Buying a Piano or Keyboard Considerations.
6 Essential and Practical CONSIDERATIONS (part 1)
There are a number of considerations to take into account when buying a piano or keyboard.
There are 2 types of Pianos- A Grand Piano and an Upright Piano. Both have 88 weighted keys and pedals, but the mechanism is different as well as the size.
When choosing to buy a Piano, the first consideration is whether it is going to be a Grand Piano or an Upright Piano. Crucial to this decision are:
environmental space in your unit/home/apartment.
Where are you comfortably going to want to practise?
Where is there space in your home?
·Lighting in the room and ambience.
Obviously, buying a Grand Piano or Upright Piano is important from a space point of view.
However, it is crucial to think about this carefully, because what is often overlooked is the fact that if you do not like the environment where you plan to place the Piano (or keyboard),the likelihood of practising is almost zero and your investment is wasted. Think carefully as it is not just a matter of space.
Realistically a child/adult learning piano for the first time, it is not necessary to have a grand piano- lovely yes, if it is a family heirloom or a grandparent is willing to buy it, but definitely not a must.
Upright acoustic pianos are permanent fixture in the room. You need space and it needs to be ideally on an inside wall.
A Grand Piano or Upright Piano are not something you can move when you need to do that spring clean. It is possible to get a Piano Removal Specialist to come to move the Piano out for you whilst the area is vacuumed/spring cleaned. It can be a costly spring clean for that room, but still worth the effort. Under no circumstances, if you value your Piano to get any Removal company to do it for you. Piano Removal Specialists have the right equipment and they do have a respect for your instrument as it is usually not just a job for them.
Moving a Piano is not advisable health wise (back breaking) nor for the good health of the Piano. You would need to get it tuned twice a year/once a year. Some musicians get the Piano Removal Specialist to come, get their spring cleaning done and then get the Piano tuned soon afterwards.
If you are short of physical space, a keyboard can be a great alternative from a space perspective. However, remember to look at the environment where you intend to practise so that ideally you can set it up and leave it. If not, keep in mind that a keyboard needs a stand on which to sit and if you intend to put it away after use, it needs a protective bag and an AC adaptor.
More about these items later in the post in hidden extra. These items are extra expenses to buying the keyboard, but essential.
2.NUMBER OF KEYS AND INTENTIONS.
A piano has 88 notes on it. If you are buying an upright piano, you will not need to count the notes. They should be all present. Still it is well worth checking.!!!
However, if you opt to buy a keyboard there are number of keyboards with 61, 76 or 88 notes. Some even have less.
This is vital because now you have to ask yourself your true intention. Is learning music a passing fancy, or are you/your child really going to be committed to it.
The problem with keyboards with lesser number of keys is that this keyboard may be fine for a little while, (e.g 76 keys), but it will need to be replaced as you progress. The sale pitch tends to indicate that pianists never use the full 88 notes.
In my view, an 88 keys is the only worthwhile investment. At the heart of it all, your/your child need to examine your intentions for learning first and then your budget. ( discussed later in the post).
Imagine you have learned a piece of music and you are very pleased with the way you perform it. You are then asked at a party or some other family function to play it on the piano provided. Imagine sitting down to play and you do not perform your piece very well at all. What is the problem here- Why.
Apart from performance nerves could be a consideration, the major factor is weighted keys vs non weighted keys. Piano keys are weighted. It can depend on the material used whether it is ivory or plastic.
Want to know more about weighted keys and why they are important? Read about it.
Keyboards can be sold as weighted or not weighted. My sincere recommendation as a music teacher is if you are considering buying a keyboard, then buy it with weighted keys. Why is this my recommendation? You will develop good technique and touch and your capacity to be flexible between keyboard and piano as described in the above scenario for example would be minimal.
Remember every keyboard and Piano is unique so there is always an adjustment factor when you play on a different instrument. However, if you are already learning on a keyboard with weighted keys, then the adjustment to piano is easily managed. The touch and pressure of the fingers is similar. Keyboards with weighted keys are excellent as they emulate the touch of the acoustic piano.
(b) Silcone flexible roll keyboards.
Despite their convenience of space, from a music perspective,Silicone flexible roll keyboards in my view t do not provide a beginning student/more experienced student with the capacity to develop good hand position. Inevitably, the student’s hand will become flat and their finger position will also be wanting. Students hand position will deteriorate rather rapidly especially if they had a good hand position previously.
