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#2008674 - 01/03/13 06:22 PM Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for?
PianoWarrior Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/03/13
Posts: 14
New to this forum, and finally considering purchasing a piano for myself now that I'm an "adult" and have my own house. It's been many years since I've seriously played and I was fortunate/unfortunate (depending how you look at it :p) to learn and play for a long time on a nice steinway L. I'm going to try to get back into playing (primarily classical) but some jazz and newer stuff as well. That's my backstory..

A new U1 around here seems to be $7k, and it seems like I can get more for my money for a good condition used one. I stopped by the local Jordan Kitts to try some new yamahas and it's no surprise I like the U3.. of course new those are it seems another couple thousand. The T series is affordable but it's clearly not as nice as the U1, again no surprise since it's cheaper. So, at this point I think I have it narrowed down to a used U series.

The pianos I'm considering at this time are largely Yamaha U series uprights. I'm close to a pretty large used piano dealer being just outside of DC, so I will be paying them a visit, but I'm wondering if there would be any concerns to buying an older used U series. It seems like many of these used pianos are gray market these days, but is there really nothing to worry about because of the warranties the companies offer? Personally, I don't want to have to ever rely on a warranty, and especially after the warranty period, I don't want to have to be worried that the piano is going to fall apart (obviously not literally). What's the lifespan on a U series before it needs serious reworking/rebuilding?

I came across a person selling a late 90's model U1 that I will take a look at as well obviously w/o a warranty. Assuming it hasn't been heavily used and everything looks good (I hope it's not too bright), it seems like a 15 yr old piano would be much more preferable to a 35-40 yr old piano, right?

Finally, I've read that the action is different on uprights compared to a grand. Is there really a big difference in action between a good upright and grand? Doing some reading on this forum I've read people say that an upright can "hold people back" after a certain point.. Yes they definitely feel a little different, but still seem good to me..?

If anyone has any thoughts or input I'm all ears. Thanks.

Edit: I'm limited to an upright due to space constraints and a "modernish" looking cabinet, so preferably a black piano.


Edited by PianoWarrior (01/03/13 11:28 PM)

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#2008710 - 01/03/13 08:20 PM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: PianoWarrior]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12075
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
I wouldn't limit myself to Yamaha. They are great pianos overall, but you are also going to pay for the name. Have you tried other makes?
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2008750 - 01/03/13 09:48 PM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: PianoWarrior]
PianoWarrior Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/03/13
Posts: 14
I havent considered any others because the one stipulation is that the piano has to be black and semi contemporary looking. It seems like there are many black yamahas. Im open to suggestions but the wife wants a black one. Thanks.

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#2008775 - 01/03/13 11:02 PM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: PianoWarrior]
RealPlayer Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/02/03
Posts: 2342
Loc: NYC
I wouldn't limit myself to Yamaha. If "black" is the main reason, aren't there plenty of other black pianos? Are you looking at verticals because of price limitations, space limitations, or ...? Your Steinway L memory caused me to wonder.

If I were you and could afford a decent grand, I'd find a way to get one.
_________________________
Joe

www.josephkubera.com

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#2008782 - 01/03/13 11:25 PM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: PianoWarrior]
PianoWarrior Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/03/13
Posts: 14
Sorry I forgot to specify that I'm looking at an upright because of space limitations. I'm in a townhouse and don't have the space to devote to a grand. I plan to eventually own a grand again one day (and hopefully a steinway), but that's a good ways away from now realistically. I briefly looked at steinway uprights, but for the money I don't think they're worth it, especially if I don't plan on keeping it forever.

If there are other brands that anyone recommends I'm open to suggestions. My reason for the Yamaha is the reason why they tend to be popular/more sought after.. they're reasonably priced, are overall good quality, and have a good reputation. My feeling is that if I want a very good piano, I should just get a grand piano, but that isn't an option now, so I'll stick with a good upright.

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#2008786 - 01/03/13 11:29 PM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: PianoWarrior]
Rickster Offline


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8572
Loc: Georgia, USA
Sounds to me like you've pretty much got your mind made up already... and, it's not a bad choice either. smile

Good luck!

Rick
_________________________
Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#2008788 - 01/03/13 11:35 PM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: PianoWarrior]
PianoWarrior Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/03/13
Posts: 14
I guess my biggest question that perhaps slipped under the radar is what is preferable.. a much newer piano that probably wasn't heavily used (15 yrs old) vs. a good condition 35-40yr old piano w/ a 10 yr warranty.. Assuming the price is very similar..

