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“May need tune-up”

Every week we move pianos that have been purchased online, on the usual classified sites like Kijiji & Craigslist. There are always diamonds in the rough: pianos that have outlived their usefulness to their owners, but have been well looked after, and are in good, ‘sit down and play’ condition. A simple visit from a tuner to tune the piano after it is delivered and you’re enjoying a good instrument for less than you may have had to pay at a dealer.


But in my experience, this is the exception, rather than the rule. The simple truth is that most pianos being sold, or even given away online have been neglected. Age and neglect conspire to render pianos untunable. I see ads every day that say: “may need tune-up”, which is usually an understatement.


Yes, the piano is out of tune, but if it is old, hasn’t been tuned in years, it’s a sure bet that there it needs much more than ‘just tuning’. Loose tuning pins, weak strings, broken bridges or pinblocks, worn out hammers, seized centre pins… these are just some of the things we see on neglected, old pianos.


“But, I’m not very good!”, or “My kids are just starting!” is often the response to our friendly warning to be careful. The simple truth is that if the piano is not performing the way it was designed to perform, it is a very rare person who finds that piano inspiring enough to sit down, play, practice and get better. At worst, the piano is delivered and only then is a tuner called in.


Every week the technicians at our sister company Paul Hahn & Co. visit pianos that have been purchased online that need hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to be useful as musical instruments. This disappointing news is the precursor to a life without piano playing in it. An old, out of tune piano is one way to guarantee that a child hates lessons, and certainly a way for an adult to choose another way to spend their time.

Our best advice is to have any piano whose purchase you are considering should be looked at by an experienced technician, and preferably one with some rebuilding experience. Even when the news is bad, an old piano that needs some TLC can still represent a good opportunity. Before you commit to fixing someone else’s neglect, call our sister company Paul Hahn & Co. – they are our preferred technicians, and they can visit the piano to make sure that you won’t be surprised by the news that you’ve just purchased a several thousand dollar project.

They can be reached at 416-922-3122, or by emailing them through their website at www.paulhahn.com.  – A visual inspection costs less than $100 in Toronto, and can save you money and anxiety. If you’re considering a piano purchase online, I urge an abundance of caution, and some of the best money you can spend is to have it assessed before you buy.


– Jeremy Elliot

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