It is usually one of the biggest purchases of someone’s life next to buying a home or an automobile. Acquiring a piano can cost a great deal, not just in cash, but in time and effort. Whereas a building inspector or a mechanic can help with the former, a qualified piano technician can assist with the latter. Of course, a mechanic who works for a dealership may be inclined to be partial to the brand his employer sells. Similarly, an independent piano technician may be in the best position to give an honest opinion.
You may be asking, ‘Do I need a big budget to get a decent piano?’ Not necessarily. There are many fine instruments that can be found with some patience and determination, that won’t ‘break the bank’. Of course, if money is no object, the search will give you more options to choose from. But even then, some players have been disappointed by a brand new ‘high-end’ instrument that had some fundamental flaws. For example, in the mid 1980’s, two large manufacturers had to ‘recall’ their pianos. One had inferior bushing material in their actions. The other had faulty tuning pin blocks. At that time, their pianos ranged in price from about $4,000 to $150,000 respectively.
I usually recommend to my clients that they visit one or two dealerships and also peruse some of the websites where new or used pianos are sold. Don’t write off a used piano because it sounds bad or has a few notes that don’t work or some cosmetic issues like chipped keys or finish damage. These things can help in the bargaining process and may not be that expensive to fix. It’s also important to factor in the cost of a bench if not included and the cost of moving. Sometimes a beautiful piano is hidden beneath the surface of a neglected and under-appreciated instrument. A qualified piano technician can tell if it has ‘good bones’ and estimate any costs of restoration.
There will likely be a service call fee for a technician/tuner to look at a piano. Before he comes, phone to ask for his opinion. Have some basic information about the age, make and model. (The age can be determined by obtaining the serial number and consulting a ‘piano atlas’) Try to be relatively sure of the piano you want, new or used, and then make an appointment for an inspection. It could save you hundreds of dollars. Sadly, some have phoned after purchasing and moving a piano to their home, only to find out the piano could not be economically repaired and they are then stuck with it. Do they take it to the dump? Give it away? Who pays for the moving again?
Like a car or house, buying a piano takes careful thought and some research. Sure you can hear music in your house or car, but you can have the satisfying enjoyment of making music on your new piano.