Piano, Organ, and Keyboard/considering buying a baby grand


QUESTION: Hello Ralph - I've read a number of your responses to other inquiries and you seem to offer just the kind of clear-headed advice I can use!  

I'm toying with the idea of buying a used baby grand piano for my two boys, who are both musically inclined.  The 14 year-old HS freshman has played trumpet for 5 years, mellophone in marching band and a little sax.  He took beginning piano as a minor (about an hour a day) at a 10-day music camp last summer and I was amazed at how much he picked up in that short time.  My 11 year old is in his second year of sax and plays drums a bit.

After reading some of your posts, I did a little looking around locally and found a craigslist post that intrigued me.  Here's the link to the post http://detroit.craigslist.org/wyn/msd/3325560317.html  Part of what I found attractive is that the seller is a registered piano technician (I checked) and that the price includes moving, tuning etc.

I don't expect either of them will abandon their other instruments to play piano exclusively or anything like that but they may get quite a bit of enjoyment from it.  And who knows, maybe when I retire I'll start playing myself!

Any thoughts re the brand, age, source?  I'm tempted.

Thanks for any insight you can provide.


ANSWER: Hi Lisa:

Well...I went to the site and saw a very old Grinnell piano. Nothing was said about anything that was done to the instrument however. And a piano that old, if nothing was done, has issues, I promise.

The seller seems to be in Michigan. Where are you?!

Here are my thoughts:

1. if nothing was done to the piano...forget it.

2. If a pin block and a set of hammers were installed...I'm interested.

3. In any event, you want it looked at by a third, uninvolved Registered technician. You can plug in the zip code of the area where the piano is and find an RPT who would be willing to take a look.

4. It's OLD!

5. Warranty and move included?!?!?!?! wow...So what does the warranty include? Is the warranty in writing????? And if something goes wrong, and the seller is far from you, how will the warranty be handled??????

If you are thinking of having a piano in your home long term for your children as well as you, I would look for something younger, like a Kawai Grand from the 1990's or younger.

What do you think?!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks so much for your reply, Ralph!  We went to see the piano yesterday.  The shop is right about 20 miles from my house, so relatively nearby.  

The further information I got was:
- he acquired the piano from the estate sale of an elderly woman
- the pin block has not been replaced, but he inspected/tightened each pin as needed (hopefully I'm using the right terminology)
- the hammers are original but he said it appeared to him the piano had been pretty lightly played over its life and the felts probably had 40-50% of their life left in them.  He mentioned there being no grooves in the felt that would indicate heavier use etc.
- he has tuned the piano a couple times since he brought it to his shop and it's been stable since

I didn't get all the details about the warranty but it is a written warranty for a year in case anything big goes wrong with it.  I asked if he would mind if I had another local tech take a look and he said that would be fine and he's done the same thing himself.

Both my son and the tech played the piano, which sounded beautiful, but then again - although I'm pretty musical - when it comes to pianos I'm not much more than a neophyte and don't know what to listen for.

In large part, what's attractive to me are the following:
- it gives my kids the opportunity to experience learning another instrument
- I LOVE the look of the piece with a nice amount of carving on the legs etc, it's just the type I was envisioning for my living room (I know, not a good reason!)
- relatively low dollar investment as far as pianos go - this is pretty much at the top of what I'm comfortable spending

Any other thoughts?

Hi Lisa:

Just to be clear, am I to understand that you did have a registered technician look at the piano????

When you said "both my son and the tech played the piano", I'm not sure to which tech you are referring.

If a registered technician from the piano technicians guild approves, then I would to ahead.

The amount of money isn't a big deal, and if you get a few years out of it...great.

But again...make sure you get it looked at first.

I would suggest to the inspecting technician these concerns:

1. Bridge caps...cracks, pin movement.

2. Pin block...in tact with sufficient pin torque to sustain a tuning procedure.

3. Acton...is it serviceable?

4. Soundboard/rib assembly...are the ribs tight to the board?

If these questions are put to rest...then go for it.

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Ralph Onesti


I am a Registered/tested member of the Piano Technicians Guild (RPT) with 49 years of experience in all phases and levels of the acoustic piano. I will answer any questions regarding acoustic pianos only. All questions and answers are to remain public. Please to not include sensitive material! If they are marked private, I will change them to public. My answers may be of assistance to others. If privacy is an issue, please contact me through my web site: http://www.onestipiano.com Electronic keyboards, organs, and player/reproducing piano mechanisms are outside of my expertise. Anything to do with: Construction, Service, Tuning, Climate Control Systems, Piano Disc, Purchasing, Selling, Insurance Appraisal, Rebuilding, Repairs, Legal issues, Maintenance, Environmental issues, Finish issues with acoustic pianos. My full resume can be found at: http://onestipiano.com/pages/history.html You can like us on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/onestipianoservice


In business since 1964, Extensive Rebuilding/Repair/Service facility. A certified, tested, member of the Piano Technicians Guild, Member of the Technical Advisory Service to Attorneys. Have performed piano service on Concert Stage, Recording Studios, and in the home. Http://www.onestipiano.com. The shop's work comes from all over the world from private clients or other techncians.

The Piano Technicians Guild, Master Piano Technicians of America, Technical Advisory Service to Attorneys. (TASA), IAPBT. The Piano Technicians Guild is the only organization in the US that offers a certification test to become Registered. There are no "factory authorized techncians".

The Piano Technicians Journal

Attented Temple University, Drexel University, Philadelphia Community college all in the areas of engineering and Music. I taught a two semester course in Piano Technology and the related acoustical physics at Temple University. I have taught extensively for the Piano Technicians Guild and the Master Piano Technicians of America.

Awards and Honors
Service Award for the Rose Tree Media School District in Pennsylvania. Chapter Award from the Philadelphia Chapter of the Piano Technicians Guild.

Past/Present Clients
The list is rather extensive. I would suggest you go http://onestipiano.com/pages/testimonials.html where there is a comprehensive list of clients past and present.

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