A friend is looking to get rid of a piano and I think I'd like to take it for my house when friends, who can play, come over. Personally, I don't play it but may take lessons in the future. It would also look nice in my sortof retro-avantgarde designed house.

However, this friend lives about four hours away and, while I do have a truck of my own to transport it, would not like to undertake the effort just to find out when I bring a tuner over, that it is a piece of trash. The friend lives in a very rural area where it would be difficult to find or bring an expert to evaluate the piano.

Is there a set of guidelines that I, as a complete outsider, can follow to evaluate the repairability/restorability of this piano. Here is a picture, if it helps any. enter image description here

  • Could you get your friend (if he plays piano) to record playing every key, with/without pedals, and playing some piece - and upload this for us to listen to? Seeing experts' analysis of this could be really interesting as well as helpful to you.
    – Mr. Boy
    Jan 13, 2015 at 10:15
  • 1
    As another thought, even in the USA (I'm guessing) 8 hours' gas for a truck can't be a trivial cost and you might be able to just buy a 2nd-hand piano locally!
    – Mr. Boy
    Jan 13, 2015 at 10:17

3 Answers 3


I'm no piano expert, but I'll get the ball rolling with some obvious things to check:

  • does every key make a sound when it is pressed? In other words, does every key cause a hammer to strike a string?
  • does every key return to the height it started at after being played?
  • does every note stop ringing after the key is released? If not, some of the dampers are broken (my first piano cost £150 and had been in somebody's garage for a long time - it had a Bb with a broken damper, which drove me crazy!)

Beyond these, other obvious things to check would be: that the tone is reasonably consistent across each part of the range (i.e. notes near each other have a similar tone); check that the damper and soft pedals are working correctly.

I'm sure pianists and piano technicians will post far more specific advice...


To add to Bob's good answer - three main things which can make a piano worth keeping: if the frame (harp) is wooden, then the pins are likely, on an old piano, to be loose, so when it's tuned (up, usually), it won't keep pitch. The frame needs to be iron. Heavier, yes but firmer and stronger, too. If the strings are vertical, it will be o.k., but with an overstrung piano, the strings are longer, giving a better tone. Thirdly, look inside, and find out if the strings are underdamped. This means that the dampers are found under the hammers. It's a better system, mechanically.

Woodworm may be a consideration, if it's lived in a rural setting for a long time- you don't want an infestation carried to your own home! And it's pretty good at wrecking pianos!

I have several friends who have old pianos 'for decoration', but for much the same effort, and maybe a bit more cash, they could have an instrument that could give pleasure to the ear as well as the eye.

It will probably be out of tune now, but if the move goes ahead, will need tuning anyway after maybe a month to let it settle in to the new humidity, temperature, etc.

If not, then it provides for a few fires - I found one in the last house I bought - as described above. Wasn't going to waste it! And the pedals now work the doorbell!

EDIT - it looks from the picture, like it is a three pedal piano. This usually means it's a more expensive model.

  • I wouldn't say a wooden frame is an absolute no-go. It's less good, which should be reflected in the price. But a wooden frame will stay in tune unless it's loose/dry/rotten.
    – slim
    Jan 13, 2015 at 10:00
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    @slim - given a choice, I know which way I'd go... Iron frames are, well, cast iron.
    – Tim
    Jan 13, 2015 at 10:15
  • if it's a choice between wood or iron at the same price, go for iron. If the prices are different -- well, it depends on the price and how much money you can spare.
    – slim
    Jan 13, 2015 at 10:24
  • @slim - this one looks like a freebee, apart from a truckload of gas.
    – Tim
    Jan 13, 2015 at 10:44
  • +1 Good points about the frame - everything else can be restored, at a price. But a busted frame means the piano has had it, right? @Tim, how could you tell if the frame is no good...? Jan 13, 2015 at 11:06

If you really want to know, get an appraisal from a professional. Find a qualified piano tuner/piano technician in the area where the piano is, and pay that person for a house call and for their basic one-hour charge to tune a piano. The technician can examine the piano and tell you how much work and how much money will be required to bring it up to playable condition. I think you would expect to pay between US $75 and $150 for this service.

A professional tuner could also give you advice about finding a buyer should you decide that the piano would require extensive restoration and is not worth your trouble to keep it. There are tuners and technicians who are in the business of buying old pianos, refurbishing them, and reselling them.

  • "The friend lives in a very rural area where it would be difficult to find or bring an expert to evaluate the piano."
    – amphibient
    Jan 13, 2015 at 17:05
  • You never know, probably rural piano tuners are used to visiting rural destinations. It's still worth enquiring... maybe the "local" church or school has a piano and could tell you who they use.
    – Mr. Boy
    Jan 13, 2015 at 17:09

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