Pianos for Sale: Adventures of Adult Piano Lessons (1 of 3)

Piano buying and maintaining tips.
Photo by Frank Schramm.

My son Cal’s cache of nerf guns figured a prominent role in the sale of our Yamaha piano in August of this year.

My Yamaha U1 Professional, a 48 inch glistening black beauty, was the first piano that I owned as an adult. Yet after four years of adult piano lessons, it became apparent that I would progress faster if I could practice on a grand. My instructor Stephen explained that a grand piano’s more sensitive action offers a greater range of touch on the keys. With a goal of performing in an upcoming New York Piano Society concert, I felt I could not afford to allow another month to go by practicing on an upright. So I decided to shop for a grand piano, rent a Boston grand, and sell my upright, all at the same time.

I was reluctant to part with my Yamaha upright. The years during adult piano lessons I had spent practicing on its keys signified for me a change of life, a new way of being, more serene and in touch with my desires. Classical piano music had added a new dimension to my life. So instead of throwing my piano to the wolves on Craig’s list, I tried to fob this large instrument off on friends or acquaintances.

No luck:
• I may have offended a couple whose son takes piano lessons from Stephen by suggesting they could upgrade from their keyboard to my upright.
• The email I sent to mothers of Cal and Mena’s school friends, noting I was trying to sell a piano, received no reply.
• The woman at the bus stop at first seemed very interested—I visited her house, tape measure in hand, the piano’s dimensions scrawled on a piece of paper—to see whether my Yamaha would fit in her living room corner, but ultimately she said she wasn’t ready to make a decision.

Although I did not recognize it at the time, I was delaying the inevitable. I like to refer to myself as a procrastinator-in-recovery. I squelch tough decisions by ignoring them. I know this about myself, yet I rarely seem able to recognize procrastination while I’m entangled in its mess.

After several months, I finally did what I should have done in the first place: I posted my piano on Craig’s List for $3,200, about $800 less than I paid.  I reasoned that, with regular tunings at least every six months and a location away from an exterior house wall, my upright probably had held most of its value. If need be, I could chip off a few hundred in a negotiation with an earnest buyer.

Read the rest of the Pianos for Sale: Adventures of Adult Piano Lessons series:

Pianos for Sale, Part 2

Pianos for Sale, Part 3

What followed was several frustrating months in the life of a piano salesperson: low-balled offers—I’ll give you $1,200 now!—or shoppers who visited my house, piano instructor in tow, but never coughed up an offer. I learned the hard way that pianos have long sales cycles. No doubt I lengthened the cycle by allowing weeks to elapse before I remembered to renew my posting.

Then in early August, I received an email that drew in my breath. The contents excited me, but at some deep, unacknowledged level, also frightened me. That’s when Cal’s Nerf guns came into play.

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