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#909668 - 03/06/03 01:16 PM How to test or inspect used piano
jopywilliams Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/26/03
Posts: 12

First off...this is a great board!

Here's my question. I've done some searching on the board and couldn't find the answer.

I'm checking out a used Yamaha C2 - 1999 model - which according to the seller has barely been used. Admittedly, I am not a piano tech. What are a few things I can do (besides play it!) when I go see the piano to see if it's in good shape. Obviously...it's best to hire a piano tech, and I will try to do that. But, I'd like to be able to look for a few obvious things while there...just in case there are huge problems.

Any suggestions on some things to look for...or test while checking out the piano?

#909669 - 03/06/03 01:33 PM Re: How to test or inspect used piano
Ringer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/26/02
Posts: 200
Loc: Albany, OR
Here are my idle suggestions. Of course, even after passing these tests, I'd get a tech to inspect!

First, play every note on the piano. Are there any buzzes, notes that don't stop when the key is let go, keys that don't work, etc?

Test all pedals to see if they work. A great way to look at pedal function is to make sure the hammers and dampers are in view when testing pedals (do dampers raise, action shift, etc.)

Look at the tuning pins and the pins on the other end of the strings. Are any bent, rusted, strings look like they were wrapped wrong, etc. (Testing the pins for proper tightness is an essential test, but usually can only be done by a tech due to experience and equipment issues.)

Look at the bridge (where the strings touch the soundboard). Are there any irregularities? Also look at the strings. Are any a different sheen than the others, tarnished or rusted?

Look at the front and back of the soundboard for cracks and also inspect the plate for cracks.

Look at the hammers and shanks, are any hammers stained, look hugely different? Are they worn to the nub? Are the shanks in good shape?

Test notes for evenness of touch and try to ascertain whether the keys are level.

Test breaks (where the notes go from one string to two, from two to three, where structure interrupts the strings). Is the tone even across the break?

Look at the finish to see if there are scratches, dings, or dents.

Finally make sure to look at every area you can inside the piano to make sure there are no "souvenirs" from techs, pets, or Christmas parties.

Can't think of anything else.
"I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates who said, `I drank what?'"


#909670 - 03/06/03 01:39 PM Re: How to test or inspect used piano
BruceD Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 18537
Loc: Victoria, BC

I do like your check-list. I'm not a tech, either, but I think you've given used-piano shoppers a great start. Others may add to the list, and we may end up with a better list than even Larry Fine has.

Still, first and last on the list: "Hire a tech!"

- - - - -
Estonia 190

#909671 - 03/06/03 03:58 PM Re: How to test or inspect used piano
Steve Cohen Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 10561
Loc: Maryland/DC/No. VA
The C2 is a very well made piano. One from 1999 should be like new. If it passes the list Ringer gave you, you like the performance and the price, then go for it.
Piano Industry Consultant- http://www.linkedin.com/pub/steve-cohen/6/b92/b80

Consultant & Contributing Editor - Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer

Jasons Music
Maryland/DC/No. VA
Since 1937.

My postings, unless stated otherwise, are my personal opinions, not those of my clients.

#909672 - 03/06/03 04:18 PM Re: How to test or inspect used piano
jopywilliams Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/26/03
Posts: 12
This is great! Thanks so much.
If it hasn't been tuned for a few years...should that be a major concern? I'm guessing they haven't tuned it since they lost interest in playing. My thought is that it will take a few tunings to get it right...but that I won't encounter any damage due to the lack of tuning. Does that sound right?


#909673 - 03/06/03 04:40 PM Re: How to test or inspect used piano
Ringer Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/26/02
Posts: 200
Loc: Albany, OR
As a friendly warning, a long period without tuning can get ugly.

Basically, if the piano is really badly out of tune a regular tuning won't do; it will need a pitch raise.

On a newer piano like this it might not be that bad, but I have heard many stories from techs of "I was doing a pitch raise and the string broke!" See if the current owner will cover the pitch raise and any broken strings if that happens. I've heard that it's less of a problem if a treble (not copper wound) string breaks since the copper wound strings sound so different over various ages.
"I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates who said, `I drank what?'"


#909674 - 03/06/03 11:31 PM Re: How to test or inspect used piano
Jim Volk Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/12/03
Posts: 916
Loc: Jacksonville, Florida
J- here's an added thought to Ringer's checklist:

Take hold of a key in the middle register, pinching the end gently between thumb and forefinger, and see how much side-to-side motion there is. Repeat this on 10 or 12 adjacent keys.

If the piano has been played long and hard, the felt bushings inside the keys will compress and wear, giving them excessive lateral play.

But I agree with Steve's judgment. A 1999 C2 is a well-built little workhorse, and is unlikely to show serious wear, unless it spent a year in a university music department! ;\)

Jim Volk


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