Buying a Secondhand Piano

North London Piano Tuner

"Every working day I get at least 2 or 3 calls from people telling me that they have been offered an old piano very cheaply or for free and how much would it be to move and tune it.

"I try to explain the situation politely, but what I really want to say is - go away, find a mirror, slap yourself round the face and call me back! A huge reality check is needed here and an outbreak of common sense simply has to break out."


"Old pianos are not a good thing, it is not like with Violins, where an old one is a good one. pianos have a very definite life span. They are exactly the kind of thing which go wrong. They can crack, warp, split, rust, have woodworm or moths. They have up to 20,000 components, most of which are felt, leather, tiny springs and other non durable materials. The reason they are so cheap is because they are broken. The cost of the repairs is far more than their value, so they are write offs, but no body likes the idea of dumping a piano and removals costs are high, so they get passed around from one, unsuspecting family to the next. With their poor children unable to learn because of the rotten instrument shoved in front of them. It is the equivalent of having aspirations for your child to learn show jumping and providing them with an old nag which you got cheap from the knackers yard or teaching someone to drive in a car rescued from a crusher.

"Nice Second hand pianos have never been so cheap, new Chinese instruments have driven down second hand prices to a historical low. Good quality second hand pianos which were on sale in shops for £1500, 10 years ago are now selling for £700, with a guarantee, plus delivery and tuning can be arranged by the dealer. alternatively low cost piano rental is another great option for those first piano lessons.

The problem is that many people think these pianos are cheap because no body wants to play the piano any more, this could not be further from the truth, interest in playing the piano as a hobby has never been more higher and most teachers are full to the brim. There seems to be a blind spot when it comes to buying a first piano. Most musical instruments are expensive, a decent version of virtually any musical instrument is going to cost a few hundred pounds, so why then does anyone think you can get a usable piano for less than a few items of shopping from Tescos."


"Ebay is a great leveller when it comes to finding the value of anything. Items typically sell between 40 to 70 percent of their new value. The cost of the cheapest new piano is about £1200, so a nice second hand piano even on ebay should be £500 to £900. so when you see a piano for £5 or free to collect, all that is happening is that the current owners, having been informed that their piano is condemned and of the costs involved with disposal, think to themselves, oh stick it on ebay and some idiot will take it away."


"You only get one chance with kids, if they decide they don’t like their piano lessons and give up, then the window for learning about music in general, closes. You don't have to spend a fortune on a piano, but it is vital that the instrument is playable and tunable. So many of these old parlour pianos have broken notes, sticking keys, notes which ring on and on, buzzes, clicks and uneven keys which need a different amount of pressure to make a sound than that of their neighbouring keys, making expression and control impossible.

"The other key thing to realise is that the first thing to go, and the main problem with the vast majority of old pianos is that they loose their ability to hold in tune. The piano tuner can come and tune the piano, but it will not stand well in tune for a reasonable period of time. The piano has about 230 thick steel strings and for most of the piano, 3 strings for each note. The pins which hold the 25 tons of strain, created by the stretched strings are simply banged into a plank of wood with holes drilled in it. Over time the wood dries and the repeated tuning burnishes the inside of the hole, causing the pins to slip, so when the seller says, all it needs is a tune up, there is no guarantee that it can be tuned at all. Leaving the customer with a hefty piano delivery bill, a fee to the piano tuner and the prospect of having to dispose of the piano themselves.

"I know – lets put it on eBay, some idiot will buy it."

Author Bio: Steven J Droy

Steve Droy has been working in the piano business for 25 years. In that time he has amassed a wealth of technical knowledge in, tuning, restoration repairs and removals.

A former lecturer on the piano technology degree course at London Metropolitan University and a Diploma graduate from Newark College, Steve also holds a Certificate in Classical Musical Instrument Technology.

Steve Droy has worked on pianos for international recording artists, such as Dido, Tim Minchin, Shirley Bassey, Coldplay, Michel Nyman and Radiohead to name but a few. Steve also has many domestic customers and countless performing arts centres, recording studios. churches and schools. He can offer a complete range of technical services on all instruments, from concert halls to the family upright.

Please feel free to call for a quotation, or free friendly advice.