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What to look for when buying a piano ???

(37 Posts)
mummyloveslucy Thu 18-Nov-10 13:40:30

Hi, my daughter is going to start Suzuki piano lessons soon. I've always wanted to learn the piano so i'm going to have lessons as well. The teacher says that we'll need a piano at some stage as a key board isn't quite the same.

I've looked at several pianos on line but don't really know what to look for. I've been told not to go for something older than 20-30 years as they often need a lot of work as they get older. Appart from that, I don't have a clue.

I'm not sure wether to just get a cheep one for now, or put the money towards a decent one that we won't ever need to replace? I like the look of the Yamaha U3/U2. It'd take me a few months to save for it though.

I'd be really greatfull of any advice. smile

poppyknot Thu 18-Nov-10 13:49:52

We got a piano in a charity shop that did furniture for a good price. I am not sure the age matters so much as a good tuner (you need to find one of those).

When I was young my parents had got one that 'went round the houses' ie from family to family. Once I showed an interest (and vague, very vague) aptitude they bought a better one and spent a bit of money. Peoepl will want to get rid of pianos if they move so maybe the small ads in the newsagent window.

NB I am an expert in getting pianos moved from one end of the country to the other as I had to 'take back' the family piano which my sister had been looking after whilst I moved about as a young person. In the meantime I had acquired the charity shop one and had to get it moved on (to a friend ) before the one from down south arrived. I still shudder at the memory.........

gramercy Thu 18-Nov-10 14:26:32

I would ask a piano tuner. They have contacts and, unlike a shop, won't be trying to get you to buy an expensive or unsuitable one.

emy72 Thu 18-Nov-10 15:32:21

I paid £1500 for mine about 15 years ago and it's moved a hell of a lot....but it's still great and has not needed any work at all!

NorbertDentressangle Thu 18-Nov-10 15:36:25

You quite often see pianos on freecycle around here as I think people just want to free up space if they have one that isn't being used or children have given up lessons.

Some friends of ours got one that way and all it cost them was getting someone in to tune it.

It could be a temporary measure whilst you save up for a better one maybe?

Errmmmm Thu 18-Nov-10 15:39:09

Playing it would be my first step. Pianos have differing levels of weight on the keys, and you'd need to find one that you felt comfortable with. This obviously makes it difficult to buy one online wink

Do you know if there's a second hand piano warehouse type place anywhere near you? That's where I got mine. I spent an entire morning playing lots of pianos until I found one I liked the feel of.

DaisyFields Thu 18-Nov-10 15:47:14

We have an electric piano, it's very good (weighted keys etc), easy to move and no issue with tuning etc. Also can plug headphones in for practising in the evening and volume control. Might not be what you're looking for, but works for DP and I. Young relatives love it because they can choose fun instrument sounds and record.

SylvanianFamily Thu 18-Nov-10 15:49:32

We rent ours, with an option of half our rental fees rebated against the cost of purchasing it if it is a success

mummyloveslucy Thu 18-Nov-10 18:53:02

Thanks everyone! smile It did feel a bit strange looking on e-bay etc, as there is no garuntee etc.

There are some second hand shops around, I'll have to have a look. I think the shop keepers would have a laugh at me playing the chopsicks song (badly) blush They'd think they had a right one here. grin

Good idea about asking a tuner what he or she recommends. How much do they cost to rent BTW ? That might not be a bad idea either.

mummyloveslucy Thu 18-Nov-10 19:00:09

There is one in our local paper, It's £195. I phoned up about it but the man dosn't seem to know anything about it oher than it looks and sounds nice. It was his wife's and she's no longer around, perhaps passed away?
I don't know wether or not to go and see it, as I wouldn't even know if it was out of tune etc. I could do with someone who knows about pianos comming with me.

UptoapointLordCopper Thu 18-Nov-10 19:52:52

I was tempted to ask a piano tuner to come with me when I was looking for a piano but didn't dare to... I don't know if you can do that?

