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#2058483 - 04/02/13 11:46 PM Looking for a used piano
smithiu Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 5
Hello,

I am looking to buy a used piano for my family. I'm a musician (cellist), but I'm not a pianist so I'm not sure what brand/type of piano would be the best for us. I want to learn to play properly, and I have a 1 year old son who would probably eventually be playing as well.

I would prefer to spend no more than $2000. From my research, it seems like a console piano is a good option. But there are so many brands out there! Are there any "best bets" for brands? I have been looking on Craigslist, where I've found a decent number of options. Are there other places I should be looking? (I live in central Connecticut.) Is $2000 a good budget to get a quality used piano that would last us for at least the next 10 years?

Any suggestions would be appreciated!!

Thanks,
Anna

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#2058494 - 04/03/13 12:37 AM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
Plowboy Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/26/08
Posts: 2338
Loc: SoCal
Bump up your budget a bit and buy a new Kawai K-2. It's a very good starter piano, a great warranty and no worries about where it's been. Really nice action and good tone for a 45" piano. I had one for 3 years, and kind of miss it at times.
_________________________
Gary

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#2058500 - 04/03/13 01:00 AM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
Ed McMorrow, RPT Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/09/12
Posts: 2194
Loc: Seattle, WA USA
A big part of the value of a piano is the condition of the case. You sometimes can find a good quality piano that is mechanically excellent but cosmetically poor. These should sell for less than $1K for a vertical piano.

However it is often true that a beat up case means poor condition overall. I am fond of most of the Baldwin Hamilton 45" uprights. Watch out for the "newer" ones, (late 1970s-early 1980s) with corfam in place of where buckskin is usually found in the action. Good luck!
_________________________
In a seemingly infinite universe-infinite human creativity is-seemingly possible

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#2058516 - 04/03/13 01:46 AM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7224
Loc: torrance, CA
Originally Posted By: smithiu

I would prefer to spend no more than $2000. From my research, it seems like a console piano is a good option. But there are so many brands out there! Are there any "best bets" for brands? I have been looking on Craigslist, where I've found a decent number of options. Are there other places I should be looking? (I live in central Connecticut.) Is $2000 a good budget to get a quality used piano that would last us for at least the next 10 years?
Thanks,
Anna


With $2000 I'd recommend staying away from dealers. That's almost the bottom price of anything they'll sell you and the bulk of your purchase cost will go toward their cost of doing business rather than the market value of the instrument. For that reason I'd recommend the private party market and the services of a good tech to inspect the one you like before you buy it. Brand is less important than condition at your budget. Try to find something less than 20 years old that hasn't had heavy use.

If you're thinking of utility -- like recording your own accompaniment to play your cello against -- I'd recommend considering something like a Roland FP7-F. You can learn the piano properly on it and you'll have virtually no cost of upkeep. It sounds pretty good too.
_________________________
Will Johnny Come Marching Home?
The fate of the modern wartime soldier

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#2058608 - 04/03/13 09:24 AM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
Hi Anna - Welcome to Piano World!

When you use the term 'console' it can cause a bit of confusion, as many shoppers are not clear in what they mean. If you are thinking of a furniture style to match your decor, then 'console' would be appropriate.

If you are thinking of something of a look which is simpler, akin to what you would see in a school, that would be a 'studio.'

Check this website and you can easily see the difference:

http://www.walterpiano.com/

To get a top-notch piano, your budget is tight, but not impossible. If the cabinetry is important, it is wise to look for an Acrosonic which is built by Baldwin. They have proven to be very rugged and reliable. For instruments from the 60-80's they have a very nice tone and would easily fall within your price range. This is, of course, a very broad generalization. It is not unusual to find them in a dealership as a trade in.

This site has a search feature - upper left corner of this page - and if you want to check about piano brands, it is a great way to find discussion of particular manufacturers.

If you give us a little more info, we can be more helpful.

