These are super general guidelines intended for beginners buying beginner pianos- so if you’re in the market for a more advanced piano talk with your teacher! They should be able to help you find a good fit.
Keyboards and electronic pianos can be an OK stopgap, but it is really nice to have a “real” piano and can make a real difference to the student. If you go with a keyboard, make sure it has weighted keys.
- Before you visit a used piano, you can learn about its background. Ask the seller about the brand, model, year of manufacture, and if possible, the piano’s serial number. Google the piano so that you can get an idea of the value of the piano before you even go look at it.
- When looking at a used piano, make sure that the keys “bounce back” (test them ALL), and none stick.
- Look to see the the whole piano is clean, including the inside. A clean piano is usually a well cared for piano.
- Check for visible damage, cracks, or creaks anywhere on the piano
- Look at the felt and strings inside the piano- do they look clean and “new”? Is there rust anywhere?
- Ask how often the piano has been tuned (“never” is a red flag…once or twice a year is about right)
- It is helpful to know some of the piano’s history- how much has it been moved? Played on? By whom?
- a lot of moves, or rough playing can be damaging.
- It can be helpful to stick to name brand pianos when you’re looking for a very inexpensive instrument- they certainly aren’t the only good pianos, but it can help hedge your bets if you’re new to pianos and buying ’em.
- Kawaii, Baldwin, Steinway, and Yamaha are usually fairly decent.
- Stick to buying a “newer” piano if you can- antique instruments are beautiful and can be fantastic, but also come with their own issues.
It can be worth it to buy from a reputable piano dealer if you’re looking to spend more than $500 on a piano. For free or less expensive pianos, you’ll probably be fine buying on your own. Paying for piano movers to move the piano can be a good idea- factor in the initial tuning and moving into the cost (a “free” piano usually costs about $100-200 to move and $100 or so to tune).