Renting/Buying/Selling a Piano or Keyboard

Parent Q&A

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  • My kids are learning to play the piano and I'm looking for advice on small piano or keyboard to purchase.  I prefer something smaller so not looking for any of the fancy pianos since it will only be used by kids as they learn (the adults cannot play).  I looked online and the prices for new vary considerably and same with the prices for used.  My husband has strong preference for new since he will rather pay a bit more to ensure he is not getting something that is broken or does not work well since we won't know the difference, but there are so many used pianos for sale that I'm tempted.  Any advice?  What's the difference between a small piano and a keyboard (such as the Yamaha keyboard sold at Costco)?  Any way to know what a used piano/keyboard is working or how risky is it to buy used?  What's a reasonable price for a keyboard/piano of decent quality that will be goods for young kids to learn on and to have at home.  

    Don't buy a keyboard. It has a totally different feel than a regular piano and if you want your children to eventually take real piano lessons, the keyboard will be a source of frustration when they practice at home. If you want your children to eventually learn piano, spring for a real "electronic piano" that has all 88 keys and "weighted keys" that mimic the feel of a real piano. Space wise it will be as small as a keyboard and you just buy a stand and a bench for it. The price starts at $300 (?) and goes up. For reference, we sprang for the next price range, which started at $1000, got a good deal at Guitar Center. But even the $1000 e-piano did not sound anything remotely like the nice grand piano that the piano teacher has, and one of the keys is already loose after one year of use, but it is good enough. You just get what you pay for. FYI Yamaha is a good brand.

    If you get a keyboard maje sure it is 88 keys like a full piano. We purchased ours at Costco 7 years ago and it’s great! Compact and good sounding with decent action in the keys though not as much as an actual piano. If you get a used piano you have to figure in the costs of moving it and tuning it. 

    I have a comment about buying a used (real) piano. Don't do it unless you really know pianos. People have a hard time selling used real pianos because the price of moving the piano to your house and getting it tuned (and retuned all the time) is more than the piano itself. Buying a used piano only makes sense if you are buying a really nice one, and you know your stuff.

    The main difference between the keyboard and a small (upright) piano is the number and weigh of the keys. If you want your kids to learn to play the piano long term, starting with piano is recommended, I am speaking from experience when I learned as a young child, I started with keyboard and had a hard time transitioning to actual piano key weight (I started when I was 5). But nowadays, Yamaha and other electronic keyboards also has weighted keys options so you just need to look for that and a minimum keyboard size of 88 keys. If you want the used piano options, go with a piano or music store where they can recommend a tuner for you. We also did that with my son and purchased a used piano from a music store. 

    I highly recommend going to DC Piano on San Pablo, on the same block as Ohmega Salvage. I bought a used Yamaha there as a gift for my husband and it sounds better and has more bells and whistles (instruments, effects) than anything new at a comparable price. It really sounds exactly like a piano. This store refurbishes old keyboards as well as pianos, and they are highly professional and skilled at what they do. Their focus is on pianos so they don’t have a ton of keyboards, but it’s definitely worth visiting as a starting point - they’d probably be happy to give objective advice even if it meant buying elsewhere. And while you’re there you can ogle $10,000 antique pianos for when the kid shows promise as a concert pianist!

  • East bay piano store

    (3 replies)

    We are about to replace our daughter's keyboard with a real acoustic piano, and are seeking recommendations for a store with reasonable price ranges, good selection, and non-pushy salespeople. Willing to go to any really good store in the bay area, but prefer east bay.

    DC pianos on San Pablo are wonderful. Really friendly and approachable, and offer trade-in for acoustic pianos for up to ten years. 

    We had a good experience with Kassman on Gilman.  You should definitely negotiate the price.


    D C Piano Company is great!  Store is sort of funky, in a quirky, fun way.  We bought an old, but very good used piano that was inexpensive.  We didn't want to make a huge investment not knowing if music was going to be a long term passion.  Turns out it was, and 9 years later we bought a new piano's the good part:  We spent about $2,200.00 on the first piano, used it every day for 9 years, and they still gave us the full $2,200 credit for trade-in on the new piano.  As far as I know this trade-in policy is still in place.  It is family owned; really nice people; no pushy sales tactics.  We went in, picked out a few we liked, and for the cost of a lesson, my daughter's piano teacher was willing to go check them out, and make recommendations both times.  Glad to hear your daughter is into music!  My daughter is in college, now, and she still plays and takes lessons.

  • Renting a Piano Before Buying?

    (3 replies)

    We would like to rent a piano for a year to see if it's something that the family takes to, before we commit to purchasing something. During that time, the thought is that the kids as well as one parent would take lessons at our house.  Can someone please provide some recommendations on where we can do this from? And any rough estimates on what something like this could cost would be great. Thank you in advance. 

    Piedmont Piano.  A wide range of instruments.  We rented a very nice Yamaha upright for a few years.  You are VERY wise to rent before buying.  Unless their contracts have changed, a portion of your rent can be a credit against an ultimate purchase -- like a lease/option to buy.  Nice people.  Local business that's been around for years (although it's changed locations from where I might have sent you -- oops!). 

    We bought a very inexpensive piano from DC pianos for a starter. I think it was $250 or $300, which included tuning and delivery. They have an upgrade program, so that amount that we paid was credited toward a more expensive piano that we got about 5 years later. It included pickup of the old one and delivery and tuning once again. This worked great for us, but they also do rentals, but they seem to be higher end and prices are listed on their website:

    Good luck!

