9 Reasons NOT to buy that cheap or free piano online!
Never agree to buy a piano that is being offered cheap or free online. Take a huge step back, engage your brain (ignore your heart) and keep reading and you will soon be an expert in avoiding dreadful pianos.
Here are 9 reasons why you should probably walk away from that cheap or free piano you’ve seen online.
1. IT’S A BIG STINKY BROKEN HUNK OF JUNK
If you’ve found a piano that is big, old, brown and cheap (or free) it is probably a massive hunk of junk that smells like an old sofa and doesn’t work. You should walk away and read the rest of this article.
2. IT’S AN OVER-DAMPED PIANO
Typical asking price £0-£200. Over-damped pianos are the worst of the worst and there are hundreds of them being offer for sale (or free) online. Lift the top lid of the piano and if you see a long piece of wood just like in the photo below then you know it’s over-damped and you should close the lid and walk away.
The best pianos are “under-damped” which do not have that long plank of wood above the hammers. A £100 electric keyboard is usually a better choice than most over-damped pianos.
3. IT’S A STRAIGHT-STRUNG PIANOTypical asking price £0-£200. A good quality piano should have strings that cross over themselves. If you find a straight-strung piano you should walk away. Here is how to spot the difference.
If all of the strings inside the piano run parallel to each other then you have found a straight-strung piano and you should walk away.
If the strings cross over each other then you’ve found a cross-strung piano and this is much better than straight-strung. This photo shows an over-strung piano (good) that is also under-damped (also good).
A £100 electric keyboard is better than most straight-strung pianos.
4. IT ONLY HAS 85 KEYS
A quick way to know if a piano might be rubbish is to find out how many keys it has. 88 keys is the full-size standard design of a modern piano. If you find a piano with 85 keys, put the brakes on and proceed with caution.
5. IT STINKS!
Many pianos in this price range are disgusting, dusty, musty, mouldy, filthy, mouth-eaten bangers. They will make your entire house (and all of your clothes) smell like an old sofa and they can trigger eczema or respiration flare-ups (they give me itchy eye lids). A cheap electric keyboard is much better than an old stink-bomb piano.
6. IT HAS DODGY KEYS
You must play every single key a few times and check if any of them get stuck down or if any of the keys make unexpected sounds. Play each key one a time. Does it sound honky tonk (howling out of tune)? If any keys feel or sound a bit wonky you must walk away. If you think it could be a brilliant piano with minor issues you should definitely hire a piano technician to inspect it for you. Don’t impulse-buy it a piano!
7. IT “NEEDS TUNING”
If the seller says “it needs tuning” or “needs some TLC” or “some notes need attention”, please let me translate that for you. What they are really saying is “this piano needs breaking up into small pieces and putting in a skip.” A cheap electric keyboard is much better than a broken acoustic piano.
8. IT’S A TINY PIANO
Tiny pianos can be tempting but they almost always have a rubbish action and terrible tone. They can be a good choice if you just want a nice conversation piece in your home but you shouldn’t expect a young student to learn to play on one. Here are some of the common tiny pianos you might see offered for £200-£800 online.
Tempting because they can look quite cute but they are not up to standard, musically.
Eavestaff minipiano minipianette
This photo is my own Eavestaff from my living room back in 2006. It was a nice conversation piece but not a nice piano. Cute but dreadful. Just leave it.
Nice cars. Terrible pianos. Walk away.
These often look cool with funky veneer but they are not great to play. If you want something nice to look at, fine get one. If you want something nice to play on, turn around, walk away.
If you have £200-£800 to spend on a piano you would be much better off getting a used digital piano than any of the pianos listed above. Please see our digital pianos vs acoustic pianos article for advice on which models to buy.
9. IT’S A MODERN COMPACT PIANO
These are typically priced between £500-£2000 and it is this price range where you are most at risk of losing a serious amount of money. Many compact pianos have the full 88 keys, they look good and they don’t take up as much visual space in a room as a full-sized upright piano. However, most of them are not worth the asking price and some of them are a complete liability that will give you nothing but pain and regret.
Compact pianos are frequently described as “excellent condition” and “only 10 years old” or “little used”. The reason they are “little used” is because they are usually zero fun to play.
Manufacturers know that people buy these type of pianos because of their small size and good looks and so they put most of their focus on the cosmetic side of things instead of concentrating on making a good musical instrument. Compact pianos usually look a bit like this:
So be careful. If you see a small piano that looks great and costs anywhere from £500-£2000+ it could be dreadful. Do not buy it without hiring a piano technician to inspect it for you. Remember, a piano is usually something you keep for many years. Don’t rush the buying process or you may have years of regret ahead of you.
The good news is that if you have a budget of £500-£2000+ then you can very easily get a high-end digital piano instead. Please ready my article: digital pianos vs acoustic pianos article
HOW TO AVOID BUYING A BAD PIANO
Never agree to buy any piano until you have done AT LEAST TWO of the following
- Hire a piano technician to inspect the piano for you
- Visit the piano in person
- Listen down the phone to the piano being played
- Play every single key several times
WHAT TO BUY INSTEAD?
If you have less than £3000 to spend you should PROBABLY buy an electric keyboard or digital piano instead (we don’t sell digital pianos but they are usually much better than most pianos found for sale cheap online). Please read my very comprehensive digital pianos vs acoustic pianos article.
Please just ask
Mark & Julie Goodwin