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Piano Moving Techniques
Uprights and Grands

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DIY PIANO MOVING BASICS

A GENERAL DISCUSSION ABOUT HOW-TO-MOVE PIANOS

 
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Some very unique piano moving technique has been developed over the last 100+ years that greatly eases the daunting task of moving pianos. This section will try to teach you some basics about these professional, safe piano moving methods. But always remember the most important of our DIY piano moving tips; even with full knowledge of how-to move pianos, actually moving your piano carries with it a lot of responsibility for piano moving safety; for the movers and for the piano and it's value. So, before proceeding on to our teachings about how-to-move a piano please be sure to review our very important sections on piano moving warnings and piano moving equipment costs.


 

You need to be aware of the weight of the piano being moved before you move it so that you will have
adequate manpower on hand to move it.

 

Large upright pianos (such as these 2 beautiful monsters shown below) are quite heavy. The biggest uprights have very high backs like these 2.
They are the very biggest upright pianos made. Their height tops out at 60 inches with each of their weight hitting 800+ lbs.

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The smallest grand piano starts at 54 inches long (which is equivalent to a 54 inch high upright) with a weight of 5 - 600 lbs.

Grand pianos can extend out to 108 inches long for a 9' concert grand topping out at 1000-1200 lbs.
Below is pictured one that neede a big crew because it is about to be hoisted hanging on a huge hook under an elevator.

 
 

Liberace's piano was especially made for him. It was a monstrous 12 foot long grand piano weighing 1500 lbs. It was 3 feet longer than the one pictured above! He had it especially constructed for him because of his knowledge that the longer the grand piano is the better the base notes will sound during play
because the base notes utilize wound strings not straight strings. Wound strings resonate better and better at longer and longer lengths.

Most piano weight comes from its cast iron harp that holds the strings. Small upright pianos only weigh 300 to 400 lbs. because they have a smaller cast iron harp than big uprights or grand pianos. Big uprights run from 500 lbs. thru 800 lbs. (big player uprights can even hit 900 lbs.). Grand pianos run anywhere from 500 to 1200 lbs. Most grand pianos are 4 1/2' to 6' long so they weigh in between 500 and 800 lbs. But longer grands like the one pictured above weigh much more and they should always be moved by professionals.

In fact any big upright piano over 48' high or any grand piano 6' long or longer just is not be a candidate for do-it-yourself piano moving. These large pianos should always be moved by professionals just because of their extreme weight.

 

PIANO CASTERS

 

Pianos should not be rolled around on their metal casters. The casters are just decorative and not very functional because when used, they can easily gouge a new hardwood floors finish. As you can see below they're quite small and the way that a piano is constructed they're spaced on the 3 or 4 corners of the piano so that all of the piano's weight is centered between them. On upright pianos two of the casters are on the front two(very weak) decorative legs. On grand pianos all 3 legs have a caster on them.

Over time, as the piano sits in one place, the casters tend to deteriorate. So they caneasily jam up on you when you go to push the piano on them. Pushing a grand piano around on its leg casters can cause a leg to break. Pushing an upright piano on them could break both front legs. Some uprights such as the one shown below have 4 decorative legs with casters and any one of them could be easily broken by pushing the piano on them.

If they stick in place they'll gouge your hardwood floors or even tear your carpeting.
Besides the dangers of a stuck caster or a broken piano leg, they do not virtually eliminate the weight of the piano for piano moving
as is done when it is mounted on its bottom or on its side up on our 4 wheel piano dolly.

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So, all in all, any pushing of a piano around on its casters is not a very good idea. However, a bunch of you can lift any piano up a bit and move it around a bit keeping its weight from bearing down upon the casters, but first lift each corner and check to see that none of them are frozen.

   
 

4 WHEEL PIANO DOLLY

 

Whenever a 4 wheel piano dolly can be used to transport the piano - muscle power on the part of the crew to move it - is reduced to almost nothing. This is because all of the piano's weight is centrally supported by the dolly. A piano properly balanced on a dolly is almost weightless and easily overcomes inertia on level surfaces.

