How To Buy An Inexpensive Piano or Keyboard
How to buy an inexpensive piano or keyboard requires guidance and advice, as well as a professional opinion. The most important factor to decide is whether you want an electronic keyboard or a real acoustic piano. Here are several things to keep in mind as you make this first decision:
Before you buy a great big acoustic piano, think about why you are buying it. If you are buying it for a child, and they have never played piano before, you might consider buying an inexpensive electronic keyboard first to determine the level of interest the child has.
If your child demonstrates interest, then consider upgrading to a real acoustic piano. Acoustic pianos are big and expensive, and once you buy it, it will cost $200-500 to move it. And if you want to sell, it is not quite so easy.
If you cannot sell it, pianos are hard and expensive to dispose of. Do you have room for an acoustic piano? An average piano requires at least five feet in width, five or six in length, plus room to get around it.
Moving A Big Piano
And if it’s a grand, it can be 5 to 6 feet long. The average acoustic piano weighs at least 500 pounds. Are you planning on moving? As mentioned above, piano moving is not cheap unless you have some strong friends and a truck. Count on $200-300 for a simple move. Then add more to the cost if you have steps.
Piano movers have been known to charge as much as $100 per step if it is a difficult move. You can shop around for movers and save a bit, but choose a reputable company that has experience moving the specialty of pianos. Make sure they are insured, because unforseen things happen when, even professionals, move a 2000 pound object especially on stairs.
The point is that if you have an acoustic piano, do not plan on moving it around easily, frequently or inexpensively.
Let’s assume you have decided to buy an electronic keyboard for reasons of cost, convenience or portability. Here are points to consider before you buy: You must know why you are buying the instrument, once again. For example, if you are buying a small electronic keyboard for a small child who has never played, my advice is to get the simplest, least expensive keyboard. Think $99.
The reason is that you do not know what your child’s interest will be until the child actually tries the keyboard. Do not let a sales person sell you a fancy model with a lot of features. There are dozens of models made by companies like Casio, Roland or Yamaha that cost perhaps $99 or less and will do everything you need to do and more.
I’ve seen and taught people who were sold horribly complex keyboard setups for $7500, and they would have derived exactly the same education and enjoyment from the $99 model. They wasted $7400.
What Features Do I Need On An Electronic?
A basic electronic keyboard for piano lesson or recreational use should have around 48 keys (a few more or less, could be 61 or more) counting both the black and white keys. This is what most basic electronic music keyboards have. The keys should be ¾ of an inch wide, which is the standard width of keys on all full size piano keyboards.
You may run across a “mini” keyboard which has smaller width keys, but I would recommend against those types of models. Even the smallest child can handle a full size keyboard in their own way, and it is better they learn on the same setup they will later play upon.
If it comes with a sustain foot pedal, get that model. It should be moderately expensive, say an extra $25 or so, but it is worth if you have the choice. If no choice is offered, you’ll do fine with the model without the sustain pedal.
The pedal adds a certain depth to the sound, an added enhancement to the rather flat sound of an electronic piano.
Prices And Models
How do you go about purchasing a reasonably priced used piano? Here are a few factors to keep in mind: If you want to know about expensive pianos, that’s outside of this discussion. Just so you know, for comparison purposes, a well-preserved model of the Steinway brand will fetch at least $15,000 to $45,000, and well into the $75,000 area and up if that’s what you want.
But we’re not here for that. The type of piano you get depends largely on where you get it. Let’s divide it into STORES and INDIVIDUALS. Stores such as piano clearing houses or outlet dealers, or wholesale houses, are in general offering pianos of recent vintage and of Chinese, Japanese or Korean manufacturers.
As a general rule, STORES sell "seconds," which are pianos that have been rejected by the quality control team of the manufacturer. These are then shunted to "clearing houses" in the USA so that the manufacturer still makes something from their investment.
The piano manufacturing business has been taken over, in the low price range, by the Oriental companies. They are able to turn out a creditable, or at least playable, instrument in the $2500 retail price range. You can pay much more, but as of 2021, the low end for a new Chinese upright piano is $3500.
Regardless of where you buy it, it pays to have an independent professional take a look at it. I have looked at pianos for prospective buyers, and there is a wide range of both junk and jewels out there. The opinion of at least a decent pianist can be invaluable. I once was paid to look at a Steinway that was offered as part of the sale of a home, for $10,000. It turned out to be worth $125,000.
Purchase From An Individual
If buying from an individual, then anything is possible. A good place to look is locally. Families grow up and out of the piano market. April and May are good months to buy because most corporate relocations are at that time.
People are left with expensive pianos they don’t want, can’t sell, and will take any reasonable price for. Look in the local newspaper, talk with other families, these are a couple of approaches. I will tell you this: never ever buy a piano sight-unseen. I’ve seen them advertised online in what appear to be great bargains.
But the truth is that pianos are like people and used cars, very unique, each with a different history. Let a pianist take a peek under the hood.
Try A Simple Song Online
Here's Twinkle Twinkle in numbers so you can try playing the piano: