Beware the free piano

“It is best to hire a technician you trust to evaluate the piano before you take it home, even if it is a gift. It will save you a trip to the dump.”

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So someone offered you a free piano. That’s great!
If it’s not a lemon.
Stop to think about the reasons why someone may give it away and expect nothing in return. It may include one of the following reasons:
  • They don’t have time to sell it.
  • They have tried selling it but were unsuccessful.
  • They know the piano is not tuneable, and do not want to take it to the dump.
  • The piano is near the end of its useful life, and the current owner does not want to invest money in rebuilding it.
  • There are feelings of guilt associated with throwing it away.
This is not to say that every free piano is worthless. Once in a while, someone gets lucky and receives a free piano that is in good shape.
Keep in mind that the condition of the cabinet (outside of the piano) doesn’t tell you anything about the quality of the parts inside the piano. There are many moving parts, along with strings and a soundboard, trapwork, and a large metal plate.
Some piano technicians offer a piano inspection and appraisal service, and can give you more information about the current condition of the piano. A good technician will offer a little bit of education if you don’t know much about pianos.
This is a service that I offer to my clients. After inspecting the piano for structural problems, I look inside the piano for signs of corrosion and damage. Broken and malfunctioning parts are identified. I write down pertinent information about the piano and ask questions about its history. At the client’s request, I provide an estimate to bring the piano into “playable,” good, or excellent shape.
In a worst case scenario, the piano has problems that make it untuneable or give it a poor tone. Some of these problems include the following:
  • cracked pinblock
  • very old, brittle strings
  • corroded/dirty bass strings
  • soundboard cracks
Unless you have enough technical knowledge to identify these problems, it is best to hire a technician you trust to evaluate the piano before you take it home, even if it is a gift. It will save you a trip to the dump. Or the headache of coming up with the money for expensive repairs that you were not prepared for.
An appraisal and evaluation should be done anytime you are seriously considering buying a piano, due to the possibility of the seller not disclosing or being aware of improvements that the piano needs to bring it to an acceptable condition.

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