Buying A Reconditioned Piano: Top 5 Tips To Look Out For

Buying A Reconditioned Piano: Top 5 Tips To Look Out For

It is well known that for the most part, acoustic pianos hold their value incredibly well and one common trend that is becoming increasingly popular within the piano world is that of reconditioned pianos, perhaps the most famous of which being Yamaha’s Recon (as in reconditioned) U-Series.

Despite being anywhere from 50+ years old, these instruments are renowned for being incredibly sturdy instruments and are still widely recommended by teachers and musical connoisseurs alike. We sometimes even refer to the U-Series as the ‘workhorses’ of the piano world as for the past 40 or so years they have been mass used in colleges, teaching environments and practice conservatoires across the globe due to their reliability.

Today we’re going to be talking about where these instruments currently stand, the things to look out for and perhaps most importantly, whether or not they are the right instrument for you.

Let’s jump in!

What Is A Reconditioned Piano?

The best place to begin when looking at reconditioned instruments is to ask the question, why am I looking for a reconditioned instrument? Is it budget? Is it because the brand or model is a particularly well known one? Or is it simply because your piano teacher said it was a good piano?

All valid points and valid reasons to have reconditioned instruments on your radar, however almost all of these points can be questioned at some point.

But before we jump into that, let’s cover what ‘reconditioned’ actually means as it’s a term that in the piano industry is incredibly ambiguous and in some cases, we’ve even seen it to be a false economy. Whilst there are hundreds, if not thousands of high quality reconditioned pianos out there that are in fantastic shape and would generally be considered fantastic instruments, if you’re not careful and for those not in the know, it’s easy to fall into a trap of paying more than an instrument is actually worth.

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In its simplest form, most well kept pianos can survive around 50-60 years before they need some kind of reconditioning, this could be anything from shaving the hammer felts to replacing the loops, strings or even changing components on the action. These jobs are no small task and can easily cost up to or over a few thousand pounds depending on the size of the service job. If you’re buying a reconditioned piano, this cost will likely also be included in the piano that you’re buying as either the previous owner or dealer has had to have the piano reconditioned in order for it to be in usable quality…

However, here’s where we begin entering the areas of contention - as ‘reconditioned’ can mean anything from a full reconditioning, repairing the soundboard or bridges, felts, loops, actions, keys, finish and almost reconditioning the entire instrument outside of the cabinet OR, it can mean simply shaving the hammer felts a tiny bit…and unless you’ve got a full receipt of what work has been done to the instrument, without a technician’s advice there’s no real way of proving what’s been done and the quality of the work.

The other side of this is when a piano says ‘manufacturer reconditioned’. This is something we’ve seen time and time again and have to stress more than anything else in this article that this does NOT necessarily mean it’s been refurbished by the manufacturer who actually made the piano.

For example if you purchase a reconditioned Yamaha U Series that has been ‘manufacturer restored’, this does NOT directly mean that it’s been restored by Yamaha as it implies, rather it could have been restored by a random manufacturer and not undergone Yamaha’s specific reconditioning procedures. Whilst this particular manufacturer may be incredibly high standard (and there are plenty of great restorers out there!) It could just as easily be someone who considers piano restoration a hobby and doesn’t really know what they’re doing or have much experience.

Ultimately, it’s similar to car mechanics, a good mechanic and garage will have a good reputation for doing great work, piano technicians and restorers are very much the same and generally word of mouth or researching their techniques online are a great place to start to judge the quality of the restoration.

The final check when it comes to what ‘restored’ actually means is to check for a manufacturer certified restoration sticker. This is where the actual manufacturer has done the restoration in house under their own procedures for example, Yamaha reconditioning their own instruments in house. These are the best kinds of restorations out there and will almost always have a sticker or mark on the piano that states that it was ‘Yamaha Certified Reconditioned’ or similar. - These are the ones to look out for and are almost guaranteed to be of higher quality than a private refurbishment.

Are Reconditioned Pianos Any Good?

The main thing to review when asking if reconditioned pianos are any good is the age of the piano and whether or not there are any defects with the piano. We’ve covered a few of these in our guide to buying a secondhand piano, however the crucial things to look out for are: Are the keys sitting as they should (none are raised or dipping)? Do they all respond and return as they should? Does the instrument buzz when it’s played? Are there any physical marks on the piano? If so, the instrument may be damaged.

Another question to ask when buying any older piano or reconditioned instrument is ‘when was it reconditioned, or when was it made?’ - as mentioned, if a piano is older than 50 years or so, it’s likely due for a restoration sometime soon, or is overdue one already. Likewise, a piano may have already been restored, but if that restoration was done 20+ years ago, it’s worth noting that another restoration may not be too far around the corner.

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Restored Instruments In The Modern Home

Due to their age, restored pianos can be somewhat more sensitive than newer pianos and depending on how well they have been restored, the condition of things like the pins and other components, it’s not uncommon for an older, restored piano to need tuning a little more often than that of a newer one.

As such, there’s a few things to consider when putting a reconditioned instrument in your home, mainly temperature of the room and does the room’s heat fluctuate. To learn more about this, you might also want to read our guide to understanding piano positioning. Due to their age, reconditioned pianos do need to be kept in a well insulated room and not near any radiators, outside doors etc as this will likely affect the instrument.

Should I Buy A Reconditioned Piano?

The short answer - There are some fantastic reconditioned pianos out there and if you’re buying from a reputable dealer or a trusted restorer, a reconditioned piano can be a fantastic way to get a high quality instrument at a reasonable price. That being said, approach reconditioned pianos with the same (if not more) caution that you’d take when buying a second hand piano from someone you don’t know. We’d highly recommend asking for: The name of the restorer, what work was done, when was it done and a full service history of the instrument.

If none of the above can be provided or shown, then chances are, you’re barking up the wrong tree and it’s a pretty big red flag to avoid!

If you’re unsure on whether or not an instrument is of good quality or not, we’d highly recommend bringing a piano technician with you to evaluate the instrument. Or, if you’d like some further advice, visit our showroom or contact our experts today!

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