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Planning to get a budget/used 'acoustic piano'... any tips?
Old 26th September 2022
  #1
Planning to get a budget/used 'acoustic piano'... any tips?

Hello, I've been using Keyscape, NI piano vstis and others for piano tracks and.. I am planning on getting a used/vintage/not-so-pricy low-end budget acoustic piano and...

I do not know much about what to check!

So, I am loving piano sound of Chris Martin - Coldplay, also Tom Odelle?

But please, I am not planning on getting 'grand piano'... hehe...

Every time I watch MWM videos or studio tour videos of Greg Wells, they for short introduce their 'craig-list'/'bargain' cheap acoustic piano? I guess... upright piano..? that sound a bit out-of-tune-ish...?

I am looking for one around my area under 500$ (max) perhaps it would cost cheaper and,
what the most, shall I be careful about...?!

I will definitely get helpers to get it inside my studio room,
and most like open the front-bracket(?) for recording...?


Sorry, this is my very first time attempting to purchase a used piano.
I am not a great pianist, just I usually play around with chords for arranging and songwriting

e.g. which brand is good? upright or...?
Old 27th September 2022
  #2
Lives for gear
 
decocco's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
If you are in the US I would look for a mid-century Baldwin Acrosonic. They came in spinet and console sizes.

They are plentiful, reliable and have a nice action. They sound really good; better than most pianos their size.
Old 27th September 2022
  #3
Don't forget tuning can take several sessions and isn't exactly cheap. From what I've seen, there always seems to be a steady stream of people basically giving pianos away. Lots of them need plenty of tuning. But you can find ones that don't, or that might only need a single tune. Someone charging $500 for a piano that will need sessions of tuning might not be a great buy. Unless it's a great piano. Anyway, what I'm saying is...if you're not a pianist or a fluid player and just want a real piano to record that'll sound ok...there should be lots of options out there starting at $0. I'm buying (or not buying) one for a brother this weekend.
Old 28th September 2022
  #4
Lives for gear
 
Bstapper's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
My two cents:

Stay away from the typical Wurlitzer consoles out there unless it’s free and close to in tune. They can be a hassle to work on if their are issues.

Stay away from British made pianos. They often have worn gears and technicians don’t like to work on them.

Try for one where the keys are close to level. And typically speaking the closer the piano is tuned to pitch the less expensive it will be to get it right.

As mentioned, if it is too far out of tune the tuner will be faced with a dilemma. Usually resulting in getting a range close to in tune and letting it slide may the end of the keys as it will take several visits to move the pitch closer to standard.

Free is usually the right price on an upright that needs a bit of tweaking and tuning. After moving you will end up at about market price as long as there is nothing major.

In general terms, the larger the soundboard the better the tone.

Level keys. Make friends with a technician you can consult on brand/model so that you don’t accidentally pick up mechanics that they are going to hate. Closer to pitch the better, even if it is out of tune. Check the felts for wear - the more dented the more work if you want it to get to 100%.

Check the frame and soundboard for cracks.

If you have never heard a frame break in half while being tuned it is a pretty spectacular sound…
Old 28th September 2022
  #5
Lives for gear
 
Bstapper's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Oh, and it is hard to go wrong with Yamaha or Kawai. Even if it needs work it’s probably worth it if it is cheap enough.
Old 28th September 2022
  #6
Gear Addict
My upright piano was free, except for $150 to move it, $80 for a tuning hammer, and several months of rebuilding, learning repairs and how to tune it, then tuning, tuning, and more tuning. The left half was tuned a semitone away from the right half, and it had been left that way for decades. About 18 months later it finally started staying in tune.

Luckily I was gifted with a couple boxes of parts, strings, felts, etc., from a retired piano tuner. I say "lucky" because every time I tuned it, one or two more strings broke. It has certainly been an adventure...
Old 28th September 2022 | Show parent
  #7
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 20 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by decocco ➡️
If you are in the US I would look for a mid-century Baldwin Acrosonic. They came in spinet and console sizes.

They are plentiful, reliable and have a nice action. They sound really good; better than most pianos their size.
I'm pretty familiar with the Acrosonic variants. I wouldn't aim any lower than a Yamaha U1.
Old 28th September 2022
  #8
Lives for gear
 
denstrow's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
One thing we thought at some point with a friend is that a nice purchase would be a dirt cheap piano, that you turn into a prepared piano. You then have a unique sound, and the quality of the piano doesn't matter that much.