    Take a look on Craig's List.  I've seen a lot of pianos being given away for free.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Want to purchase a grand piano

Jan 2014

I would love to purchase a grand piano. It has been a long dream since I was a child. Back in the day, I dreamed about a Baldwin or Steinway. Steinway pianos I think are too expensive for our family. I can't seem to find any Baldwins anywhere. I know the company has changed a lot, but I wanted to make sure I am looking at the right places. Do you have any recommendations for where to go to buy a grand piano? I tried out Yamaha, but I really did not like the touch or sound, after testing several. If you are a piano player, I think you know what kind of sound I am looking for, when I say the classic Baldwin touch and sound. At this point, I am open to other 'brands,' just am looking for a piano that doesn't have a heavy touch or a flat sound. If you have any suggestions on where to purchase a grand piano, that would be great. Also, do you have a favorite piano technician? Thanks for any feedback!

Hi, I'm a pianist/piano teacher, and I can contribute a few tips that have helped me in my own piano purchases as well as helping student families find the right instrument. I hope these help:

-Test a lot of pianos in showrooms to familiarize yourself with other brands, but...

-Don't limit yourself to buying from a showroom. You already have an idea of what you want, so it's usually worth it to check into used piano sales. It's very much a buyer's market. Craigslist of course has a lot of garbage, but it also has a lot of great pianos. Random situations like a piano that was on the premises of a start-up now going defunct, being sold by someone clueless about pianos. This can be great for the buyer!

-If buying from an individual, ask a few basic questions that are similar to asking about a used car: maintenance over the years, was it tuned regularly, moved a lot, etc. Then...

-If you are really interested in a piano, have someone professionally appraise it, for around $120-150. They will check over every inch of the soundboard and action and give you a long, detailed report, including the worth and any work you might expect to have done over the next 10 years or so.

I bought a used baby grand Yamaha off craigslist 4 months ago, after having a thorough appraisal, and got it for a steal compared to it's retail value. It took some driving and a little more follow-through in terms of setting up appointments, but I was happy I did it, as I could not have afforded a baby grand otherwise.

Two piano technicians I recommend highly: Larry Newhouse - SF or Marin 415-383-7690 and David Abdalian - East Bay 925-460-3211

Hope you enjoy your new piano! Kate

Recommendations for a good piano keyboard

Dec 2013

We would like to buy a nice sounding, 88 key, weighted or semi weighted keyboard for my daughter to start taking piano lessons but hope not to pay over $600. We would like something that she can grow in to and for me to play as well. I like to play and grew up playing a traditional stand up baby grand but would not call myself a 'musician' by any means so some of the super fancy keyboards for professional musicians is not necessary. Getting a keyboard was our compromise to getting a traditional piano since you can use headphones, turn down the volume, takes less space, etc. but we would like the sound and feel of a traditional piano as much as possible. There are so many makes/models, does anyone have any recommendations or have one that they are happy with?

Roland makes great keyboards! I'm not sure of their prices now. I have an old Roland Piano 1000s, which is a 'furniture' model. The keyboard responds to touch as a regular piano does (which was the main thing I was looking for), & it has 3 pedals. Closest thing I could find at the time to an acoustic piano. piano lover

I happened across this great keyboard buying blog by a piano teacher in Arizona. . I had the same interests and criteria and the website helped me select a Casio that is working out great now and will be what we need for years to come. Tim and his son Erik put up the content and are happy to also talk to you by phone - which I also found helpful. They don't push any products and seem genuinely motivated to just help people get the best keyboard for them for the least cost. It turns out you can also purchase directly through them (not something they advertise on their website) and their wholesale prices beat anything else I could find. Besides their love of helping people buy pianos, they are using the site to raise $ for medical expenses for Erik's young son who has leukemia (page clicks revenues, donations from happy clients ....). Carrie

2009 - 2012 Recommendations

Buying a piano for the very first time

Oct 2011

We are trying to buy a piano for our 6 and 8 year olds who just started taking music lessons. Their teacher recommends buying a Yamaha, possibly an used one. The one used at her friend's store was a little more than $3000. I remember seeing a piano roadshow at Costco a few months ago. A small? new Yamaha was $3999. I can't really compare because I don't know the model. Any idea on where to start? Used vs New? Thank you in advance! Lisa

We bought our first piano last year. I looked at a lot of piano stores, and while they seemed great, even the used pianos were often close to $1000...too much for us. I began trolling craigslist for used pianos and, after a couple months, struck gold. I was able to get a gorgeous spinet piano (which are often cheaper, for whatever reason) for $250. I then hired a guy for $50 to move it to my house and, after a piano tuning, the piano seems good as new. I think that inexpensive pianos often show up on craigslist (often for free!) because when someone is moving or having an estate sale, they want to get rid of the piano asap. You just have to decide how much money you want to put into fixing it up (I waited until I found one in perfect condition). If you are willing to fix missing keys or whatever, then you have a HUGE selection available. Poor But Musical

Piedmont Piano Company in Oakland has a good selection of used uprights. They are a very established, reputable business and will work with you to get something that fits your budget. You'll do better getting a decent used upright than a cheap new piano, since a piano will last many years if it's taken care of. Laura