Have fun and don't rush with your search!
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

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

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#2058627 - 04/03/13 10:05 AM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: Minnesota Marty]
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7224
Loc: torrance, CA
Quote:
To get a top-notch piano, your budget is tight, but not impossible. If the cabinetry is important, it is wise to look for an Acrosonic which is built by Baldwin. They have proven to be very rugged and reliable. For instruments from the 60-80's they have a very nice tone and would easily fall within your price range. This is, of course, a very broad generalization. It is not unusual to find them in a dealership as a trade in.


And God created (s)Marty.

Just when you think you've heard it all, or rather read it all, you learn that an Acrosonic, whether the ubiquitous spinet or the occasional console, is a top-notch piano that should be sought out as a worthy exchange for your $2000, and that you will probably find a retailer ready to accommodate such a transaction.

If you want to spend $500 to $1000, an Acrosonic is not a bad thought. The thing will have been rendered tonally toothless from decade of use, but it will probably take a licking and keep on ticking for another ten years. Worth seeking out by someone with a musician's ear and budget of 2k? Come on.
_________________________
Will Johnny Come Marching Home?
The fate of the modern wartime soldier

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#2058637 - 04/03/13 10:21 AM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
"Top notch" referred to the quality of an extant instrument, which has been maintained, and not as a tier one instrument. The max budget is $2K and please note, my reference to Acrosonic was related to a decent instrument in a given cabinetry style, which would fall within budget.

Again, T-dot proves that he/she is incapable of comprehension of the written word. It also proves his/her intolerance for other's opinions.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

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

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#2058841 - 04/03/13 05:33 PM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
miscrms Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/29/12
Posts: 187
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
This seems to be a challenging price bracket. What you'll generally find in this range are either pianos that were inexpensive to begin with (and consequently often of lesser quality), or pianos that are older and often in need of significant maintenance/repair. Or both.

The best advice I received when hunting was be patient. Most owners of older pianos have no idea what they are worth, and no idea what condition they are really in, so prices seem to be all over the map and not necessarily correlated to much of anything. Given the volume of pianos produced over the past 100 or so years, and the substantial portion of them that weren't that great to start with, you're going to see a lot of pianos in this price range that really just ought to be put out to pasture.

Reading up on the many past related threads here on PW and finding a copy of Larry Fine's "Piano Book" (as well as the free updates on his pianobuyer.com website) are good ways to start educating yourself about what to look for to start weeding out those with potential from the rest. After that you just have to go play a bunch of pianos. Most of them will probably be disappointing. When you find one that seems like a good candidate, getting a technician you trust in to look it over and give an educated independent assessment is key. I think of it as cheap insurance. There's few things more disappointing than falling in love with a piano, shelling out $1500 for it, paying a few hundred bucks to have it moved to your home only to find out that it can't tuned, or is failing mechanically or structurally and is essentially worthless.

You should also try to define for yourself what you are really looking for. Trying lots of pianos really helps in this regard to. A decent quality spinet or console like a Baldwin Acrosonic, that's verified in good condition by a tech will likely give you a pretty trouble free, serviceable piano to play for years. You might consider them the 10 year old Honda Civics or Toyota Corollas of the piano market. Not real exciting, but reliable, playable, and not bad for what they are and what they now cost.

For ourselves, being a musical family but not serious players, we decided to trade some of that reliability and predictability for something with a bit more... character wink But we did so fully realizing that we'll probably have to do a fair amount of work over time to keep our old girl working, and if any of the family really gets serious about playing we'll either have to do a substantial overhaul or look for another piano. So far that choice has worked out well for us. I'm learning to do some basic repairs and maintenance, which I greatly enjoy, and we love the look and sound of our unique old piano. More like owning an unrestored classic sports car, that oozes with suggestion of its former glory but has developed a lot of "eccentricities" over the years and is not what anyone would classify as reliable transportation.

In the same price range you might find some servicable older more utilitarian studio uprights, like the baldwin hamiltons mentioned, which aren't fancy (designed for schools etc) but are built like tanks and will generally sound much better than a spinet/console. You might also find some 10-20 year old asian made pianos that look fantastic but are probably getting questionable on reliability.

