Sometimes when a deal seems to good to be true, it is probably is. The exterior of the piano might seem great that you cannot wait to get it back home and start playing on it. The only problem is when you do actually get it home and start playing on it, you realise that all the notes won’t play and it just sounds plain horrible. This is something that the Piano Technicians Guild (PTG) have been seeing rather frequently.
The truth of the matter is that “free” or “cheap” pianos can potentially be even more expensive than anticipated if the condition of the instrument requires complete rebuilding in order to restore it back to a a playable instrument. So if you intend to buy over a used piano, you should always think twice about it. The best tip is for you to make a call to a Registered Piano Technician (RPT) and get them down to take a look at the piano before you commit to buying it. An investment to make a service call before purchase can keep you from buying as well as paying to move a piano that would not be playable much less an instrument you can be proud to own.
If for some reason, you are unable to get hold of a technician to assist you, then here are some other tips that could be of help. Firstly, pay attention to notes that sound terribly out of tune when they are being played by themselves. When a piano pinblock goes bad, it won’t be able to hold the tuning pins tightly, which will result in the tuning pin slipping. In fact, a bad pinblock could very well signal the end of that piano. Secondly, another serious problem is the presence of strange rattles or buzzes. As the soundboard can actually get cracks in it, there might be a chance that it could sound like a speaker distorting when it is played too loudly.
Lastly, take a look at the hammers (the part that strikes the string) for deep grooves in the felt. Although layers of felt can be removed to restore the rounded shape to the hammer, eventually there will not be enough felt left above the wooden molding to get a good tone. This will result in a need to replace the hammer, which is usually expensive. For the full story, you can read here.