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How to dispose of an unwanted piano

There comes a time when you’ll need to get rid of your piano. The reasons vary but include a loss of interest, children having outgrown it, a desire to upgrade the instrument, moving to a larger or smaller house which can’t accommodate the piano, or a decision to finally get rid of a piano which has been in the family for many years and is never used. How you do so depends to some extent on why you’re getting rid of the piano, and on its age, condition and value. Here are some pointers for those faced with the prospect of offloading their piano.

1) Selling your piano

The most obvious method of getting rid of an unwanted piano is to sell it, either privately or through an established piano dealer. Selling privately is much simpler, initially that is, as it requires nothing more than taking a few pictures of the piano, deciding on a price, and listing it on one of the many internet sites geared towards selling private goods. This works well for old low value pianos as most piano dealers won’t sell them. If you decide to go this route, read this article which talks about how to value your old piano. As mentioned in the article, you should get a trained piano technician to asses the piano before sale to determine an appropriate price and to help prospective buyers understand what they are buying.

Selling a younger higher value piano shouldn’t be undertaken privately over the internet. Established piano dealers will have a database of potential customers and know who is on the lookout for a piano like yours. They will also be able to market your piano more widely and effectively, vouching for the piano’s quality and inherent value after having thoroughly assessed and serviced it. The dealer’s mark-up and/or commission is a necessary cost of selling your piano at the price it deserves, and you have the ability to negotiate a consignment or cash sale with the dealer depending on what suits you best.

2) Trading in your piano

If you plan to upgrade, most reputable piano dealers will accept your current piano as a trade in against the upgrade. This should apply equally if you need to downsize your piano because you’re moving to a smaller space. In some cases, if downsizing to an upright or digital piano, you will need to work with the dealer to come to a suitable trade-in arrangement given that your current piano is likely worth more than its replacement.

3) Donating your piano

Donating your piano to a family member, friend, school, church or charity can be an extremely meaningful and impactful gesture. This often comes up with old unused pianos and is a great option assuming the piano is of sufficient quality. You’ll either have a specific recipient in mind, or you’ll have a desire to see the piano donated to a worthy unknown recipient. If you have a specific someone or organisation in mind, it’s important to ensure you don’t unknowingly burden them with an instrument that’s unsuitable or that will require significant investment to restore and maintain. To this end consider getting it assessed before handing it over. Having a good sense of its condition and subsequent repair and maintenance cost will help the intended recipient decide if they are happy with the long-term commitment. You don’t want to donate an unusable instrument which becomes a burden and provides none of the intended benefit.

If you don’t have a recipient in mind but would still like to donate your piano, there are people who can help. In Cape Town Peter Golding runs an initiative simply called the “Piano Project”, which accepts piano donations and aims to find worthy individuals or organisations, often underprivileged schools, to donate the instruments to. There is no cost to the donor as he covers all transport and servicing costs. We recently donated a number of pianos to his initiative including a baby grand which Peter tells us has been placed with Chris Hani High School in Khayelitsha. We would like to commend Peter on the great work he is doing bringing music to the lives of a section of the Cape Town population who would otherwise have limited access. Here’s a description of Peter’s initiative in his own words:

“Since early 2016 we have helped schools and NGO’s with more than 70 pianos. It is not a registered NGO, it is essentially just me with help from a few enthusiastic musical people along the way. The process is that the donor provides the piano and as a rule I pick up the costs of servicing and transporting the piano, but if the piano comes from a private home then I usually pick up the transport cost and always pay for the servicing - i.e. there is no cost to the donor, unless they volunteer to contribute.

Through connections in the music world, NGO’s and Western Cape Education I have access to recipient schools and NGOs. I have something of a subjective process for trying to maximise the impact that a piano will make at a school or NGO. I look for a passionate, committed-to-music principal, or an existing choir, or a super-talented young learner. For example I donated a piano to a brilliant young musician who was taking music for matric but wasn’t able to practice at home. In another case I donated a piano to a school in Delft where some youngsters were learning piano at Hugo Lamprecht but didn’t have access to a piano at school to practice.”

If you are interested in donating your piano to Peter’s incredibly worthwhile initiative, please contact him directly on 082 825 5561.

4) Turning your piano into a street piano

You’ve probably seen internet video clips of street performers playing amazing music on street pianos. An option is to donate your piano to a local restaurant or café which then allows patrons and members of public to sit and play. It’s a common feature in many European cities but has yet to catch on to any great extent in South Africa. Approach your local favourite spot and ask if they are interested.

5) Turn your piano into furniture or art

For those handy enough to manage it, you can repurpose an old piano by turning it into a bar, an artwork or a garden planter. The internet is a wonderful source of inspiration if you are looking for ideas. Some years ago, we donated a few pianos to Michaelis School of Fine Art at UCT and they turned them into wonderful installation art pieces. You could approach art departments at your local school or university and ask if they would like your piano. It can be very rewarding seeing your much loved piano living on in a new form.

6) Dumping your piano at a municipal site

Although we’ve never experienced it, you are technically allowed to dump your piano at a municipal dump (at least that is the case in Cape Town). There is a directive that you “disassemble” the piano before dumping, although we have not been able to determine exactly what disassembly means. If you’ve exhausted all other options and want to go this route, please contact IBSP and we can help with the logistics.


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