Regularly I get enquiries from potential customers who have been looking for a first piano and have just seen one for sale at a bargain price. Auction houses or the online auction site Trademe are often used as dumping grounds for old pianos, with many going for around $50 or even as low as $1. People who successfully bid on these tired old instruments are disappointed to find that getting them tuned and working properly, means spending hundreds of dollars. Even then, they are still going to end up with - a tired old piano.
With piano sales declining over the last decade, a good used entry level instrument that used to cost around $1500 can now be bought for $1000 or even less. When weighing up the costs of transporting and doing up a cheap $50 piano, it’s simply not worth it.
Here is an example. A piano costs $50.00. Add at least $250 for two tunings – maybe more if the pitch needs to be raised close to what it should be. Allow maybe another $250 to have any repairs and adjustments done, and the cost is $500. The piano, while now improved, will probably not hold its tuning for longer than a few weeks. After all, what more could you expect from a $50 piano? If you choose the second option, the $1000 piano should probably need only one $150 tuning which should last 12 months. Repairs are likely to be minor. Most importantly you will end up with a far superior instrument which will play and sound better – and will be more encouraging for the student.
Because I have so little faith in pianos in the bargain basement price range, I am no longer prepared to work on them because of the disappointing results. With such an influx of inquiries, to call and inspect such a piano I now charge $50, irrespective of whether or not I can do anything with it. This is an attempt to discourage budding pianists from buying such an instrument in the first place. If you see a piano going for $50 – $100, do not buy it, and if you see what you think is a better one in a higher price bracket, contact me first!
Set your sights higher, even if it means holding out a little longer to find a better piano. An ideal choice would be a 1960s English model like a Knight or a Kemble. They were produced in their thousands and have proved to be among the most reliable pianos you can find of that era. A little more, say $1500 will get you a nice early model Yamaha or Kawai which should still have many miles on the clock. Avoid if at all possible the old over damper pianos with the Victorian candelabra or the curly legs like the one pictured. Unless you get a good one such as a Richard Lipp, you will be disappointed. Why buy rubbish when you can buy something decent for just a few hundred dollars more – and save money in the long run!