What to look for in a PIANO

So you’re in the market for a piano to start piano lessons or to upgrade from your existing piano or keyboard? Here’s some buying tips for purchasing a piano.

Piano or keyboard? See this previous post.


Broadly speaking, pianos come in three forms: spinet, upright, or grand pianos. See the differences here. There is a false notion that grand pianos are always good and upright pianos are always sub-par. That is simply not true. Factors like the state of repair, brand, country of origin, and maintenance will impact the kind of piano that works best for you.

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That rose is covering up some thorny keys


Again, the answer is murky. An all-wood, well-maintained used piano is usually better than new piano with a poor build quality, plastic pieces, and a thin sound. Likewise, a Steinway piano that was left in a garage for 50 years will never make a lovely sound again. Better to have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, rather than assume that new is better or that one brand is always good.

So with all this murkiness, where do I start?

Let’s start with the easy questions.

  • What is your budget for this piano?
  • What are your goals for the purchase of this piano? Are you hoping to develop a more professional tone (grand) or are you hoping to begin piano lessons (dealer’s choice)?
  • How much room do you have for this piano? Grand pianos take up a lot of real estate in a living room.
  • Do you care about the case of the piano? Some times a piano may look rough or have dings in the wood, but have a lovely action inside.
  • Is wood tone or finish important to you?

Once you have determined these questions, it’s time to begin browsing. New pianos are usually purchased from a music store. Used pianos might be purchased from a music store, inherited from a family member, or purchased from a private seller. There are pros and cons to each way. Regardless of new or used, here’s what I look for when I look at pianos.

  • What brand is it? I tend to enjoy older American pianos like Steinway, Baldwin, or Mason & Hamlin. I enjoy newer Japanese pianos like Yamaha or Kawaii. There’s a few brands that I would never, ever, ever purchase. You can contact me for those.
  • What does Larry Fine or the Piano Buyer say about the value of the piano?
  • Does it include a bench? Does it include the move? First tune? Tunings for a year?
  • What do the hammers look like? Dusty, rutted, and frayed? Best to turn away.
  • What do the strings look like? Broken and rusted? That piano is busted.
  • What does the soundboard look like? Shrunken and cracked? Take that piano back.
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Here’s my number one piece of advice when purchasing a piano:

Contact a piano tuner, your piano teacher, or someone with professional piano knowledge before you purchase a thing!!!!!!!


Truly, you can lose big if you purchase a piano without assistance. If the seller does not want you to bring a piano technician to the purchase, walk away. A tuner WILL charge you to look at the instrument, but it is still infinitely cheaper than restoring a piano.

Interested in being connected to a tuner or have a specific question? Contact Julia for more information.

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