“It’s free right?! It’s got to be a good deal!”
This is something that we hear all the time when people are looking for either a secondhand piano or their first piano for their children to begin learning on. Free pianos can be found all over secondhand selling sites such as Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree or Ebay, but almost all of them should be approached with some caution.
As always if you are considering buying any secondhand piano, the best place to begin is to read our guide on things to look out for on secondhand instruments to ensure that the instrument is going to be suitable for your needs.
Why Is Something Free Not A Good Choice?
We’re definitely not saying that all acoustic pianos that are either being donated or given away for free are ‘bad’ or have a poor intent behind them, however the main reason is usually because they are difficult to move or dispose of, so many see it as an opportunity to move the problem onto someone else.
The first things to consider if you are looking to take in a free piano is your own intentions: For example, what are your needs, goals and budget? Without these three things and by just jumping straight into a piano without considering it first, you’ll likely end up with a well-intended, but ultimately useless instrument that will likely become an incredibly expensive nuisance.
Who Will Play The Piano?
If the piano is for yourself or a child to get started with piano on a budget, this is not a reason to take the first instrument you find. The main reason we say this is because if after a few months you decide the piano isn’t for you, then you are stuck with this large, heavy and non-functional instrument.
Likewise, if the instrument hasn’t been maintained or well-kept, then your enjoyment of playing is going to be impacted. If certain keys don’t function or the instrument is constantly slipping out of tune, then the pieces you learn won’t sound as intended, leading to the player ultimately wanting to give up.
If you are learning for the first time, this is the exact reason we created our Kickstart Rental Scheme using portable pianos in order to create a hassle free way of getting started with learning on an instrument with fully weighted keys, that can be carried right out of the door. This way, if after a few months you decide piano isn’t for you, you can simply return the instrument to us in its carry case.
The second reason that you may be considering a donated piano may be as an upgrade for a family member who is progressing on a digital piano up to an acoustic one. Trust us when we say that this is almost always going to end in disaster. In the same way that Grand pianos are not inherently better than upright pianos, not all acoustic pianos are ‘better’ than digital ones and particularly if the player is of a progressing standard (Grade 3+) then they will need an appropriate instrument to support their learning. If you’d like to learn more about this, we’d highly recommend speaking to our piano experts who will be able to advise based on budget, requirement and need. For progressing players, touch and tone are also crucial to their enjoyment of an instrument, so it is always best to try a piano before purchasing it.
When it comes to budget, a free piano may seem like a great deal, however when we speak about pianos, it is far better to see them as investments instead of one time purchases, acoustic pianos often hold their value better than that of digital ones, which if someone is already willing to donate a piano for free, implies they have no use or value in it and they are likely right. Whilst an instrument may hold a lot of emotional and sentimental value, for the most part, pianos which are 40-100+ years old will have little to no economic value. We are however always willing to give advice for those looking to sell or donate their instruments here.
Instead, a far better way to look at this would be to consider what you want from the instrument and think ‘how much am I willing to invest in my learning?’ if the answer is nothing, then you are likely not ready for an acoustic instrument and we would recommend renting something first.
Why Are They Giving It Away?
In the same way that it is a good idea to question why you want a free piano, it is an even better idea to ask why someone is giving one away. There are a number of reasons that someone may want to donate a piano and each has its own potential issues.
The current owners no longer use the piano.
This is likely the most common reason for donating a piano and oftentimes comes from the piano being inherited or donated to the current owners themselves. Sometimes people inherit a piano from a family member with the thought they will make use of it and it ends up collecting dust until the decision is made to offer it up for free.
These instruments are almost never well maintained or tuned and if the instrument has been put out of the way in perhaps a garage or conservatory, it’s not uncommon to see issues such as sticky keys, cracked soundboards and a number of other exposures that happen to unwanted pieces of furniture (sunlight damage, water from drinking glasses, etc). Learn more about this in our guide to why pianos may be making a buzzing noise.
One common line to watchout for here is that the piano is in ‘excellent condition’ or has been ‘barely played’, this are often buzzwords that someone may put on an ad in order to attract interest, but just because they didn’t play it much, the person who they brought it from may have!
The current owners are moving
This is a testament to how expensive and difficult moving an unwanted piano can be, if someone is donating a piano because they are moving, either they do not play it (see above) or they are physically unable to move it with them, in which case why would they pay to get it removed when they can get someone else to do it for them?
If this is the case, it is always sensible to ask where the piano is located, for example if it is up a flight of stairs, or around a sharp corner that will need the instrument flipping in some way, then consult a specialist piano mover first. Moving an acoustic piano even simply will still cost a few hundred pounds and as soon as stairs or complications are added, it is easy to see that number jump up into the high hundreds, even thousands.
The Current Owners Know It Has No Value
Remember how earlier we mentioned about unwanted pianos becoming a nuisance? Well chances are that if someone is giving away a piano, then they fell into the same trap and are now stuck with an instrument they don’t want.
In which case they either know it has no value or are simply trying to get rid of it. This is why it is always worth inspecting the instrument before buying it (even if it is free) as broken keys or missing components can easily cost lots to repair and replace. If you can, it may be worth contacting your local piano technician in order to determine whether or not the instrument is worth it.\
If you are interested in seriously learning the piano and want it to be a part of your home, remember that these instruments are large and can easily define a room, whilst older pianos can look fantastic in certain settings, consider where the piano is being placed and if it will have the intended effect: Learn more in our guide to interior design with pianos here.
We hope this has helped offer some further information into the kinds of things to look out for when picking up a free piano, if you would like any further advice, contact our showroom team or book a demonstration in our showroom today!