Eventually I went to see our local piano tuner and he said to bang on the lower registers and bang on the higher registers and that will show you what the piano is like. hmm Anyway that's what I did (in about 4 piano shops in London) and I did pick a piano I liked and I still like it.

peteneras Thu 18-Nov-10 21:46:39

My daughter used to mess about with a cheap keyboard when she was 4 years old and occasionally her slightly older cousin (Grade 8) used to give her lessons. This went on for a couple of years when I decided it’s time perhaps for her to take some grading tests. Immediately after her Grade 1 exams, she complained bitterly that the exam piano was very “different” from her keyboard and managed only a ‘Pass’.

I decided to get a real piano for her seeing that she was interested in playing and therefore, no more future surprises in grading exams. Went to Chappell’s in Bond Street, Central London and bought her a Yamaha for about £3500. And that was supposed to be on offer during a Yahama promotion. The sales people there were really helpful and never at any moment put you under pressure to buy anything. I suppose it was a good investment as I had neighbours over the years knocking on my door (initially I though it was a complaint) saying how much they enjoyed the beautiful piano sound and please keep playing. And all this coming from my daughter working through the various Grades in the intervening years. She passed her Grade 8 (Merit) 2½ years ago just before entering University having stopped for a few years during the GCSE’s and A-Levels.

I would say, invest in the most expensive musical instrument you can afford if your daughter (and yourself) intends to play seriously. A good instrument exudes lovely musical notes, even if the playing is rubbish. This encourages the learner wanting to play more and try harder.

musicposy Thu 18-Nov-10 21:56:23

OK -

Out of tune doesn't matter so much as long as its not really terrible, in which case you will hear it, believe me! You will need to get it tuned after it's been moved anyway.

Check every single note on the piano, white and black. Make sure they all work. All of them should bounce back up after you've played them. If there's any you're unsure of, play the same note repeatedly as fast as you can- it should play these repeated notes without sticking.

Even one sticky note can be quite pricey to repair. Walk away. If there are problems on the higher or lower registers, or only the middle has been tuned (astounding, but it does happen!), walk away.

Next play the notes again and make sure that the sound stops once you have let go of the keys. Notes that keep on sounding after you've let go of them can mean serious damper repair work unless it's only one or so at most. Walk away.

Now play a whole host of notes, 10 if you can, all at the same time. Any notes will do. While you are holding them down, depress the right pedal. Then let go of the notes. The sound will continue. Then let go of the pedal. The sound should stop completely. If it doesn't, walk away. Repairing pedals is pricey.

Now depress the left pedal. Sometimes this can cause the keys to shift or depress slightly, which isn't a problem in iteslf as long as they all move evenly. If some move down and some stay sticking up a bit, walk away.

Have a look inside the piano if you can at the soundboard (the wooden board behind the strings). there should be no cracks in this board. This is very important.

Finally check the outer for signs of any liquid spillage. This can do serious damage to a piano.

What I can't teach you is to listen for tone. But if all of the above are OK, you will have a piano that is fine to start with, and by the time it needs replacing your budding pianist will recognise a good tone.

If you are confident enough to buy from the paper you will often get a better deal. Piano shops sometimes sell the most awful rubbish at inflated prices - depending on the shop, of course. But you need to know that buying from a shop is no guarantee that what you get will be any better than from the paper.

Hope this helps!

Once you have it, by the way, let it settle for a month and then get it tuned. Don't put it by a radiator or in a very dry or overheated room. Happy buying. grin

musicposy Thu 18-Nov-10 22:02:38

Oh, and unless money is no object I would always recommend buying bottom end first and then being willing to replace. I would personally not want a beginner banging away on an expensive piano. Also, once she's been playing a while she will know what she likes. Different pianos suit different people. I have a beautiful Broadwood (old but very well maintained, so I wouldn't necessarily agree with not buying old) which I love. I also regularly play on a Yamaha grand which is a lovely piano - though I like my Broadwood better. But a fantastically good pianist friend of mine doesn't like the touch of Yamaha's at all. At a centre near us there is a Steinway grand which everyone drools over. I admit it is a lovely piano, but I found it a little spongy for my tastes. Other people would have different opinions.