I haven't actually done it though, just a thought.
Old 28th September 2022 | Show parent
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by decocco ➡️
If you are in the US I would look for a mid-century Baldwin Acrosonic. They came in spinet and console sizes.

They are plentiful, reliable and have a nice action. They sound really good; better than most pianos their size.
Hello, sorry for late reply. I live outside US but will definitely study 'Baldwin' acrosonic pianos! Hope those are not too expensive! hehe
Old 28th September 2022 | Show parent
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by hello people ➡️
Don't forget tuning can take several sessions and isn't exactly cheap. From what I've seen, there always seems to be a steady stream of people basically giving pianos away. Lots of them need plenty of tuning. But you can find ones that don't, or that might only need a single tune. Someone charging $500 for a piano that will need sessions of tuning might not be a great buy. Unless it's a great piano. Anyway, what I'm saying is...if you're not a pianist or a fluid player and just want a real piano to record that'll sound ok...there should be lots of options out there starting at $0. I'm buying (or not buying) one for a brother this weekend.
Exactly you got it right! I am planning on experiment with it! I have multiple mics so, micing it would be fun too! um, you are right it will take weeks to practice parts but I am driven to record the real piano sound It is just what I always wanted.. VSTis and sample libraries are so so amazing now but I just want some other color plus it is not too pricy! I want all of that honki-ness haha.. (not too honky please hehe)

Right.. tuning can be a b-tch.. I will definitely check on its condition.
Old 28th September 2022 | Show parent
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bstapper ➡️
Oh, and it is hard to go wrong with Yamaha or Kawai. Even if it needs work it’s probably worth it if it is cheap enough.
Yamaha or Kawai <--- Got it.
Old 28th September 2022 | Show parent
  #12
Wow....... I never owned one so this tuning story surprises me much.........
Old 28th September 2022 | Show parent
  #13
Lives for gear
 
decocco's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn ➡️
I'm pretty familiar with the Acrosonic variants. I wouldn't aim any lower than a Yamaha U1.
Now we’re getting fancy! Yamaha U1 is an actual upright.

OP should consult with a respected local piano tech. They often know of pianos for sale and which ones are worth purchasing.

Regardless of the piano you choose, it will only be as good as the tech who maintains it.
Old 28th September 2022
  #14
Lives for gear
 
andyfreeman's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I got a Walter upright secondhand here in Nashville about 5 years ago and while it settled into tuning under the care of one of Nashville's many, many piano tuners, it sounded really thuddy in the bass. So my tuner - Brent Arledge - suggested we restring the bass strings.

It was a serious undertaking and pretty fascinating to watch. He came in with a 100 year old dolly that he used to tilt the upright on its back, and he got to work. It was a one-man job for somebody as experienced as Brent. He's a second-generation piano tuner here in town.

That sort of reset the clock on the piano settling in, so after a few months it was back in operation with a new bright sparkling tone in the bass register. My piano had a new lease on life!

All this to say, if you have a piano tuner who knows what he or she is doing, maintenance counts for a lot.
Old 28th September 2022 | Show parent
  #15
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 20 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by decocco ➡️
Now we’re getting fancy! Yamaha U1 is an actual upright.
Same footprint as a spinet, way better action, way longer strings, the whole front comes off in a jiffy. It won't be as cheap, but that's the only downside.
Old 29th September 2022 | Show parent
  #16
I have done some homework last night and.. no way I can afford even second hand Yamaha nor Kawai lol... but thanks!!
Old 29th September 2022
  #17
I just found a Wienbach upright for my brother. Good condition, recently tuned. Not free but dirt cheap. He's buying it for his young kids. So it'll be fine.
Old 29th September 2022 | Show parent
  #18
Lives for gear
 
Bstapper's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Method Man ➡️
I have done some homework last night and.. no way I can afford even second hand Yamaha nor Kawai lol... but thanks!!
If you are patient enough and ready to pounce you will find a quality upright someone has to get rid of quick. And don’t sleep on estate sales. Hit the piano ones up at the end of the sale on the last day. If someone hasn’t bought it by then they will be desperate for someone to put the labor in to move it.
Old 29th September 2022 | Show parent
  #19
Ok! I will make sure, upright! and those two brands if possible thank you so much.
Old 3rd October 2022
  #20
Gear Nut
 
