Podcast Episode #6 – How to Buy a Used Piano

Questions on what to look for when buying a used piano? Sherry Carlisle Smith of Miller Piano Specialists shares invaluable tips on doing just that!

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Miller Piano Specialists December 23, 2019 17 Min Read

The Miller Piano Specialists Podcast | Nashville, TN
The Miller Piano Specialists Podcast | Nashville, TN
Podcast Episode #6 – How to Buy a Used Piano

Are you buying a used piano? Give this Miller Piano Podcast episode a listen. In this episode, host Jason Skipper talks to Sherry Carlisle Smith, the General Sales Manager of Miller Piano Specialists, an authorized dealer of Yamaha Pianos in Nashville, Tennessee. Sherry discusses buying used pianos and other topics including:

  • Catching up With Sherry (Click Here for Episode 1 and Episode 2)
  • Great Deals at Miller Piano Specialists for Christmas and New Year’s
  • How Sherry Started With Miller Piano Specialists
  • Miller Piano Specialist Youtube Channel
  • Why People Tend to Search More for Used Pianos Than For New Pianos
  • How to Buy a Used Piano the Right Way
  • Why Buy a Used Piano From a Dealer?
  • Why Buy Used Pianos Local?
  • Why Miller Names Theirs Used Pianos With Actual Names?


Jason Skipper 0:13
Welcome to the Miller Piano Podcast. I’m your host Jason Skipper. And in this episode, we have Sherry Carlisle Smith back with us to talk about the ins and outs of how to buy a used piano. Sherry is the General Sales Manager at Miller Pianos Specialists in Cool Springs. Sherry, welcome back to the podcast.

Sherry Carlisle Smith 0:33
Oh, it’s so good to be back. Hello. How are you doing?

Jason Skipper 0:36
I’m doing great. It’s good to have you here, Sherry. I know you’re busy. I know everyone’s busy with the end of the year here but we wanted to get you back on the podcast to talk about everything that’s going on there at Miller Piano Specialists and I appreciate you taking the time.

Sherry Carlisle Smith 0:51
Well, I’ll tell you what, it has been very busy between Christmas and spreading the Christmas musical love and end-of-the-year closeout. It’s been one chaotic fun place.

Jason Skipper 1:04
I bet! You’re gonna have to tell us about some of those things here while we’re talking. But before we get into everything, I know that for those who are listening, if you don’t know Sherry, well, you need to go back and listen to episodes one and two of the podcast, Sherry…

Sherry Carlisle Smith 1:20
Maybe they don’t! Ha!

Jason Skipper 1:21
Maybe they – yeah, exactly! But if you don’t know Sherry, come and listen to episodes one and two of the podcast and, you’ll get to know her a lot better. If I remember right, going back, you were born in Kentucky, you grew up in Indiana. You moved to Nashville in your 20s after graduating from college, you’ve been in the music business pretty well, ever since. You’ve toured with several different groups and musicians, including Johnny Paycheck. The Jordanaires, is that right?

Sherry Carlisle Smith 1:50
Yes, yes. And then my dad, we actually started recording in Nashville when I was 14. We did gospel and I did like, my first single when I was 17, here in Nashville. So, I’ve been back and forth with Nashville for a long time.

Jason Skipper 2:05
Yes, I can tell! And how long have you been, I can’t remember, how long have you been here at Miller?

Sherry Carlisle Smith 2:13
I started at Miller in 2010. And I was so blessed to find Ross and Sylvia and just a wonderful place and environment to work and so proud that we’ve got a great staff. And my daughter’s in here working with us, too. So it’s a family thing.

Jason Skipper 2:30
It is a family thing. Ross and Sylvia are amazing. I hope to get them on the podcast very very soon. Wow, you’re going on 10 years now.

Sherry Carlisle Smith 2:39

Jason Skipper 2:40
10 years. 2010. That’s what you said, right?

Sherry Carlisle Smith 2:43

Jason Skipper 2:44
Wow. We’re almost in 2020, so…

Sherry Carlisle Smith 2:47
Yeah, so September will be my 10th anniversary. We’ll have to have a party, invite everybody.