My biggest concern is buying a piano that needs fixing/messing with within the 10yr warranty and especially after the 10yr warranty. Are problems likely to crop up or will the piano need a rebuilding after a certain amount of time/wear? I'm leaning towards the newer one, especially if I can get it a few hundred dollars cheaper..

I know my mother's L still plays wonderfully being just over 20 yrs old, but it could probably use some "regulating" (not sure if that's the right word) because a few notes' action are a little off, but nothing big.


Edited by PianoWarrior (01/03/13 11:37 PM)

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#2008791 - 01/03/13 11:48 PM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: PianoWarrior]
Rickster Offline


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8572
Loc: Georgia, USA
Originally Posted By: PianoWarrior
I guess my biggest question that perhaps slipped under the radar is what is preferable.. a much newer piano that probably wasn't heavily used (15 yrs old) vs. a good condition 35-40yr old piano w/ a 10 yr warranty.. Assuming the price is very similar..

My biggest concern is buying a piano that needs fixing/messing with within the 10yr warranty and especially after the 10yr warranty. Are problems likely to crop up or will the piano need a rebuilding after a certain amount of time/wear? I'm leaning towards the newer one, especially if I can get it a few hundred dollars cheaper..

I know my mother's L still plays wonderfully being just over 20 yrs old, but it could probably use some "regulating" (not sure if that's the right word) because a few notes' action are a little off, but nothing big.

As much as I like old pianos (or most any piano smile ) I’ve come to the conclusion that newer is most always better, though there are exceptions.

And, I wouldn’t want to make any of the dealers here mad at me, but I don’t put much stock in a dealer warranty. It can be a big hassle to get some dealers to honor the warranty, and if the piano is in good condition to start with, the likelihood of a major problem is slim to none.
Good luck.

Rick
_________________________
Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#2008880 - 01/04/13 08:14 AM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: PianoWarrior]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12075
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Kawais are very good (and come in black). There's also Essex by Steinway since you're partial to Steinways, but you do pay for it. I have also heard some very good things about Hailun uprights - it's a relatively little-known name in the States (made in China), but they've been highly rated. I am curious to try one and see if I like it for my studio.

Yamahas are great pianos like I said, but don't be afraid to try others. And since you're looking at used, be sure to just play it and see if you like the feel and sound. If so, have a technician check it out before purchasing, even if you buy from a dealer. It's worth the peace of mind.


Edited by Morodiene (01/04/13 08:14 AM)
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2008886 - 01/04/13 08:35 AM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: PianoWarrior]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
I don't know if you are anywhere near Philadelphia, but the Cunningham would be worth considering.

Also, I prefer the Bostons to the Kawai verticals, and like either of them more than Essex. Buying a new Boston would put you on the road to an S&S-O with the trade-up policy.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2008904 - 01/04/13 09:42 AM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: PianoWarrior]
PianoWarrior Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/03/13
Posts: 14
Ok thanks for the suggestions guys, I'll definitely try out some Kawais. I thought I did play a couple some time ago and preferred the Yamaha, but can't remember why. I'll have to play a few for a true comparison back to back. My concern with something like Essex is the increased cost, and there don't seem to be too many of them, although I'm certainly open to try one if there's one around. I'm a few hours from Philly, and never heard of Cunningham. If there's one around here locally I'll definitely give it a try though.

I'm no label whore, so whatever plays/sounds best to me and is a good piano is what I'll purchase. It just seems like Yamaha is the "easy" pick since it's very popular/common, and they're good pianos.

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#2008906 - 01/04/13 09:46 AM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: PianoWarrior]
PianoWarrior Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/03/13
Posts: 14
Rickster,

Thanks, that's kind of what I figured, but a 2nd opinion definitely helps. I've played piano alot, but playing and purchasing a good one are two entirely different things.

Regarding warranties I largely feel the same way. If you get a good piano, especially one of relatively young age, a warranty is probably unnecessary. If you get a piano that's older, some things could fall under the "wear" clause vs. warranty clause, and you're left footing the bill regardless. Thanks for your input!

