Reflections, Resources, Uncategorized

Acoustic piano vs. Digital vs. Keyboard

I have had a request to share some of this information in a post, so here it goes…

The “Bare minimum” for lessons with me is a touch sensitive keyboard with at least 62 keys. A standard keyboard/piano is 88 keys. Touch sensitive means that you can press softly on a key to produce a quiet sounds, and harder to produce a loud sound (and many shades in between).

There are several considerations and realistically I would have to say that budget is the defining and deciding factor. What are you willing and able to spend? Will that be worth the life of the instrument – how long will it be used and by whom? Will all or one child/ren take lessons? Do you like to play sometimes?

On a used keyboard, you can expect to spend anywhere from $60- 200. But it is important to make sure that it has the minimum requirements. You can always email me to ask, but to be sure, see the keyboard in person before you buy.

For a used piano it’s buyer beware! The range here is anywhere from FREE to $5,000 (or more depending on the brand). Always remember there is a reason that the person is getting rid of the piano. Are they moving, want more space, don’t have children living at home who play anymore?  The same thing applies to pricing: is it overpriced because there is an emotional attachment to it?

Don’t forget the care and maintenance of the piano. It will need tuning (at least twice a year) and the temperature that it sits in should be monitored. Too much humidity will cause the wood to absorb moisture, swell up, and cause the tuning to become sharp. Too much dryness can crack the wood and cause a vibrating bzzzzzzz effect. Here are some tips for keeping a piano in tune through it’s environment.

The most important thing to do when buying used is to see, play, touch and hear a piano. You don’t buy a car without a test drive, so this is the same. In fact, the safest thing to do is have a technician inspect it (look up piano tuner/technicians in the phone book and ask if they have this service). It’s very easy to fall in love with an beautiful antique, but remember that it’s function is vital to your child’s learning. It will be mighty annoying for your child to press a defunct middle C each time they play! (I am speaking from experience– BEFORE my parents had our original piano professionally restored). My upright piano on the main level is simply a piece of furniture for my daughter to discover. If I want the best tuning, I’ll go downstairs and play a digital…. it can’t fail!

So, let’s discuss digital pianos. I think it is a practical compromise. Many people will argue that they can NEVER recreate the warmth of an acoustic sound, but those people have underestimated new technology. I’d have to say the sound is definitely getting closer. Roland digital pianos, for example, record the sound from a concert piano- like a Steinway, in a concert hall, played by a professional musician – painstakingly note by note. See this video  (go to 1:35′ to see what how they’ve taken sampling to a new level).

Furthermore, if you play a high quality one, you’ll feel the weight of the keys similarly to a real piano. Some prefer the touch of ivory under their fingers, but that material has been out of use in piano keys since about the 50’s.

Let me remind you that some teachers will REQUIRE the use of an acoustic piano for study with them. This usually applies to those studying at higher, performance levels. If only we could all look into the future and see what our little ones will be doing when they’re 16 year old Mozarts… Another decision for you to make!

What do you use at home? How did you come by the instrument? Any tips or suggestions for your fellow music parents? Please comment below.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s