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Moving and transporting pianos

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The first practical piano was built in 1700 by an Italian, Bartolomeo Cristofori and the name comes from his original name for the instrument “piano et forte” meaning “soft and loud”.

Abels has considerable experience in moving pianos, including some for very well known musicians. Instruments moved range from an upright, a baby grand, the boudoir grand, up to the finest concert grand pianos. Indeed, some discerning customers still possess
the now rarely seen harpsichord. All Abels staff undergo rigorous training in preparing the instrument, packing or protecting the vulnerable parts, moving, unpacking and setting up, ready to be retuned in the new home.


Regrettably a piano needs time to get used to any new environment as it must adjust to the humidity conditions. It is often recommended to wait three weeks to allow the wooden parts to settle because they shrink and swell as the humidity changes.
Ideally pianos should be placed on an inside wall away from windows, doors and from drafts. Also avoid central heating points that can dry out the piano, but do not try to compensate this with a bowl of water. Remember that unlike other musical instruments
that you can store for years, the piano will need tuning even though not used for the period in store. The movement and humidity changes does compromise the tuning.

Piano sizes – A grand is measured from the front of the keyboard to the back of the lid.

Concert Grand – 8′ 11″ and larger
Half Concert Grand – 7’4″
Parlour Grand 6’8″
Drawing Room Grand – 6’4″
Professional Grand – 6′
Living Room Grand – 5’10”
Baby Grand – 5’8″
Upright – 51″ and up
Vertical – 36″ – 51″
Studio – 44″ or taller
Console to 42″
Spinet – 36″ to 38″

The largest piano known is a Challen Concert Grand. This piano is 11 feet long, with a total string tension of over 30 tons, and weighs more than a ton! Moving pianos is a precise operation and due to their weight, vulnerability and, of course, value, should only
be undertaken by professionals.


Before we move a piano we check for ease of access at the point of collection and delivery. This is part of our thorough approach to planning a client’s move and ensures the minimum of fuss for our customers. The key to our service is not only ensuring the
piano itself is not damaged when moved, but also minimising the risk of damage to floorings, walls, fittings, and of injury to our moving teams.

Prior to the removal, a senior member from our moving team jointly inspects the instrument with the customer. Any existing damage is pointed out and noted on a piano condition report, which is jointly signed. Damage is also photographed for the customer’s peace of mind.

Packing and removal

Carefully, the crew remove or tie down, all that is appropriate for the model being handled. Piano parts that are vulnerable to damage, such as the music stand, pedal action and grand piano legs are removed and packaged, with keyboard lids also removed or locked down.

We utilise a protective “shoe”, which is a special platform placed under the piano to allow easier carrying and to shield the piano, where we can use piano wheels under the shoe to move it safely. If there is any risk of possible damage by the rubber wheels to flooring, we provide protective floor coverings.

The packaging used on the piano will depend upon the nature of the piano, the customer’s specific requirements and the destination. Materials range from soft thick woollen transit blankets wrapped and tied to secure, through to a full “export wrap” which involves either a 5-ply wax lined robust paper blanket or a soft cloth inner lined bubble wrap together with a card over layer for added protection.

The piano is secured using a high breaking strain furniture web for transportation in the Abels air ride vehicle.

Steps for moving a grand piano:

• Piano inspection for damage and report to customer.
• Remove carefully pedal supports making sure rods to the pedals are not damaged.
• Lid removal – move the pin locking the hinges to allow the lid to be separated.
• Remove the music stand. For a grand piano this is done by sliding it forward over the keyboard and it is advisable for two people to do this to avoid possible twisting and damage to its hinges. The stand must be tied to stop it swinging back.
• Remove or lock the lid. The lid is held by two pins, which are removed by lifting upwards. If the lid cannot be locked, it can be edged with folded paper to stop the lid coming off when it is placed on the shoe for transport.
• Position the shoe ready to receive the piano & cover with soft blanket.
• Check how the piano legs are secured and carefully remove the bass end leg.
• The piano is carefully lowered onto the shoe, making sure the keyboard fits securely and the piano is then moved to upright. The remaining legs are removed and referenced so that they are refitted in the correct order.
• Cover the whole piano with woollen blankets then with webbing tie the piano firmly to the shoe.
• Place the shoe on piano wheels, for transport to the Abels vehicle, which will usually have a tail lift for ease of loading.
• Remove the piano wheels and securely tie the shoe and piano to the vehicle’s side.


Many of the high value pianos we move have a bespoke wooden case manufactured for them, offering added protection. The cases are lined inside with foam to cushion the instrument, and are held in Abels’ store until the next time the piano is to be relocated. If we are shipping internationally, for all grand piano crating is undertaken as a normal procedure.


Due to the high value of many of our consignments all Abels operatives have a high level of security clearance, carrying identification cards at all times. Our employees packing techniques are honed each year in the Abels training school, using our own pianos and not our clients.



All movements are confidential and handled only by senior operations managers. Client information remains private and it is the duty of all Abels’ employees to maintain confidentiality. Warehousing is purpose built, modern, clean and dry. Security is provided by state-of-the-art Redcare alarm and CCTV systems, and warehouses are located in low-crime areas.

Values of pianos can vary greatly. Christies recently sold a Victorian Steinway for £750,000, and new pianos are still produced by Yamaha valued at over £200,000!

Transportation of pianos

Abels’ fleet is all modern, providing soft air-ride suspension and a double inner skin to offer improved protection for loaded items. Environmental concerns are addressed by their euro-5 compliant engines, which are currently the kindest to the environment. To increase security on long distance trips, drivers sleep in the vehicle which is alarmed and has security seals on each door. Vans of various sizes are available depending on
the job in hand, with destinations ranging across Europe from the far south of Italy, to Scandinavia, and from Gibraltar to Russia.

Ivory keys on a piano

Many modern pianos (made since approximately the 1950s) will not have ivory keys due to world legislation banning their use. Today, we must obtain CITIES certification to ship a piano with ivory keys out of the UK. The Abels international department can organise this on your behalf.


Following export packing – our experts will organize all the necessary international documentation, booking and coordinating the shipping container or airfreight transportation should there be an urgent requirement. Our extensive global network of agents will undertake the import customs clearance before arranging the delivery to your new home and setting up as required.


There are 12,000 parts in a piano of which 10,000 are moving. 7500 parts are in the working action helping send hammers against the strings when the keys are played. So moving such an intricate piece requires care and attention that is not always appreciated because of it’s size, in truth it is not a job for the uninitiated.