• Virginia Tolles

How Much for This Piano?


It wasn’t all that long ago when a rite of passage was renting a trailer and driving Grandmother’s piano to your home, so your children could take piano lessons on the same piano you and your mother took lessons. No longer. Today, many people view pianos as undesirable. As a result, pianos are left to fall to ruin until, at last, they are carted off to salvage yards, stripped of their marketable parts, and tossed into the landfill.

The reasons for this change are many, all of which boil down to the changes that have been taking place in our society over the past half-century. It all began with the abolition of music programs in many public school systems. Whereas, a student once could take piano lessons as a part of his or her school curriculum, the music teachers were laid off. With them went a valuable opportunity for students who could not afford private lessons to learn to play the piano.

Many young people do not value things from the past. For example, houses built in the 1990s sell slowly, for today’s young buyers call them outdated and opt for new construction. Similarly, young buyers of string instruments turn away from the piano in favor of guitars and electronic keyboards. After all, the guitar can be self-taught much more easily than a piano, and keyboards offer sound effects that provide chords, rhythms, and other techniques one would spend a lifetime learning to play on the piano. With fewer people ready, willing, and able to study piano, piano lessons are offered less and less readily than in the past.

Grandmother’s beautiful upright piano, with turned legs and scrollwork, or even Mother’s plain spinet, has no place in today’s home. Newer homes often do not have a formal living room. The supersized television screen takes the wall formerly occupied by the piano in homes that boast open floor plans with fewer walls.

Even so, the piano need not face death in the junk yard. Far more desirable methods of disposing of pianos exist, although not all enjoy the same degree of success. Consider these options:

*  Check with family members and friends. When I considered disposing of my piano, which I no longer play, I offered it to my children. My daughter declined; after all, she lives in a small house and has no room for it. My son, however, accepted it. When I am ready to let my piano go, I know it will be going to a good home and allowing my granddaughter to take piano lessons.

*  Place an ad in the local newspaper or other for-sale publication. If your piano has special qualities, be sure to point them out in the advertisement. Also, do you research to determine its value before you set a price. You may not receive many responses. After all, just as you don’t have time or room for the piano, most other people don’t, either. Still, it’s worth a try. You never know when a young couple will be trying to find an affordable piano for their child, who is just dying to take music lessons.

*  Place an ad in professional music journals. If you have a special treasure, such as an early 20th century Bösendorfer or even a Steinway, list it in journals that reach music professionals. Again, be sure to describe its special qualities and do your research to determine its value before you set a price.

*  Donate the piano to a school or church. Every school and Sunday school class has a piano. Make a few calls to the schools and churches in your area. You may find one that has been on the lookout for a free piano. On the other hand, you may find that they already have accepted as many donations as they can handle.

*  List your piano with a donation registry. You are not alone in feeling that Granny’s piano deserves a better fate than the landfill. Piano Movers, Inc. of Boston, Massachusetts, and Nashua, New Hampshire, has established a website, Piano Adoption  ( Regardless of where you live in the United States, Canada, and England, if you have a serviceable piano, you can list it on this registry. People and organizations looking for a good piano will see your listing and contact you about acquiring it. You will be giving your piano away – these pianos are free to the recipient – but you will have the peace of mind of knowing that Granny’s piano is living on with someone else who loves it.

*  Donate the piano to a piano exchange. Companies like Merriman’s Complete Piano Service in South Bend, Indiana, rescue and recycle old pianos. They will take your piano and give it to someone who is willing to pay for repairs to bring it back to usable condition. Visit their website ( to learn more about how they work. Call piano stores and restorers in your area to see whether they have such a program or can recommend one.

It is understandable that not everyone can keep an inherited piano. Even without space considerations, many of these instruments are old and in need of expensive repair. Before you call someone to haul your family treasure to the landfill, see what you can do to find it a new home. You and Granny will be glad you did.


*  Everything you need to know about buying, selling, donating, and restoring pianos:  Piano Finders.

*  Read more about the fate of our pianos:   

Wakin, Daniel J. “For More Pianos, Last Note is Thud in the Dump” in New York Times. July 29, 2012.;ref=arts&adxnnlx=1343746997-So2LFy3bwlbB06xhRqMQ/Q

Quirk, Mary Beth. “Pianos Doomed to Junkyards as Cost to Repair Them is Too High for Many Music Lovers” on the Consumerist website. July 31, 2012.

Copyright (c) 2013, Virginia Tolles. All rights reserved.

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