Choosing a Piano
One of the first things I ask a new piano student is “Do you have a piano?” You need to have a working instrument in order to learn. Why? To practice on!
Imagine if you were expected to learn to drive a car with just one 30 minute lesson a week, and you were never in a car in between. Could you do it? Probably. Would it take forever? Yup.
So, you don’t have an instrument, but you need one. What’s best?
Every piano teacher will recommend that you get an acoustic piano. This is the kind that is made out of wood and has strings. There are many piano teachers out there who will refuse a student who doesn’t have an acoustic piano. I’m not one of them, and I think there are some decent digital pianos out there and that a digital piano can be a good starting point.
However, if you want to be a really good pianist, you need an acoustic piano. No digital piano can reproduce the sound and feel of the real thing. If you intend to audition for college, or do any kind of festival or competition, you’ll want an acoustic piano. Why? Because of the keys. You need a certain amount of weight behind the fingers, and specific motions in your wrist and arms to play the piano really well. A digital piano just can’t replicate the way the keys of an acoustic piano feel and respond.
Just be sure you’re getting a decent acoustic piano. Like anything else you buy, some pianos will be of better quality or in better repair than others.
Acoustic piano pros:
- Better sound quality
- Easier to transition what you learn from one piano to another
- Building of proper strength in fingers and arms
Acoustic piano cons:
- Needs tuned regularly (twice a year is good)
- Hard to move – You’ll need to hire a professional or get some very strong friends to move it
- Wears out – Eventually you’ll need to replace the hammers and maybe even some strings.
There are some really cool digital pianos out there. Some of them have playback tracks, different sounds, midi capability, USB ports, bluetooth, built in screens, and many other features. But these are not the digital pianos that you buy to save money. The really good ones cost almost as much as an acoustic piano.
Watch out for cheap digital pianos. You want to have 88 keys, just like the acoustic piano, and you want those keys to be weighted. Not semi-weighted! It’s not the same. You also need to have a hookup for pedals, especially a damper pedal. Most students will get to the point where they use the damper pedal about 3-6 months into taking lessons. Maybe sooner, depending on the teacher.
Be careful out there! A digital piano is not the same as an electric piano. The digital piano will be better in both sound quality and touch.
Personally, I’m ok with a student starting out on a digital piano. Many of my adult students travel quite a bit and can take their keyboards with them. And it’s a good way to see if a younger student is really interested before making a large financial investment. But once you get to an intermediate or higher level, you’re going to want an acoustic piano.
Digital piano pros:
- Easy to move and gig with (relatively)
- Less expensive than most acoustic pianos
- Less maintenance than an acoustic piano
Digital piano cons:
- Sound quality is usually inferior, and doesn’t fill a room the same as an acoustic piano
- Can support bad habits with lazy wrists and fingers
- Keys don’t play the same as an acoustic piano – makes it hard to go back and forth at an advanced level
While are are some great digital pianos out there, in the end you’ll want an acoustic piano. Go to your local music store, they’ll have lots of digital pianos to try out, then go to a piano store. Yes, they exist! Many have refurbished pianos for a good price and will deliver for you. You can also check Craigslist or your local paper for people selling or giving away their pianos.
My acoustic piano is a Kawaii upright and I LOVE it. Do you have an acoustic piano or a digital piano? What kind?
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