On this page we thought it would be a nice idea to give some general advice related to purchasing, caring for and using keyboards and pianos. We have distilled this information from our wealth of resources and experience and hope that you find it beneficial.
BUYING AN ACOUSTIC PIANO
The piano you choose will depend on who it is for, how often it will be played, the space available in your home, its appearance and the amount of money you wish to spend, which will determine the quality of the instrument, but a good piano is seldom, if ever, a bad investment. Every piano has an individual character of touch and tone, so choose one which feels and sounds right for you.
Find a reputable retailer, offering a guarantee, delivery and tuning.
Don’t be tempted to buy a “cheap old piano” for a beginner, which could be worthless or even dangerous (NB a stretched piano string exerts 18 tons of pressure on an upright…close to 30 on a grand).
The guidelines below are to help to evaluate a piano before buying. Even if it appears to be mechanically sound, as there are over five thousand parts, it is always advisable to consult a qualified piano technician who can tell you what repairs may be necessary, at what cost and if the selling price needs negotiation.
Buying privately through the internet should only be done with the advice of a qualified tuner in the area of the sale and the use of a reputable insured remover.
CASE – Look for scratches, dents, missing pieces of veneer and evidence of woodworm outside and inside the piano.
KEYS – Look for unevenness and chipped or missing key covers. Play all the notes to find any excessive side movement or keys which stick down. Listen for clicks, buzzes, squeaks, rattles or notes continuing to sound, which suggests faults and if it sounds badly out of tune.
PEDALS – Push them down to see if they work properly without squeaking.
IRON FRAME – Avoid pianos without a metal frame inside.
STRINGS – Look for missing or rusted strings (total string replacement is very costly).
TUNING PINS (hold top end of strings) – Look for corrosion around them and cracks in the wood into which they are fitted.
ACTION (mechanism) – Look for broken or missing parts; uneven spacing, badly worn or moth-eaten felts.
SOUNDBOARD (wooden panel behind strings) – Look for cracks and splits, or listen for sustained buzzing or rattling.
CARING FOR YOUR PIANO
Your piano is an investment which needs to be cared for properly so that it lasts for years. The guidelines below will help to do this, or a qualified piano technician will be happy to advise.
TUNING AND MAINTENANCE
Pianos are designed to sound best when regularly tuned to A440 pitch, matching other instruments.
To maintain this, pianos need tuning twice a year, even if not played much. A piano may require a larger pitch adjustment to restore tuning stability which involves more time and expense, if it has not been tuned regularly or has been in excessively dry or humid surroundings. As working parts are affected by wear, they will need servicing occasionally.
CLEANING THE CASE AND KEYS
Pianos are finished with a variety of materials to protect the wood and enhance the natural beauty and only need to be dusted with a dry clean soft cotton cloth to avoid scratching. Keys may be cleaned with a slightly damp cloth, then wiped with a dry cloth.
Use polish sparingly, but avoid using spray polishes and polishes containing silicone. Do not attempt to clean the inside or oil any squeaking parts, as these need the attention of a qualified piano technician. Do not put anything containing liquids (vases, plants, drinks) on top, as spillage could cause serious, costly damage and objects on top may cause noises when you play.
Ideally, pianos should be in a “lived-in” room, where relatively even temperature and humidity help to prevent the components swelling, drying or shrinking and so maintain tuning stability. Excessive heat, cold or moisture are likely near heat sources, in direct sunlight, on outside walls and under windows. With under floor heating, stand the piano on foil backed polystyrene. A piano technician can install a low wattage heater to control damp conditions and a simple humidifier can help counteract central heating dryness.
(reproduced with the kind permission of The Association Of Blind Piano Tuners)