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#2008909 - 01/04/13 09:53 AM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: PianoWarrior]
Plowboy Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/26/08
Posts: 2341
Loc: SoCal
Give the Essex a try. For their size, they have a bit better bass than the Kawais. The Kawai does have the better action. From my experience, having owned one of each, they are pretty much equivalent. They are certainly two different instruments with their own pluses and minuses. Both are very stable in holding a tune. Not sure why Larry Fine places the Essex so much lower in his ratings.
_________________________
Gary

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#2008913 - 01/04/13 10:04 AM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: PianoWarrior]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
Have you checked out Craigslist? It will give you an idea of what is in your area and the price ranges.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

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#2008914 - 01/04/13 10:14 AM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: Plowboy]
Furtwangler Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 1536
Loc: Danville, California
Originally Posted By: Plowboy
Give the Essex a try. For their size, they have a bit better bass than the Kawais. The Kawai does have the better action. From my experience, having owned one of each, they are pretty much equivalent. They are certainly two different instruments with their own pluses and minuses. Both are very stable in holding a tune. Not sure why Larry Fine places the Essex so much lower in his ratings.


3 guesses - and the first 2 don't count.

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#2008918 - 01/04/13 10:26 AM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: PianoWarrior]
PianoWarrior Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/03/13
Posts: 14
I checked craigslist but the majority of pianos on there are cheaper uprights/spinets and grand pianos. My one requirement is it has to be a larger upright. The sound difference is huge and the action is noticeably better on the better/larger uprights. I first started out playing on a baldwin spinet, and while it was a great little piano, I've definitely outgrown them. I am frequently checking craigslist though in case anything pops up.

I think I have my mind narrowed down to a certain subset of pianos.. just need to find one now. smile



Edited by PianoWarrior (01/04/13 10:27 AM)

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#2008941 - 01/04/13 12:00 PM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: Furtwangler]
Plowboy Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/26/08
Posts: 2341
Loc: SoCal
Originally Posted By: Furtwangler

3 guesses - and the first 2 don't count.


Essex doesn't buy an advertisement in Piano Buyer?

I've got one of those weird LA lives, so have two pianos. The Essex EUP-111 lives in Sierra Madre, the Kawai K-2 lived in Huntington Beach for three years.

Both have their good days and bad days. Sometimes I'd be frustrated with the tone or action of one or the other. The majority of the time I was happy with both of them. Both have strengths and weaknesses. Both are good pianos.

I didn't think the Essex overpriced, BTW. Maybe I got a good deal.

I would give a slight edge to the Kawai, but really not sure why the big difference in ratings by Fine.
_________________________
Gary

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#2009063 - 01/04/13 05:19 PM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: PianoWarrior]
PianoWarrior Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/03/13
Posts: 14
Took a look at the local U1 sold privately and while it's a good piano in seemingly very good condition, the action felt a little light and the sound was a little bright for my taste.. damn.. I guess I'll go take a look at the local used dealer tomorrow. I've played a couple U3's now, a new one and gray market one, and both had a warmer/deeper tone which is more to my liking (compared to the U1). I'm afraid if I "settle" for a U1 I'll be kicking myself later on wishing I had gotten a U3.. frown


Edited by PianoWarrior (01/04/13 05:24 PM)

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#2009073 - 01/04/13 06:00 PM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: PianoWarrior]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12075
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: PianoWarrior
Took a look at the local U1 sold privately and while it's a good piano in seemingly very good condition, the action felt a little light and the sound was a little bright for my taste.. damn.. I guess I'll go take a look at the local used dealer tomorrow. I've played a couple U3's now, a new one and gray market one, and both had a warmer/deeper tone which is more to my liking (compared to the U1). I'm afraid if I "settle" for a U1 I'll be kicking myself later on wishing I had gotten a U3.. frown


Then please don't "kick" yourself for getting a grey market piano. I did without realizing that even existed, just thought I was getting a good deal. Had I known what grey market was, I would not have bought it.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2009092 - 01/04/13 06:28 PM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: PianoWarrior]
PianoWarrior Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/03/13
Posts: 14
Morodiene,

Is there a reason why you wouldn't have bought it? Did you have problems? Many dealers seem to offer warranties on them, but I'm a little hesitant regardless..

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#2009099 - 01/04/13 06:54 PM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: PianoWarrior]
backto_study_piano Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 01/28/10
Posts: 460
Loc: Australia
Most important - if buying used, have it checked by a good technician. A lot of U1s were institution pianos (at least here), and sold off after only a couple of years - of hard work.