Jason Skipper 2:52
Well, that sounds good. I want to be there. I hope I get an invitation! Ha! That sounds awesome. Well, anything new going on other than, you know, you shared quite a bit there at what’s going on in Miller. One thing I wanted to ask before we get into the topic of how to buy a used piano is, you know, we’re coming up on Christmas, New Year’s. Are there any great deals going on right now for now? Maybe after New Year’s?

Sherry Carlisle Smith 3:19
Right now Yamaha’s doing a red-letter envelope that gives you some options and financing. And at the end of the year, it’s always a great time to buy because we are trying to close out to get our new stuff being delivered in coming up in January. So we have a lot of great specials on new pianos. And Yamaha, like I said, has joined in and has done some special financing for everyone through the holidays. That will really benefit them. And we are really loaded with a lot of nice trade-ins or used pianos right now.

Jason Skipper 3:52
Gotcha. Gotcha. Well, that’s what we wanted to talk about. And let’s get into that talking about used pianos a little bit. I do a lot of the online work for Miller and…

Sherry Carlisle Smith 4:03
You’re doing a great job.

Jason Skipper 4:04
Well, I appreciate that, thank you. But part of the work that I do is research. I do a lot of online research trying to figure out what people really want or what they’re searching for. And you know, something that really interests me, you know at Miller we have some of the most the best the most technologically advanced pianos in the world. From the Disklavier or the Clavinova, the AvantGrand the acoustics and digital upright grand pianos – we’ve got it all. But something interesting that pops up in my research over and over is that so many more people are searching for used pianos. The new ones, for example, last month, 10 times more people in the United States search for the keyword “used piano” over the keyword “new piano”. Why do you think that is?

Sherry Carlisle Smith 4:55
I think, you know, it’s bargain shoppers, and they’re wanting to get in the market and buy a piano. And a lot of times people get sticker shock. Yeah, when they go into a piano store and they see a sticker price of a piano before asking the quality, it’s just like buying anything else – clothes, shoes, cars, you know, you go around you look at the sticker prices first, right? And so I think shopping in the US market, just like if you were buying a car, you look for the US market and then it kind of filters you up to where, okay, if this is used, I kind of know what to expect for a new piano. So it’s, I think, it’s just a filter of people getting into the market and that’s the first place people look basically for anything.

Jason Skipper 5:41
Okay, well, that definitely makes sense. Let me ask you this. When someone contacts you, maybe they call or they send an internet form, or maybe they contact you through Facebook or they walk in, you know, walk into the store, and they’re looking for used piano do they usually have a clear idea of what they’re looking for? Or is it the case that usually someone looking for a used piano and says, “I’m interested in buying a piano, but I don’t think my budget gives for a new one? Can you help me?” Can you walk me through the process of working with a customer evaluating their needs, and helping them find that perfect piano for them?

Sherry Carlisle Smith 6:21
Yes. And that’s about 50/50. You have 50% probably that walk-in that they do have a certain model or they’ve been online, or they think they know what they want. And then you have 50% that really are needing education. And what is the used piano? What’s a new piano? What’s a digital, what’s a hybrid? So a big part of our job here, even if you’re looking for us is it’s let’s sit down and talk. But are you going to use the piano for are there children involved? And do you know how and what to look for in a used piano? Let me show you some examples of used pianos. Let me show you some examples of new pianos and your other options which may be digital or hybrid. So really finding out what the customers’ needs are, makes it a lot easier for us to find the right piano. And if we don’t have it, at least we know what to look for. Because used pianos are turnover daily. So I may not have what you need today, but tomorrow, I may have the exact piano.

Jason Skipper 7:26
Gotcha, gotcha. Okay. Well, let me ask you this. Let’s say I’m on the Internet, and I’ve decided with my family, we need to buy a piano, okay, but we don’t have a huge budget. I’m searching on the Internet. And I write in, for example, in Google, I write used pianos near me. And I find a plethora of listings on eBay and Craigslist and maybe Facebook marketplace and I see used pianos from online businesses from other parts of the United States. I assume that they could ship them to me or I also see, you know, local businesses such as Miller Piano Specialists, you know, and the offerings that we have for used pianos. Where do I start? You know, I’m a new customer, I don’t know much, but I’m looking for something. Where do I start? What do I need to know before buying a used piano?

