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Are there any tricks to pushing around a stubborn grand piano? Is changing the direction of the wheels simply a question of brute force, or is there some approach I can take that will allow me to be more specific with the piano's movements?

In my situation, I walk into a theory classroom and need to push the piano a bit to clear up some walkways and access to the board; it's just me moving the piano.

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    Not much theory here, but lots of practice needed! +1. – Tim Sep 27 '19 at 19:22
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    I’m rather confused why everyone is making such a big deal out of this. I am a piano student so I have quite some experience with rolling around grands a few meters at a time and although it can be tricky to get the wheels in the right direction, using some kind of arc starting in the direction the wheels are turned usually is all that’s needed (and maybe some back and forth on this arc, like unparking a car from a small spot). I rarely encounter a piano I can’t move and I am as far from being a body builder as a healthy person can get. – 11684 Sep 28 '19 at 9:53
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    If I remember the advice of "Fred" its is "Both of us together, one each end, and steady as we go" – James K Sep 28 '19 at 19:20
  • A comment that someone might wish to incorporate: the large amount of weight on very small points (the wheels) will cause the piano to sink into most types of wood floors. This will make it harder to move, and potentially damage the floor as it moves, which will then make it harder to move over the grooved floor in the future. – Tim Medora Sep 28 '19 at 20:13
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    If wheels are not turning, you should talk to maintenance staff about fixing them so that you can move the piano if / when you need to. – jjmusicnotes Sep 29 '19 at 16:19
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I'd love to get the accepted answer on this one as well… but I doubt I will ;)
You'll need to read the original question's edit history to see why this opening comment was relevant

Unless it's a touring piano with properly strapped legs & large castors, then I'd always weigh brute force against 'survival'.

If it's been sitting there years on teeny castors, it will be stubborn as all heck. If you just shove it from one side you are putting inordinate strain on the legs, which were not really designed for it.

The absolute best method is to use as many strong people as can get round the piano, lift & move in one go… a step at a time if needs be. You don't need to clear the ground - we're not talking circus tricks - you just need to get the bulk of the weight off the castors. You'd be amazed but they will actually go the way you want once lifted 1mm.

There are people who do this for a living… & for a fee. My suggestion is pure DIY.

Late edit: I am aware you should pull it not push it, but which is worth more, the piano or your back?

& after the question edit… if you're on your own, the best you can do is kick the castors into the right direction & hope you don't push a leg off.

  • +1 There are piano lift and rolling devices, so hiring professionals who have access to those or at least looking to rent one seems like an even safer course of action, for both the humans and the piano. “Piano dollys” is what they are called. – Todd Wilcox Sep 27 '19 at 18:16
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    I used to work for a company who had people, who had people, to do this kind of thing. We used to supply Elton John, amongst others. [I think they still do, but I left many years ago] – Tetsujin Sep 27 '19 at 18:22
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    @tetsujin I know Elton is getting on a bit, but is he on castors now? :p – PeteCon Sep 27 '19 at 18:24
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    Quite possibly ;) The song is now Yellow Brick Travellator. – Tetsujin Sep 27 '19 at 18:45
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    Our school piano used pupil-power & creaked like a tea clipper in a gale if moved even 6". That was in the days before "health & safety" had even been invented... Losing a toe - or a pupil or two - wasn't such a big deal in those days ;-) – Tetsujin Sep 28 '19 at 15:10
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I don't think you should ever push a grand piano - you should always, if you can, pull it.

You need to lift it, or at least take as much weight off the leading leg, as much as possible and then try to pull it toward you. Once its moving (i.e. the castors are rolling) it should be much easier to manage (I can't explain that but it has always been my experience).

If as you say you are in a classroom, and if the students are not small children, why not get some of them to assist you? Perhaps that is against the rules but you see what I mean I am sure.

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    Friction diminishes when the two objects are moving; that's why twisting a cork helps to pull it out of a bottle. It also means that once the piano is moving, you'll find it easier to keep it going or change direction. – Your Uncle Bob Sep 27 '19 at 22:10
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    Static friction is much more potent than sliding friction, and if there are wheels, this is even more true. – user45266 Sep 28 '19 at 2:03
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    For my own safety, I never pull something heavy enough to kill me towards myself. – Todd Wilcox Sep 28 '19 at 14:35
  • The initial move of anything on casters (in a direction which it was not previously moving) is harder than moving in the same direction it was previously, because the casters have to rotate to be oriented in the direction of movement. Once they are oriented in the correct direction, then the wheels should turn easily. Prior to orientation in the direction of movement, there is time where the wheels are sliding along the floor/ground without rotating, or not rotating for the entire movement. Thus, it's often easier to begin the movement in the same direction it last was and make a wider turn. – Makyen Sep 29 '19 at 16:39
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A grand piano should be rolled keys first. Look at how the legs are attached. The "nose" leg is attached perpendicularly to the other 2. So when applying the initial starting force if at all possible you should push the piano like you are trying to run over the player, in that direction.

Bonus tip: When you get your piano into its playing position, give the beast a roll up or downstage and then back into position. The goal here is to align the wheels perpendicular to the direction of force applied by the player. Especially useful for very enthusiastic players.

