your own risk. You’ll have no way of knowing if the piano is out of tune because of serious internal issues or if it is able to be tuned at all.

4. Who Performed Maintenance on the Piano?

Having a qualified piano tuner is essential to avoid errors and internal damage to it. Maintenance and repairs should always be carried out by a registered piano technician.

If the seller cannot give you the name of his/her piano tuner, then it may be worth contacting the Piano tuner association and asking for a Piano tuner to assess the Piano.  Yes, it will cost for the appraisal but worth the cost to know the true state of the Piano.  

If the seller is not co-operative in this matter, then walk away.

5. Where Has the Piano Been Stored?

Beware if a piano has been kept in a basement (especially in flood-prone areas) or a public storage facility. These areas often lack climate-control, and temperature extremes along with humidity fluctuations pose serious threats to piano health.
Of course this still applies to Aunt Mary’s Piano too but you do have a chance to see the condition of the storage area.

6. Has the Piano Been Moved Around frequently?

Knowing how much extra stress the piano has endured in its life time is important. Find out how much extra stress the piano has endured, and whether any dangerous measures were ever taken during a move (like leg removal).

Always use a Piano Removalist rather than a general Removalist especially if a Grand Piano is involved. Piano Removalists are experienced at getting around tight corners and small staircases leading to a piano room, because time is money.

Generally, a good Piano Removalist will take care with the instrument. It is not just a piece of furniture to them. They understand the difference between an instrument and furniture. Often, they play the instrument themselves for many years and have a healthy respect for the instrument along with, of course being professional.

Get a good recommendation for a Piano Removalist from Music Teachers association or from the Music Faculty. 

 7. Who Was Playing the Piano?

It is important to understand that two pianos of the same make and age will each sound differently 10 or 20 years from now, depending on who has been playing them and how often it has been played. Serious pianists are more inclined to keep their instruments in top shape because they’re more likely to get annoyed at minute changes in sound.

On the other hand, those uninterested in playing the piano are interested in testing its volume or ambushing the keyboard with a merciless series of glissando.

8. How Often Was the Piano In Use?

Was the piano avidly played or was it kept for ambience? This is important to know so you can find out if it was tuned accordingly. Household pianos used once a week or more should be tuned four times per year, while unused pianos can go up to a year in the right climate conditions.

9.Who Were the Previous Owners?

If possible (and applicable), find out how many previous owners the piano has had, and how well they cared for it. The longer a piano’s history, the longer you as the buyer are likely to be affected by it. You need to get to know your potential investment as intimately as possible, and watch out for signs of damage when inspecting a used instrument.

10: What is the condition of the casing of the Piano?

Now after these previous aspects have been examined, it is now time to turn your attention to the casing ( frame) of the Piano itself.

What damage is there- how many scratches- are these scratches deep or surface scratches.

Pianos of course can have a make over of the wood depending on the wood itself.  A French polisher  may be restore it depending on its damage.

 A better option in my opinion is to ask your Piano tuner for a recommendation.  Usually if the Piano needs major internal service, then this is the time to get the case attended to as well. The tuner will likely do it himself/ herself. Again, this is often the best option because they love the instrument and will restore the instrument lovingly both inside and out.

 When buying a second hand Piano you need to be aware of these factors before organising that telephone call to go and have a look at the piano.

If you are buying it from a Piano shop, then some of the details will have been taken care of, but do not assume that- Ask for the documentation- a few details written on a piece of paper hurriedly is not enough. Walk away if you suspect this to be the case.

If you are buying the Piano from Aunt Mary- these details still need to be asked. Some you may already know and can work out but often the seller will tell you some very interesting stories about it. Beware of getting side tracked from reminisces regardless of how fascinating they can be.

On the other hand, sometimes these reminisces provide you with the key information that you need to know and then it saves you having to ask a few awkward questions.  You have to judge the situation at the time.

If in doubt about any of these key issues- then regardless of the current owner especially if it is Aunt Mary, then walk away from the potential investment. 

Always do your research.

 You can listen to Talking Music Classical podcast on this topic as well.