Whether you’re planning a short- or long-distance move, you’re likely to run into a few obstacles with your plans if you own a piano. Whether you perform beautiful music on the instrument daily or let it collect dust in a corner, you definitely don’t want to leave it behind or see it damaged during transit. There are multiple factors to take into consideration when it comes to moving your piano—don’t assume you can just roll it from one place to the next without endangering it.
First: Know Your Instrument
Your piano is almost certainly the largest and most complex mechanical device in your home. A standard piano has 230 strings and about 10,000 separate moving parts. This is why tuning a piano can be such an involved process. Moving it from one home to another without the utmost care can easily cause unforeseen problems.
When it comes to acoustic pianos, there are two major types on the market:
- Grand Pianos are the type most often seen in classical amphitheaters. They have a large, harp-shaped soundboard and typically roll on caster wheels. These pianos can weigh more than 1,200 pounds, while baby grands have the same shape in a smaller frame, usually weighing around half as much.
- Upright Pianos are smaller, more portable instruments commonly seen in clubs, studios and homes that can’t accommodate a more massive option. Portable is a relative term here, since even a small spinet piano can weigh more than 400 pounds.
If you have an upright piano, its compact shape will help you let it fit through most door openings. An experienced team of four or five movers should be able to transport the instrument safely. Moving a grand piano, however, can require making sweeping changes to the property or even lifting the instrument through a large window using a crane.
Basic Considerations to Take in Mind when Moving a Piano
Whether you have a concert grand or a spinet upright, there are a few things you’ll want to do in order to make sure the move is a success:
- Do consult with professional piano movers beforehand. Even if you feel like you cannot afford their services, the quote may bring important considerations to your attention.
- Do move any furniture and other objects out of the piano’s traveling path before starting. It will be much harder to do this after you start, especially if the path involves stairs.
- Do cover the piano in non-slip blankets, folding the edges beneath the instrument and securing them with moving cords to protect its finish.
- Don’t leave the lid unlocked—a bumpy ride or mistake can damage the instrument’s ivory keys.
- Don’t try to leverage the weight of the instrument in one direction or another. Tipping the instrument over a set of stairs, for example, can put stress on the instrument’s midsection and permanently warp its frame.
- Do place packing desiccants inside the piano before packing it up. If it’s loaded into a truck that stops in a humid environment overnight, the wood can warp and crack later on.
- Do secure the packed piano in the truck during loading. Any movement during transport can result in a damaged instrument, including damage that isn’t immediately visible.
- Don’t use typical cargo straps for the piano when securing it. Buy or rent heavy-duty furniture straps that can reliably hold the instrument’s weight during transit.
- Do remove a grand piano’s legs before moving. The legs are fragile and can easily break during transport. Additionally, removing the legs usually makes it possible to fit the piano vertically through doorways.
- Don’t pack the piano last. Put the piano in the very back of the moving truck, right up against the wall. If the interior of the truck isn’t level, place some wood planks on the floor so that the weight is evenly balanced.
- Do tune the piano after moving. Even if the move goes perfectly, differences in humidity and atmospheric pressure in its new home will detune the instrument. Experts recommend tuning four times in the first year after moving, and then once or twice a year after the instrument accommodates to its new environment.
Other things you’ll want to take into consideration include:
- What you’re wearing. It might not seem like a big deal, but when dealing with a heavy, cumbersome and awkward item like a piano, a pair of baggy pants or the wrong shoes can make a major difference. Don’t wear anything that can get caught on the instrument while it’s in transit and be sure to wear the most slip-proof pair of shoes you own. One wrong step can cause a dangerous accident—you don’t want to take any risks.
- The piano’s exact traveling path. This one is touched upon above, but you want to make sure you know every detail of piano’s path to the loading truck. For instance, if you have four movers helping out, who takes the lead when the piano reaches the stairs? Who supports the instrument’s weight from the back and who guides it by directing its midsection? Leave nothing to chance and discuss this before anyone puts on a pair of moving gloves.Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you’ll want to perform this step all over again as well.
- Your piano’s exact measurements. Once you’ve dissembled the piano’s legs and placed it on the moving dolly, take out a tape measure and figure out whether it will actually fit through the doorways you need it to travel through. Make sure to accommodate the instrument’s length as well, or you may find yourself stuck at an angle in a small hallway the piano can’t clear.
Moving Electric Pianos
Another popular type of piano commonly seen in homes is the electric piano. Owners of modern electric pianos don’t have to worry about displacing tiny mechanical parts or re-tuning the instrument after the move, making them much more portable than their acoustic counterparts.
However, if you own an electric piano, you should move it with the same level of care you would apply to any delicate piece of electronics. Its keys can still be jogged loose during transit and its controlling hardware can be damaged by unexpected tumbles and turns. Most digital piano manufacturers offer hard travel cases for their products—it may be worthwhile to purchase or rent one for the move.
Regardless of whether you are moving an acoustic concert grand or a small digital piano, you want to make sure you’re prepared to perform the move safely. Heavy lifting presents a wide variety of dangers to amateur movers, so you might get a quote from experienced professionals.