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Best Bargain-Priced Pianos 

Salvation Army

Beethovens on a budget are advised to bop into this resale shop where orphaned ivories can be taken home and tickled on the cheap. There's never a huge selection of instruments (usually only three or four, sometimes none at all), but most that wind up here are priced under a thousand bucks -- pocket change compared to buying a new piano. You can be sure that even the worst of the lot can play circles around most of the cheapie Korean-made instruments peddled at "liquidation" sales around town. If nothing catches your fancy on your first visit, check back in a few weeks -- the inventory has a surprisingly brisk turnover. The staff is open to reasonable bartering and will permit prospective buyers to pull up a bench for a test drive -- as long as you keep the high-decibel free-jazz hammering to a minimum. True bargain hunters are well advised to watch out for 50 percent sale days (which happen at random), when a top-quality piano can be had for as little as $300.

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