Sherry Carlisle Smith 8:19
Well, first of all, you want to know the history of that piano, because there are some things that just like we have a lifespan and acoustic pianos lifespan is approximately 50 years, okay? Okay, now, it could last a little longer, a little less, depending on the care just like us going getting a checkup at the doctor, right? Tuning – what people do not understand, and this once again goes back to education. A piano needs to be tuned twice a year in a home in a church, the atmosphere, depending on if they take their heat up and down. It could be four times a year, right? There are tons of pressure points that pull against that plate with those strings. And if it is not cared for properly, it will pull those tuning pins out that are threaded. And then they have a tuning block issue on the piano. So then we’re looking at, it’s almost like pulling the engine to get to the alternator. We’re looking at more money to fix it than what we put into the piano. So the outside is the least of our worries. We can always have the outside, prettied up. We look more at the inside and the workings of the piano and how much life is left on it for that next person.

Jason Skipper 9:38
Gotcha. Okay, so I’m assuming, I mean just, if I were, for example, you find something online, maybe in another state and I can’t travel to get it I want them to ship it to me. I don’t know how many do that but I’m assuming that

Sherry Carlisle Smith 9:55
Oh, they do.

Jason Skipper 9:55
They do. You know, that doesn’t sound like a good idea.

Sherry Carlisle Smith 10:00
Not it’s not, it’s just like my daughter is a ballet dancer. And it doesn’t matter the brand of shoe or every time she goes to get a new pair of ballet shoes. She has to try them on to have to be fitted. A piano is a personal experience. It’s a sound. It’s just like I tell people listen to this and touch it. So when they touch it, they get a feel, a sense. When they stand back and they listen to it, they’re going to get a sound color. Some people say that’s too mellow, that’s too vibrant for me. You know, so then there’s a sound color. And it’s not a right or wrong answer. It just helps me to understand what they’re looking for but buying online and not having a technician locally that can go through the piano or a dealer like we are that. We’ve gone through the piano and we know what the inside is like and you not being able to lay your hands on it and touch it. That’s the experience of buying a piano just like test driving a car.

Jason Skipper 11:07
Right. Okay. So, for example, I find something on Craigslist or, you know, Facebook marketplace from an individual that’s selling their piano from their home. But how would I go about evaluating a piano if it’s been taken care of how do you know that?

Sherry Carlisle Smith 11:22
Well, that’s where people, we have people all the time that say, Oh, we haven’t had it tuned in 20 years, it sounds just like it did. There’s no way it can sound just like it did. It may be totally out of tune with itself, but there’s no way it can be in tune. And will it hold pitch? Will it hold a tune? So you really need for a technician to look through it which is going to cost you money to go out and do that. You need to look for the serial and the model number. And if a person will not give you that because that’s trackable on the internet, or we can do it for you here. Because there are some pianos that are what’s called gray market that are not even destined for the US market. And that’s something you really want to stay away from.

Jason Skipper 12:09
Gotcha. Okay. Well, that’s interesting. Well, let me ask you this. What would be a reason if someone’s looking for a used piano and why buy from a dealer? Why buy from you?

Sherry Carlisle Smith 12:21
Well, I hope first of all their experience is good and we find what they need. And they do know buying through us that they have someone they can call they can talk to, they can come back to if they have a problem. One of our specialists is there for you 24/7. The other thing is buying from us you get a value trading. So let’s say you buy a used piano for $2,000. But your son or daughter does really well and you want to buy him that grand in 10 years, or five years or next year. Then we give you full value trade up. That’s to go up to something larger and you know that the quality like I said, is going to be there and our use panels because if it’s not, it will not be on our floor.

Jason Skipper 13:06
I gotcha. Okay, well, what do you do? You know, before we talk about what you have there in stock, do you guys accept every panel that comes through the door?

Sherry Carlisle Smith 13:16
Absolutely not.

Jason Skipper 13:18
Okay, what do you do?

Sherry Carlisle Smith 13:21
I’ve been out on three different calls this week looking at people that have not had success in selling on these different sites that you were talking about. And so I went out and I looked and appraise the piano and realistically gave them a figure. Yes, you can always if the pianos in good shape, sell it for a little bit more because we have to go into it. Make sure it’s tuned up, make sure it’s regulated, make sure it’s got a warranty. We have to ship it to the next person. We have to pick it up. So we actually look at the pianos before they’re brought in. So it’s not like, oh yeah you got that piano in a great teacher. And then we get there and half the pedals are gone.

