Alan Forman, a local piano tuner and technician, has been kind enough to give some advice about buying a piano.

You can get good used pianos from piano shops or through tuners. I personally recommend:

Josef’s Pianos at Rothwell
Vale Pianos near Worcester
Broughton Pianos, Belbroughton

These all stock reconditioned and brand new pianos across the whole range. You will of course get a guarantee, transport costs and a first tuning visit included in the purchase price.

You may find a basic starter instrument for sale privately from £100 upwards, but please take advice from an experienced pianist, piano tuner or teacher. Even if it is a cheap instrument it can easily cost a lot more to make it playable.

  • Ensure that all keys play easily, with not too much pressure. If you need to exert great pressure this indicates a very worn action or keys.
  • Keys should be fairly level, if not the key-felts need replacing.
  • Check that the hammer faces are not very badly grooved where they strike the strings. In most cases these grooves can be removed by taking out the hammers and sanding them down to new felt by your tuner. Also, that the hammers do not wobble from side-to-side when played, this indicates a heavily worn piano.
  • The keys should feel the same, try playing very slow and very fast to check the action is even.
  • Check for rattles and buzzes.
  • The strings should be inspected for corrosion. If present, this may cause strings to break when tuned.
  • Examine the inside woodwork as far as possible, looking for splits in the tuning plank, soundboard and bridges.
  • Remember, generally the bigger the piano (and hence, it’s soundboard and frame) the better the tone.
  • Check that pedals return promptly when depressed and function correctly.
  • Make sure moth damage is not evident in the hammers and any visible felt.
  • You can judge a piano best if it’s properly tuned. If a piano is too low over the whole range, it may not sound out of tune – until you want to play with other instruments. It can be expensive to raise the piano’s pitch to “ standard concert pitch” of C=523Hz.
  • If you notice the dampers operate above the hammers, this is an “overdamper” action and is probably between 60 and 100 years old.
  • Try to buy an overstrung piano (in which the bass strings run diagonally across) rather than the older straight-strung instrument where the all strings will run vertically.

The age of a piano can be determined from its serial number printed inside the case usually. This has to be cross-referenced to a Piano Atlas by a tuner or dealer. Alternatively, most details can now be obtained on the internet.

Also, I thoroughly recommend the book Rough Guide to the Piano. It is available from Amazon.

For more information (and forums) about the piano look at:

For advice, tuning and repairs contact Alan Forman.
01675 464335
0771 263 0438

Tuning prices currently from £49.00 locally.

Last updated June 2014.