Our choice is certainly not one that would work for everyone, so you have to figure out where you are on that spectrum. The best way to do that is read all you can, play some pianos, get to know a good piano tech, and see what happens. Like falling in love, you'll usually know when you've found "the one." smile If all that sound like too much work, find a good mechanic and just buy the civic. Most likely it will never let you down. wink

Best of luck,

Rob
_________________________
1874 Steinway Upright "Franken" Stein

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#2058866 - 04/03/13 06:30 PM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
PianoWorksATL Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/19/09
Posts: 2726
Loc: Atlanta, GA
$2k is about the lowest you can spend to privately find a piano suitable for 10 years of use. You have to expertly dodge the minefield that is out there and you may have to spend a lot of time at dead ends. Most people in this price range still get ripped off, sadly.

If you buy a good piano, you will have it and enjoy it for a long time. If you buy a bad piano, you will have it and regret it for a long time. With a budget that lives on the margin of what is good, I would prefer to take out the risk unless you get first hand, trusted assistance.

I also recommend a digital with a good action over an uneven, older upright for beginner to early intermediate level. My advice is to save up or start with a digital and save up.
_________________________
Sam Bennett
PianoWorks - Atlanta Piano Dealer
Bösendorfer, Estonia, Seiler, Grotrian, Weber & Hailun
Pre-Owned: Yamaha, Kawai, Steinway & other fine pianos
Full Restoration Shop
www.PianoWorks.com
www.youtube.com/PianoWorksAtlanta

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#2058903 - 04/03/13 08:47 PM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
JohnSprung Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/02/11
Posts: 1450
Loc: Reseda, California
In the used $2K realm, brand matters a lot less than the condition of the individual instruments. There are a bazillion never-heard-of-it stencil names, you might get lucky. Some of them aren't so terrible. If you don't mind looking at a big upright, you might find something that sounds better for less money than a console. The longer the strings, the better the bass. Start by getting Larry Fine's Piano Book, sold here, and learn the major red flags. Find a local tuner/tech, because you're going to need one on a regular basis. When you find a piano that doesn't raise any red flags, spend the money to have your tech check it out.

Digital has some interesting advantages that make it worth having one in addition to your acoustic piano. For me the biggest is that you can put on headphones and not inflict the dreary aspects of practice on the rest of the family. You can practice at any hour day or night. I recommend having both, since the touch will be quite different, and the more different touches you learn on, the better. The keys are always pretty close to the same size and shape. What happens as you press them, how muscular effort transforms into music, varies tremendously.


Edited by JohnSprung (04/03/13 08:58 PM)
_________________________
-- J.S.

Knabe Grand # 10927
Yamaha CP33
Kawai FS690

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#2058914 - 04/03/13 09:38 PM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
Bob M Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/02/09
Posts: 208
Loc: North Carolina
Anna, Some Craigslist pianos I thought attractive, because I have played and liked those models.

Yamaha consoles from about 1972, at least 43" tall. Offered from $1300 to $2400.
Baldwin Hamilton 45-46" studio models. Have seen a few for under $1000.

I paid a little over $3000 for my 27-year-old Charles Walter. My tuner/tech brought it up to pitch in one tuning in spite of the fact it had not been tuned for 25 years! Love the piano!

Budget $120 for a tech to check out whatever you go to the trouble to see and end up liking (feel, tone, appearance in your home).

One that got away: Ebay had a Charles Walter with a broken case, I think it was only the top, "Buy it now for $1700". the logistics scared me. I later learned that one of the Walter's sons runs a piano repair business, and delivers all over the USA for his Dad.

Take your time, the shopping can be fun!
_________________________
Bob M

Charles Walter Model 1520
Yamaha NP 30, NP 11, PSR E333

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#2058921 - 04/03/13 10:13 PM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: PianoWorksATL]
musicpassion Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 1045
Loc: California, USA
I think brands become less important than condition as a piano ages. This is why you'll hear a common refrain on this forum of having a techician evaluate any piano. I think the $2,000 range is an area where I would hire a technician. The $300 - $500 some find more a grey area because the technician fee becomes too much compared to the cost of the piano.

Originally Posted By: PianoWorksATL
I also recommend a digital with a good action over an uneven, older upright for beginner to early intermediate level. My advice is to save up or start with a digital and save up.


