Drawing of two people moving a piano

How to Move an Upright Piano

So you found the right piano for you. Congratulations! The hardest part is over! But there’s one more big hurdle to jump: How to move it.

Perhaps you already got a quote from your local piano movers and are still in shock at the price. Moving pianos is expensive! But it makes sense why this would be. They’re heavy, often very valuable instruments and it takes very specific equipment and knowledge to move them successfully.

However, moving a piano yourself is not completely out of the question. If this is something you’re considering, read on to see whether it might work for you.

Some people are shocked when I tell them I’ve moved pianos with just one other person for help. I am not big or strong, and neither was my helper. We don’t work out all the time or eat very much spinach. However, with the right equipment the two of us can pretty easily move a piano (within reason–see below!).

Note: This article is for informational purposes only. Anyone performing the activities described herein do so at their own risk!

Why Would You Want to Move Your Own Piano

Money

A box full of cash

The main reason most people want to move a piano themselves is to save money. If the money isn’t an issue, I would recommend just paying others to do it because it will always go more smoothly if down by professionals, assuming they’re reputable.

Now although there is a good reason piano movers charge what they do, there’s one aspect that just doesn’t make sense to pay for, if you can avoid it. Let me explain:

Piano movers usually have a few different metrics by which they charge. They charge by the number of stairs, the size and type (upright or grand) of the piano, and the distance of the move.

All three of these metrics make perfect sense. As mentioned above, a move is much more complicated when stairs are involved, or when the piano is very large. And obviously they have to charge by distance because they’re using gas in their moving truck. That’s where you can really save.

If everything else about the move is fairly simple except for the fact that the piano has to go a long way, you can save a lot of money by moving it yourself.

Time

A pocket watch in the sand
Image by annca from Pixabay

Some people have a time constraint that requires quick action. Piano movers can get busy, and may not be able to help you for weeks or even months.

Being able to move the piano on your own schedule is a really nice aspect of moving it yourself. However, in my opinion this is not a good enough reason in itself to do a dangerous move. If any of the above reasons not to move your piano apply, you need to find another way.

For example, if the piano really needs to be out of its current location, but it will have to go up a flight of stairs at its new location, you could move it to a temperature-controlled storage unit until the movers are available.

Perhaps you wanted the piano in your living room by Christmas for caroling? Maybe you need to rent or borrow a keyboard this year.

Throughout this article I will continue to emphasize that nothing is worth potentially injuring your piano, your house, or yourself or others. Better safe than sorry!

When You Should NOT Move A Piano Yourself

A large hand held up in the "stop" position
Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

There are certain circumstances in which you should just hire professionals to do the work. It will be expensive, but it isn’t worth damaging your piano, your home, or yourself just to save that money.

I’ll list these situations first to save you time in case any of them applies to you.

There Are Stairs Involved

A top view of several flights of stairs spiraling down

Moving a piano up or down one step on your front porch is easy, but if there are more than a few in a row, it’s not worth trying to do yourself. Professional piano movers have a specific method for lugging these beautiful instruments up flights of stairs, and if you don’t know what you’re doing it can be extremely dangerous. Don’t risk it!

You Don’t Have The Proper Equipment

The equipment needed to move a piano is surprisingly simple, but if you don’t have the right stuff the job quickly gets much more difficult. If you don’t have access to the equipment listed in this article, don’t try making it work with something else. Just bite the bullet and hire movers.

It’s a Very Big Piano

A large grand piano sideways on a dolly

All pianos are heavy. However, there’s a certain point at which they’re just a little too heavy to safely move on your own, or even with a few friends.

Move uprights are perfectly easy, but even some of the old, very tall and solid uprights, are a bit of a stretch. Bush & Lane, for example, made a very heavy, robust upright in the early 20th century. These are very cool instruments, but I’d leave the moving to the professionals!

Moving a grand piano is much more complicated than an upright, and also requires extra equipment. For this reason if at all possible I’d recommend just hiring professionals to do it.

Moving a Piano is About Brains over Brawn

A drawing of a brain
Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay

The key to moving a piano, or anything extremely heavy for that matter, is understanding the physics of it. Leverage will always be more powerful than brute strength.

In fact, there are ways to move a piano all by yourself if you understand how to use leverage properly. The way I do it isn’t quite so sophisticated, but it’s still important to understand that it’s not about being strong.

An upright piano can weigh anywhere from 400 to 800 pounds. A concert grand can weigh up to 1200! I would never recommend anyone try to lift that. In the piano moving method I use, the ground always takes most of the wait, and the movers simply lean the piano as needed to accomplish the desired move.

If you’ve considered all of the information above and still feel you’re up to the task, read on to learn how to move an upright piano.

Piano Moving Tools

If after everything you’ve read so far, moving the piano yourself still seems like the best option, here’s the list of equipment you will need:

  • A Moving Truck with a Ramp

Most of the time when I’ve moved pianos, we rented a truck from Uhaul. We always got the smallest size truck that still had a loading ramp. This is because this truck is the lowest to the ground, and therefore the ramp is at the shallowest angle. When moving a 500+ pound instrument every little bit helps!

Also known as a piano dolly or piano trolley, there are certain, very necessary, specifications to this device:

First of all, the wheels should be in a fixed direction, not capable of spinning all different ways. This will keep the movement of the piano under control. It makes maneuvering a little bit trickier, but slow and safe is always best!

The top must be rubber so that, with the help of gravity, the piano will stick to it and not slide off when moving up or down the ramp to the truck.

And, of course, overall construction must be solid enough to take the weight of your piano.