Jason Skipper 14:07
I hear you on that one. So you’re very selective in choosing what you bring in because you want to back that as well.

Sherry Carlisle Smith 14:14
We want to back it in our name is on it. So that is very important to Miller Piano Specialists, to the family here, and to the specialists that work here.

Jason Skipper 14:23
Of course, right. Okay, so what do we have right now at the store? I let me just say this, I love it. You know, we look online, you can see the listing of used pianos we have they’re also new. But I look online and I see all of these pianos that we have, for example, you go to the used pianos page, I see him and they all have names. You know, for example, we have Becky, a Pearl River baby grand, I believe, And Ronnie Roland digital. We have a Gary, a Gulbransem, a Branson Grand Piano, Timothy a Kawai digital piano, and Rachel. I love that.

Sherry Carlisle Smith 15:02
Well, Timothy’s gone, but okay.

Jason Skipper 15:05
That’s gone? Oh, no. Okay, well, that’s great, but…

Sherry Carlisle Smith 15:09
My daughter, Dakota, one of the specialists that works here, said, Mom, you know, we put the stories of the pianos and where they came from and the background of the piano who owned the piano where they want owner. She said we get so personal let’s, let’s name them. Let’s give them a name with the personality. And I’ve had people that come in that actually have bought the piano because they love the name. Yeah. And then one lady said, it’s Barry. This is Barry and I’m not changing the name. This is Barry. Barry Baldwin. So it just gives more personality to the background behind the piano.

Jason Skipper 15:46
Right. Well, what do we have right now in stock?

Sherry Carlisle Smith 15:49
We have got several. We’ve got, I believe, eight grands that had been traded in lately that are very nice, that are in the somewhere between five-foot, six-foot range. And we have got several digital’s in right now. And we have got, I would say, six or seven vertical uprights, including, I believe we have a, you one, you know, maybe I use three coming in, which is very rare with waiting lists for a lot of these pianos.

Jason Skipper 16:22
Right. So can a person find all of these online or are there more in store?

Sherry Carlisle Smith 16:29
They can. They can find them online, you know, through – and there’s a really good thing on our YouTube and I believe it’s on our website too now but we actually went in the studio and did a little video on it’s like six or seven points of how to purchase a used piano and what to look for in a used piano. So there’s a lot of questions that people ask and this these are really good videos we shot at a local studio over here and based on Devonshire and we’re very helpful in getting that done. And it really helps you walk through some of the questions and some of the answers to what we’ve been talking about.

Jason Skipper 17:08
Right. Okay, well, we’re definitely in the show notes of this episode, we’re going to link to all of those or embed them on the page. So we’ll definitely put that so anyone listening, check out the website, Miller PS.com, and you’ll be able to see all these videos that Sherry’s referring to. So I believe people can always ask for a used or a new piano inventory list as well, right?

Sherry Carlisle Smith 17:32
They can, yes, they can go out and fill web form on the page right there. And then one of our specialists will get back with you to send you information. We like to do a call first. If you could please put the number because it helps us so we’re not sending you just a glob of staff. Right. It’s kind of like walking into one of these department stores and they have so much stuff from floor to ceiling. And I have actually left my basket and all the floor. And they’re full because I went in there for baby powder. And I came out with all this stuff. And I’m like, Oh, no, no, no, that’s not working for. So if we know a little bit more about what you’re looking for, and we made that phone call, then we know more what to send that might be special just for you.

Jason Skipper 18:19
So it’s all about that personal contact with the customer? Just allowing the customer?

Sherry Carlisle Smith 18:24
And I can tell you it is and, you know, we all, I think at the Christmas season we have a joyous time shopping and then we have some of his fat grumble about shopping and the crowds and everything else. Okay. It has been so crazy busy. Like I went shopping for an hour and a half, two hours today. And it was you know, everybody goes shop online. I want the experience, whether it’s good or bad. I want the experience and of hearing the muzak and seeing people bustling around and people talking about buying what, and then me feeling it and touching it. I wouldn’t have bought a sweater today if I hadn’t touched it because I went I don’t like that. And then I touched it and went, Oh, I gotta have it because one of my senses clicked in and it was like, this is perfect.