Below is a picture of a small upright piano properly mounted on its side on our 4 wheel dolly.
Notice that no one is holding it. This is only possible because it's on flat ground and it's balanced correctly on the dolly,
so it justs sits there as is, without needing a steadying hand.

Notice the positioning of the dolly in this balanced state with all of the heavier case and just a bit of the side of the lighter keyboard
(but none of its leg) supported by the dolly's rubber cross slats.

Below is a picture of the same piano properly mounted on it's feet on the dolly.
Again, no one is holding it so it just sits there because it's centered and therefore balanced on the dolly and it's on flat ground.

Notice that in this centered position the dolly juts out a bit in front of the piano which is how it must be
in order to balance the piano's lighter keyboard weight
as well as its heavier case weight (which contains its heavy cast iron harp).

Below is a picture of a grand piano up on its flat side on a piano skid board centered (?) on a piano dolly.

At first glance it doesn't look like this grand piano is exactly centered but it actually is because its weight (not its case) is centered. Remember, the left part of the piano with the keyboard has very little weight compared to the cast iron harp within the rest of the piano's kidney shape. So most of the piano's weight resides from just a little left of the leg brackets to the back of the piano. When observed with an x-ray vision perspective you'd see that the piano's heavy cast iron harp is centered on the dolly even though the piano's case is not.

On inclines or ramps the piano's seeming weightlessness on the dolly on flat ground ends
and much of its true weight is expressed on the low end of the incline.

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Therefore, at least 3 men are needed when moving even a small piano because one man controls the light side
and 2 men need to be positioned on the heavy side of the incline to handle this weight expression.

   
 

It is very desirable to do as much of the piano moving as possible with as little human effort as possible.

 

So it stands to reason that the dolly is to be used as much as possible. It is simply the easiest way to move a piano around (other than the miles covered when the piano is being transported sitting on a truck). It can be used to move a piano over level ground or on inclines and ramps or for tipping it up or down to get over a curb or 1 step. The piano dolly also can be used to roll the piano over plywood or masonite to traverse grass, cobblestones, gravel, sand or any other slightly uneven or loose surface. When doing this though always use at least 4 or 5 people to push it and to rotate the plywood or masonite (from behind to in front of the piano).

So, once the number of people needed on your crew has been determined (this is based upon piano size and weight and if any actual piano carrying is to be done which will be further discussed), the first thing they will have to do with an upright piano is to mount it up onto a dolly. As simple a task as this might appear to be to the uninitiated, it is really somewhat involved because you're elevating 400 - 800 lbs. almost a foot up onto an unstable rolling platform. So very thorough instruction in dolly mounting techniques will be given in the members section..

To be mounted upon a dolly, grand pianos have to be first broken down (without breaking them of course), by removing their 3 legs
and the lyre and the music rack and mounting them on their long side onto a piano skid board which is a very involved process.

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But here, we don't want to get too bogged down in our discussion so we suggest you review our 5 minute grand piano moving slideshow presentation on this subject on the Burrows Moving Company website. Instead, here we will go on to speak in general of all the things that must be done to move your piano from its origin point to its final destination point.

 

TIP and LIFT, LOWER to CHEAT 1 STEP ONLY

 

So, starting at the place where the piano is sitting, if no more than 1 step will be encountered at any given point in the move path
going to / from the truck, the piano is to be lifted or tipped up and onto the piano dolly as shown in the picture below.

This piano will end up on the dolly on its feet (on its bottom) onto the dolly's padded rails as shown in the picture below.

The way to move your upright piano over 1 step is by just using a slight tip of the piano on the dolly up / down as it is being pushed along.
To do this you will use the hump strap to lift one end of the piano on the dolly (welded together as one unit so to speak)
over the step (as is shown in the picture sequence below).

In the moving industry this is called doing a little cheat because we cheat gravity out of one step of carrying effort without having to take the piano off of the dolly and carry it over that step and then put it back onto the dolly. Just using a tip of the piano on its feet on the dolly in this manner will not work to cheat more than 1 consecutive step with an upright piano because the bottom edge of the piano (on the low side of the tip) will scrape the ground, chipping it. Also the angle of tip can become too much to keep the piano in balance on the dolly.