So I would wait a bit before spending megabucks. As long as you don't get a total heap of junk that will put her off playing forever, it won't hurt. Plus, you will almost certainly be able to sell any well maintained piano for what you paid for it - unless you buy new.

SylvanianFamily Fri 19-Nov-10 09:39:58

I think we pay thirty five pounds a month for a second hand piano with a list price of around eighteen hundred. delivery was about fifty pounds on top of that. They had fancier models available too, so the option to upgrade is easily there.

dd is in love with it - so if DH is still in work q1 next year, we'll pay the balance and buy it outright.

gramercy Fri 19-Nov-10 12:35:24

I would disagree with the advice to buy the most expensive musical instrument you can afford.

You want the beginner to enjoy playing, not pussyfoot about on it with you hovering nervously in case it's ruined by sticky chocolately fingers. Or - in the case of my dd - projectile vomit !

Also - many, many children give up. Then you're stuck with a white elephant in the corner that you practically have to pay someone to take away.

mummyloveslucy Fri 19-Nov-10 13:10:01

musicposy- Thank you!! That's fantastic. smile I'll write that down and ake it with me when I'm looking.

Thanks everyone else too. smile To be honest, I'm not at all worried about her bashing away at a more expensive piano, as she's just not like that. She's a very gentle natured child. (Unlike me) grin Her playing sounds quite light and she seems to have very nimble figers and can play very quickly sometimes.

We went to visit a work coleague of my husbands recently and she has a baby grand Yamaha. My daughter asked if she could play it and she sat there and pressed a few keys and say "Wow! I love this sound", she then played some more whith one hand and got her head right down neer the keys and said "this is amazing!" Bless her.

FrameyMcFrame Fri 19-Nov-10 13:15:53

peteneras gives good advice.

If you buy a cheap old piano make sure it's possible to tune it as some old pianos need all the action replacing before they can be tuned (very expensive job)

catinthehat2 Fri 19-Nov-10 13:23:13

And when you get it, remember it's not a sideboard for photographs, ornaments or fresh flowers in vases.
(Disclaimer: you sound too sensible for that.)

kittens Fri 19-Nov-10 13:29:15

If you know any church playgroups run by old ladies ask around there as the local church playgroup here has passed on pianos (at no cost) to 4 people I know.

Other than that you do get some good sounding but cheapish electic pianos, they work really well.

mummyloveslucy Fri 19-Nov-10 14:05:02

catinthehat2- Don't worry, I won't. grin Although I did fall in love with a baby grand recently but we don't have the room for it. We did joke about using it as a dinning room table. grin

I might take my daughter with me when looking. She seems to have a better ear for music than me. She loves the C.D of Les Miserables and listens to it quite a bit. My mother in law played her the Suzan Boyle version and she said "No, no, this isn't the same, I don't like this". grin

mummyloveslucy Fri 19-Nov-10 14:06:14

She is being tested for Asburgers though so that could explain it. wink

musicposy Fri 19-Nov-10 17:47:36

"We went to visit a work coleague of my husbands recently and she has a baby grand Yamaha. My daughter asked if she could play it and she sat there and pressed a few keys and say "Wow! I love this sound", she then played some more whith one hand and got her head right down neer the keys and said "this is amazing!" Bless her."

I'd take her with you. wink It sounds as though she is innately musical and will help you make a very good judgement.

acebaby Fri 19-Nov-10 20:03:22

I suggest bringing along a competent player to test out the piano. Perhaps your teacher or one of his/her more advanced pupils.

Either that or as PP's have suggested - speak to a local tuner. They often know who is thinking of 'upgrading', and can vouch for the quality (or otherwise!) of the piano

Good luck - I have followed a few of your threads about Lucy (DS1 is the same age) and she sounds lovely. I hope you both get on well with the piano smile

betelguese Sat 20-Nov-10 20:46:16

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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