Essex - my playing a few years ago left me wondering why Steinway would blot it's name by associating with such a poor piano. The Boston was reasonable - probably an equivalent to Yamaha/Kawai, but with a premium price.
_________________________
Alan from Australia (and Clara - my Grotrian Concert - she's 7'4" long and ebony) & 2 Allen Organs [long story - the first is for sale] - MDS312 and CF-15.

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#2009106 - 01/04/13 07:06 PM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: Morodiene]
ando Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3620
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Originally Posted By: PianoWarrior
Took a look at the local U1 sold privately and while it's a good piano in seemingly very good condition, the action felt a little light and the sound was a little bright for my taste.. damn.. I guess I'll go take a look at the local used dealer tomorrow. I've played a couple U3's now, a new one and gray market one, and both had a warmer/deeper tone which is more to my liking (compared to the U1). I'm afraid if I "settle" for a U1 I'll be kicking myself later on wishing I had gotten a U3.. frown


Then please don't "kick" yourself for getting a grey market piano. I did without realizing that even existed, just thought I was getting a good deal. Had I known what grey market was, I would not have bought it.


I've got a grey market U3. I suspected it before I bought it. It honestly makes no difference AT ALL! As long as you get it checked out, there really is no difference where it lived some of it's life. All this talk about grey market pianos is scare-mongering, nothing else. From my experience looking at a lot of them, they aren't in any better or worse condition than the locally sold ones. You can get a good one or a bad one the same as a local piano. The real issue is what grey imports do to the distribution of new pianos in official Yamaha dealers. But that is a totally separate debate.

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#2009460 - 01/05/13 01:26 PM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: PianoWarrior]
SteveM732 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 25
Loc: Beaverton, OR, USA
The only problems I see with grey market is that they tend to be 30+ years old, have an unknown use/abuse, and come from a humid country so they have a lot of adjusting to do if you live in Arizona. As long as the piano checks out okay none of these are a problem to me.

To quote Yamaha "Unless the piano is placed in a very humid environment (similar to Japan), the piano may develop problems that will be expensive to correct." (bold emphasis my own) and "Parts availability is another problem facing the purchaser of a Yamaha piano not made for the North America market. There are many models of Yamaha pianos that were sold in Japan that were never sold in North America. " And then they insult our intelligence by saying that they have no service information available for these pianos. So as long as you can find parts for a U1 or U3 and don't live in the desert then Yamaha doesn't expect you to have any problems with a grey market piano.

In my area a grey market U1 is about $4500 and the U3 is about $5500. A new U1 is also about $7000 and a new U3 about $9000. What I want to know is where are the 10 to 20 year pianos at? The local Yamaha dealer said they rarely get them in. It sounded to me like you planned to visit Rick Jones and I think that is a great idea as he profiles his pianos and can lead you to the mellow sounding ones and he's got a few grands that you can play to compare to the uprights. Don't play the UX-3 if you had your heart set on a new U1.
_________________________
-Steve
1969 Yamaha U3

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#2010515 - 01/07/13 10:08 AM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: PianoWarrior]
kuba Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/07/13
Posts: 3
what about schimmel or Petrof?

I can make a suggestion of my sets:)

let me know if you are interested!

*Edited by moderator... kuba, it looks like you just joined PW and are here to sell your pianos. I removed your other post because it was direct advertising of your pianos... please read the forum rules. Direct advertising of pianos for sale is not allowed on the open forums. You can advertise your pianos here on the "Pianos for sale" site for a small fee. http://www.pianoworld.com/exchange.htm

Rick


Edited by Rickster (01/07/13 10:41 AM)

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#2012790 - 01/11/13 01:17 PM Re: Purchasing a used piano, anything to look out for? [Re: PianoWarrior]
PianoWarrior Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/03/13
Posts: 14
Well, just wanted to update folks and say thanks for the help/advice in this thread. I chose the privately owned piano as it's a U1 made in 1999 sold privately and seems to be in great shape. I got it for a little over $3k.

I did go by rick jones pianos and the place is pretty cool. He has a lot of pianos, tried a bunch, and found one U3 I liked made in 1970. Some pianos (unsurprisingly) had more even/consistent action than others, and a U3 ran $1k+ more than the U1 I purchased. I was definitely considering the U3, but opted for the U1. The U1 is a little on the bright side for my liking, but it still sounds great, and since it isn't that old I'd think it'd last longer + it has very consistent action across the whole keyboard. All in all I'm very happy and nice to have a piano again. Thanks everyone for all your help!

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