Tips on Piano Inspection

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Tips on Piano Inspection

Postby juufa72 » Fri Sep 08, 2006 6:30 pm

Hello all,

I create this topic to further my knowledge on the piano. I come to all of you for teachings and words of wisdom. So let me begin:

Obviously, I, being a student, cannot afford a new piano. I would love to buy a nice grand. But that dream will never come true. Therefore, the used piano market is where I will be looking (or starting to look, and save money for).

Could you please give me a checklist, so to speak, of the things I need to look for and notice when inspecting a potential (new for me) used piano?

How should I inspect the physical condition of the visible parts, and those inside the piano? Generally speaking I believe my first real piano will be an upright.

Thank you kindly, I hope this made sense.

-THE juuf

edit: Not only do I do this on my behalf, I believe that having a thread on piano inspection for all members of PS to use is a great thing to have. Even if they are inspecting their own piano. Thanks once again.

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Postby johnmar78 » Mon Sep 11, 2006 2:10 am


Just follow the order as I were you.

1a) play the paino feel the keys make sur eits not too loose .
1) play the piano and check the sound, if out of tune really bad check again

2) check the sound board make sure no cracks--verry iomportant, if so -forget it.

3) open the lid check for the felt on hammers, if there is a heavy identation, its likly worn out. Less marking is better.

4) rust on the strings and mould...

I think this will do the job.

Other wise, just buy the new Chiniense piano, they are quite nice.......


Buying a used piano.

Postby jcfeli » Mon Sep 11, 2006 2:55 am

Hello Juufa,

I agree with johnmar's checklist posted above. Here are some other points to consider:

Good used acoustic grand pianos are difficult to find in piano stores because playable pianos sell first and most stores are left with an excess inventory of unplayable ones. The lesson, here, is if you visit the same piano store twice in a 60-90 day period, AND see the same used pianos still sitting in inventory, you would be well advised to be verrrry cautious about buying someone else's troublesome instrument. Hint: stay away from extremely dusty pianos described by store sales people as "... this trade-in just came in to our store."

Obviously, the best bargains are to be found among the private sales. For the uninitiated used piano buyer, you will NEED to hire a piano tuner/technician to evaluate the used pianos in the private market. You can find a local tuner/specialist NOT affiliated with a given piano store by looking in the yellow pages of your telephone directory.

You will also need a LOT of patience, simply because good private sales do not always take place in the timeframes when you need them. Restated, do not let your money burn a hole in your pocket.

However, the wait can be worthwhile because the same good piano will cost only half as much at a private sale compared to the store. There is a steady demand for good, reasonably priced pianos. Watch the newspaper advertisements for Estate Sales. On a slightly morbid note, read the obituaries and look for those people whose hobbies were music(!), and approach the families to see if they wish to part with a piano.

This means that it is not easy to find bargains at widely accessible sites, such as the internet piano markets, because good pianos sell quickly. Conversely, such sites are excellent places to sell. The best place to find bargains is the classified section of newspapers, especially at large metropolitan areas. Most such advertisements are placed on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

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Postby juufa72 » Mon Sep 11, 2006 1:40 pm

Thank you both for your information. How do I go about inspecting the pedals? Just depress them while playing and see if they work? No noises should be made from the physical action of the parts moving correct? Because I have played on a few pianos at my school at they made noises when i depressed the pedal, something on the line of a "thhhwwwaat" like hitting two pieces of wood together.

-The Juuf


Testing the pedals

Postby jcfeli » Mon Sep 11, 2006 6:06 pm

In the above thread, you asked how one goes about testing the pedals of a presumably used grand. I can help you here; the same ideas hold true for inspecting the trapwork (pedal mechanism) of a new grand piano. Obviously one should be wary of a new or used piano whose pedals feel loose, or squeak (Kawai grands are especially prone to pedal squeaking), or in the case of grands, the pedal lyre is loose and damaged -- moves along with the pedals.

