Buying A Used Piano on Craigslist - What to Look For

This video is going to be demonstrating some things to look for when your purchasing a piano on Craig's List or piano by owner that's selling a used piano.

This piano is actually a piano I purchased on Craig's List.

I paid $150.00 for this piano.

It was a very good price for the size, quality, and condition that it is in age.

This one is actually a Whittaker by Jasper American Piano Switch which is a brand that was made by the Kimball Company.

Most people have heard of the Kimball piano's. This particular piano was made by Kimball so I did a little research and found that out.

I'm just going to show you a few things you want to look for when your looking for a piano for purchase.

Some of the things you want to look for are if all the keys are level. If the keys are not all level and some are a little bit lower than others it could be action problems.

It could mean that some of the balance rail felts have been chewed by mice.

I will show you in a bit some other signs you can look for when you are inspecting for mice damage.

But that's one of the things you want to look for.

Then as you try to evaluate the condition of how it plays and sounds.

A lot of piano's by owner or Craig's List you will come across they maybe haven't been tuned for many years.

So they will be out of tune as this one is. But I'm not sure how long it's been since it has been tuned.

You can always ask the seller how long it's been since it's been tuned. Sometimes they will know and sometime they won't. That's one thing you can ask.

In general even if it hasn't been tuned for many years it will relatively will be in tune with itself.

So maybe go through some of the keys and you can see that this piano is out of tune but it's relatively in tune with itself.

So as your going down you may come to a note that is far off from where it should be compared to the others.

That's one pretty sure sign or not sure but pretty good that there may be tuning pins that are loose.

Which is a bad sign for a piano is if the tuning pins are loose.

There are some things you can do to alleviate that but there are some things evolved in being able to do that.

So that's one of the things you want to look for is the tuning.

Then as you play through the keys and you might have noticed that there are some sticky keys on this piano.

It doesn't necessarily mean that there are major issues but it is something that may need repairs if there are sticking keys.

So this one as you can see it goes down but it doesn't come back up.

There is quite a long list of things that could cause that type of a problem.

There is another one there. If you have a couple it isn't to of big of a deal but in most cases action problems can be fixed fairly easily by a technician or even do it yourself.

But it is something to keep in mind when your looking at a piano.

If there is a whole bunch of them sticking you want to consider if it's a lot more work than what you paid for the piano and you want to take all of that into consideration.

So those are a couple of things to watch for.

The other thing is you can check the pedals. You can take the front board off which is a good thing to do is check inside the piano to see if you can find signs of mice in the piano.

If there were mice in the piano you would see down inside. Now there are a lot of cobwebs which is not uncommon for a piano that hasn't been opened up for awhile.

You would see little black droppings If you haven't seen mouse droppings they are pretty evident to where they have been.

So you would see them down inside the piano and up near the keys as you take it apart you can see if there are mice droppings.

This one doesn't have any in it which is a good sign. The cobwebs can be vacuumed out and cleaned out.

If you do find mice droppings it could mean that there is possible damage.

Now as we look inside the piano there are some things we can look for down below the keyboard down where the pedal mechanisms are.

One of the first things you want to check are the bridges.

Those are these things here that the strings are over. There are some pins here that the strings run around.

The bridges are the part of the piano that transmits the vibrating sound from the strings to the sound board.

The sound board is this whole area behind the strings behind the plate that is really the resonator of the sound for the piano.

So you want to check those bridges because sometimes there are cracks in bridges right where the pins are or there might be a crack running across the bridge.

You do want to check that.

Now these are in pretty good condition.

I inspected it before I picked it up and made sure there weren't any of those issues.

Again you can see some of the cobwebs and the bridges are in fairly good condition.

You do want to check that because if there are any cracks in the bridges it means the piano won't stay in tune for very long.

It could mean there are going to be buzzes from the cracks.

So you do want to check that.

Again down here is where you can see if there are any mouse droppings.

So that is one of those structural things that are pretty crucial. If you have structural problems it means major repairs.

Which on a cheaper instrument are not worth it.

The next thing you want to check is the back of the piano.

If you can get to it. If it is up against a wall it may be a little bit difficult.

You can check inside the piano for signs of cracks in the sound board but the back of the piano is where you can really see.

If there are a lot of cracks or wide cracks is where you will get a lot of buzzing in the piano. Buzzing noises which isn't good.

Again it can have tuning stability problems because of it.

The other thing is if the piano has ribs. Those are these bars that run across.

Those hold the shape or the crown of the sound board.

Generally sound boards are not supposed to be flat. They appear to be mostly flat but there is a little bit of curvature as it goes across the sound board.

That is just to provide better tone.

