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Piano Lessons and the Choice of Keyboard Instrument

by Valentina Jotovic on July 29, 2010

Are you getting ready to take piano lessons?  If so, you've made the right choice; you can't go wrong with the piano.  However, to make progress between lessons, you'll need to be able to practice the instrument on a regular basis, whether you own or rent one.  When it comes to keyboard instruments, you have three basic options: the traditional acoustic piano (and grand piano); the digital piano (Clavinova); and the electronic keyboard.

Acoustic piano: The most appropriate instrument for piano instruction is the traditional acoustic piano.  They are available in two different basic shapes and varieties: the upright piano and the grand piano.  No other keyboard instrument quite approaches the touch of the acoustic piano keys as they move the hammers to hit the strings; and nothing quite produces the nuances in sound created by the mechanisms and materials (different kinds of wood, metal, and leather) of the traditional acoustic piano.  If budget is a concern for you, please note that you now have the opportunity to rent a brand-new upright piano at very low cost.

Clavinova: The closest approximation of the sound and feel of an acoustic piano is Yamaha's Clavinova, the most impressive 
File:Clavinova CVP-303.jpgrepresentative of the digital piano, which is used at many universities and colleges around the world as a respected substitute for pianos and grand pianos.  

Advantages:

  • Fully weighted keys (feels like, and sounds like, acoustic piano)
  • Many Clavinovas have built-in computers with play-back capacity and internet connection to access a vast library of downloadable songs and educational software.
  • Does not require tunings!
  • Easier on the budget than traditional pianos.  

Electronic keyboard:  For students specializing in non-classical performance (rock bands, pop, etc.), the electronic keyboard is the instrument of choice.  However, with certain limitations, the
electronic keyboard can also serve as a temporary, low-cost substitute for an acoustic piano or Clavinova.  Electronic keyboards come in two different varieties--touch sensitive and non-touch-sensitive.
 Electronic Keyboard (ARK-2172)

Advantages:

  • Low-cost: Non-touch-sensitive models can be purchased for well under $100.  But note that in most cases, adapter, stand, and other accessories must be purchased separately.
  • Portable: Insert batteries, put it in your keyboard gig bag, and play it anywhere--much like the guitar.
  • Does not require tunings.

Disadvantages and Limitations: 

  • Touch: Piano beginners wishing to start on the electronic keyboard should use a touch-sensitive model, which resembles the acoustic piano in that dynamic levels (loudness and softness) vary according to how the keys are struck by the fingers.
  • Unweighted keys:  Though the electronic keyboard can serve as an entry-level instrument, teaching beginners the very basics of keyboard playing (i.e., where the notes are located on the keyboard, etc.), the non-weighted keys of most models can be detrimental to the student if used for extended periods of time.  Our recommendation is not to use the electronic keyboard for more than the first year of training.  If playing the piano is the overall goal--and this applies to the vast majority of all keyboard students--the muscles of the fingers and arms should be trained properly as early as possible.  Otherwise the transition from the light touch of the electronic keyboard ("computer keyboard") to the much heavier feel of the acoustic piano ("traditional typewriter") can be quite difficult to negotiate down the road.
  • Dynamic range: Electronic keyboards tend to have a limited dynamic range, which many young students are not too excited about.  Let's face it: youngsters like to be loud at times, and if they can't be thunderous and impressive on the electronic keyboard, they will likely lose interest in it!

If you have any questions about these options, give us a call at (908) 782-4943, and we'll be happy to help.

 

Topics: piano classes, piano rental, piano lessons

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