We’ve all seen the cartoons wherein the villain is smooshed by a falling piano - classic.
These huge corded cartoon punch lines are often the butt of the joke for their size, impressive weight, and awkwardness to move; in fact, they’re often depicted falling out of a window, being hoisted via crane from the top of a high-rise apartment building, or crashing down a steep flight of stairs; for good reason, they’re notoriously tough to move.
You learn a thing of two after being in the moving business for as long as us, and so we’ve compiled a post outlining some of the best tips, tricks and pieces of equipment you’ll need to successfully move a piano during a move.
First Things First!
To move a grand piano, it’s wise to enlist the help of qualified and experienced movers - the massive weight and price tag associated with any piano can spell disaster if they’re not given the respect they deserve.
If you’re hellbent of taking this task on with a crew of friends, assemble as many as you can - as they say: many hands make light work, two heads are better than one, etc, etc. The point? You can never have too much help. However, don’t enlist the help of children, or people who have a history of back, leg, or hip problems. The key to a successful piano move is always making sure it’s a safe piano move.
Wear the appropriate clothing as well. A good pair of steel-toe boots with non-slip soles, work pants, and gloves are all good ideas.
Next, clear your moving path prior to beginning any move with a piano. Ensuring that there’s a clear and unobstructed pathway out of the house or apartment means making sure you don’t have to start and stop ten times. This can mean moving chairs, couches, tables, rugs, and placing small ramps at all doorways to make the move easier. Preparation is key.
What are you Moving?
It’s really important to outline what type of piano you’re trying to move. Different instruments will ultimately dictate a different technique and equipment to move successfully. Typically, there are three main distinctions of pianos:
Grand pianos and baby grand pianos are likely the first type of piano that comes to mind when you hear the word. They’re the quintessential representation of the instrument and the biggest - even a baby grand piano can weigh upwards of 450 pounds, while a 6 foot Steinway grand can easily weigh over 800 pounds.
First, remove the lid and wrap it in protective wrap; also remove and package all pedals, lyre and music rack. Perhaps most critically important, is to remove the piano hinges - expensive damage can be caused by failing to remove hinges which can be damaged by the equipment used to move the piano itself.
This is typically a 3 or 4 person move. Using a piano board - or a piano skid - position the board next to the long side of the piano, placing a clean and cushioned pad on top to minimize scratches and other damage. As two or three movers stabilize the weight of the piano, another mover should be positioned to remove the front leg. From here, the piano will be tilted onto the piano board and balanced.
Next comes removal of all remaining legs and wrapping the entire body of the piano in clean, protective padding and/or stretch wrap. The piano can now be secured to the board with ratchet straps.
An upright piano is slightly less complicated, but deserves every bit as much of your respect as a grand. Centre a four-wheeled dolly beside the piano of at least half the length of the piece. Position one mover at either end to help steady the dolly, a third and fourth mover can help to position the piano evenly on the dolly top.
Most upright pianos feature handles behind the piece, but if there are no handles, there should be a horizontal bar near the middle of the back frame to grab onto. Once the piano is on top of the dolly and evenly distributed, pad the piano with moving blankets or protective padding, and secure the piece using trusty old ratchet straps. The nature of uprights is that they’re thinner and more accommodating for moving - with an unobstructed path, you can now roll the piano out of the home.
Digital pianos are much the same as upright in terms of shape and size, but can weigh considerably less. Still, repeating the same process as an upright is the best way to ensure that little damage is inflicted upon any piece.
Where Are You Going?
If you live in a bungalow, congrats - you have a straightforward move on your hands - but if you live in a high rise and the piano doesn’t fit in the elevator, you’ll inevitably be traversing some stairs.
Stair ramps are critical to relieving your back and knees from bearing the brunt of lifting a piano down the stairs. They help you to retain your strength and make small, calculated movements, rather than big moves.
Always evenly position stair ramps on the stairs in such a way that it won’t slip or move under your feet. Ensure that there are enough movers, usually two, at the bottom of the piano, and two at the top to help evenly distribute your strength and manpower. Proceed down the ramp slowly, taking small calculated steps as you push and support the piano down the stairwell. As a precaution, place spotters ahead of your intended path to help you avoid cracks, obstacles or holes.
In the Truck
A piano should be snugly secured using strapping to the wall in the moving truck, or in the bed of a pickup. Fasten it lengthwise to the support bars making sure that the straps are tightened and secured in such a way that there is no remaining slack. The piano should not be able to shift more than an inch or so during the moving process in the truck.
In short, moving a piano is all about remaining calm, cool, and confident in your actions. Aside from having the proper materials, equipment, and help, moving a piano should always be dealt with in a calculated manner that emphasizes safety and success.