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I'm aware that when moving a piano, especially a good one, care must be taken and using a proper mover is strongly recommended. But what is actually involved in moving a piano (other than lifting the thing up and making sure it can't slide around)? What makes it tricky and what damage can occur if it's not done properly?

As a side question, what counts as "moving" a piano? My neighbours have moved theirs from one wall to another in the past and I'm sure you sometimes see pianos wheeled onto stages so is literally any motion a problem or would sliding it be OK - for instance on a slippery laminate floor?

In my case, I am looking at collecting a 2nd hand piano (assuming it's OK), nothing fancy just a regular upright which has been well used but well cared for (by a music teacher). It's not expensive and I wonder if I should still get a professional - I'm not sure if anything needs doing to it before it can be transported.

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Not only are pianos heavier than you probably think - but also the weight distribution is uneven. They are difficult objects to move safely.

This is what professionals do:

The piano is transported to the truck using a dolly - that is a flat trolley with big strong castors. For a grand piano, the legs get removed and the piano is balanced on its side. Uprights are generally moved whole -- weakling amateurs might remove panels to make the piano lighter.

The piano is secured to the dolly with a locking strap, and a second strap known as a "hump strap" is used to pull, lift and steer from the front. Sometimes a "skid board" is used to protect the bottom of the piano from the ground.

Professional movers have rehearsed techniques for lifting the piano on and off the dolly, balancing it properly, and negotiating one or two steps. For longer flights of stairs, the piano is taken off the dolly, and lifted down.

For transportation in the truck, the piano is taken off the dolly, wrapped in padding, and strapped firmly to the side of the truck -- removals trucks have fixtures in their walls, for straps. The front of an upright goes against the truck wall. The top of a grand goes against the wall. That is because against the wall is the most protected area -- if something else goes flying inside the truck, it's more likely to scratch the back of the upright or the bottom of the grand.

As you can see, professionals take advantage of professional equipment -- a dolly made for the purpose; a truck specially equipped for furniture removals. Improvising with other equipment is very risky - you don't want to wind up under a piano.

Source: http://www.learntomove.com/piano-moving-basics.php -- I was surprised to find no mention of fixing/strapping the interior parts to prevent movement.

  • Interesting. I've seen a dolly before when we helped a friend collect a free piano years ago - we rented a van with a lifting platform at the back. It sounds like for an upright piano of no particular value, it can be moved easily enough myself as long as access isn't a problem. – Mr. Boy Jan 14 '15 at 10:54
  • Well, follow that link, and follow the link there that says "Piano Moving Warnings". Having read that, I wouldn't move a piano myself. – slim Jan 14 '15 at 10:55
  • If there is more than one step involved I agree with you, I need to check this out before deciding. I belirve it is flat at both ends. – Mr. Boy Jan 14 '15 at 11:01
  • In addition to the legs they remove the pedals, the lid, the music stand, and some internal components. Each piece is carefully wrapped in padding and secured with tape. – jjmusicnotes Jan 14 '15 at 13:06
  • The one thing I'd add to that writeup is that for exterior stairs use a ramp. Either rent one along with the moving truck; or use a pair of 2x10 or 2x12 boards (one for the left set of wheels one for the right set). It's much easier than trying to lift and carry something heavy up/down a flight of stairs. (Source: I spent a summer working for a household moving company and have helped move several upright pianos and organs in/out of my parents house.) – Dan Neely Jan 14 '15 at 14:41
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I assume you are talking about a grand piano.

It is possible to snap the legs off when pushing it, if a caster gets stuck. It is rare that it happens, but you definitely want to make sure it NEVER happens to an instrument that weighs 300 pounds and costs $10,000 (or $100,000).

When professional movers move a piano from one side of a room to another, three of them pick it up an inch or so off the floor, carry it and place it down. These are very strong people, obviously. Six is a good number if it's just you and your friends, but be careful!

Stage pianos have special extra-large casters that if maintained well are safe for rolling the piano. If your piano has been sitting in one spot for years, it's likely that the casters have seized up. DON'T try to push it.

To move a piano from one house to another you need to cover it with a well-fitted blanket. The pedal lyre and the legs come off and it goes onto a dolly resting on its left side. Don't try this yourself if you haven't been shown exactly how to do it.

  • Actually, I meant a regular upright piano but your answer is very interesting so I'm glad it's there. I updated my question, sorry for the confusion. – Mr. Boy Jan 14 '15 at 8:05
  • Stage pianos often have additional strengthening to the legs too, & sometimes full cross-strutting or a trolley frame like sheargoldmusic.co.uk/grand-piano-a-frame – Tetsujin Jan 15 '15 at 9:22
  • What damage can you do moving an upright piano? The answer is simple: you can do a lot of damage to your floor! – Mark Lutton Jan 17 '15 at 3:08
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Typically some parts are dismounted from a piano before transporting it (at least as soon as stairs are involved) to reduce the weight of the main chunk such as the front board below the keys. You may omit this if you are prepared to find new voluntaries for the next piano move, especially for older taller models. In any case afterwards a re-tuning is required.

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