Moving A Piano – Not So Easy
How To Move A Piano
So you’re thinking of moving a piano yourself? Going to save some money and do it yourself, you and a few of your buddies? How hard can it be, right? Read On…
Don’t Do It!
That would be my first piece of advice. “But I have a pickup truck and my friends are strong!” Sure, that sounds good on paper. The reality is that pianos are harder to move correctly than you think. Notice I said correctly? With enough muscle power you can definitely move the piano, you can also break the legs, damage the case, make big divots in the floor and/or walls of your house (and the house you took the piano from) trash the side of your friend’s truck. Most importantly, you and your (former?) buddies can get hurt.
Pianos are heavy, some massively so. They may seem really sturdy, I mean look at all that heavy duty wood. Heck there’s even a cast iron plate inside the piano. Yup, agreed. But there are literally thousands of delicate moving parts inside a piano. And pianos aren’t just heavy, they are also easy to tip over, and depending on the style, easy to break legs (hopefully just the pianos, but then again if you aren’t careful…), and if you scratch up the finish your wife/spouse/significant other is not going to be happy with you.
The difficulty and the odds of damage go up exponentially when you bring a baby grand piano into the equation. They require special equipment and knowledge of the proper sequence for dismantling. The legs have to be removed in just the right sequence, as does the pedal lyre, the piano needs to be well padded and strapped onto what is commonly called a grand skid.
How do I know all this?
I’ve already made all the mistakes and learned the hard way. Heck I once had three big old upright player pianos in the back of a pickup truck (borrowed my brother’s truck). Got them all out of one building that was being torn down, thought I’d fix them up and sell them to make a few bucks (more on why that part isn’t easy either will be covered in other articles). Well I made it the twenty miles from where I picked the pianos up back into the city where I was taking them to store until I could fix them up. I came around a corner and started up a very steep hill, that’s when I heard the loud screeching noise in the back, which turned out to be the sound of the metal wheels under the pianos as the scraped across the bed of the truck. That was followed by a horrendous crash, and immediately followed by a different type of screeching noise (cars jamming on their brakes) as all three pianos careened into the tailgate, crashed through it, fell off the back of the truck and slammed into the pavement. Geesh what a noise three pianos make when they fall off a truck, not to mention the noise the people driving the cars behind me made!
The police were not very understanding, they wanted me to get those damn pianos out of the road and now! Sure, they only weigh about 450lbs a piece, and I’m in the truck alone. No problem officer. I couldn’t even call my brother to help, this was before cell phones. Let’s just say it wasn’t one of my better days, except I did learn a lot about what not to do when moving pianos.
Professional piano movers invest in the right equipment. This includes heavy duty moving dollies, moving straps, thick quilted furniture pads, and for baby grands/grands a “skid” and often times special cases for carrying the legs and pedal lyre assembly. Their moving trucks have ramps or hydraulic lifts, or both. And inside the truck body they have various rings and clips for securing the piano so it doesn’t move during transport.
Still Determined To Move The Piano Yourself?
Ok, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Unless the piano in question is a small spinet piano (about 37″ high) it isn’t going to be as easy as you think.
What type of truck do you intend to try to move the piano in? Loading a piano into a mini van or SUV is really tough, particularly if it’s one of the taller pianos (studio or upright piano). Pickup trucks aren’t much better, it’s notoriously difficult to properly secure this beast they call a piano (which, after all, sits on wheels).
And even if it is one of the smaller style pianos, PLEASE be careful of the legs (the pianos and yours). You really should have a proper dolly to set the piano on but if not, know that the front legs on most pianos are primarily decorative, they don’t actually hold any weight and if you snag them while trying to move the piano across a carpet or doorstep THEY WILL SNAP. So if the piano is a spinet (see picture below) or console (approximately 39″-42″ tall) and has separate legs in the front, be careful of the legs. You must tip the piano slightly toward the back to take the weight off the front legs, or lift it up and set it properly on a dolly.
Most vertical pianos (spinet, console, studio, upright) are about 27″ from front to back, but some of the big old uprights are as much as 30″. Be careful going through doorways, you can easily scratch the piano (hence the furniture covers), damage the doorway, and seriously pinch some fingers. I’ve run into situations where I’ve had to tip the piano on its side to get it through a tight squeeze, that is definitely a case of needing a good dolly under it, although in a pinch (no pun intended) I’ve put down furniture pads and maneuvered the piano around by sliding the furniture cover.
Again, be careful when lifting and moving the piano, it could be top heavy, and will likely want to lean back toward the heavy side (the back). Make sure everyone involved is watching so they don’t damage the piano, the house, or themselves. Lift with your legs, not your back, whenever possible let the dolly do the work. Pad the piano well and secure it really well in the truck. If you are moving it in a pickup, know that the piano is going to try to tip over, particularly on corners.
It may be tempting to have a friend ride in the back to “steady” the piano. Don’t! First, there is probably some law about it, but more important is common sense tells you a piano weighing a couple of hundred pounds or more isn’t going to stop because your friend put his hand on it. Better to lose a piano than a friend.
Grand Piano Moving
First, call a professional piano mover.
Baby grands, grands, concert grands, the principle is the same. They are heavy, they require special moving equipment , you must have experience moving grands to know the proper sequence for removing the legs and pedal trapwork. Do it wrong and you will break something, damage the piano, and probably get hurt. In fact, there is a good chance you’ll end up with something that looks like this…
And the person who was looking forward to getting their piano will not be happy with you.
I’ve moved probably hundreds of pianos in my career in the piano/music business. These days I try not to move them if I can help it, or I hire a professional. I still tune and repair pianos, play the piano, and compose music. Carrying them, not so much.
Moving a piano is not like moving a couch or even a refrigerator. Unless you have been taught the proper way to handle a piano the odds are very high someone is going to get hurt and property damaged.
The bottom line is, if you can possibly do it, hire a professional. But make sure they have experience moving pianos, and ask for referrals. It isn’t enough for a mover to have experience moving household goods. Pianos are a different beast, heavy yet delicate, with thousands of sensitive moving parts inside.
Call a piano mover, you’ll be glad you did (and your friends will thank you for it).