Bonus bonus tip: If your wheels don't have locks, you can take a piece of tie line (1/8" sash cord) and wrap it tightly around the wheel where the wheel meets the floor. This acts as a low profile chock and will keep it from rolling on a very hard surface. Don't forget to remove this before you try and move the piano next.

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I assume that you are at a school if you are teaching theory in a classroom? Ask the school to buy a frame with wheels that the piano can sit on. This is what the pianos on stage are set on so that constantly moving it on/off/around stage can be done easily by stage hands and does not damage the piano or knock it out of tune too much. Remind them that if you have to move the piano yourself they could be liable for a damaged piano or paying workers comp or facing a lawsuit if you or a student who helps you gets hurt.

  • This is a good idea, if you can convince the bursar to shell out money. – Tim Sep 29 '19 at 15:10
  • I think the risk of being responsible if someone gets hurt might convince... – Heather S. Sep 29 '19 at 16:57
  • You'd hope so. It may well depend where in the world it could be. In U.K., they'd probably say 'can't afford it - so don't touch that piano!'. What state is it in? Everybody knows what state U.K. is in right now..! – Tim Sep 29 '19 at 17:20
  • I, too, had the thought that location would have a factor in this. – Heather S. Sep 29 '19 at 17:50
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The question is not stupid and knowing what you do can save a lot of problems.

  1. Pianos tend to go out of tune when moved. It depends on how good the piano is, how much you move it and how out of level is the old and the new place. Few careful meters are almost always OK, but be prepared.

  2. The most delicate way, if you are alone and strong enough, is to lift two legs at a time (this requires lifting ~1/2 of the weight) and make an arc around the third leg. Few carefully planned arcs will get you there. You may find it easier if you turn your back to the piano.

  3. The legs near to the keyboard are most loaded. If you lift them, the third one might (or might not) agree to roll as intended.

  4. If at all possible, get at least one person to help. You will save a lot of risks for both you and the piano. Think about, for example, one leg and/or wheel actually broken and kept in its place only by the weight of the piano.

  5. If you are a piano player yourself, it pays to look carefully at where you put your hands on, under the piano, before trying to lift it. Carpentry is usually less furnished at sides rarelly looked at and you may end up with some wooden particles in your fingers. Even a single paper sheet can be a good protective measure. It will also save from a hand marks on the piano surface.

Good luck.

p.s. I wonder why they put such a useless small wheels on these beasts, knowing that no one will put them on a polished concrete.

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    On carpet, or lino, or even wood, that's putting all the weight onto one castor. Won't do any surface any good, and puts a lot of strain on that one leg. – Tim Sep 29 '19 at 14:59
  • Not really. You don't want or need to lift the mass center exactly above the third support point (and if you can, you would not ask the question in the first place). You lift less than a centimeter and it is you that bear the weight instead of the lifted legs. – fraxinus Sep 29 '19 at 18:00
  • p.s. it is the side load that the piano legs are not good at. So if the wheels refuse to roll, you don't force them. – fraxinus Sep 29 '19 at 18:04
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I am using a 3-wheel dolly similar to the above (rated at 300 lbs per dolly) to move a baby grand about 50 feet across a level room. One dolly fits under each leg which distributes 1/3 of the original weight of each leg among 3 castors (instead of one). To get the dolly under the leg, I was able to raise the leg about 3/4 inch using a block and prybar and slip the 3-wheel dolly under the leg. The piano has been lifted about 1 inch overall due to the concave mid-section of the dolly, and the weight/wheel (9 wheels) is less than 80 lbs per wheel (240 lbs per dolly). Aligning the wheels prior to moving helps as well. These dollies sell for around $20 each by the way, or you may be able to rent them.

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Not a job recommended single-handed, however strong you are - or think you are!

It's essentially a three man task, and I recommend two pushing, one pulling. The latter using a strap around the top of the leading leg, to slightly unweight it, and put stress away from the otherwise fulcrum point which would be at the bottom of the leg, where it's likely to jam on the floor surface.

Another option - but dependant on the piano owner - is to change the wheels for some far better ones, which may in turn save the floor surface somewhat, and certainly revolve better than the existing castors. A far more useful change for everyone in the future!

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Notice: I have no personal experience with pianos that are used in even a half-professional setting.

Could you just raise it enough and slip some Three wheel Dollys under and move it? If it's not too far I'd think it would work.

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Edit: if this is a bad idea for such pianos/moving, I'd like to learn why. The biggest issue I see is lifting one leg at a time would put excess weight on the others and that's probably the crux of why it's not a good idea?

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    Given that three of these would support around 400lbs together, and a baby grand is about 500lbs - concert grand double that! - and the fact that the piano would then be a couple of inches higher, it's not good. The idea is, but not in practice. – Tim Sep 28 '19 at 7:14
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I sometimes will get on my hands and knees beneath the keyboard and lift it with my back. This is not advisable if you are not in good shape. From here you can either put wheels or furniture sliders under each leg and make sliding or rolling it about much easier. I have seen many pianos damaged from being pushed about on its native wheels which are pretty much worthless.

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