My advice is to take your time and try to avoid free pianos. The search could take weeks, months or in my case, years but find something that has been loved and taken care of. Yamaha, Kawaii and Baldwin have some decent budget options (vintage); but look for blue putty inside (that means pins slip and you should avoid). Be weary and check for mice; urine and droppings mean it’s infested (sadly they love to destroy pianos). I would also avoid spinets.
Good luck.
Old 3rd October 2022
  #21
Gear Guru
 
4 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Call a piano mover they usually have lots of pianos that people get rid of. I got a Kimball upright and bought a tuning hammer. Guy gave it to me and I paid him to move it.
Old 3rd October 2022 | Show parent
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Reve Vague ➡️
My advice is to take your time and try to avoid free pianos. The search could take weeks, months or in my case, years but find something that has been loved and taken care of. Yamaha, Kawaii and Baldwin have some decent budget options (vintage); but look for blue putty inside (that means pins slip and you should avoid). Be weary and check for mice; urine and droppings mean it’s infested (sadly they love to destroy pianos). I would also avoid spinets.
Good luck.
aha! thank you so so much!
Old 3rd October 2022
  #23
Registered User
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Hi, if you are in Europe, i can recommend the brand "Zeitter & Winkelmann" for upright pianos. There a lots of very good ones, but Z&W is rather unknown (and therefore cheap) but exceptionally good. I was in a situation like you, and was told to stay away from super old ones (that look like furniture, with candle sticks and such ..max 40-50 years old), to look for the strings being in good chape (still "shiny"), the dampers not too worn out, and that it has a switchable felt damper (giving you more sound options).

I've been playing a Z&W in a friends studio, was in love from the first minute and had to get one
Few months later i was lucky to find mine (113cm height, built in the 80ies, still in very nice shape, with "Renner" action) for ridiculous 200 Euros, the transport being the most expensive in the end...and it's such a great instrument. It doesn't have that honky upright sound, is not as bright as a Yamaha or Kawai (personal taste) and with the lid and front open, it almost sounds like a grand.

However i can only encourage you as well to go for one. Even if it isn't in perfect shape, recording a real acoustic piano is a complete different thing compared to the best Vsti's out there, in my experience. There's no substitute for the character, dynamics and a (hopefully) decent sounding room. Another tip on mics: i've made very good recordings using a stereo pair of Beyerdynamic MC-930, plus they're great for almost everything else (OH, git, voc..), never sound harsh and you can get them used for ~500 bucks.
Attached Images
Planning to get a budget/used 'acoustic piano'... any tips?-studio3.jpg 

Last edited by noisekeeper; 3rd October 2022 at 03:40 PM..
Old 3rd October 2022
  #24
Registered User
 
🎧 5 years
Baldwin Hamilton from 70s, 80s, or early 90s. Could very likely be found for around $500. I tried dozens of used uprights before getting my 1980 Baldwin. I love it so stinking much. Super mellow too end, unlike every other piano I tried, which were all bright and tinny. Suggestion: when shopping, record a little bit of the piano with your phone and compare recordings before purchasing. You’ll hear what you’re after real quick.
Old 3rd October 2022
  #25
Gear Nut
 
🎧 5 years
Lots of good input, would put in +1 on Charles Walter upright if you can find one, not so famous as a brand but very good. Agree also with Baldwin, brand was destroyed by Gibson. Most home pianos have not been maintained, so patience is key to avoid PSOs (piano shaped objects). Yamahas are most plentiful - you'll have to decide if you like that bright sound or not, although some might be less bright.

I'm probably giving my 5'8" 1921 Baldwin grand away to a family member. They'll have to move it and fix the pedals coming off during the move (obviously needs repair, just hadn't bothered). It was rebuilt in 1983, needs another rebuild although totally playable and I sometimes use it to practice before playing in someone's home on their typical poorly maintained piano. Case looks great, holds tuning surprisingly well, but hammers are shot and action is worn but playable. A proper rebuild would be $20-25K and the piano would then be worth I guess about $10-12K best case, so not doing it. Anyway, the point is, who knows what you might find out there where someone realizes how piano economics works and just mostly want to get a piano out of their house. The hardest thing will be to filter out the nice furniture from the pianos, with owners who think their nice looking but broken down piano has to be worth more than $500.
Old 4th October 2022 | Show parent
  #26
Quote:
Originally Posted by rmgatl ➡️
Lots of good input, would put in +1 on Charles Walter upright if you can find one, not so famous as a brand but very good. Agree also with Baldwin, brand was destroyed by Gibson. Most home pianos have not been maintained, so patience is key to avoid PSOs (piano shaped objects). Yamahas are most plentiful - you'll have to decide if you like that bright sound or not, although some might be less bright.

