The piano is a hugely popular instrument for a number of reasons. In addition to being a versatile instrument in its own right, it is also popular for accompanying singers and dancers. As it is a big instrument, buying a decent upright grand piano requires an upfront financial investment. It is, therefore, worth investing some time in learning what to look for when buying one. A good purchase, looked after well, will last for many years.
Reasons to Choose an Upright Piano
Acoustic pianos come in two basic forms. These are horizontally-strung pianos, such as grand pianos, and vertically-strung pianos, known as upright pianos. Instruments which are strung horizontally can use much longer strings and also have a longer soundboard. This means they can produce much richer, fuller, more balanced tones than their vertically-strung counterparts. Unfortunately, even the smallest horizontally-strung pianos are far too big for the average modern house and are also very expensive to buy, to move, and to insure. Upright pianos are much more compact, making them easier to fit into smaller rooms. They are also substantially cheaper in every way. Although they can not quite match the sound quality of the horizontally-strung pianos, they can still have excellent voices which age well. Upright grand pianos are the largest of the upright pianos and therefore can use the longest strings, giving the best sound.
Buying Old or New
Many stringed instruments improve with age; unfortunately the piano is not one of them. There are many reasons for this but by far the biggest is the fact that even though the piano can produce the most delicate of tones, there is about 20 tons of string tension in action behind the scenes. Over time, this takes its toll on even the most robust instruments. Another key issue is that modern pianos are built to withstand the rigours of central heating, whereas older ones were not. If looking at an older piano which has been restored, it is important to find out specifics about what was done, when and by whom, since the term restoration is very broad. It is also worth remembering that, at the end of the day, there is a limit to what restorers can do.
Are Second-Hand Instruments Worth Considering?
Most new items carry a premium and this includes pianos. Part of the reason for this premium is that buying a brand new piano from a reputable seller carries an implicit guarantee that the instrument has been well looked-after. Some business sellers offer a selection of second-hand pianos, the quality of which is effectively guaranteed by them. There are also many second-hand instruments for sale by private sellers which are in excellent condition and being sold for completely legitimate reasons. Ideally the seller should provide the paperwork relating to the original purchase as well as a clear explanation of why it is for sale.
Points to Raise When Buying a Second-Hand Upright Grand Piano
There are some useful questions to ask when buying a second-hand upright grand piano from a private seller. They will help you to judge both the original quality of the instrument and how well it has been looked after.
How Often the Instrument Has Been Played
If the answer is that it is no longer played, then ask when it was last played and how often. If the instrument has been played regularly but is for sale due to a change in circumstances, then it is more likely to have been looked after than one which has, literally, been gathering dust. A knowledgeable seller will at least ensure that the piano is appropriately covered and kept in tune.
When Was the Piano Last Tuned?
Pianos need to be tuned at least every 6 months on a regular schedule, regardless of whether or not they are actually being played. Pianos which are played regularly need to be tuned more often. It is very risky to buy an out of tune piano, since the fact that it is out of tune could hide serious internal problems.
Who Tuned the Piano?
Piano tuning is a job for professionals. The piano may sound right after an amateur attempt, but they may have inadvertently caused internal damage.
Where Is the Piano Kept?
Pianos should ideally be stored in a dry, well-ventilated room at a consistent temperature (ideally around 20 degrees Celsius). Be very wary of pianos which have been stored in unused rooms, or even worse; storage facilities. They may have suffered irreparable damage.
How Often Has the Piano Been Moved?
Every time a piano is moved, there is a risk of damage. Pianos can be moved successfully, but it is a danger sign.
Like tuning, moving a piano is a job for professionals, not average household movers. Unless a piano is moved in the right way, it may be damaged.
Check Who played the Piano
A piano which has been played by a committed pianist, even a serious amateur, is likely to have been well looked-after. This is less likely to be true of instruments used by people who were forced to take piano lessons to satisfy their parents or to meet the requirements for academic courses in their main instrument, for example.
Check the Instrument's History
A modern piano should ideally have a traceable history from the day it left the shop. At the very least the seller should be able to advise how they came by it. Pianos often come with a warranty from the place of purchase. This can last anything up to 10 years. If buying a new second-hand piano, it’s important to enquire about this, if the piano has no warranty, check why not.
If buying a piano from a business seller, they will usually organise delivery. Many private sellers, however, will pass this responsibility on to the buyer. With this in mind, it may be worthwhile to ask for a quote from a piano-moving company before taking a final decision as to whether or not to bid. It is also recommended to ask the seller explicitly if there is parking for the mover outside their home and if there are any issues with the location of the piano which might cause difficulties when moving it, as these may increase the price of the move).
How to Find an Upright Grand Piano at a Reasonable Price
The best way to determine the quality of a piano’s voice is to play it. These days, however, many of the best bargains are found on the Internet and in particular on eBay. With that in mind, it can be helpful to ask the seller for a link to a sound file or a video of the instrument being played. Although instruments with a good voice may still have internal damage which will become apparent over time, eBay rules require sellers to disclose all relevant information about the item they are selling. This means that regardless of whether the instrument is being sold by a business or by a private seller, buyers can rest assured that the item description is accurate. When there are problems, usually these can be resolved by the buyer and seller communicating directly, but if not, buyers can contact eBay for assistance.
How to Find an Upright Grand Piano on eBay
To find upright pianos on eBay start at the top menu Buy and choose Browse Categories. Click on Musical Instruments and then under Keyboard Instruments choose Piano. In the resulting menu, under Type choose Piano, then under Sub-Type choose Upright. On the next page, under Piano choose Upright Piano. Upright pianos can be listed as New, New Other, Manufacturer Refurbished, Seller Refurbished, or Used. Upright grand pianos are usually listed alongside standard uprights and can be identified from the description.
The piano has been a popular instrument for many years and can be used to play many sorts of music. Buying a quality upright piano is an investment which will provide a great deal of pleasure to its owner.