expert piano reviews, guides and advice

Buying a used Yamaha piano – what you need to know

Most of us recognize this world-famous manufacturer of pianos. Yamaha has gained a worldwide reputation for the quality of its products combined with their reasonable prices. The manufacturer has created a full range of piano models to suit every type of customer.

In my article I would like to focus primarily on the popular and willingly bought used Yamaha piano models in Poland. I know from my experience that parents looking for Yamaha pianos for their children focus on smaller models such as the M5J, M1J, C-108 and higher U1 and U3 pianos.

The general advantage of these models is their "accessibility under the fingers" even for less experienced pianists, as well as holding the tuning well and their trouble-free tuning service. From the outside, also important for many, these models look classic and fashionable at the same time.

Buying a used Yamaha paino

Another argument in favor of purchasing a Yamaha is that it has easier marketability compared to other brands. Often, parents take into account the fact that their child will change their mind and will stop playing the piano faster than expected.

What to look for and how to look at a piano in order to catch any typical shortcomings? Apart from typical piano seeing before purchasing described in my guide, with Yamaha pianos, pay attention to a few things that I will talk about below.

Check the condition of the stapes from the forks of the nut lever or ask your dealer about it

That sounds complicated. It is one of the elements of the pianos mechanism where there is a spring with a string. Yamaha used a thin brown string in the cradle. After some time, after years, it may become brittle and fragile. In such piano, due to the lack of spring tension, the mechanism will not work properly. There will be a feeling that the keys are getting stuck. Checking the strings for a layman is quite difficult, because the stapes are obstructed by other elements and to see them clearly it is best to remove the mechanism from the piano. When it comes to repairing and gluing in 88 new strings, it's easy to do for the corrector. However, this is a tedious task, taking about one business day, after which you need to adjust and set the mechanism again.

Yamaha inside

Listen to how the bass sounds

If you are buying a used piano, e.g. from the '70s or '80s, check the sound of the bass strings. It happens that some of the strings can sound much worse than the rest. They sound as if they were squeezed, deafer or duller. In small school models, this usually applies to bass strings with a single copper winding. In higher models like the U1 and U3 from the seventies, there are instruments in which the basses, especially the last lowest sounds with double-winding strings, no longer have as much power and shine as they had in the younger years. This mainly applies to popular models like the U1H and U3H, which I personally value very much. What you can do before replacing the worse playing strings is to attempt to spin the lower hook after loosening the string on the peg. This often gives better results, but not always 100% satisfying to the picky listener.

Check what the front of the white keys look like

This may be an aesthetic matter, but no less important. The front of the white keys, which is the most square key overlay, is an element that after many years turns yellow and clearly differs in color from the main part of the overlay. To change this, sellers paint the front again to improve their appearance. When I was in Japan, I saw thin white foil being stuck here, to cover it up.

At the end...

Buying piano - what you need to know

It's worth playing or listening to the sound of the instrument rather than just reading a description of the piano being sold. Characterizing the sound of Yamaha pianos, you can say that they are precise and selective. Some musicians perceive Yamaha's sound as too bright, less romantic. Personally, I think that you should not generalize. I've already played hundreds of such pianos. I liked many of them but I also didn't enjoy many of them, so it best to review each piano model separately. There's a reason why used instruments have their degree of usage, storage conditions, quality of tuning service, etc.

That is why it is worth inquiring and asking, because as one can say, the one who is curious and asks, does not get lost and confused.

Grzegorz Rychlik
Author: Grzegorz Rychlik

Pianist and laureate of piano competitions, as well as piano teacher.
You can learn more about our author by visiting his website