How to Move a Piano Without Destroying It
08 December, 2020
Fewer people are bothering to own pianos these days, and there are a few good reasons for it. As wages stagnate and property values increase, fewer people are able to own a home, and those who do need to progress further in their career to reach that stage. Many tenants are loath to keep a large, heavy, instrument in their rented spaces from which they may have to move unexpectedly and/or frequently. Because the brass plate in a piano has to hold thousands of pounds of string tension to achieve a quality timbre, even smaller uprights usually weigh in at around 300-400 pounds! Still, for those who are passionate about their musical endeavors, a well-made piano offers an unmatched level of richness in sound that makes the trouble worth it.
So, you've decided to take on one of these behemoths - perhaps you found one for cheap or free on Craigslist, a common occurrence these days, or perhaps you just threw down for a 12 foot concert grand to keep in your 500 square foot studio - but now it's time to move, and you're not sure what to do with your piano. The first question is: Is your piano a grand or an upright?
If your piano is an upright, you may be able to move it yourself with a moving truck with the help of a few (strong) friends, depending on its weight. If you have stairs to navigate, you may want to consider hiring a mover, since the mechanics of navigating stairs can be complicated and lead to one or two people bearing most of the load, risking injury and damage to your piano. If you decide to DIY the move, make sure you can move the piano safely. Practice moving less heavy objects and coordinating with your friends. Make sure you have good lifting form - it may help to check out some videos on deadlifting to get a good idea of what this means. If you're using an elevator, be especially mindful of weight capacity. When it comes time to load the truck, buy plenty of moving blankets and a couple of tie-downs or ratchet straps. Most moving vehicles have rails or slots to secure heavy objects. Secure the piano in one corner of the truck, and liberally wrap with moving blankets to protect the exterior. Be smart about what objects are around the piano, and consider the potential consequences of objects shifting during the move. If possible, make sure items near your piano are soft or covered in soft material and cannot move easily.
If your piano is a grand, you will almost certainly want to hire dedicated piano movers. Beware of generic moving companies that claim to be able to move pianos but don't know what a grand board is (it's a padded board to ensure that the lid doesn't pop off during transport, an event that usually causes significant damage). Check for reviews, it's worth it to pay a little extra for a piano mover who knows what they're doing. If your move is local, the piano mover will transport your piano between residences. It is standard to charge per step, so expect to pay more if you live on an upper floor. If your move is long distance, check with the mover to see if they have experience loading a moving truck or pod and securing a piano in it. Moving trailer ramps are usually too steep and textured to roll a grand piano up, so make sure there's room for the movers' van to back up close to the trailer entrance to make the transfer. An experienced mover will be able to assess your individual situation and provide some assurance that your instrument is safe. Pack the rest of your trailer or pod wisely, as you would with a DIY upright move.
Once you arrive at your location, you simply reverse the process of loading the truck or moving vehicle. It's best to take some measurements in advance to ensure that you'll be able to move the piano in to where you want it. Keep in mind that the legs and pedal come off of a grand piano during the move. Almost always, even a local move will throw the piano out of tuning, so be prepared to re-tune the piano once you arrive at your new home. Best of luck!