Saturday, February 14, 2015

Weighing the Options: Piano or Keyboard?

When students are registering for lessons, I am often asked, "Do I need a piano?" The answer is yes; my students begin playing the piano at the first lesson and will need access to a quality instrument on which to practice throughout the week. The question that inevitably follows is, "Will a keyboard work just as well as a piano?"

For very young students (under 6 years of age), who are trying private lessons for the first time, I actually do recommend a keyboard. It is more affordable than a piano, it requires less maintenance, and the keys are smaller and lighter for tiny fingers. If the student remains interested in piano, and wants to pursue it further, it is a good idea to plan to purchase a piano.

Pianos and keyboards, although they look similar, are actually unlike each other in many ways. Read more about these differences here. I have also compiled some information about acoustic pianos, digital pianos, and keyboards below for easy comparison. 

Acoustic Pianos:
  • Typical Price Range: $4000-$8000
  • Benefits for the student include beautiful tone color, range of dynamics, a responsiveness unmatched by electronic pianos and the opportunity to develop more nuanced musicianship right from the beginning.

Electronic/Digital Pianos with 88 Weighted Keys: 

  • Typical Price Range: $400-$700
  • Brands: Casio, Yamaha, Roland, Kawai
  • Benefits for the student include better development of hand strength with the weighted keys and the opportunity to experience a responsiveness that is close to an acoustic piano
  • Available at: Guitar Center, Best Buy and other stores that sell electronics, Walmart (online), Target (online), Amazon

Other Keyboards:

If a keyboard with 88 weighted keys is still out of your price range, a quality keyboard with at least 61 keys is recommended. If the keyboard has less than 61 keys, the student will not be able to practice the exercises and pieces correctly because the notes will not exist to play. I have used one like this in the past . It's an excellent entry level portable keyboard and very affordable at $99! I do recommend buying a well-known brand such as Casio, Yamaha (my personal favorite), Kawai, or Roland. You will also need to purchase a stand and a bench to ensure correct sitting position at the keyboard. Improper position and posture can lead to injury. Ideally, the player's arm from wrist to elbow should be parallel with the floor. Again, these can be purchased at the stores named above. 

Some of the advantages to having an electronic keyboard includes:

  • The ability to plug in headphones so that practice will not disturb anyone (this could be a disadvantage if your child is not actually practicing!)
  • The ability to connect the keyboard to a computer with a midi cable and use it with educational music software
  • Portability 
  • Never needs to be tuned

Ideally, students should have access to an acoustic piano, but electronic pianos can provide a great start and the student can move on to an acoustic piano at a later time.

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