We went through this a few months back, looking for a piano for our teenager. Here (in a nutshell) is what we learned: The Costco pianos are garbage. They are made from cheap materials and will last only a few years. The older (1980s) Yamaha and Kawai pianos are well-made. Later Yamaha and Kawai pianos, however, may have been manufactured in tropical climates and the woods in those pianos can shrink in the relatively dry climate of the Bay Area, compromising their sound. There are piano companies in the Bay Area that import used pianos from Japan and resell them here (in Japan, apparently, there is little market for used pianos). They will run $3500-5000. Some of the old -- early 20th Century -- pianos can be gems, but they often need work. There are lots of pianos on craigslist all the time, and you can get a bargain that way, but it takes time and requires that you bring someone who knows pianos. (Our son's piano teacher helped vet pianos for us.) We ended up working with a piano restorer, Steve Benjamins, who was recommended by a friend who is a professional pianist. Steve has pianos coming in all the time. He had a 1921 Ludwig upright with great potential -- solid oak inside, mahogany outside, big sound. We paid him to rebuild it (new hammers and dampers). It cost us about $3000 and sounds awesome -- much better than the Yamahas and Kawais we saw. Steve is a great guy and really knows/loves pianos. You might give him a call. (925) 451-2710. Leslie

I am not sure if you are committed to buying one now...but my kids are also just starting lessons and we decided to rent until we have a better feel for whether the piano will 'stick' or not. We rented ours at DC Piano in Berkeley after checking the archives and talking with our teacher. They will credit much of the rental towards a purchase if we decide to do that later. They also sell a ton of pianos.

It was great fun to go and look at their pianos and to learn about them. The guy who was helping us just kept popping around and plays bit of songs for us on the various pianos. I had lots of dumb questions as I have never played myself and have no clue about an upright vs. anything else.

I am happy we decided to rent; and we still may buy if after a year my son is still interested...and, if not, they will come take it away and we will have saved a ton of money and space in the house that the piano would take up for the next several decades. Thrilled you can rent pianos...I had no idea you could do that

Our piano tuner says to avoid the cheap new pianos from Costco. He claims they are made in China out of bad wood and cheap parts and will never sound good. Much better to pick up an older Yamaha made out of solid seasoned wood and metals. He said that our 70s vintage Yamaha upright is a fine example of a good (and inexpensive) piano. Elizabeth

There is a great book called 'The Piano Book'. It's easy to read and will give you lots of info about buying used and new pianos. What to look for in used, how to know if it's in good condition, different piano problems to look for in a used piano, different brands and models based on your level of use,etc. It really helped me years ago when I bought my piano. BTW...I bought a Yamaho U-4 model and I've loved every second of it (used)...I found it from a dealer in SF. Personally I'd be wary of buying a piano from Costco...check out all your options thoroughly. Go to some of the piano stores and to people, get info. This is not a quick decision purchase. Good luck, love my piano

My brother has a piano store and he is a Yamaha dealer - Piedmont Piano Company: 1728 San Pablo Ave. at 18th St. Oakland, CA 94612. 510-547-8188. Open Every Day.

While he has very good prices on new Yamahas and other brands, he also has a large stock of used pianos. If you have children who are just starting out on piano and you need to pay less for their first piano, there are some very good used pianos which will do the job very well. His excellent trained staff can help you choose from the variety of used pianos, or work out financing for a new Yamaha if that's what you decide on. anon

I have been teaching piano for 35 years. Here is the advice I give my students.

Pianos generally hold their value very well because they are very durable. Most quality acoustic instruments will last 40+ years in good playing condition. In other words, you could pay $2500 for a piano now, have your kids play it for 10 years, and then sell it for about the same amount when you don't want it any more.

New vs. used: If you buy new, you will pay a markup for dealer overhead and manufacturer profit, just like with a new car. But if you feel timid about entering the used market, the extra money might be worth it to you.

Evaluating instruments: Two key weapons for your arsenal

1. Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer: Supplement to The Piano Book (Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer: The Definitive Guide to Buying New, Used & Restored Pianos). Totally revised in Sept. 2010 according to The author, Larry Fine, is a piano technician. This is basically a 'Consumer Reports' type book on buying used or new pianos.

2. Find a local piano tech that you can trust. Ask your teacher for suggestions or repost on BPN. You could also check with the Piano Technicians Guild They have a page for requesting a referral. Have the technician evaluate any instrument you are considering. This is like having a mechanic check out a used car.

Finally, I have to add my opinion on the issue of digital vs. acoustic. While digital pianos have some valuable applications, I ALWAYS want students to be practicing most of the time on a quality acoustic piano.

1. The action of an acoustic instrument gives a person a unique and more specific way of learning how one's effort or movement produces certain sounds. With an acoustic instrument, the player can feel the vibration of the keys and the body of the instrument when the sound is produced by the hammer striking the string.

2. Acoustic actions have weights in the keys which creates a surface resistance to movement so that a player can rest some of the weight of their arms and hands onto the keys. Once the hammer is triggered, the resistance is much less, so that the player can learn to rest on the bottom of the keys after playing. These two attributes of the action can help train a player to have a highly efficient piano technique.

The action of a digital piano, even if it is 'touch sensitive' or has weighted keys, is not the same, in that there is not a varying amount of resistance depending on whether the sound has been made or not. In my years of experience, playing on a digital keyboard and/or an instrument with too light keys tends to produce shoulder, neck and back tension, and various technical limitations in intermediate and advanced players.

