Hope that this little blog helps folks to learn what to look for when buying a second hand piano. Will try to keep it simple and with no complications.

The first thing to look at is the case, is it in good condition? A piano takes up a big part of the room and is also a furniture item and therefore does need to be presentable and take pride of place in the home. If you buy a good piano it will be in your home for a long time and therefore you do want to be looking at a nice peace of furniture. So make sure the piano is in very good condition to look at, no major scratches, dents, sun bleaching or even bits hanging off. Ensure the brass work is good and not broken. Nice shiny brass makes a piano stand out too. Especially on a black one.

If you are happy with the case, then next look at the keys, you want the keys to be all there, 36 black notes and 52 white notes. Make sure the black keys are nice and smooth, no chips out of them and that they all play when pressed. Play each black note several times to see if any stick.
Inspect the white keys, make sure none are scratched or chipped. Make sure they are all nice and white especially the front of the white keys, they can turn yellow and crinckle up which is not good. Again play each note several times to see if any stick. If any or lots of notes stick, be cautious. Also when playing listen to the sound, try to detect any bad buzzing or vibrating noices, this could be a sign of broken parts or cracks in the sound board, action parts working loose due to lack of maintenance.

If you are happy so far, then open the top lid and look inside. If you see loads of dust and spider webs, it is a good sign that the piano has not been worked on at all, if in a private house, could mean that the piano has not been tuned for many years. A good piano tuner will keep the inside of the piano clean for you each time they tune. If you are looking at a piano which is being sold by a piano dealer, then you can assume that if it is full of dust and spider webs that they have not worked on the piano.

Then study the hammer heads. The heads should be nice and clean and with no cuts in the noses of the heads. If you can imagine the hammer nose hitting the strings time and time again, eventually the strings cut into the noses and you will see cuts in the noses that match the strings that the head has been hitting. Good piano technicians remove these cuts from the noses and then reshape the heads and voice the heads to ensure a clean strike. Inspect the damper felts too, these are the white felts that you can see underneath the hammer strike line pressed against the strings. They cut the sound off when the key returns back to its resting position. These felts must be nice and soft, clean and make sure they are not suffering with moth. Yes, moth can attack actions in a piano, they love felt. Makes a tasty meal for them.

Most members of the public will not feel comfortable taking off the case parts so that is why it is important to look in from the top of the piano to see what is going on. If you can, ask the seller to remove the bottom panel from the piano so you can see how clean and tidy the bottom of the piano is. If you see loads of dirt and rusted parts, tells you the piano has not been worked on if a dealer is selling it. A good way to catch out the cowboys. Yes, I am afraid to say that even the piano trade has the proverbial cowboy. Always ask if the dealer is a fully qualified piano tuner/technician. It is wise to buy from a qualified person, if you were buying a car, you would want the mechanics advice and guidance, rather than a chauffeurs. It is wise to take a piano tuner/technician along with you to inspect the piano. It happens lots of times, we go to customers who have bought a piano with no inspection from a piano tuner, the piano has looked good and clean, but they do not realise that the piano is actually untunable due to loose tuning pins. Only a tuner will pick this up. Never buy a piano from anyone that is selling it, that sounds badly out of tune. If you play the piano and it sounds very very bad even to your tone deaf partner, walk away.
When looking in from the top of the piano, you will see that at the right end of the action there are no dampers for about the last 19 notes. This will let you see down behind the action, you will see springs that are connected to a cord. Check that the springs are connected and that the cords are not broken. You may need a torch to see in as it may be dark. If they are broken, it tells you that the seller has not worked on the piano. There is one Butt Spring and looping cord for each note. 88 of them. If these are broken, then you cannot get fast repetition.

Parents make the biggest mistake of all, they want their children to learn, or the children ask if they can learn to play the piano, parents worry, what if it is a five minute wonder, then we have waisted all that money. So what happens? They buy a cheap piano for a couple of hundred pounds and then wonder why the children do give up. Because like everything in life, you get what you pay for. A cheap piano for a few hundred pounds nine times out of ten will be rubbish. Remember a good top quality piano stool can cost over £500.00 so what will you get if you spend £500.00 on a old clapped out piano? If you only want to spend a few hundred on a second hand piano then you are better off spending £700.00 to £1000.00 on a brand new digital piano like Roland for example. At least the student will have a decent instrument to learn on instead of a shoddy old piano that if it were a horse it would be put down!

Be careful, always wise to ask for advice from fully qualified piano tuner technicians. We at
Little & Lampert Pianos are always willing to help answer your questions on your potential purchase.. By asking us for advice could save you hundreds of pounds and could save you a lot of worry and stress.
You know if you are dealing with fully qualified piano tuner technicians. They will be members of either the A.B.P.T. or the P.T.A.

Little & Lampert Pianos for sound advice. A.B.P.T.