Pianos routinely make movers annual list of items that are most frequently damaged. Grand pianos are especially problematic. Practicing the following procedures for disassembling, padding and loading grand pianos will prevent damage, lower claims expense, and improve customer satisfaction.
1) At least three people are needed to handle a baby grand piano. If the baby grand piano needs to go up or down stairs or if a full or concert grand piano needs to be transported, a minimum of four people are needed.
2) Always complete a thorough and accurate inventory. It may be necessary or preferable to use a visual inventory to adequately describe and show pre-existing damage.
3) As various parts are disassembled, please place all hardware in a properly labeled parts bag and then place the parts bag in a "Parts Box".
4) Remove the music rack (lyre) from its track by pulling it toward the keyboard. Wrap it in a clean furniture pad.
5) Disconnect the lid by removing the hinge pins. Have one person wiggle the lid, holding it opposite the hinge, while a second person works the pin loose. Please be careful not to damage the wood with the pliers or with the pin itself. If necessary, cover the jaws of the pliers with a small cloth to help prevent damage to the wood. Wrap the lid in a clean furniture pad.
6) Remove the prop that holds the lid open and wrap it in a clean furniture pad. The prop has a hinge pin and is in two pieces.
7) Remove the pedal assembly and wrap it in a clean furniture pad. The braces at the rear of the assembly rest in slots at each end. When removing the screws, please be careful not to drop the braces. In addition, please be especially careful with the push-rods so that they will not get bent. As you face the piano, number the push-rods from left to right as "1", "2", and "3", by placing a piece of masking tape with the appropriate number on each rod. Note: If masking tape is unavailable, please use correctly labeled parts bags for this purpose. When reassembling at destination, please be sure to put the rods in the correct order so that the pedals will work properly.
8) Pad the piano by placing a clean rolled furniture pad (stretch-wrap the pad to prevent it from unrolling) on the cover of the keyboard to prevent it from flopping open while you handle the piano. Cover the top of the piano with two clean furniture pads, neatly folded around the keyboard. Use rubber bands to secure the pads. Note: Please ensure that the surface of the piano is dust-free before padding it. Padding a highly polished surface that is dusty may cause fine scratches, especially on a black lacquer finish.
9) Position a piano board and attach the straps so that it is ready to receive the piano. The raised brace on the piano board should be at the keyboard end of the piano.
10) Remove the left front leg by positioning one person underneath the piano at the left end of the keyboard. The other two people should support the left front corner. The person underneath the piano must turn the retaining block so that the long end points away from the leg. The screws, if there are any, should then be removed. The "underneath" person should then get out from under the piano before actually removing the leg. Be sure to have two people lifting the corner of the piano while the third person removes the leg. Note: Please be sure to note which legs were removed from which positions since some pianos have legs that are not interchangeable.
11) Place the piano on the piano board by lowering the "leg-less" end onto the board. Please be sure to lift the entire piano slightly while completing this maneuver to prevent undue pressure on the remaining, attached legs as the piano tips. Lift the piano to an upright position on the board. Note: Please ensure that the soundboard is secure before lifting. Be sure that the piano is centered snugly against the brace at the end of the piano board. Note: Never leave the piano unattended. Always have at least one person holding the piano steady at all times.
12) Remove the two remaining legs and wrap them in clean furniture pads. These legs are held in place by a "key and slot" arrangement. To remove the leg, slide it inward toward the center of the piano until it comes out of the slot.
13) Secure the piano to the piano board by bringing the ends of the straps together and fastening them. Place folded burlap pads over the furniture pads but under the straps to provide additional protection to the edges of the piano. To prevent the strap near the narrow end of the piano from slipping off, tie the loose ends of the two straps together.
14) To move the piano over a flat, level surface, tilt the piano and piano board and place a four-wheel dolly under the center of the piano board.
15) To move the piano up or down stairs, use the piano board as a skid. After sufficiently padding the stairs for protection against residence damage, place the keyboard end of the piano toward the bottom of the stairs. Attach a hump strap to the top end of the piano board to prevent the piano from slipping.
16) To load the piano, leave it on the piano board and place it in a tier as the first base item with the keyboard facing the wall of the preceding tier. The best place to load the padded lid is between the piano and the preceding tier or between the piano and the wall.
Although grand pianos represent a significant challenge, they can be moved without damage by using common sense and practicing the procedures listed above.
Best wishes for much success!
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If Your Piano Has Ivory Keys
If your piano has ivory keys you should make yourself aware of new federal regulations for trade of African ivory which have been in place since July 6, 2016. Click here for information on owning, moving, importing and exporting of pianos which contain ivory. Musical instruments with African elephant ivory are now subject to a de minimis exemption, but commercial activity is still severely curtailed or prohibited. Extremely old instruments may fall under the ESA antiques exemption.
Please note that some states, such as New York and New Jersey, passed their own regulations which may supersede federal rules regulations.
If you plan to import or export a piano with ivory, the safest alternative may be to hire an import/export agent who is familiar with pianos which contain ivory parts.
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