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11/07/2017

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Choosing the right piano.

Digital or Acoustic? For beginner students this is a big decision. An instrument of quality is a major purchase, but then again, what are your goals. Are you playing for fun or do want to make it a career? 

In my experience as a teacher I have been asked to recommend an instrument many times and as I travel to the homes of the students I teach, I come across much variation in the instruments I see students learning on. In this article I will pass on the same advice that I give my students and at the end I will tell you what I personally use.


Alesis Harmony 61, Portable Keyboard with 61 Full Size Velocity Sensitive Keys, Built-in Speakers and piano lessons
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Electronic Keyboard.

When I start a new student who has had little or no lessons in the past, this instrument is often the one that already exists in the home. Some prospective students even inquire about lessons  and have nothing at all yet to practise on. The benefit of a keyboard is mainly, that it is a financially cheap alternative, until you know for sure that you want to take your studies further. It is a sad fact that there are many students who don't carry on for much longer than a few months when they realize that learning an instrument requires dedication, hard work and time practising, so to spend hundreds of pounds or dollars on a quality instrument at the very early stage is probably not advisable. Added to the financial aspect, a keyboard is very portable. However, even at an early stage, make sure a keyboard is placed in such a way that you are using correct posture when playing. Try also to get one that is touch sensitive, so that you can control the dynamics.

Yamaha YDP142 Digital Piano   
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Digital Piano.

As a student even approaches grade 1, the above instrument would not be enough. The range of notes is not even enough to play all the pieces required at a grade 1 exam. Added to this, the keys of a keyboard are much lighter than one would find in an exam piano. The change in the weight of the keys on the day, would be so different that it would severely affect ones playing if one were not used to it. This is where digital pianos go one stage further, using "weighted keys"  to mimic the feel of a real piano. They can be a good alternative to a real acoustic piano right up until grade 8. For some people, space might be a problem, where to put a full size piano. Another advantage is, that they require less care. You never need to get them tuned, worry about temperature or humidity and generally they are less expensive than a new acoustic piano. You can also adjust volume or use headphones if you don't want to annoy the neighbours.

Minster Upright Acoustic Piano Gloss Black
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Acoustic Piano.

Nothing can really match the responsiveness and tone of an acoustic piano and it would be a must for anyone wishing to make a career out of playing. It would even be a better alternative for any student. One would find that the keys respond to one's touch just that bit more than a digital piano, and they should be less noisy. If expense is the issue, a second hand one would be a good alternative, but get it checked out thoroughly first. Here is a few things you might want to look for:
  • A neat alignment of the internal parts, e.g. hammers
  • Signs of woodworm
  • Rust on the iron frame
  • Any cracks in either the iron frame or the sound board
  • Any broken or missing strings
  • Do the pedals work
  • Are there any funny rattles or vibrations as you play an entire chromatic scale of the whole range of the keyboard
If in doubt get a professional piano tuner to take a look with you before purchase, better to pay his fee than waste hundreds on a bad second hand instrument.

So what do I use? Well, despite the superior quality of the acoustic piano, for reasons of space more than anything, I own a digital piano. I purchased a quality instrument, from musicroom.com , (although  the links to the illustrations in this post are from Amazon ), with which it is hard, (but not impossible) to tell the difference in tone quality  between it and an acoustic. You can check out the quality for yourself  here and by the way, if you like the video below please SUBSCRIBE to my "Piano Channel


The actual model is of the same as that pictured above - a Yamaha Arius YDP 142 although in a different colour.

Let me know in the comments below if you found this information useful, or if there is any other advise about pianos you wish to know.

2 comments:

  1. Nice post!
    May be the weakest par tof the digital pianos are the lack of true deep resonances, and that because of the lack of the huge polyphony that a piano performance really produces inside the accoustic instrument.
    However, there is a way to overcome it. If you use the digital piano just as a controller and you run a software piano, you'll get an amazing natural piano, plenty of the true accoustic resonances:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxDGvY-hAgc

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    Replies
    1. For concert performances, it has to be acoustic. Nothing digital can match the overtones and sympathetic vibrations of the real thing. As for students, learning on a good digital can take them to Grade 8 level without a problem. The question is, what are you choosing the piano for.

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