Some of my students have gone that route. I think they usually wind up spending more money in the long run, because that digital with a tolerable action is far from free. Sometimes people in my area have also expressed significant difficulty with getting any decent resale out of a digital. There is a strong desire for technology things - like digital pianos - to be brand new, latest everything. Of course that could be different in your locale.

If pianos survive in your climate, you might consider the older full size upright. That possiblility would absolutely require the services of a technician (or possibly purchase from a technician). Here in California $2,000 can buy an older full size upright that has had some restoration work. I recently played full size Aldrich (not a well known prestigious brand, but solid craftsmanship) and it was a delightful instrument. Certainly would provide 10 years of service. For sale from a technician for $2,000, and better than any console piano.

However I should mention that California climate is kind to pianos. I know that's not the case everywhere, and could possibly take that option off the table for you.
_________________________
Pianist and Piano Teacher

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#2058964 - 04/03/13 11:46 PM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
smithiu Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 5
Wow, thanks everyone! Let me tell you a bit more about what I'm looking for. I would like to get a piano that looks more like furniture, as opposed to a black studio upright. I know I'll be losing some sound quality by going with a shorter console style, but that's okay with me. I don't want a spinet, however. And while I know digital pianos have some good advantages, that's not for me either.

The two pianos below are representative of what I like:

http://westernmass.craigslist.org/msg/3674029295.html (Kawai 520 F)

http://westernmass.craigslist.org/msg/3720682086.html (Yamaha)

Are these decent pianos, and fairly priced? Any guesses on what model the Yamaha is? Should I pursue one of these two pianos, or keep looking? Shopping for a piano is definitely a little overwhelming!

Thanks so much for your help!!

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#2059158 - 04/04/13 09:33 AM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
Bob M Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/02/09
Posts: 208
Loc: North Carolina
Anna, Both instruments look to me like they are current design console models, about 10 years old. The Yamaha's tend to sound a little brighter sounding than Kawai. Have a tech check out the one you like best, and at the offered prices, don't wait too long!
_________________________
Bob M

Charles Walter Model 1520
Yamaha NP 30, NP 11, PSR E333

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#2059159 - 04/04/13 09:37 AM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
Why not play both and see what appeals to you? I have a hunch that they will have very different tonal characteristics.

An important consideration would be the age of each instrument. If you can obtain the serial numbers, the ages can be determined. That would help with a price assessment.

Either could proove to be what you are looking for in a piano. Make sure you have it inspected by a technician to make sure everything is in order.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

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

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#2059181 - 04/04/13 10:05 AM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: Minnesota Marty]
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7224
Loc: torrance, CA
Quote:
An important consideration would be the age of each instrument. If you can obtain the serial numbers, the ages can be determined. That would help with a price assessment


So, if one of them is as old as the 'top-notch' ancient Acrosonic's you suggested that the OP wave his 2k at, should he pay a premium? laugh
_________________________
Will Johnny Come Marching Home?
The fate of the modern wartime soldier

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#2059199 - 04/04/13 10:29 AM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
smithiu Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 5
Great, I'm glad these both look like decent instruments! I had already written to both sellers, looking for the serial number. The Yamaha seller has just written back, not knowing where to find the serial number - where should she be looking?

Also, do you have any tips on finding a qualified tech and a reasonable piano mover? There are no listings for my area on Piano World.

Thanks!!
Anna

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#2059220 - 04/04/13 11:03 AM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014


Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
The Piano Technicians Guild has a locator service. You can search by your zipcode and radius from your home.

www.ptg.org

Another way to locate a tech is to ask for recommendations from music stores in your area.
_________________________
Marty in Minnesota

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

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#2059345 - 04/04/13 02:27 PM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
musicpassion Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 1045
Loc: California, USA
Originally Posted By: smithiu

The two pianos below are representative of what I like:

http://westernmass.craigslist.org/msg/3674029295.html (Kawai 520 F)

http://westernmass.craigslist.org/msg/3720682086.html (Yamaha)

Are these decent pianos, and fairly priced? Any guesses on what model the Yamaha is? Should I pursue one of these two pianos, or keep looking? Shopping for a piano is definitely a little overwhelming!

Thanks so much for your help!!


