How to Buy an Upright Piano on eBay

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How to Buy an Upright Piano on eBay

The piano is a dynamic and exciting instrument, and thanks to its accessibility it is one of the most popular instruments in music. It is always joyful and rewarding to learn and master the piano, and with so many options to choose from there are different pianos suitable for all types of people. Many opt for an electric keyboard, but it is always better to go for an acoustic piano with an organic sound. The upright piano offers quality and practicality, and is a very good choice for a serious learner or someone who wants a great-quality sound for a reasonable price. Before purchasing an upright piano on eBay, there are a number of important considerations to appreciate.

A Short Piano Guide

The acoustic piano is a percussion instrument, and there are two main types of acoustic piano: the vertical piano and the horizontal piano. When any given key is pressed, a hammer inside the piano strikes against a group of 3 identical strings (except for some of the bass strings where there are only 2 strings or 1), causing them to vibrate at a resonant frequency and emit a specific note. The hammer then moves back to its original position to avoid interfering with the vibrating strings. In reality this system is complex, with a system of levers and links connecting each key to its respective string (known as the action). There are usually up to 10,000 moving parts in a grand piano, and up to 6,000 in an upright piano.
Most pianos come with 2 or 3 pedals, each designed to modify the strings vibration and change the sound characteristics when pressed down with the foot. On a 3 pedal piano, the left-hand pedal is the soft pedal, the middle is the sostenuto and the right is the sustain pedal.

Origins of the Piano

The piano was invented by the Italian Bartolomeo Cristofor in the early 18th century, although the basic way in which a piano works (strings struck by hammers operated by keys) had already been established with the 14th century dulcimer. Cristofor developed the harpsichord into the instrument recognised as a piano today. Since its birth the piano has undergone constant improvement thanks to engineering and technological advancement, and the upright piano was invented by Johann Schmidt at the end of the 18th century.

Upright Piano Buying Guide

The upright piano is tall, slim, and compact (a 5-foot by 5-foot area is usually enough), which is why it is a very good choice for places where space is limited. In an upright piano, the strings run vertically and the action is situated above the keys, in contrast to horizontal pianos where the strings run horizontally and the action is situated behind the keys.
There are 4 types of upright piano: the spinet upright, the console upright, the studio upright and the professional upright. From the spinet to the professional, the height and the quality of the piano gets better, and for the same build quality so does the price. Spinet upright pianos range from 35 inches to 39 inches tall, console upright pianos range from 40 inches to 43 inches tall, studio upright pianos range from 44 inches to 48 inches tall and professional (full-size) upright piano ranges from 48 inches to 52 inches tall. Spinets and consoles are designed for learners and intermediate players, and studios and professionals are designed for advanced or professional players, or those who simply want the best-quality upright piano.
There is a general rule of thumb for all acoustic pianos: the longer the strings and the larger the piano, the better. Longer strings and a larger soundboard allow for more loudness, better variation in loudness and a better tone, and the longer the strings the lower the fundamental bass notes. High-quality studio and professional upright pianos are often a better choice than low-quality grand pianos, and taller uprights often have longer strings than smaller grand pianos. Having said this, the manufacturer is also a very important factor.

Digital Upright Pianos

A highly popular choice is the digital upright piano, as they have a similar look to an acoustic upright piano and are yet often cheaper, take up less space and require no maintenance or care. High-quality digital uprights have highly realistic pedals, good-quality action and can even get better the more they are played.
While the digital piano can never deliver the subtleties, tone, and response of a good acoustic, they require very little maintenance and if they are good quality, they still sound great. It is always better to buy a good digital upright than a cheap acoustic upright. For any good manufacturer, the larger the budget, the better the digital piano will be. For example, there will be better polyphony (more notes playable at the same time), better-quality action, a better amplifier and speakers, and more digital features.

Smart Piano Shopping on eBay

Because there are so many brands, models, and styles of piano, and because any acoustic or digital upright piano will be a significant investment, it is sensible to purchase a complete piano buyer's book beforehand, though there are many websites which explain the best manufacturers, brands, and models for a given budget.
There are few dangers in buying digital upright pianos or new acoustic uprights, but care needs to be taken when purchasing used acoustic upright pianos.
When purchasing a used acoustic upright on eBay, it is for many obvious reasons ideal to look for 'collection only' sellers who allow people to visit and test the piano before a purchasing decision is made. Unlike a digital piano, there may be no guarantee that a used upright will be in tune or in full working order, so this makes it important to ask when the piano was last tuned, how often it was used, and whether the piano had any previous owners. Check if the owner still has a copy of the warranty.
If the piano has been tuned or maintained, ask if this has been done by a certified piano technician. Very important is how the piano has been stored. Acoustic pianos need to be kept in the correct, regulated environment otherwise their health and play quality will deteriorate.
Always be careful when buying an out of tune second hand upright piano. Find out if the piano is out of tune because it hasn't been played, or because there are more serious internal problems. There is no guarantee that the piano will tune properly in this case – enlist the help of a certified technician.

Buying an Upright Piano on eBay

To buy an upright piano on eBay, first head to the eBay homepage. Under the All Categories tab, there is a Musical Instruments category. Click on this category to go to the main musical instrument category listing, and then click on the Piano link under the Keyboard/Piano category to go to the main piano listings page.
These listings can be refined by using the search filters on the left-hand side of the page. They can be refined according to type, condition, category, buying format, and location. For example, the listings can be refined to show upright pianos, new upright pianos and used upright pianos.
An alternative method is to use the search box at the top of any eBay page. This can be used to search for things that are not included in the categories or search filters, such as pianos made by a specific manufacturer.


Pianos are one of the most popular instruments in the world, revered by players from Grade 1 all the way up to the professional level. While any good digital or acoustic upright piano will be at least a moderate investment, they are a joy to play, look amazing as furniture and hold their value extremely well.

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