'Well', you may say, 'my kids are just beginners. Who knows if they are going to stick with it?' In my experience, they are much more likely to stick with it if they have a quality, comfortable instrument to play. Children are generally very in tune with their senses and will practice more on a piano that sounds good to them. Over time, the vibrations and depth of sound of an acoustic instrument is more satisfying. And remember, you most likely will be able to sell the instrument for close to what you paid for it if they lose interest.

To summarize, it's fine to have a digital instrument in the home as long as you also have a good quality acoustic piano. Rebecca

I bought a piano for my granddaughter when she began to take lessons and I only spent $400 and got a very decent piano that was certainly fine for the purpose of a young kid just starting out.

I bought my piano from Ruben Jackson rubenjackson [at] He gets pianos, fixes them and tunes them and delivers them for a very reasonable price.

On a side note, after a year and a half my granddaughter gave up piano! So I don't recommend a huge monetary outlay when you are just starting out unless you are in an economic strata that allows for those kinds of outlays for what may become a giant dust catcher. wiser and not much poorer

Love my (used) Yamaha upright which I bought from DC Piano on San Pablo in Berkeley. I actually went in expecting to spend under $1000, and ended up spending $3500. This piano has such a gorgeous, warm and rich sound and I am very happy with the purchase. It's a U7, not made any more, and I've since learned it's very difficult to find. Was very pleased with the service at DC Piano - they left me alone for as long as I wanted to try their pianos, then carefully delivered the piano and offered a free tuning thereafter. piano mom

How Best To Part With My Dad's Piano?

March 2011

I'm (nearly) ready and looking to let go of my father's piano. It's a very small baby grand piano (a Schmoller & Mueller, probably ca. early 1920s), but even as petite as it is (basically, a 60 square footprint), it doesn't fit in our even more petite living room, and has been relegated to a room of its own for nearly 13 years. As sentimental as it is to me, I'm reaching the point where practicality and the desperate need to re-purpose the room is prevailing. And since we have absolutely no other place in the house to put it, I don't see any other option other than letting it go. This is why I'm writing..does anyone have any suggestions with what might be a good solution. I already checked with family, and nobody is able to take it. I'm up for donating it to, say, a non-profit/nursing home/senior center. (any suggestions for who might want it?), or selling it (checking online, it looks like it's worth about $650). When my dad passed away, I inherited it and refurbished it. It's walnut brown, and the finish has crazed a bit on one side and there are some repairable scratches here and there. It would need to be re-tuned. And although it always sounded wonderful to me when my dad played it, it's not considered by 'experts' to be a very fine instrument. But it is a very sweet little piano, and has a wonderful story, and I'm hoping this will be the reason why someone would be interested in it. So, as you can probably tell, it's very difficult to let go of (and I do worry I'll regret letting it go, but I just can't think of what else to do with it), but if I think it's going to a good home, then I'll feel better about it. So if anyone has any ideas, or is interested in it, or knows of someone or a group that might be interested, I'd certainly appreciate any suggestions. Many thanks. Kitty

Consider making a donation to the Oakland Symphony Chorus. Music funding as dried up along with everything else, and your donation to an organization that promotes music education and performance for kids and adults in our community would create a fitting legacy. Contact info [at] to learn more. music lover

Digital Piano vs Regular Piano

Aug 2009

We are considering the addition of a piano to our household. I had been seriously considering a full-sized digital piano. We don't have a lot of space and they seem to give you a lot of bang for your buck without taking up too much space. However, one of my musician friends just informed me that, at the conservatory she teaches at, they don't allow kids to practice on digital pianos and that many of her piano teacher friends won't accept students with digital pianos. Apparently it has something to do with the pressure and feel of the keys...? Maybe there are additional reasons as well...? Has anyone ever come across a piano teacher that won't take students that practice on a digital? Should I just pop for a traditional piano? Any recommendations for full-sized digital pianos that are considered close to the real thing? No Room For the Baby Grand

Your friend is right...piano keys on a real piano vs digital are totally different. The weight, the sound, the touch. Go to a piano store and try different pianos...Press a few keys on an upright piano and hold them down..listen to the sound. Press a few keys on digital...notice the difference in quality. In my opinion, even a smaller cheaper upright piano (or even a Spinnet...the smallest) sound way richer and fuller in tone and quality then a digital.

Digital pianos and keyboards certainly have their place in the music world in many great ways, but personally I would not want to have my child learning to play piano on a digital. piano snob

To answer your question about a digital piano vs. an acoustic,I draw upon my own experience as a private piano teacher. In general, I recommend that students obtain an acoustic piano when they embark upon lessons, but particular care goes into choosing an instrument that is well regulated (even to the touch) and properly voiced: e.g. resonant, and having registrations that transition smoothly. This is a big order in the universe of private market used pianos of the small variety: consoles, spinets. That said, some parents sidestep the ordeal of looking far and wide for a decent instrument and go for purchasing the weighted digital keyboard. The fact is that a digital piano is NOT a real piano, and has no hammers, strings, etc. My recommendation is that you look for a Baldwin Acrosonic acoustic piano, mid 50s to late 60's and take along a good musician with you. (a fine pianist/teacher)To double on that opinion, consult a registered technician to go over the condition of the strings,hammers and soundboard. Acros run anywhere from $300 to $650 or $700. They are fabulous pianos. Some techs call them the Steinway of the small size instruments. I wholeheartedly concur as several of my students have purchased Acros and are very happy with them.

