Issues in Piano Care and Purchasing/Selection:
The damage to the piano in the picture was obviously caused by a severe accident or vandalism. But be aware that pianos can have damage that is not visible.
Your piano tuner/technician can note any items of concern during regular tuning visits. In addition, below are some issues and guidelines related to purchasing and maintaining your instrument.
If a piano needs some repairs, that doesn't necessarily mean it should be avoided. But the technician can give you an estimate of what it will take to restore it to good playable condition.
There are many items to be checked prior to purchase that you will not be able to detect yourself. These would include condition of: pitch (and related implications), pinblock, bridge, strings, pins, action, hammers, felt, pedals, regulation, sound board, humidity-
A technician can tell you if the piano will be able to be tuned.
Is the piano close to concert pitch (A=440). If not, that doesn't necessarily mean much other than it hasn't been tuned for a long time and will need a pitch-
If the seller states that "it has been a few years since it was tuned", that usually does NOT mean a literal duration of several years. It usually indicates 20+ years as determined from my experience in hearing this statement.
Generally speaking, the condition of a used piano will be discussed privately with the prospective purchaser once the instrument has been evaluated. There may be things to discuss that are between the technician and the prospective buyer that could contradict or offend the seller if discussed in their presence. The purchaser who is paying for the evaluation wants to make an informed decision or offer to purchase from the seller. The owner is not owed a free evaluation opinion. However, if the prospective buyer wants to share the information with the seller, that is their choice.
Keep the following in mind:
Dusting spray on the piano or even its use on furniture in the same room will likely get into the tuning pins. This can cause pins to become loose and eventually the piano not be able to hold a tuning. Sprays such as Pledge or Liquid Gold contain chemicals that can damage pianos or interact with an older piano finish. Do not use this type of product on the piano including the keys.
In addition to the impact on tuning pins, pianos 30+ years old may have a finish the can become sticky from use of modern cleaning chemicals. (One of my customers had a bench that became sticky because of this.)
For dusting and cleaning, a very small amount of soap or white vinegar (e.g. a teaspoon of white vinegar in a spray bottle of water) can be used. Mixing in some Windex should be ok for cleaning keys. Windex contains some ammonia that should be fine. However, other brands of glass cleaner could have some other additives. Therefore we cannot speak confidently about the other brands.
Wash a new rag before use to remove any dyes or oils that may be in the cloth.
Do NOT use any cleaning spray or cleaning chemicals anywhere on or near the piano (as noted above).
For dusting and cleaning, a very small amount of soap or white vinegar (e.g. a teaspoon of white vinegar in a spray bottle of water) can be used as dusting spray.
For old keys that have some dirt stuck on them, the vinegar solution tends to work. There is a special piano key cleaner available now that comes in a bottle. I have not tried it, but it should be ok for the keys.
Don't try to lubricate anything on your piano. There are a few parts where lubrication is necessary. But many lubricant type should NOT be used. Your technician knows what type of lubricant is appropriate and for what parts.
If the piano is close to the kitchen, note that when cooking bacon or anything greasy, the grease is easily carried through the air. If you smell the bacon, the grease is probably in the air and could be lubricating the tuning pins, especially in a grand piano. Use the fan/filter in your cooking hood to reduce this possibility.
Grease / lubricant should not be used near a piano. I had one customer, many years ago, try to remedy rusty looking strings and tuning pins by spraying WD-
Your piano technician uses some special lubricants that are NOT petroleum-
Relative humidity shoud be maintained between 40 and 50 percent.
The best approach is to manage the building/room humidity. If you are not sure what your humidity level is, you can get a humidistat for roughtly $10 that will help you keep an eye on it. Some of the newer communicating thermostats also have a built-
A second approach is a room humidifier. You can obtain these for well under $100. Although some of these contain humidity sensors and automatic operation, you will probably want to keep an eye on the room humidity to see if you need to adjust the settings and fan speed.
A third approach is to have your piano technician install a "Dampp-