Watch out for HACS!


The piano buying experience is often a confusing and intimidating process, second to that of purchasing an automobile. For this reason, many families or adult students rely strongly on the opinion of their instructor. Despite many teachers having received adequate training at music conservatories or maintaining performance careers, no college program or teacher certification program requires that teachers become piano technicians. For this reason, it is better to trust a Piano Technician Guild Member or self-educate.


Where to begin? Watch out for HACS!


H=Hammers. Do you see deep grooves in the hammer felts? If the grooves are deep enough to cover over FDR’s head on a dime, avoid that piano! Grooves are normal, but an exposed wood core or deep grooves mean an expensive full-hammer replacement service for you.


A=Age. Every piano has a serial number. In uprights, this may be on the back of the piano or more commonly the plate. Punch the number in an online database to determine the age of the piano. Most pianos over 50 years old should be avoided, unless the seller can prove that the instrument has been maintained or restored to some extent.


C=Cracks. The large white board beneath the strings is the soundboard; this is the heart of the piano. Loom for any diagonal cracks or separations. A cracked soundboard should be avoided, because it is the result of the piano being exposed to extreme contrasts in climate. This innocent little crack indicates the entire piano is at great risk. Also look for cracks or fissures in the bridge of the piano.


 S=Sound. Use your ears. Do you hear any significant buzzes in the bass? This could indicate copper wire separating from the steel core. Does the piano sound uneven? This mean the piano has not been adequately maintained. Use your ears as a final assessment of the piano.


Beyond HACS, there are literally dozens of other things to look for. For this reason, always bring a PTG member before you buy a used piano.


Sounds complicated? It is. That is why Stilwell Pianos exists. We look for every possible issue, correct any problems, and warranty all used pianos for any defects in workmanship for one full-year after purchase. All of our technicians are PTG members, and we hold ourselves to the highest standards. You can trust that any piano on our floor meets better than new standards.

Come to Stillwell Pianos and join our family today!

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