Video 6: Into the Lion's Den

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Take a step-by-step video tour of the piano buying process.
From "what to avoid" to "how to negotiate" - great examples, animation and information to help you avoid EXPENSIVE mistakes.

Video 6:Into the Lion's Den - Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open

(choosing the best piano, negotiating with salesmen and private sellers)

At the point of the process where you're gonna try out some pianos, just remember to bring pen and paper to keep notes. And if you don't play piano, bring along someone that does. You're going to want to have their opinion as to the pianos overall sound and feel. Just remember that piano players are not technicians. A player might say that a piano just needs to be tuned. While the technician might say that the piano can only be tuned after to some very expensive repairs. And while there's no substitute to hiring an expert, remember: the more you know, the more money you'll save. The best way to approach a piano is to look, listen and feel. Regardless of whether a piano is newer or used, the first thing you're going to do is look at its appearance. You're going to check it for any scratches and any obvious signs of damage. If the piano is used you've got to look at the finish to see if it's been crackled by age. If the piano has been up against a window you've got to check the finish to see if it's been bleached by the Sun.

Listen to the piano room

The second thing you're going to do is actually listen to the room that the piano is in. If you're listening to a piano in a room with lots of hard surfaces, high ceilings or little furniture then the sound waves are going to bounce around a lot. This makes the piano seem brighter, harsher, louder. But if the piano is in a room with lots of soft surfaces like thick rugs or drapes, the sound waves will die quickly and the piano will sound darker, mellower, quieter. The point is if you're looking for a particular sound quality, you've got to take into consideration the sound characteristics of the room you're in. Especially if you're going to be putting the piano into an entirely different type of room.

So, you've looked over the outside of the piano and you've listened to the room, now you've got to turn your attention to the inside of the piano. For used pianos you want to make sure each key works. Starting on note number one, play every key all the way up to 88. Check to see that every note makes a sound and that all the keys can repeat. Keep track of any keys that stick, click or jam and don't forget about the pedals. See if the right sustain pedal sustains the notes and the left soft pedal softens the notes.

Locate the piano brake

Next, for both new and used pianos you'd need to locate the brake. The brake divides a piano into treble and bass. Open the piano and look inside, you're going to see thick copper wound bass strings on the left side that will cross over the treble steel strings on the right side. The break is where the highest bass strings end and the lowest treble strings begin. It's important to know exactly where this is on the keyboard of the piano you are trying out. The break is an important divider for two reasons:
1) better quality instruments will have a consistent tone when you play across the break. In poor quality instruments when you play across the break, the bass string sound very different from the treble strings.
2) the second reason the break is important is because in used pianos structural defects more often than not start in the base. Many times when you play across the break, you can hear them. Start again on note number one. Listen carefully to each note especially when you play across the break. If you hear something that sounds like a buzz or a note, or group of notes that have no tone, or a note that sounds out of tune so it sounds like you're playing two notes at once. And you might just be hearing a structural defect. Write down any key or section that you suspect.

Then it's the time to play the piano and figure out if it's right for you. As you play, think about the overall feel of the action. Is it too light, heavy or just right.
What about the control of dynamics? Can you easily make the piano play really really soft. What about the pianos overall sound? Do you like it? Remember, this is all about what you know.

Piano price negotiation

Now let's talk about prices. For a moment with new pianos as long as you know the MSRP and the SMP you can start negotiations, as soon as you've decided on a piano. If you've forgotten where to find this informations, go to piano buyer com, the authority for information on new pianos. Once you've figured out SMP for the make and model, you want start negotiations at 25 to 30 percent below SMP. Then go up from there in small increments for used pianos. The last step before negotiating is to have a piano tech check out the piano. Remember to give the technician all of your notes before he sees the piano and make sure you give him the technician inspection checklist. Even experts can make mistakes. After the tech has finished his inspection take him away from the seller and privately find out what kind of shape the piano is in. Whether he thinks it's worth buying, tell him about the prices you found for similar pianos. Taking all of that into consideration, what he thinks a fair price would be. Whatever he says, start negotiations 20% below that number and then work your way up from there in small increments. Lastly, never be afraid to walk away from a deal you feel uncomfortable with. There's lots of other pianos out there.

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