They look like pianos worth pursuing. If they get a clean bill of health from a technician the prices sound fair to me.
_________________________
Pianist and Piano Teacher

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#2059417 - 04/04/13 05:18 PM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
turandot Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/27/07
Posts: 7224
Loc: torrance, CA
Quote:
I would like to get a piano that looks more like furniture, as opposed to a black studio upright. I know I'll be losing some sound quality by going with a shorter console style, but that's okay with me. I don't want a spinet, however. And while I know digital pianos have some good advantages, that's not for me either.


It's good that you realize the likely compromise in sound quality. I don't think it's a matter of size nearly as much as it is a matter of Kawai and Yamaha offering less than their best knowledge and process in building these furniture consoles. They are marketed on visual appeal, low price, and brand image. OTOH, you're less likely to run into one of them that has been beaten to death. Stories of the child learner who never took to the piano are often legitimate in the resale of these pianos.

A smaller compromise might be achieved if you happened to come across a Yamaha P series (P-2, P-202, P-22 etc.) or a Kawai CE series (CE-7, CE-8, CE-11) in your local listings. These pianos show more attention to musical quality than the usual furniture consoles. The CE series is long gone and available specimens may be 20 years old, but they were surprisingly musical for their size. They actually sold for pretty hefty prices new, but that doesn't enhance their resale value. Cabinetry on these Yamaha and Kawai consoles is not glitzy. Some are continental styles without legs, but wood finishes are out there and the pianos have a pleasant non-studio appearance.

As with all the others though, condition is king, not brand or model. IMO absolutely any used piano that costs more than 1k is worth a hundred dollar inspection.

_________________________
Will Johnny Come Marching Home?
The fate of the modern wartime soldier

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#2059480 - 04/04/13 09:34 PM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
showard Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/10/05
Posts: 123
Loc: Hortonville, Wisconsin
Both of these pianos look like good instruments for the price. It's always important to have a tech check it out to make sure there aren't any major issues such as soundboard cracks or loose tuning pins, though these problems are rare for instruments that are less than 15 years old. Both Kawai and Yamaha consoles tend to be fairly consistent in their quality. As far as the difference in tone, this is mostly a reasonable preference. I have some customers that prefer one and some that prefer the other. Personally, I prefer Yamahas.
_________________________
Steve Howard
Piano Technician
Owner of Howard Piano Industries
www.howardpianoindustries.com

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#2059816 - 04/05/13 12:26 PM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
smithiu Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 5
I have some more information on the Yamaha. It's an M26, built in 1985 in Michigan. It's listed for $1300 - does that seem like a good deal? I am going to find a tech to come check it out with me - and then I'll have to find a mover if I like it. It's about 60 miles away.

Thanks for the help, everyone!

Anna

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#2068352 - 04/22/13 12:38 AM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
smithiu Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/02/13
Posts: 5
I just wanted to update this post. I bought the Yamaha M26! I think I got a pretty good deal - I had a tech come and check it out, and it's in good shape. I have it in my house now, and while it needs a tuning, it's very playable and I've been having a lot of fun with it! Thanks for the advice, everyone!

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#2068364 - 04/22/13 01:16 AM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
TunerJeff Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/22/11
Posts: 481
Loc: Oregon Coast
Thanks for the update!

We always wonder what our advice/opinions/thoughts will become in the REAL world...after the question has been asked and answered on the Forum...and we don't always hear what happened.

It is great to know that you found piano happiness! Enjoy! I'd say 'Pineapple Rag', 'Solace', and 'Bethena' for starters...wheee!

Thank-you,
_________________________
Jeffrey T. Hickey, RPT
Oregon Coast Piano Services
TunerJeff440@aol.com

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#2068501 - 04/22/13 08:01 AM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
Rickster Online   content


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8569
Loc: Georgia, USA
Congratulations on your "new-to-you" piano!

Have fun!

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

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#2069086 - 04/23/13 02:40 AM Re: Looking for a used piano [Re: smithiu]
musicpassion Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 1045
Loc: California, USA
Congrats on the piano!

Thanks for updating the post.
_________________________
Pianist and Piano Teacher

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