I definitely advocate for buying an acoustic piano over a digital for the reasons I explained in my prior reply. The ''feel'' of a digital can never approximate that of an acoustic piano.. and particularly where one is looking for the ideal in a grand such as a Steinway, the dynamic range of a digital is far more limited. But having said that, I use a digital at night with earphones as a practice keyboard not as my tour de force instrument. My space accommodates two Steinways (horizontal and vertical)and my keyboard is a Casio PX110. The 110 is now upgraded to the 120, but in my opinion falls short of its predecessor. It seems with every upgrade there is a compensatory downgrade. I don't like the PX320 either, because of the bells/whistles add-ons. The whole world of digitals becomes more disappointing by the day. For the youngsters starting piano, a good acoustic is best, but having the digital around affords sound exploration experiences. To build a solid technique and musicianship, go for the Baldwin Acrosonic acoustic circa mid 50s to late 60's. shirley

Digital has the advantage of being small, and you can practice with headphones. This may be very important if you live in an apartment or an area where neighbors may complain about the noise. Also, unlike an acoustic piano, a digital piano does not require any regular maintenance (acoustic pianos need to be tuned at least once a year, probably twice for best results). That is pretty much where the advantages end.

An acoustic piano is the right instrument for kids to learn on because it gives them the genuine hammer action that is important for learning the feel and is a necessity for any serious student. (A lot of digital piano companies advertise their digital pianos as having ''realistic'' action, but it's really not the same). Any serious teacher is going to require their students at a certain level to use an acoustic piano. A digital piano, even the best sounding ones, are a computerized recording of an instrument being played back through a speaker. You don't get the same sound or the get to feel the resonance of the hammer hitting the strings on a digital piano.

A *good* digital piano will cost at least $2,000-4,000. You can find a quality used acoustic upright piano for the same cost. You should take a look at a book called ''The Piano Book'' by Larry Fine (there is also an annual supplement on pricing). If you decide to go for an acoustic upright go for something with a quality, recognizable name like Yamaha or Kawai--they are well built and the resale value on these makes them a worthwhile investment. The best website for piano information is is a wealth of information to be found on their forums, including information about digital pianos. Once you've done your research, craigslist is a good source for used pianos.

I really don't understand why most piano teachers insist on a real piano. I know people who teach silver flute that start kids on a plastic song flute. And violin teachers commonly start kids on a half size violin. The keyboard is cheaper, easier to move, easier to find space for, and in addition, it is a real instrument. Kids growing up today are more likely to find a job playing a keyboard than a piano. And it most cases, having a kid take lessons isn't about becoming a concert pianist, it is about getting a musical education.

There are many piano teachers out there. I called around until I found one who was within walking distance and was okay with a keyboard. She turned out to be much more flexible in other ways,too, which was great.

My daughter has grown up and abandoned music, as most people do. She started music lessons when very young, and moved on to another instrument when she got older. It really mattered not at all that she learned to play on a keyboard. If piano had become her love, we would have purchased a piano. But in today's world, a student is more likely to want a real keyboard, not piano or an electric piano. Please yourselves and your child, not the teacher. Sanon

2005 - 2008 Recommendations

Store old piano till we need it?

Sept 2008

Hi - I'm planning to start my child on piano lessons in 2009. I have an old (beat up) upright (probably 25 years+) that is taking up too much space in my little house). So I'm thinking of placing it in storage for a year. I'd like your feedback about storing it and where? Any idea of the typical costs? I live in Oakland. Also how do I figure out if it just makes more sense to get a new one? Thanks!

If I were you, I'd find someone interested in using your piano until you're ready for it. They could pay the cost to move it and you wouldn't have storage costs. Sounds like a win-win situation to me. anon

Your experience exactly mirrors our family's. I'll give you the plus and minuses. Many years ago, we were in a house much too small for our upright piano. Ours is a very old (1908) Baldwin player piano. It has been in my family for years and I couldn't bear to part with it, so we put it in storage. We used McCrea's AA Piano Moving and Storage. They are in Oakland: When we moved to a bigger place, we had the piano moved in. It was in the exact same condition as when we had it stored, so they did a good job. Plus they have a special piano storage facility, so the temperature, moisture, and so on are controlled.

The minuses? Well, we had it stored waaaay longer than we imagined, for years in fact. At about $65/month, that really added up. Now, not only are we out the money for 4 years of storage, we have a century old piano that could really use to be tuned and restored. It would have been cheaper to sell the old beast and buy a new one when we had space. If you only to intend to store it for a year, and your piano doesn't need much work, then it may make sense to keep it. My problem was my emotional attachment to the piano. If it hadn't been bought by my grandparents and handed down, I probably would have gotten rid of it.

Buying a used piano--how and where?

June 2007

i'm interested in purchasing a used upright piano for my young children to learn and practice piano playing. any recommendations on where to buy one? i'm not looking for anything fancy. is it worth buying a used one from another family and paying extra for moving costs and tuning? pamela

We got a Baldwin Acrosonic from DC Piano on San Pablo. Had a good experience! We had decided on a spinet for space considerations. So, he took us up to pick one out to be re-furbished. We picked it & it took 2 months and cost 2 grand for piano, re-work, delivery, & tuning. Wow. It looks good & sounds great. They were very nice. Threw in a bench that looked like junk on the heap in the shop? When it was delivered? New. Perfect match with piano. It's been about a year now and it's getting a lot of rough play and it is fine. We're happy.