Jason Skipper 19:14

Sherry Carlisle Smith 19:16
So, it is the experience.

Jason Skipper 19:18
It really is understanding what you need, what you’re looking for. And when you’re buying that piano, just like you mentioned, being able to see it in person. It’s like buying a vehicle, even more, I would think, just because it becomes part of the inside of your house for not just you know, 5, 7, 8 years. I mean, we’re talking many years to come. It’s part of your family, It becomes part of your history, right?

Sherry Carlisle Smith 19:43
It is and I travel a lot and I live in my car. So when I went to get a car, and I knew what I was kind of looking for – something with four wheels, you know, four doors – Ruby, that kind of thing, you know? But I literally wanted to sit in it. And that gentleman was so good. And here are three vehicles I like to use sit in on drive them and try them and the experience because I live in my car as much as I do as my house. And a piano is something that is used every day for a long, long, long time. So you want to make the experience of buying it. Good.

Jason Skipper 20:24
I hear you. Well, that is perfect. And I think that really explains it. So for our listeners out there, you know, I don’t know if you’re looking for something maybe you’re part of the Miller Piano Specialists family. You’ve already purchased one but it’s so important to be able to get to know it and I love this with the used pianos, putting a name on them. But whatever it is that experience coming in talking to you guys understanding if you’re searching for that, I think that’s the key. It really is. Make it more personal. Go out and touch him and look at him. I won’t talk anymore, this is yours ha!

Sherry Carlisle Smith 21:02
No, that’s great. You’re saying all the right things. And you know, please, by all means, call us, let us know how we can help you or fill out those forms and put the phone number on there. And if you know you’ve had that great experience with us, a testimonial, you know if you could give us a good review, because people do look at that, before they make that second move off I’m going to give them my information to find out what they have. They’re going to look at the reviews and see who’s happy and what experience they’ve had here at Miller.

Jason Skipper 21:35
Right, right. Well go to Google, go to Facebook, look at our reviews. It’s pretty amazing. I look at it and we have over 100 between the two and they’re all five-star. They’re amazing. I will say this. Yeah, you know, let me ask you this Sherry. Just to end up here, for the person listening. You know, they’re trying to figure out what to do and searching for a piano. Do you have any last advice, something that I didn’t ask, you know, a lot of times they say you don’t know what you don’t know? And maybe I don’t know what to ask, you know, but…

Sherry Carlisle Smith 22:08
Well, there’s one big word: Education. Do not be afraid of asking a question. There is no such thing as a stupid question. And education is what we specialize in. So allow us to educate you on pianos and a piano that might be right for you. So education is the one word I would leave you with.

Jason Skipper 22:32
You got it. All right. Well, Sherry, how can our listeners, of course, get in touch with you? I know you can go to the website, but how can they get in touch with you?

Sherry Carlisle Smith 22:43
Okay, they can get in touch with us, of course, through the website. They can also call us at 615-771-0020. We’re on all forms of social media, you can message us on Facebook. Please give us a call. I mean, that’s the quickest easiest way to get through us.

Jason Skipper 23:01
Right. And if you’re doing some Christmas shopping in Cool Springs stop by the store. You’re just right there.

Sherry Carlisle Smith 23:06
650 Fraser, Dr. Franklin, Tennessee. We’re located between Sperry’s and Bassett Furniture.

Jason Skipper 23:11
All right. All right. Well, thanks, Sherry. This has been great. This has been great. Everybody. This has been Sherry Carlisle Smith, the general sales manager at Miller Piano Specialists in Cool Springs in Tennessee. As always, you can find show notes and a transcript of this episode right on our website, www.millerps.com. As well as you can also find us on Apple podcast, Google Play Podcasts, and Spotify. Look us up on your favorite podcast, listening platform. And don’t forget to rate review and subscribe. And also, as Sherry mentioned, go out and leave a review somewhere online. If you’ve been with us, you worked with Miller Piano Specialists, do that. In any case, once again, this is your host Jason Skipper, and we’ll see you next time.

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