What should I do with my old piano?

November 8, 2021 Stephen Reed

"There are a lot of old pianos floating around that have lost 100% of their musical value, and yet, somehow, they continually find new homes.  I believe this well-intentioned tendency to find an old piano a new home, is slowly killing many households' musical interest" says Chuck Johnson, Marketing Director for M. Steinert & Sons in Boston.  

An aging piano keyboard

“They just need to go,” says Chuck.  “They have a way of diminishing a young person’s enthusiasm for playing the piano, because they tend to feel and sound terrible.  Who wants to practice hard on a musical instrument that can’t even hold its tune?  Sometimes they just need to get recycled and not destroy anybody else's interest in the piano.  Chances are, it’s been around far beyond its life expectancy anyway.”

“So what do I do with my old piano?” the customer asks.

This is one of the most common questions we have heard at M. Steinert & Sons over the decades.  Every generation has an enormous number of old pianos which, after many years of use, have finally lost their musical value.  At M. Steinert, we’ve been successfully helping our customers solve this sometimes knotty dilemma.

Sometimes, an older piano’s terminus can be forestalled, as some older pianos can be rebuilt.  However, the cost of restoring a piano can oftentimes be more expensive than buying a new piano, one with its full life ahead of it.

If a piano still has a good tone but is merely being replaced by a newer, better model, then it may still have some trade-in value.  But for the large, wooden hulk sitting idly in a corner of your home, disposing or repurposing it is the way to go.

But how?  This article will explore a variety of solutions to getting an old piano out of your home and out of your hair.   By the end of this article, you will have a much better idea of your options when disposing of an old piano.

Parting ways: How to dispose of an old piano

Don’t expect much from a sale

If your piano is still in basic working condition and can still hold a tune, you may be able to get something out of it.  However, unless grandmother willed you a recent vintage Steinway (less than 30 years old), don’t expect much from a sale of an old piano.  The market is flooded with them.

On average, you may be looking at somewhere between $50--$100 on eBay or Craig’s List. Perhaps a local piano company like M. Steinert will give you something for it as part of a trade-in but just remember: some pianos aren't worth anyone taking.

Donating to charity

Some older pianos might be without value to a serious musician. Yet, when a piano is beyond its prime, but still has an acceptable tone and touch, a donation can be a win-win.  Students, looking for their first trial piano, often look for a serviceable piano at a charity-sponsored Thrift shop.  Such shops may pick up the piano for you for free--a serious bonus.

You might get a tax deduction and the satisfaction of knowing that your piano is still being put to good use. Plus, the beginning student has an instrument that can at least help them learn the basics of piano playing.  However, before donating we recommend you (and your donee) read our article Four questions to ask before accepting a free piano.

Repurposing the case

Piano Bar

When a musical instrument is no longer able to create music would seem to have lost its reason for being.  However, clever interior designers have found other uses for piano cases, whether from grands or uprights.

PICTURE: An example of a piano bar for sale at etsy.com

A quick search of craft website Etsy shows a number of creative solutions to repurposing part or all of a piano.

Another example is this video of how to make a piano bar out of a vertical piano.

One popular repurposing is to make the old piano case into a curvy bookshelf.  Others use the same idea to hold objets d’art.  Certainly, such a new use for an old piano can give one an instant conversation piece when visitors come to your home.

In the image below,  a piano dealer commissioned a work from a local artist using the keys from an old Steinway piano.  


We really like the ideas in 12 Creative Ways to Repurpose Piano Parts.

Leave it at the landfill

A beaten up piano keyboard with missing ivories.

A piano that has not been well-maintained over the years should be sent to a landfill.

While the landfill may seem like the last resort for disposing of your old piano, it is the likely and the rightful final place of rest for most old pianos.  One disadvantage is that this option may cost you a few hundred dollars, especially if you pay the landfill authority or a third party to come and retrieve it from you.

Dispose of your old piano...properly

Steinert & Sons President Emeritus Paul Murphy recounts one incident involving an old piano that was not laid to rest properly.

“In the Mid-Eighties, there was a popular restaurant/bar on our block on Boylston called Remington’s,“ notes Paul. “The sous chef was originally from Queens, NY, where earlier he worked in another restaurant. He owned a high-speed motorboat that he used to take out on Long Island Sound after his day shift.

“One evening he hit something that threw him from the boat and knocked him cold. Fortunately, he was wearing a life jacket which saved his unconscious self. It was determined that the object he hit was a piano.  Today we are far more aware of the possibility of polluting the planet.”

Out with the old, in with the new!

So whatever you decide, give your old piano a proper burial.  Then celebrate the new piano you’re bringing home, with decades of life yet to be lived!

Steinert & Sons has been helping people enjoy the difference between their old piano and a new one for 160 years.   We enjoy helping our customers bring good music into their homes for years to come.

Come into M. Steinert & Sons to see some of those new pianos.  Meantime, read some of our articles about buying a new piano:

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