Check out the musical instruments section of Craigslist. It seems every few days someone gives a piano away, all you need is a few friends and a truck to pick it up. Be sure to have someone on hand to check it out before you end up hauling off a real junker. CL lurker

We had a great experience last fall at DC Piano on San Pablo. They have both new and used pianos and a huge range of prices. Everything was included (they even custom-fit and rebuilt a bench to match our 1920's upright), there were no hassles, and they were super nice. I highly recommend at least having a look there. We had previously looked into getting a cheap piano ''on our own'' but just didn't have the time to deal with all the coordination. happy with full-service

I agree on DC piano. Bought a used Yamaha a few years ago from Dennis. I have no complaints about the equipment, price, or the buying experience. He will let you go in try out the equipment in the store...I did so on several truips before buying. Ray

Where to rent a piano

Dec 2006

Hi everybody, Does anybody know a good place where I can rent a standing piano for a couple of months? Thanks, Sara

Try DC Piano Co. in Berkeley for Piano Rentals. They are at 2416 San Pablo Av. Their phone is 510-549-9755. (PS. I am a piano teacher in Berkeley) Ernie

How to sell a Grand Piano?

May 2006

Can anybody recommand what is the best way to sell a 5 feet Grand piano ? It is 3 year old and likes new. Thank you. Alice

Try Piedmont Piano Company on Piedmont Ave. in Oakland. They might be able to help you. They gave me advice on finding a piano tuner. Got piano

Portable Keyboard for new piano student

May 2005

My 6 year old daughter really wants to start piano lessons. I do not want to purchase, maintain and find space for a piano until she shows true commitment. I have been told it is acceptable to start by using an electronic keyboard. One friend has recommended the Yamaha DGX505 keyboard ($540 at Costco). This certainly seems nice, but is there a less expensive keyboard that would perform just as well? I am confused and would appreciate some feedback from people who know these products and beginner piano playing better. If the 505 is the highly recommended choice and will get us a few years down the road, I will spring for it. By the way, I think I will learn how to play too!

I would suggest renting an electric piano for a few months from one of the local piano dealers...Piedmont Piano comes to mind. Truthfully, a $500.00 keyboard at Costco is not very good quality. A good quality keyboard would be more of an investment, and if you're going to buy either a keyboard or piano for long term use you really want to have something in good condition that will last and that has a good sound. It's not expensive to rent an electric, (or acoustic either...they will deliver) and then you could hear your daughter play something with fairly descent sound. My two cents... pianist mom

(From a piano teacher in Berkeley:)

In general, the Yamaha keyboards are good - I would avoid off-brands and would definitely avoid Casio!! Yamaha is a respected company with years in the music business.

The ''short answer'' to your question: before you make a purchase, go visit a reputable piano company like Piedmont Piano in Oakland. You will get expert advice, and they both sell and rent all kinds of pianos, including electric ones. Remember, it is completely free to try out instruments, so why not try out all that you can?

The price of $500 you mentioned from Costco for a Yamaha electric piano seems a little high, especially when you consider that you get no knowledgible service from them, and there is little re-sale value on that type of instrument.

Ernie Mansfield

Digital Pianos

Feb 2005

In the course of shopping for a digital piano, several questions have come up that local dealers have not been able to answer satisfactorily. I should note that we are looking for a piano substitute that will not alienate our neighbors during early morning practice time, so multitudes of extra voices and features are not essential. We want the best touch and feel more than anything else. 1) What is the difference between the Clavinova line and the Yamaha digital piano line (other than the looks/extra features of specific models)? 2) Is Roland still considered ''top of the line?'' 3) Are there considerations of maintenance and repair we should think about? 4)Any particularly knowledgable dealers you'd recommend? We'd like to hear the whole spectrum of opinions and experience. cld

I bought a Clavinova piano, which is made by Yamaha, and I'm happy with it. It's the middle level model, voices can switch to organ, harpsicord, violin, etc. The top of the line has full computer technology, so you can compose, overlay voices and even stuff like car crashes: a lot more than I needed. But the lower end models just didn't feel enough like a real piano for me. Hence, I went with the middle of the road. I play with headphones all the time, and this is the best part about the piano. Complete privacy. Hard core musicians would probably be unhappy with the piano, the tones are not a rich and full as a traditional piano, but for our family needs, it's good. just plays for fun

Electronic Musician publishes the Digital Piano Buyer's Guide once a year. The next one should be out anytime now. They list all the digital pianos available, features, and prices. You can rent them, too, to see which you like. Go to I didn't see a link to the the Digital Piano Buyer's guide, but if you type ''digital piano'' into the search box, you'll get all the articles from the last issue. Most music/ piano stores carry the magazine. anon

I just called my brother in law into the room when I saw you post. He studied music in college and bought a digital piano when he moved out here in 2001. He says: Overall Viscount has the best combination of touch and sound without all the whistles and bells. Viscount sound is better than a Yamaha.