  • One or Two Moving Blankets and Strong Moving Straps

How to Move Your Piano

1. Make Space Around the Piano.

If it has casters that work and don’t wreck the floor, wonderful! Scoot the piano all the way into the middle of the room if you like!

If not, gently lift one side at a time to wiggle the piano at least a few inches away from the wall. Then clear anything at least a few feet from either side of the piano.

2. Place a Moving Blanket Under One End of the Piano

This is to protect the floor and the bottom edge of the piano when you lift the other side.

3. Prepare the Dolly

Have someone stand in front of the piano with the dolly, ready to place it under when the time is right.

4. Lift One Side of the Piano

This is probably the most difficult part of the move. Most uprights have some kind of handle on the back. Grip that with one hand and hold under the keybed with the other. Bend your knees, keep your back straight, and lift!

To provide extra help to the lifter, either while lifting or lowering the piano, another person can stand on the other end of the piano and pull the top end toward themselves. This will naturally help lift the other end, and make lowering easier to control.

The best grip for this is achieved by opening or removing the top of the piano and grabbing onto the side of the piano from the top edge. One can literally hang from here with all their body weight and it can provide quite a bit of help!

5. Add the Dolly

As soon as one end of the piano is lifted, have the person with the dolly shove it under so the wheels run parallel with the long sides of the piano and hold it up diagonally until the bottom of the piano catches on the rubber.

The lifter can then slowly lower the instrument until all wheels of the dolly reach the ground. If the dolly isn’t centered, the lifter can take a rest, then lift a little higher so the other person can push the dolly farther into the center.

Repeat until the dolly is fairly centered, though it is not necessary to have it completely perfect.

6. Roll the Piano to the Truck

Now with one person on either side of the piano, gently maneuver it to the location of the truck. To turn one person needs to press down on their side of the piano while the other lifts on theirs until only two wheels of the dolly touch the ground, at which point it can swivel as needed.

Be extra careful of any door thresholds that may be damaged if the heavy wheels roll over them. You can throw down a doormat or moving blanket to protect these, or even just lift the piano one side at a time, so that the wheels of the dolly miss them altogether.

7. Push the Piano Up the Ramp Into the Truck

This is the other most difficult maneuver, and is definitely the most dangerous. Make sure you are completely prepared before you begin.

With one person still positioned on each side of the piano, the lower person pushes as the upper one pulls, carefully bringing the piano up the ramp.

This moment is why it’s so important for the dolly to have fixed-direction wheels and a rubber top. If the wheels swivel, you might lose control and the piano could go tumbling off the side. If the top of the dolly doesn’t stick to the bottom of the piano, the piano could slide off when at this angle.

8. Strap the Piano in Place

You do not need to remove the piano from the dolly at this point, but if you feel more comfortable doing so, simply remove the dolly by reversing the movement you did to get it under the piano in step 1.

To protect the case, cover the piano with a moving blanket wherever a strap might touch it. Secure the piano very well to one side of the truck, especially if the piano is still on the dolly. You can’t be too careful with this. Make sure it doesn’t budge!

9. Complete Steps 1-7 in Reverse

Now you simply have to drive to the piano’s destination, and put the piano in place by following all the same steps listed above. Great job!

A Few Specific Circumstances

There are a few circumstances I wanted to note here so you know what to do if you encounter them:

Moving Up or Down Steps

Again, I absolutely do NOT recommend moving a piano up or down a staircase by yourself. However, one step at a time is completely doable, especially if your dolly is tall enough that the bottom of the piano is higher than the step.

If it’s only one step and the piano’s casters work and won’t ruin the floor, you can literally roll the piano on the dolly right up to that step, then keep rolling it on its own casters off the dolly (this may take a little light lifting to get the bottom edge off of the grippy rubber of the dolly) and onto the floor above the step.

(If the casters don’t work and/or they will ruin the floor, you can do the same thing but slide the piano onto a moving blanket instead.)

If the piano still has a ways to go after the step, you’ll probably want to lift it back onto the dolly using the same procedure you used above.

Moving Across Non-Paved Terrain

Sometimes the best way to get the piano into the house might be through the back yard. Perhaps there are a lot of steps up to the front door or somewhere inside, or a narrow hallway. Maybe the backyard entrance leads to the room where the piano will go anyway.

If this is the case, there’s a specific method you can use to transfer the piano over the dirt or grass of the yard. This does require extra equipment: At least two thick boards.

Make sure the boards are thick enough that even if they bend under the weight of the piano, they will not break. Also make sure they are wide enough and long enough that the piano dolly can fit completely on the them.

Place the first board at the edge of the yard next to the street or sidewalk or truck ramp where the piano will be coming from. Place the other board right next to it, father in the yard toward the house.

Roll the piano carefully across the two boards. Once it is safely on the second board, take the first one and bring it around to the other side, even closer to the house, making it so that you can then roll the piano onto it.

Continue in this leap-frog fashion until you reach the house!

And there you have it: How to move an upright piano. Now it’s time to get practicing!

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Hands playing piano keys with a metronome and pencil nearby

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If you found this article helpful or have any questions, please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!

Heidi has been involved in music in one way or another for most of her life. She studied music composition in college, has taught piano, voice, composition, ear training, and guitar, and has worked as a piano tuner and technician. Before the pandemic she loved playing concerts at retirement communities, bringing the joy of music to those populations. She is currently working on learning more about the connection between music and healing.

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1 thought on “How to Move an Upright Piano”

  1. Hi Heidi.
    Your extremely comprehensive article has given me a lot of useful ideas for move my piano. Your article gives me a practical example of this and ensures that I can swiftly investigate your suggestions. Please keep up the good work and share more.

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