Used Pianos and Different Tastes

A friend of mine got a message from an out of state relative saying there was a piano free to a good home. The owner of the piano lives in the same city as my friend.

Things worked out and my friend now has an upright piano in her living room.

Neither she nor her husband play, but there it is, handsome and darkly stained, free from its position in storage with a new home.

I grew up with a piano in my house. I had lessons, did very well in them, but moved on to play strings in school orchestras and finally gave up instruments all together to sing instead. Singing is much easier since there’s nothing to carry around and you only have to worry about one note at a time. This is compared to a piano where you’d be tracking up to eight notes at once.

My younger brother also had lessons, from the same venerated matriarch down the street, with flashcards, music theory workbooks, and sticker sheets for tracking our practice time. He now plays the guitar – it’s cooler and easier to carry around.

My older brother never had lessons. He now plays better than me or our brother. He has an incredible ear and figured out how to play some pretty complex video game themes all on his own.

Now I have a sister-in-law who makes me wish I’d never given up the piano. She’s highly talented and can sight-read better than I ever could, even in my last year of lessons.

As far as my friend and her piano are concerned, they’re at square one. She didn’t know what she was picking up, as far as responsibility, so for anyone in a similar position, here are a couple of guides to figure out what your instrument is:

Piano Types | Concert Pitch Piano

Grand vs. Upright | Piano Life Saver 

What to Know Before You Buy Your First Piano | Cooper Piano 

Types of Pianos | Blue Book of Pianos

Once my friend picked up her piano and shared the exciting news over social media, she got a range of advice from those who know a bit about these instruments.

She was particularly surprised to hear about necessary maintenance. One of our more informed friends pointed out she needed to get it tuned immediately, then again in 2-3 weeks, and from there once every six months. I know the one in my childhood home isn’t given that kind of attention, but it’s no performance instrument.

Here are a few links about properly caring for a piano, including tuning schedules, moving tips, and caring for the wood finish:

Care FAQ | Piano Technicians Guild 

Maintaining Your Piano | Shine Music 

Tips for Service, Care and Preventive Maintenance | Onsti Piano Restorations 

My friend got some feedback from her mother, advice that made me pale immediately.

Painting the piano.

I wanted to gag.

I would describe my friend’s taste as “playful gothic”. The Addams Family is one of her favorite shows, Tim Burton films and merchandise line her shelves, and Halloween decorations tend to stay up clear until Christmas (and sometimes after since she adores The Nightmare Before Christmas).

The beautiful dark stain of the piano fits her. Her house maybe not so much, but it definitely fits her. I recommended naming it Gomez. I love names for instruments.

Her mother, however, sees furniture – not an instrument – and gushed about how a solid white paint job would lighten the living room and make things look “clean”.

This may be a matter of taste, and it may come down to what you see when you look at an upright piano. It definitely depends on how much time and money you have to put into the project as a whole – including buying the piece in the first place.

While it still breaks my heart to see a piano full-on painted, not refinished to enhance the wood, this may be a good option for some design-oriented people with cheap pianos on hand.

Here are a few links so you’re prepared to do the job right and so you know what you’re getting into:

Piano Makeover Part 2: Should you paint a piano? | Cutesy Crafts

It’s Okay to Paint a Piano | Smile and Wave 

Reconsidering a Painted Piano | Addicted 2 Decorating 

How to Paint a Piano | Jones Design Company 

How to Paint Your Piano the Easy Way | It’s Always Autumn 

Personally, I think Gomez should get a lovely polish, get his tunings scheduled, be tended to by a qualified repair technician, and be adorned with a spider web runner over the top, and a tall three-pronged candelabra holding silver sparkle candles.

Gawdy, yes.

But perfect.


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