+ Ryan Lott (of Son Lux) teaches how to build custom virtual instruments for sound design and scoring in Soundfly’s new course, Designing Sample-Based Instruments.
Pianos. Am I right?
Is there a better-equipped musical instrument on earth to handle everything you throw at it? I’m talking about one of the most versatile instruments out there — a single music maker that embodies string and rhythm sections, and an angel choir. With a seven-octave range (and a minor 3rd to boot), these babies can handle everything from Chopin to Taylor Swift, Son House to Backstreet Boys.
No, I am not a piano salesman… though it has crossed my mind. I’m just an enthusiast and part-time player who covets these gorgeous, highly polished creatures. And let me tell you, there is not one single keyboard that can run in the same crowd as an acoustic piano. Not one! Are you sold yet?
I’ve reached the other side of my rant and it occurs to me that you may have some misgivings about acquiring a piano that I can help you around. For one, they can be very expensive. Pianos range from a couple hundred bucks (for something fairly questionable) to hundreds of thousands. I’m here to tell you how to get one for free… or nearly free.
People are lining up to give away pianos for free or super cheap. Pianos are heavy and expensive to move — a frustrating combo for piano owners, but the perfect mix for a resourceful piano enthusiast with access to a truck and a couple friends. Sellers are generally motivated by an impending move, lack of space, or unexpected inheritance from their great aunt Shirley, so put your negotiating hat on — if you offer to take the piano off their hands ASAP, many sellers will drop their price down to zero. Be ready to hop in the car with a few strong friends as soon as you see one you like! And if you have a few bucks to spend, leave your friends out of it — specialized piano movers can often pick up and deliver on short notice, and may even help you tune your new toy.
A rarely-used (by me, at least) Ebay search setting could be the key to your free piano. Search for pianos, and on the results page, scroll way down until you see the option “Item Location” in the left sidebar. Set the location to within a drivable range of your zip code and if your neighborhood is anything like mine, suddenly you’ll start seeing search results like the one below. You may also notice that most of the prices have “or best offer” in small font below, so keep the negotiating advice for Craigslist in mind for Ebay, too!
Yes, this is a real site aimed at people desperate for their treasured piano to go to a good home. They have listings by state. Search, find, and conquer.
These floating cities have a ton of pianos and every once in a while they change them all out. It could be the end of a contract with a particular piano company, or simply time to upgrade, but either way it could work out in your favor. It helps to have a friend at one of the major cruise companies, but with a little investigation you can get in touch with the right department and find out when they’re delivering free gold to the shores.
Schools, Universities, and Churches
Much like cruise ships, schools and churches house a nearly infinite number of pianos, and all of them will be up for grabs at one point or another. Check college and community bulletin boards, reach out to the music departments directly, troll their Facebook pages, or give your old high school piano teacher a call and see if she has the inside scoop on when they’ll be updating their inventory. (Pro tip: occasionally public schools pianos are sent to government auction. A quick google search turned up pianos from $1-200 on sites like GovDeals, Municibid, and GSAAuctions).
If you work for a non-profit, church, or school, there are a number of organizations — foundations, music stores, manufacturers — who love giving away pianos for the tax credit. Check out your local classifieds for some options, put the request out to your email list, and think outside of the box — groups like moving companies, real estate developers, churches, and music management and production companies all find themselves with unwanted pianos from time to time.
Closing Theater Companies
Our beautiful Soundfly Piano came to us from a theater company that was going out of business. They’d enjoyed a good run, but ultimately had to close and get rid of Mr. Hamilton, our beautiful piece of music art. They were so happy for us to take it off their hands that they lowered it from a second story window on a winch. Best. Day. Ever!
You have a piano… now what?
Don’t stop here!
Continue learning with hundreds of lessons on songwriting, mixing, recording and production, composing, beat making, and more on Soundfly, with in-depth artist-led courses by Kimbra, Com Truise, Jlin, Ryan Lott, and the widely-acclaimed Kiefer: Keys. Chords, & Beats.