Not sure about the sound, but Yamaha has better touch than Roland. Dealer name hard to remember, he thinks Pianos Plus in Hayward had a good selection, and made the sale by encourage demo-ing of the pianos. The sales rep at Sherman Clay was snobby & pushy. Hope that helps! Jessica

2004 & Earlier

Renting a Piano vs. Buying a Keyboard

Sept 2004

Could anyone recommend good and reasonable places in the Berkeley/Albany/El Cerrito area that I can rent a piano or buy a keyboard? If you can also explain the logistics of renting a piano (what the shop will require us to do, how we should take care of the piano, etc.), that would be great. We are starting our 6-year-old daughter in a piano lesson and need something for her to practice at home. We don't play piano and frankly know nothing about renting one. We are also considering buying a keyboard (with weighted keys as recommended by the teacher) and would like to weigh the pros and the cons of both approaches before we decide what to do. I checked the website but the information is outdated. Thank you very much.

I think Piedmont Piano Company rents pianos. But you may as well try to buy a decent used one from a private party listing on Craigslist, where you will find every size and price. Have a piano technician check it out to be sure it is reasonably priced and a not suffering from anything that needs expensive repairs. It's important to start a child on a piano that is tuned properly to develop their ear, and has proper action (how the keys feel when you press down), so they don't develop bad habits and develop the feel for playing well with good hand position. A piano is nice to have in your home anyway even if only your child plays it. You can start with a spinet or other small-ish piano, but if your child advances, then you'll want a piano w/longer strings. Or buy a keyboard, but not a cheap kids' one that has no weight to the keys and a tinny sound. I bought an expensive used keyboard ($750 on ebay, Yamaha P-80) with fully weighted keys, 88 keys, and 2 headphone jacks, for night-time practice (for me). You may not need 88 keys, but you do need fully weighted keys, and they usually go together. Look around at Guitar Center in El Ceritto to get educated and feel what the different ones feel & sound like. good luck Suzanne

Piedmont Piano has good rates and nice pianos to rent. First year's rent goes toward purchase price if you decide to buy. (Tip: if your kid is still playing after a year, go ahead and buy. It may seem expensive, but those rental fees just keep adding up if you put it off.)

We rent our piano from DC Piano in Berkeley. (510-549-9755) They have lots of used pianos in stock to buy or rent. The cost initally is 2 months rental (that depends on the piano-we have a small upright and pay $40/mo) , a $150 security deposit and a $100 delivery charge. And if you buy a piano within the first year, you can credit half of the rental charges toward the purchase of any piano they have for sale. We've had our piano for about 3 months and have enjoyed dealing with them. Good luck! Ruth

We bought a Clavinova CLP 930 for our daughter when she started lessons and have been very happy with it. Clavinova has replaced this line with a new CLP 100 series. The higher the number in the 100s the better the piano. The CVP line is even better. I believe that our CLP 930 compares to the new CLP 115. You are lucky to be looking at the next generation. Yamaha claims they are better and cheaper.,6363,CTID%253D203400%2526CNTYP%253DPRODUCT,00.html

Anyway, our piano teacher recommended a digital piano (not a keyboard) because the have the feel of a real piano. You can read about the ''graded hammer effect'' on the yamaha website. The keys are properly weighted so the high notes are light and the low notes are heavy. The keys are standard size. Better models have better speakers and will sound better. Our 930 sounds great on headphones and not as well when played (still pretty good!) but we could improve that by hooking it up to better speakers.

Reasons to buy a digital piano instead of a traditional:

* it is always perfectly in tune. this is really important for your child's ear training

* multiple ''voices'' are fun. My daughter enjoys playing her pieces with the organ, choir or marimba sound instead of the plain old piano sound.

* record/playback features. Your child can record herself and hear how what she played sounded. Sometimes a child has a hard time hearing tempo problems or pauses when he or she is playing but they hear it easily when they play it back for themselves. ALso, they love to compose their own melodies and play them back.

* preset music: there are 50 pieces in the piano that you can play. I sometimes turn them on. THe kids like to put on the fast-paced ones and run around the house.

* if you opt for a more expensive model your child can record her songs onto CDs and save them. You can also buy accompaniments for some simple pieces, so that your child plays Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with an entire orchestra accompaniment. These are well done as the piano waits for your child to find and play the right note (it holds the previous note until the correct next note is played). My daughter doesn't love this feature, which the teacher sometimes uses at her lessons (she has a fancy model), but lots of other kids do.

We have had our piano for 3 years now and have never had any problems with it. I can highly recommend it.

Oh, and by the way, you can find them at Piedmont Piano. I recommend that you call several dealers. Music Exchange in Dublin/Pleasanton also sells them and so does a place in San Jose (can't remember the name, but they have dealers listed on the Yamaha website). I think the original price we saw on one it the shop was $2700, and we paid only $1850, delivered, so it pays to call around. Often they don't want to give you numbers over the phone, they want you to come in. Piedmont Piano was very nice and gave me a good number over the phone.

I looked up the local dealers on the website:
Pianos Plus 1558 A St Castro Valley, CA 94546 510-581-1660 Music Exchange, Inc. 7704 Dublin Blvd Dublin, CA 94568 925-828-3442 Piedmont Piano Company, Inc. 4382 Piedmont Ave Oakland, CA 94611 510-547-8188

Buying a Used Piano

November 2001

I'm looking for an upright piano for my daughter, beginner student. Problem is that I never played enough myself to be able to choose used piano. It seems to be a task for professional. Is there anybody in nearby area who could give a consultation? Any information will be greatly appreciated. Thank you Tanya