So you want to check those things for stability and make sure you don't have separation.

These ribs are glued to the sound board but if that glue joint separates you can have cracks and that can definitely cause buzzing.

As the sound board vibrates and you have a space there the vibration of the sound board can cause a buzzing or a rattling noise up against the loose space in the ribs.

You want to check and make sure all of your back posts are in good condition and they aren't separating from the frame.

Just make sure everything looks good. This piano isn't very old so it's in relatively good condition.

So check for crack's in the sound board, separation in the sound board, or separation in the ribs.

Make sure there are no cracks in the bridges.

Those are pretty crucial things that you commonly find in older pianos.

The next thing you want to do is once you have played the keys is you want too check for tone too. Besides our sticking note there.

If you don't play yourself you can bring somebody along with you to maybe play some notes or play a song.

Just get an idea of the tone. A lot of times it is really difficult to tell if the piano is quite a bit out of tune because it's hard to hear pat the out of tuneness.

It is a good thing to do. Sometimes you can tell the tune of the piano.

Then also a person that plays can get a general feel for the touch of the piano.

Is it a really heavy touch are the keys really sloppy. As you look at them so they wobble back and forth.

This one is not to bad. There not too tight.

It might mean he key bushings are loose and may need to be replaced which is not a huge deal but it is a major maintenance issue.

If your not going to do it yourself then you will have to pay someone to do that.

This piano here is a counsel size piano. There are also spinet pianos which are the shortest of pianos.

Generally if the top of the piano only comes to about here on the music desk generally that's a sign or if it's a couple of inches below the top of the music desk it means it's a spinet poano.

Which spinet pianos aren't bad themselves but their actions aren't designed as well as a direct below action where the action sits on top of the back of the keys.

So the next thing we are going to check is we are going to open the top of the piano.

Now this one we are going to take the music desk off too.

Sometimes there's little latches right on the sides here.

This one has it so it just has some brackets that sit on top of screws.

From there we can see the action on the insides of the piano.

Okay here we have the tuning pins. Then of course these are the strings.

Some things you want to check for is you check around the tuning pins.

You want to check to see if there is any rust or a lot of rust if it's just a slight amount then it really shouldn't be too much of an issue.

If there is an excessive amount of rust around the tuning pins and the strings you could have an issue where down the road strings breaking.

You might see some strings most of them are a little bit dull but maybe you have one shiny string it just means that that one has been replaced.

Then there is a possibility that others may break in the near future.

Not necessarily an automatic. Strings will even break on a new piano but it'a a possibility.

You want to check the condition of the hammers

Now these which I'm not sure you can see it in the video, but there are some string marks at the very tip of the hammer where it strikes the string.

You can see where each one has some grooves.

Those grooves show somewhere which these aren't to bad.

If you have string grooves that are too bad about a quarter of an inch or an eighth inch deep then you can see that means there is a lot of wear.

Then there is not a lot of life left in those hammers.

So that's one thing you want to check is that all of the hammers are fairly in line and here are a couple that are not quite in line as well as the others as compared to the rest.

there are some minor adjustments that can be done to alleviate that.

For the most part you can see that there are some inconsistencies but this one has hammers that are fairly well spaced apart.

So you can check that.

Check in this piano that the dampers are fairly well condition.

One thing you can check is if you play some notes and when you let go of the note you hear a little buzz sound that would mean the dampers would have some hard spots on them.

Then it might need a little maintenance.

So those are just a few things to check.

You can check down here in between the keys. In here you can't see very well.

There again is where you might see some signs of rodent or mouse droppings.

So you can see that without taking too much apart. Somebody left a guitar pick in there it looks like.

So this piano is in fairly good condition it being a Kimball it's average maybe a slightly blow average quality for the age of this piano.

This piano is from 1994 so it's not to terribly old.

We can see up here that this is the serial number. There are books and resources where you can look up a serial number to see how old the piano is.

A lot of times the serial number is right here on the plate.

Sometimes it's over here a lot of times they will have a model number and a serial number over here.

Those are some places to look. Another place is to look on the back of the piano.

This one actually has the serial number right here on the back of the piano also.

Sometimes it will be on the corner here or it might be on the corner over here.

But those are places you will find the serial number.

So in general those are some of the things you can look for when your going to look at a used piano.

A lot of times the seller doesn't know or what kind of issues or what condition or what issues there may be.

Buyer's as well may not know what to look for but those are some things.

It won't necessarily guarantee that your going to get a great piano but it at least narrows sown the possibility of more common issues.

Of course if you are ever in question feel free to contact a local piano technician and they can certainly look at it for you.

But these are some of the things you can look for by yourself with out having to hire a technician to look at it.