Buying an acoustic or digital piano?
Helpful advice and considerations
The piano is one of the most popular instruments for anyone to learn. This is true whether you have a young boy or girl, or you are an adult looking to learn something new later in life. If you are lucky enough to inherit an old piano from a close relative it is a great incentive to start taking lessons and discovering the joy of learning an instrument. However, not everybody who wants to learn the piano has the opportunity to start playing immediately, either the piano you inherited is not up to much, too big for your home or you need to consider what type of piano you wish to purchase either for yourself, or your family.
This blog will provide a comprehensive guide to purchasing a piano to buy for the first time or looking to upgrade and will hopefully help you make, what can be, a very big decision. Over the next few paragraphs I will also pose real questions that many of Most Entertaining piano students have had to consider based on their circumstances, including acoustic versus digital pianos and include good advice from other industry bodies.
I personally begun learning piano formally at the age of 8 on an old upright piano that was ‘handed’ down from a relative. However, many boys and girls start piano lessons much younger, from as early as 4 or 5 years old. The UK Piano website say that ‘the best time to start playing piano is when you are very young.’ They also state that ’5 years old is ideal’. From my experience in education starting the piano at this young age of course has it’s benefits, but I believe much enjoyment and fulfilment can be had from learning the piano at any age. It is probably true that if a parent sets their sights on their child being a concert pianist, then the younger they start, the more chance they have in achieving this. Most people will start learning the piano at the age they begin to show a real interest in music and this varies from one individual to the next. When I started the piano I was not thinking about the ‘lifetime of enjoyment and intellectual stimulation’ I was going to have from playing it, but this is something that can be appreciated as an adult. (Piano Technicians Guild) I also did not know about the various tone qualities, touch and response of different pianos that I got to play, from playing the old one at home, to perhaps one at a friends or teachers home. However, I was aware that some pianos were ‘quite different’ but at the time was unsure how to express this. The Piano Technicians Guild recommend ‘discover(ing) which piano keyboard has the touch most responsive to your fingers’ and listen(ing) to many pianos to discover which tone is most appealing.’ This advice is all very well for a potential buyer, but the reality is, based on what your budget and affordability is, you will find a piano you love the ‘sound’ ‘look and style’ of but might cost more than a new car! It will be necessary to compromise on these factors. My advice for those choosing a piano is, decide on your budget and are you able to make space for a ‘real’ acoustic upright or grand piano? Or do you wish to go for a digital instrument?
A few years ago I only had the budget and space to buy a digital piano and wanted to purchase an instrument that was as close to a real piano as possible. At the time the instrument for me was a Yamaha P95 stage piano that had a decent set of 88 weighted keys, very few voice options and sound similar to a real acoustic Yamaha. Having a digital piano also meant I did not need to pay for a piano mover or for a piano tuner to come and make regular visits. Owning a digital piano, was for me, very low maintenance and when required, could be transported to gigs and rehearsals very easily in a standard sized car. The UK Piano Website advice for those going for a digital piano is ‘to go for the ‘most plain’ … that hasn’t got lots of buttons, or features …has weighted keys with a progressive piano action.’ One draw back that the Piano Teachers Guild state is that digital pianos ‘tend to have a lighter key touch than acoustic pianos and practicing too much on a digital will leave your fingers weak you will find it difficult to adjust to the touch of an acoustic piano’. This from my experience is partly true, although the touch on acoustic pianos can be hugely variable and as much an adjustment as shifting from a digital to an acoustic!
If you are buying a real piano remember, no matter how well or badly you play it – ‘it will bring music to your home for generations and at the same time, it serves as a beautiful piece of furniture’. If you are wondering whether to buy a very good upright or a grand piano, the main differences other than the obvious, e.g size, shape and cost is in the ‘action, keys and pedals’. In basic terms, the bigger the piano the better sound it makes. The Piano Buying Guide website note that there have been a number of changes in the piano manufacturing industry over the last few years. ‘The most notable change is the decline of American piano manufacturers and the rise of Asian and European manufacturers… most of the pianos that are mass-produced for consumers are made in Asian countries such as Japan, China, South Korea, and Indonesia…’ Professional performers and serious players choose pianos that are made in Europe and the United States.
There are still a few questions you may have about buying a piano, for example, what are the differences between buying a piano from a shop versus a private seller? Or, How can I tell a second hand instrument is in good condition? Check out the links below that offer quite a comprehensive list of tips about buying a piano.
If you live in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen or somewhere quite rural, please take a look at the list of well established piano specialists who all offer an honest and fair service in both digital and acoustic pianos. They can all deliver pianos throughout Scotland if there is particular piano or service you prefer. Hopefully reading this blog you will have a better idea about choosing the right piano for you and your family.
If you need the right piano teacher for you or your family, then give Most Entertaining a call on 0131 477 7821 and we can advise who would be best based on an individuals level, learning style or what genre they wish to learn.
www.edinburghpianocompany.co.uk – Edinburgh based piano company
www.key-player.co.uk – Edinburgh based piano company
www.petersmithpianos.com – Glasgow based piano company
www.gordonbellpianos.com – Aberdeen based piano company
www.rbmusic.co.uk – Aberdeen based music shop