As a music teacher I am unimpressed with their effectiveness for students. From a budget perspective, they are friendly, but in my opinion, my recommendation is to spend that money and upgrade to a better keyboard.
4. HIDDEN EXTRAS OF KEYBOARD BUYING.
If you decide to buy a keyboard, you need to consider your budget because there are some hidden extras that are essential.
Keyboard with batteries only or a keyboard with AC adaptor. My recommendation is to buy one with both facilities. Remember to keep this in mind when you are thinking of your environmental space. Where is your plug in the room? Is it convenient to your position?
Stand for the keyboard is vital. See below for further comment.
Carry case for the keyboard ( even if you are not going to travel with it.).
A carry case protects your instrument and your investment. You are not going to buy a cheap toy. Having respect and/or teaching students respect for their instrument is part of learning and appreciating the learning process.
Stool on which to sit. It is best both for aesthetic point of view and for ergonomic standpoint to buy the stool associated with the brand of keyboard you choose in my opinion, but comfort and ergonomic considerations ( discussed below) are the most important factors when buying a stool on which to sit.
Does your keyboard have a sustaining pedal? You may not need this option straight away, but you do not want to buy a keyboard which does not provide you with that function.
Depending on what you choose, there are some keyboards that have a package. They tend to be initially more expensive at first glance but it is well worth doing a proper comparison to see which is more economic for your budget. Often the package deal is often the better option in the long run. It has many of the hidden necessary extras and a sustaining pedal included in the price.
5.ERGONOMICS OF KEYBOARD, STAN AND STOOL.
Considerations in this category include:
How tall are you?
Are you taller or shorter than an average person?
How easy is it to adjust the height of the instrument seat and stand for optimal position of the keyboard set up?
How much do you weigh? Is your weight suitable for the stool?
(A) Musicians should play sitting at a height where the forearm is parallel to the ground. This is vital that you take this into consideration before you shop for your keyboard
( test it out in your potential music space) and when you buy a keyboard with its stand. Get your measurements correct and position and you can buy online with ease. ( check return policy before going to checkout).
(B) A student should be able to sit comfortably on a keyboard stool provided his/her feet are firmly flat on the floor. If the feet are not able to reach the floor, then this is not the stool for you. Your feet need to be able to be flat on the floor for 2 reasons
· Comfort: for the person playing:
You will not want to practise if you are not comfortable at the piano or keyboard.
.Good eye connection between music and keyboard. It is about body balance. If feet are on the floor, then the rest of the body can adjust to best ergonomic practice..
Also, it stops the habit that some students develop of putting their feet around the legs of the stool. This is to be avoided at all costs, but it is often started because the students’ feet are not reaching the floor.
Developing good posture encourages students to care for their body.
This is important because many musicians in later life have health concerns as a result of bad posture at the piano or keyboard. (rounded shoulder is one example and back pain).
Prevention is best learned from the beginning of the music journey, although students can rectify some of postural issues using Alexander technique.
You may notice that I have not discussed budget until now. Obviously every one knows their own budget best. It is however important to consider carefully the above considerations and adjust your budget accordingly. Learning Piano is an investment in time and lessons essentially, but money is required for both lessons, music books ( usually recommended and/or provided by teacher) and a suitable instrument.
In my next post, we will discuss different types of keyboards at different budget levels.
When choosing any instrument for a beginner, there is a balance that must be found: You want an instrument with enough play ability and features that the student will not instantly get frustrated with it. At the same time, you don’t need to spend extra on features that the novice won’t yet use or understand. This holds especially true for keyboards and digital pianos.
However, when choosing an instrument, you also need to consider it as an investment and how serious and committed is the person wanting to learn. Budget concerns come into the matter of course, but do you want to buy something first and then have to upgrade and maybe not recycle or sell.
In my view, it is best to buy an instrument which will be a joy for you on your musical journey of many years where it is a delight to practise because your instrument is a delight to play.
Personal tribute: My late parents bought me a grand piano for my 21st birthday many years ago. I still love my piano and get the same joy and pleasure from it many years later, when I sit to play every day. I have looked after it by a regular 6 monthly tune ( accompanying other instruments requires A 440 pitch maintained), keep it well dusted and polished and keys get a clean too. After 35 years of daily use, the grand Piano had to be restrung. Thanks Mum and Dad. I still love my Piano after all these years.
Do you prefer to listen to my podcast for this episode. You can listen to Talking Music Classical Podcast l through my website, apple, google, Stitcher or Spotify.