Rightmost pedal (for both grands and uprights):
As you depress the sustain pedal, watch the way the dampers are lifted. Check that they all come up at the same time, that they rise evenly in height from damper to damper. When you release the pedal, check to make sure that some dampers do not remain stuck in the up position, or that some are crooked and are contacting their neighbors.

Listen for groans when you raise the dampers, and listen for thuds when you release the dampers with the sustain pedal. If you have a competent technician at your side, determine whether the problem can be fixed with reasonable cost.

Leftmost pedal (the soft pedal also called the una corda pedal on grands):

On grand pianos, depressing the leftmost pedal shifts the entire action slightly towards the right, causing the hammers to contact only two of the three strings in the treble section of the piano. Check to see whether the pedal operates smoothly, and that the action traverses with an even feel to it. Be wary if either the action binds whilst moving towards the right. And also be wary if the action does not return to its leftmost position upon releasing the U.C. pedal. There is a piece of heat treated metal located inside the right side of the case, adjacent to the action, that pushes the action leftward when the pedal is released.

While test-playing the grand piano using the una corda pedal, ask yourself whether there is a pleasant, musically desirable change in timbre to the sound. If the hammers are worn out, they are probably way too hard, and have such heavy impact-grooves worn into them, that depressing the soft pedal will align the hammers over the strings where the previous grooves were. The upshot is that you might find a very uneven sound that is difficult to control whilst playing softly with the una corda pedal.

The soft pedal of upright pianos is hardly functional at all in my opinion, and only limit the amount of distance the hammers can travel before impacting the strings. There is no change in timbre on upright pianos -- usually on used grands, the hammers are so smashed down, and hard (from total lack of maintenance by the former owner(s) ) that the soft pedal is essentially useless on only but the finest upright pianos (is that an oxymoron?). Restated: hard, smashed-down felt hammers that were never maintained in decades -- contribute to make the piano sound loud and bright, Soft pedals on uprights can not compensate for this lack of maintenance.

To test the operation of the middle pedal on a GOOD grand piano, first hold down the RIGHTMOST PEDAL (to simultaneously raise all of the dampers), then depress the MIDDLE pedal while the dampers are raised, then release the rightmost pedal. There is a mechanism called a "monkey bar" that slips behind only those dampers that are raised prior to depressing the middle pedal.

We are looking to see if the mechanism will hold up each damper. In normal playing, you hit the note you wish to sustain, THEN depress the middle pedal -- ONLY the damper(s) that correspond to the desired held note(s) should remain raised. The trick with using the rightmost pedal is a fast way to check out all of the dampers at once.

On cheaper grand pianos, the middle pedal simultaneously raises all of the lowest strings' dampers for a pseudo sustained effect. This feature costs less to manufacture, and is one of the reasons many so-called baby grand pianos will not satisfy intermediate and high level pianists for very long.

On upright pianos, some have the same cheating system as described for the low end of grands. It is worthless in my opinion. Interestingly, some mass market upright pianos (Yamaha comes to mind) have a piece of felt that gets inserted between the hammers and the strings when you depress the middle pedal. This is sometimes marketed as a practice mode.

The truth about the middle pedal on upright pianos is this: most piano customers outside of Japan believe that a good quality piano must have three pedals instead of only two --EVEN if the third pedal serves no useful function whatsoever. There is a "more is better" attitude about that pedal; as a result, the manufacturers give the unknowing customers what they "think" they want.

Hopefully you have found this information to be helpful.



Posts: 2388
Joined: Thu Jul 13, 2006 1:03 pm
Location: Obamanation, unfortunately...

Postby juufa72 » Tue Sep 12, 2006 10:14 pm

Wow, Mr. Joe! I am impressed with what you just wrote. I thank you very much for taking time and writing a long and detailed post. I will surely try to memorize all of the information while I save up the green for a piano...o.O(Hopefully I can retain knowledge for 10 years or more)O.o :roll:

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