I'm probably giving my 5'8" 1921 Baldwin grand away to a family member. They'll have to move it and fix the pedals coming off during the move (obviously needs repair, just hadn't bothered). It was rebuilt in 1983, needs another rebuild although totally playable and I sometimes use it to practice before playing in someone's home on their typical poorly maintained piano. Case looks great, holds tuning surprisingly well, but hammers are shot and action is worn but playable. A proper rebuild would be $20-25K and the piano would then be worth I guess about $10-12K best case, so not doing it. Anyway, the point is, who knows what you might find out there where someone realizes how piano economics works and just mostly want to get a piano out of their house. The hardest thing will be to filter out the nice furniture from the pianos, with owners who think their nice looking but broken down piano has to be worth more than $500.
Sadly! I am not buying used in US..! I have just searched:
Yamaha
Kawai
Baldwin
Zeitter

Most of them even used, around 800USD? upright 2nd hand.. hehe.. slightly over my budget.
I am looking 500usd used max but! but! I will keep on searching here Thanks for all your input!! much appreciated! hope I get better at keys too!


Also I wonder if all upright piano can be front-bracket removable...? just like how engineers record stereo piano with micing...? or do you force-remove it...? I wonder..?
Old 4th October 2022 | Show parent
  #27
Quote:
Originally Posted by noisekeeper ➡️
Hi, if you are in Europe, i can recommend the brand "Zeitter & Winkelmann" for upright pianos. There a lots of very good ones, but Z&W is rather unknown (and therefore cheap) but exceptionally good. I was in a situation like you, and was told to stay away from super old ones (that look like furniture, with candle sticks and such ..max 40-50 years old), to look for the strings being in good chape (still "shiny"), the dampers not too worn out, and that it has a switchable felt damper (giving you more sound options).

I've been playing a Z&W in a friends studio, was in love from the first minute and had to get one
Few months later i was lucky to find mine (113cm height, built in the 80ies, still in very nice shape, with "Renner" action) for ridiculous 200 Euros, the transport being the most expensive in the end...and it's such a great instrument. It doesn't have that honky upright sound, is not as bright as a Yamaha or Kawai (personal taste) and with the lid and front open, it almost sounds like a grand.

However i can only encourage you as well to go for one. Even if it isn't in perfect shape, recording a real acoustic piano is a complete different thing compared to the best Vsti's out there, in my experience. There's no substitute for the character, dynamics and a (hopefully) decent sounding room. Another tip on mics: i've made very good recordings using a stereo pair of Beyerdynamic MC-930, plus they're great for almost everything else (OH, git, voc..), never sound harsh and you can get them used for ~500 bucks.
This piano looking beautiful!!! I wish I never stopped learning piano when I was 14........... now I can just play chords and do songwriting with it.. should have listened to my mother... hehe......
Old 4th October 2022 | Show parent
  #28
Registered User
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Method Man ➡️
This piano looking beautiful!!! I wish I never stopped learning piano when I was 14........... now I can just play chords and do songwriting with it.. should have listened to my mother... hehe......
Doesn't it ? I like the plain design too...total understatement to it's sound.

"Also I wonder if all upright piano can be front-bracket removable...? just like how engineers record stereo piano with micing...? or do you force-remove it...? I wonder..? "

Maybe not on all models, but with Zeitter it's easy: open the top lid, loose two clips and you can take off the front. You can also remove the lower front plate easily.

So you are in Europe ?
Here's two Zeitters that *could* be ok, from german ebay classified ads:

495 Euro:

https://www.ebay-kleinanzeigen.de/s-...107142-74-6978

230 Euro:

https://www.ebay-kleinanzeigen.de/s-...**7871-74-8165

Both seem in good shape for their age, like taken care of and not played too much. They're missing a felt damper (3rd pedal) though.

If you wanna risk buying without playing one first (i did, but totally don't recommend it ), you could set up a transport via anyvan.com, if they're in your country.
Old 4th October 2022 | Show parent
  #29
Thanks for the info! unfortunately I am not in Europe neither.. shipping would be (....lot....) but thanks!

I will remember to search for that brand too
Old 4th October 2022
  #30
Registered User
 
🎧 5 years
Where are you?
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