Step 1 How To Self-Examine a Used Piano
How To Self-Examine a Used Piano 412-881-0883

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Step 1

A) Determine the age of the piano. The older the piano, the more chance there is that there will be some problems and the more careful you need to be in the rest of your examination. Also, although there are exceptions, a general rule of thumb is the older the piano, the less its market value. You can date most pianos with the brand name and the serial number. The serial number is usually stamped on the iron plate (the part that is painted gold) or stamped in the wood showing through a small window in the plate. On some grand pianos, the number is stamped in the soundboard underneath the strings. On upright pianos, you have to lift the top and look above the tuning pins. If you need more details around how to locate the serial number, click here. Once you know the serial number and the brand, go to the Piano Age Locator and type that information in.
B) Determine the piano location in order to estimate moving costs. Is the piano on the ground floor? If not, how many steps are there? Are there any special difficulties moving the piano? When buying a piano, many people do not factor in moving costs and are then surprised as this expense can get larger based on the location of the piano. Also, check to see if the piano is located near a heat register or another heat source or near a window. These locations can cause cracks in the wood portions of the piano so pay closer attention to these portions during the rest of your examination.
C) Look the piano over. Check for loose veneer. If any is found, it will need to be repaired. Also for upright pianos, check for signs of water damage along the bottom edge. This indicates that the piano could have been in a flood in the past, which could in turn cause rustiness on strings and sounding board cracks.
D) Check for structural problems. Make sure the case sides are not coming unglued from the vertical back structure. The front legs of spinets and consoles frequently become loose. Another serious problem is the presence of strange rattles or buzzes. The soundboard, which is the large wooden board you can see from the back of an upright piano or from underneath a grand, has ribs glued on it to strengthen it. Sometimes when the soundboard gets cracks in it, the ribs come unglued from it in places. This can allow the soundboard to rattle against the loose rib as it vibrates. This can sound like a speaker distorting when it is played too loudly. Sometimes, a piano can function normally even with a cracked soundboard. Unless you hear strange noises, you might not need to repair a cracked soundboard. However, if you find other structural problems or you hear strange noises, you might need to have these repaired.
E) Play every key from the left-most key all the way to the end of the keyboard three times each. If any key doesn’t make a sound, record it on the paper. If some keys sound badly out of tune, this indicates that there are loose tuning pins. Any issues will need to be repaired. Keys that don't play at all are often not a big problem. Usually, something has broken or come unglued which is easily fixed. If you press a key and it doesn’t make any sound, this means that the key is sticky. The key could be broken or something could be in the way of the moving parts. While the only visible symptom might be the sticking key, the problem could be with another part of the action (hammers, shanks, wippens, jacks, springs). Because of humidity or if the piano was not played for a long time, hammers, wippens and jacks flanges become sluggish and keys feel heavier, harder to play, and feel differently from one another. On older Steinway grand pianos sluggish keys happen because of green verges in the flanges. The best way to fix this will be to replace the parts. Pay attention to how level the keys are. Very often, you can see that some keys are lower or higher than the rest of them. This happens because the felt under the keys compresses from heavy playing and the keys need leveling. Some additional questions to ask: Are all the key tops attached or missing? What is the condition of the key tops? Are there any chipped fronts of white keys?
F) Does the piano bench match the piano color and style? This is more of an aesthetic item, but if you decide you need a new piano bench, that will be another expense to consider.Click here or on the Step 2 link in the navigation menu above to get next directions for your examination.