Type of Piano

What type of piano should you buy as a new piano student? Part 1 of 2

Are you a new or aspiring piano student looking to buy a keyboard but unsure what type of piano you should get?

There is a myriad of options available to suit every budget and preference. Uprights, grand pianos, digitals, keyboards, and even hybrids are readily available and heavily marketed. And then there is the wide variety of piano brands! Yamaha, Kawai, Roland, Casio, Steinway, Baldwin, Hailun, Bechstein, Mason and Hamlin… The options are confusing!

How on earth are you supposed to know what the best choice is?

This question comes up with almost every student I teach, so this post will help you to narrow down your options.

I’m not going to give you the name and model of what I believe to be ‘the best piano’. That is a silly exercise. Models change constantly, and students have different needs to consider. However, what I CAN help with is narrowing down the TYPE of piano to buy.

This post started as a single blog, but I ended up having so many thoughts that I decided to break it up into a 2-part series. In this first part on the topic, we will address two crucial questions that will help you narrow down your choices: where will you keep the piano in your home, and when do you expect to practise? As you will soon discover, these two questions go hand in hand.

Alright, with that little disclaimer out of the way, let’s get into it!

QUESTION 1: WHERE WILL YOU KEEP THE PIANO IN YOUR HOUSE?

 

My first question for you is a practical one. Where will the piano live?

This may, in fact, be the primary factor that will determine some of your options.

For instance, if the piano will sit in a small empty room on the second floor with no easy access except for a spiral staircase, you might want to reconsider getting a grand piano. Can you imagine trying to get it up there? Temper your aspirations to the actual space you have available. As you will see later on, there are plenty of options.

If you live in an apartment or want to put your piano against a shared wall, then think carefully whether an acoustic is the right option. Your neighbours might not be too pleased with the sound of your practice invading their privacy. In those cases, a digital piano is often a better option.

Similarly, if the piano sits in the living room or anywhere that can be overheard by household members, be mindful that an acoustic is not a quiet instrument. Remember, the larger the piano, the greater the volume it can produce! Other members of your household will have to be ok with you taking over the room or house to practise every day.

The climate of the location is also critical to consider. Acoustic pianos are ‘living’ things – that is, they have an awful lot of wooden components necessary for sound production that make them susceptible to humidity changes. If your dedicated spot is in a sunny position or in a backroom where the temperature fluctuates a lot, then an acoustic is not a good idea.

Acoustic pianos need stable environments, with not too much temperature differences and a climate that is not too dry nor too humid. It is no coincidence that all piano manufacturers advise buyers to put their upright against an internal wall where the temperature remains more constant.

All in all, answering my “where” question will generally help you determine whether an acoustic is even an option worth exploring. By examining the next question, the choice should become even more evident.

QUESTION 2: WHEN WILL YOU PRACTISE?

 

Since most of my students, and my readers at that, are adult students, this question is fundamental to answer.

If you plan on playing in the early morning or late at night, unless you live far away from your neighbours and with housemates who are very tolerant, you will need to investigate “silent” options: digital pianos, hybrid pianos and silent acoustics. These are all pianos that come equipped with a headphone jack, allowing you to practice while wearing headphones. These pianos will produce no external sounds except for the clicking of the keys.

The option to wear headphones means you can practise virtually any time without disturbing those around you. It offers an excellent opportunity to practise at times when you can’t play out loud (such as after certain times in suburban areas). It is also helpful in case you wish to practise for more extended sessions, but by-laws are prohibiting you from doing that out loud.

Furthermore, for some people the idea of being overheard continuously is nerve-wracking. So if you feel very self-conscious when practising, using headphones can help you focus and feel more relaxed.

If, however, none of this is a concern, and you relish the idea of having an acoustic instrument, you have the perfect spot for it, and you don’t have to worry about disturbing others, then an acoustic is probably the preferred choice.

As amazing as digitals are these days, I have to admit finding delight in my acoustic piano that my (high-end) digital can’t provide. So while I do not or ever wish to advise against a digital, my heart will always belong to the piano made of wood and strings.

In my next blog post, I will discuss the third question to ask yourself before deciding which option to go for.

Until next time,

Barbara

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