I am a piano teacher myself and I would recommend you call a piano tuner/technician (yellow pages) and ask him/her to see the particular piano you have in mind, that is if you have one in mind, already. Another recommendation would be to make an appointment with Bruce Nalezny who owns the Piano Gallery (Tel.: 527 5823) and deals with used pianos. He is very knowledgable, kind and honest, IMO. He usually has pianos in every price range and they are in good shape. You can also hire him to look around for used pianos and he'll call you when he finds one (even in another shop) or he, too, might check out a certain piano for you. Suzanne

find a piano that you like, then pay a piano tuner/repair person to check it out for you. I had this done with the piano that I bought years ago. I'm pretty sure that I used Robert Gordon of Gordon's Piano Shop in Albany. Nancy

Piano tuners are generally a good resource for advice about a piano - I guess the theory is if they're helpful at finding you the right piano , you'll be a good customer for them in the long run. They also sometimes trade in pianos for their other customers (I sold one once through my tuner, and he suggested the price and generally acted as a disinterested agent.) Piano teachers (if you're buying for a student) can also help, depending on what sort of relationship you have with them. fiona

Nov 1999

We would like to buy a used baby grand in time to sing Christmas carols. We'd like to know whether people have had experience with: 1) Piedmont Piano or other reputable purveyor of used pianos 2) A piano tuner/technician who could advise us/check out a piano before we buy the wrong one... Natasha

We purchased a grand piano several years ago and used Larry Riley to check it out for us prior to our purchase. He has subsequently rebuilt it for us and tunes it regularly (okay, semi-regularly now that we're parents). His phone is 841-9991. It is also possible Larry may know of a used piano available for purchase (he turned us on to ours, after months of searching far and wide for the right piano in the classifieds). A suggestion, if I may? I'm not an expert, but I understand that it's better to go with an upright if you don't have room for a full grand (or a parlor grand, which is still bigger than a baby grand), as baby grand strings are shorter than an upright's, influencing the overall sound you get. Amy

I have had limited but very positive experiences with John Callahan of Piedmont Piano. John was recommended to me by my cousin, a composer who keeps three pianos at home in Oakland. On that recommendation, I went straight to John and have used him twice so far to tune an older piano that was shipped to us from my parent's home in Massachusetts. He's friendly, professional and knowledgeable. I have no idea if this means his family's shop is a good place to buy a piano, but it does speak well of their level of expertise.

In terms of your second question (someone to advise on a piano before you buy), you might try calling Steven Benjamins. He's a tuner who lives in Lafayette and who has a studio behind his home where he rebuilds old pianos. My only experience with Steven was interviewing him for a story a few months ago, but he was personable, had a very cool workshop and had a real love for the instrument. His number is 925-284-3077. Darcy

We just bought a used console piano from Gordon's Piano Shop on San Pablo in El Cerrito. Robert, who owns the store, buys and restores and tunes and sells the pianos. I am not a piano expert, or even a player, but I found Robert and his co-worker Cheryl very helpful, informative, reasonable, and nice. Sarah

Electronic Keyboard vs. Piano

Sept 1998

this is a reply to the question of Stefanie, who asked in the UCB parents digest for recommendations for keyboards.

My wife is a music teacher, and she is sometimes asked if a keyboard can substitute a piano, and what brand of keyboard is worth buying. Basically, she is somewhat skeptical about keyboards since they do not give you a feeling of a real instrument. This is understandable because having played a piano 8 hours a day during 18 years of studies of misic, she knows exactly how a real piano feels. Another diadvantage of a keyboard is that it is usually narrower than the real piano (64 keys compared to about 100) - but this is really important only for advanced students of music. On the other hand, a piano is generally rather loud, and you may disturb your neighbours if you live in an apartment. For this particular reason we bought a keyboard for our daughter, although we also have a piano at home. Before we bought a keyboard, I made a survey of what is available on the market and know what is the difference between cheap and expensive keyboards.

A very important feature of a keyboard is that it shoud have touch-sensitive keys. This simply means that the it sounds louder when you hit a key harder. Usually all keyboards which cost above $200 have this feature. The cheapest keybords priced between $100 and $170 are not touch-sensitive and absolutely unsuitable for any music lessons. I actually bought Yamaha PSR 220, which is usually sold for $220-230, but I got it on sale for $180. From my point of view, it does not make any sense to pay more than $200 for a keyboard if you buy it for a child. Keyboards which cost between $300 and $800 have the same number of keys, the same feeling, and almost the same number of voices. There is a slight difference in a number of keys which may sound at the same time. However, the major difference is that in expensive keyboards you get a sequenser (i.e., a multiple-track digital recorder), a floppy drive which you can use to store your creations, and eventually even a hard drive. By the way, this results in a much greater number of controls, which your child probably will not be able to handle. It is also worth noting that a cheaper keyboard can be connected to a computer via MIDI interface. Then, if you buy some musical software, you will also get a sequencer, and can make recording of your own music in MIDI format.

I would recommend to buy a brand name. We tried an Optimus keyboard (this is the Radio Shack brand), and it sounded lousy compared to Yamahas or Casios. Yamaha and Casio have about the same features for the same money, so just shop for a better price. Andrei

As a musician's son, I just have to comment on the keyboard vs. piano discussion. A piano is expensive to purchase but as has been pointed out, a keyboard is not an optimal substitute for this instrument. One solution would be renting a piano. (many music stores listed in the yellow pages offer this service)

That will keep the expenses to a minimum while the child is able to enjoy the actual instrument, and appreciate it in full. Also, renting a musical instrument is a good way to allow your child to try new things, without making the total investment until you are certain about it. Just a suggestion. Glenn