Grand pianos are mounted on their piano skidboard on top of the dolly as shown previously and you can also use this little cheat technique for them. But in the case of moving a grand piano, you can sometimes even use it for 2 steps if the piano skid board is sticking out in back enough to absorb all of the back bottom scraping when tipped at that much of an angle.

   
 

TIP and LIFT, LOWER to CHEAT 2 - 4 STEPS ONLY

 

In order to do bigger cheats (up to as many as 4 consecutive low steps or as many as 3 consecutive higher steps at any given point on your move path) a different technique must be utilized. It involves tipping the whole upright or grand piano up / down the steps. You do this by lifting it up and over the top step or lowering an upright down onto to a dolly or sliding the grand down onto a dolly.

For 2, 3, or 4 step cheats up / down the stairs, the upright piano is first placed on its side on the dolly.
Then, with the bottom of the upright facing the steps, it is positioned on the dolly up to and (if possible) over the 1st step as shown in the picture below.
In this position as can be seen, the 1st step has been automatically cheated by the height of the dolly
as the piano's bottom is butted up to the side of the 2nd step.

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Notice that as the tip begins on this 3 step cheat we have balanced the upright piano's case on the first step,
being careful not to let the weak leg touch the stair so as not to break it.

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Then we extricated the dolly from under the bottom side of the piano and placed it between the piano and the stairs
to protect it's bottom and to expedite the dolly remount at the top of the stairs.
We then finish cheating the other 2 steps by tipping the piano forward
onto the dolly and then up and over the stairs to be traversed.

Since this was an older beater upright piano just used for these pictures we did not bother to pad the first step but for any fine piano - even though wood won't normally scratch wood, step padding should be done to be certain to not damage the piano's bottom edge nor the edge of the landing.

If we were to have just one more step to traverse we couldn't push the upright up on the dolly over the edge of the landing as was done here. Instead, we'd not use the dolly as a buffer but instead just lay the piano on its bottom all the way up to the top step. Then using a pad or some cardboard placed as a covering between the piano and the edge of the landing (to prevent scraping abrasion to the piano's bottom edge or undercarriage), we would tip it up and finish by pushing it up and onto the landing.

This same process is reversed when coming down the stairs. The piano comes down the steps with its bottom facing the steps just as it went up them. The piano is slid out to the 2 bottom men and they tip it towards the steps and lower it down once its out enough. When it finishes it's descent onto the bottom step it can just be further tipped right up onto the dolly.

Again use a pad or a piece of cardboard as a buffer between a fine piano and the landing and the bottom step.
These cheating techniques are so much easier than having to get under the piano and actually carry it over these few steps.

For grand pianos a similar cheat involves as many steps as the length of the piano skidboard underneath it will allow, usually 2 to 4 as with the upright pianos although 5 steps is possible when moving a 6 foot long grand piano. The same technique is used as with the upright piano but instead of the bottom of the piano facing the stairs, the piano skidboard faces the stairs. Once all of the steps have been traversed using the cheat and the grand piano is safely standing on the ground or on the landing, then it must be remounted onto the dolly.

   
 

CARRYING YOUR PIANO OVER MORE THAN 4 CONSECUTIVE STEPS

 

If there are too many consecutive steps at any given point in the move path these tip and lift - cheat techniques will not work.
The fact of more than 4 low consecutive steps in the move path automatically dictates to the crew
that they must carry the piano (as shown in the 2 pictures below)!

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Carrying the piano up / down stairs is the most dangerous part of piano moving as is well illustrated above.
This is the reason we try to convince you to not move your piano yourself. Once the piano is being carried,
even if it is only being raised or lowered 1 or 2 steps at a time, it can very easily go out of balance and get away from the crew
causing terrible things to happen very, very rapidly resulting in severe injury and / or piano damage.
So please pay close attention to that part of the members section which instructs you about actually carrying the piano.

