Lessons have been going well; progress has surpassed your wildest expectations. However, now, the novelty has worn off, the cracks are starting to show. Something is not right; your work at home feels awkward and ‘clunky’ in comparison to lesson-time; the sound is different. The likelihood is, your four-octave keyboard has now out-grown its use; it's time for an upgrade.
Understandably, buying a piano is an expensive investment, but, there is no sense cutting corners today, especially when you will most definitely have to make them up later. When explaining to prospective students or clients interested in purchasing an instrument, I use the following example:
“If you were pursuing clarinet or violin lessons, you would have access to a violin or clarinet from the start. The touch and sound would be consistent from the beginning. If we are to avoid bad habits and encourage steady progress, piano lessons should not be any different.”
Even seemingly small details such as the: lack of weighted keys; lack of a decent adjustable piano-stool; or, lack of pedals; can have a drastic effect on how we transfer our ability to play piano from one instrument to another. It also has a drastic effect on any potential progress made passed the point of simply pressing the keys.
The piano sales industry can be confusing especially when considering the high-priced and subtle differences between instruments. As with any instrument, it would be vital to actually play it before purchase; a blind purchase might result in an instrument lacking in what is needed by the user.
Let me begin by explaining the differences between what is a keyboard, and the other three major categories of piano:
Essentially, at the lower price-points (up to £50±), this is a toy, often labelled 'Mini-keys'; on most instruments of this nature, the keys are smaller and do not represent the true size of a piano-key. I recommend these instruments to prospective students/clients who are unsure if they want to commit to more than a few lessons. Generally, the lifespan of a keyboard in piano-tuition would be roughly 4-8 weeks (longer if price is an issue); its sole use would be for note-learning and a very brief introduction to the concept of piano-playing. That said, there is an entire discipline of music-making focused on keyboard-playing. This is reflected in the high-end keyboards costing between £600 and £2000. Prolonged use of a keyboard during piano-specific tuition will result in a lack of pianism (the ability to play the piano effectively).
Digital Piano: £300-£6000
These are electric pianos which utilise a full-size keyboard with 88 weighted-keys; headphones can be plugged in, so if sound is an issue, this is a happy compromise. They do not require tuning, however the touch will soon be outgrown once the more advanced techniques in playing are explored; in these cases the top-end hybrid pianos successfully simulate the acoustic experience. However, the sound is digital, lacking the inflections of an acoustic instrument.
Upright Piano: £1000-£9000
Designed for a compact but affordable piano price-point, the upright piano is always a first choice for a discerning pianist on a budget or lacking the space for a grand piano. Tuning is required minimum once or twice yearly at £50±. A decent and well-maintained upright acoustic piano would last for years only needing an upgrade when (and if) you chose it.
Grand Piano: £6000 - ?
Designed for the concert stage these instruments are built for projection. They would be impractical for use within the home with few exceptions: space allowing; and, constant/consistent professional use. Tuning is required minimum once or twice yearly at £50±.
For those readers local to Colchester, I recommend a visit to Mann's Music; their excellent customer service team and wide assortment of digital and acoustic pianos will help you select the right instrument for your needs.
Mann's Music, 123 High Street, Colchester, CO1 1SZ [Google Maps]
Dylan completed his music training with honours at Colchester Institute, where he studied piano with Australian pianist Lesley Young, and composition with British composer Dr Mark Bellis. While studying, in 2009, Dylan won Colchester Institute’s Canon Jack Award for Solo Piano adjudicated by Andrew Ball. A composer, promoter, and advocate of contemporary classical music, Dylan joined the membership of Colchester New Music in 2014.
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