 

Also please notice in the picture of the upright piano move below that the first step has been cheated with the dolly
and just 3 more steps are well covered by the upright piano's bottom. The 4th step that it barely reaches is not be covered enough for a safe cheat because the edge of the piano might slip off of that step. Besides, in this case there is even one more step than that one,
so this crew would absolutely have to carry this piano in order to to traverse all of the steps.
This picture really illustrates well the reason that we have a 4 step limit for cheats.

   
 

TRUCKING YOUR PIANO

 

Dollying the piano to and lifting or carrying it over steps is repeated as many times as necessary until finally the piano can be dollied up the ramp or lift-gated up onto the truck. Then, once on the truck, the upright piano has to be dismounted from the dolly and placed on its feet, keyboard side padded and facing into the wall of the truck.

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A grand piano is always pushed up a ramp with the lip end (keyboard end) facing the down angle
and the other end's overhang absorbing any scrapes caused by the angle .

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Once on the truck it is taken off of its dolly and placed (still on its piano skidboard)
with the top of the piano (which is on one side of it on the piano board) facing the truck's wall.

It then needs to be double or triple belted to the truck's wall to secure it for driving.

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Never truck a piano on its dolly because it might break loose and roll around in the truck causing terrible damage while it's being driven.

You place the upright piano with it's keyboard side padded facing the truck's wall or the grand piano's padded top side on the skidboard facing the truck's wall so that it if the piano gets accidentally scraped it only happens to either piano's backside which does no damage to the piano's finish. The upright's front keyboard side and the grand's irreplaceable top is protected by their pads from scraping damage from the truck's wall while driving.

Because of their great weight, pianos always need to be securely double or triple belted to the truck's wall and then it is safe to be trucked. Drive the truck to a position on the street or in a parking lot as close to the destination point as possible. Remember - always first use the truck for transport and then use the dolly and then use cheats (onlycarrying the piano when its absolutely necessary)for what's left of the move path, right to the set down point in the new residence.

   
 

CONSERVING HUMAN ENERGY DURING PIANO MOVING

 

In the 2 pictures below (viewed from below and above the piano), the ramp would not reach from the ground all the way up to the top of the porch. So the mover's had to place it one step down and then ramp it up most of the way and finally use a little cheat to get the piano up over the top step still on the dolly. This is an excellent example of conserving human energy because lesser trained piano movers would have given up on the ramp and carried this piano up all of the stairs to the porch.

Our guys did it all on the dolly using the ramp and a little cheat.

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As they are doing here, you always want to try to use as little human strength during a piano move as possible .

One of the key secrets to DIY piano moving (or any kind of DIY moving for that matter) is to have plenty of people present
so that you don't get rushed or overloaded to get the job done.

You also need to have the right equipment to do the job as easily as possible. Everyone should use the piano moving equipment properly and employ good piano moving technique and everyone should be constantly thinking of easier ways to accomplish each task with the minimum amount of human exertion. Always try to only make exertions when absolutely necessary because, besides exhausting you of your strength, any exertion, especially strong exertions, can lead to an unwanted injury like a hernia, a spinal problem, a shoulder socket problem a knee problem or damage to your piano!

Once you arrive at the destination and are safely parked, the upright piano is unbelted from the truck wall and remounted up on the dolly, again on its feet or on its side depending on the aforementioned 4 consecutive low steps rule. Then ramp it or lift gate it down to the street. A grand piano (still on its piano board of course) is also remounted up onto a dolly and (lip end facing the down angle) it can be ramped or lift gated down to the ground.

Next, the piano is dollied and cheated and / or carried (as circumstances dictate) over stairs to its destination point. Then it is dismounted from the dolly, being careful not to nick or chip the piano's bottom edge or the floor by using pads as buffers, and it is set in place (if possible into cups for the casters so as not to gouge the floor in the future). Grand pianos of course, need to be fully reassembled before they are set in place.

Your piano move is now completed!

Sounds pretty simple doesn't it? It can actually occur that way for you and your crew if all of you carefully study all of our instructions
and take your time and use our techniques and employ our piano moving equipment correctly during your piano move and Think! Think! Think!

So, in order for you to proceed any further on this topic you must review our sections on
piano moving warnings and piano moving equipment costs.

   

Copyright 2003-2012 © Burrows Moving Company

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