One of the things I ask in my initial interview/trial lesson with new students is whether they have a piano to practice on at home or not. Yes, I know, seems like a silly question, but you'd be surprised how many people think about starting piano lessons without even having an instrument to practice on at home.
Now when it comes to what kind of a piano, while some parents understand the importance of having a real piano--upright or grand--for their child's piano development, some parents don't. It doesn't help that sellers of digital pianos sometimes tout the newest and best digital pianos as just as good as a real piano minus the hassle of regular tuning.
Here are 4 reasons why having a real piano to practice on is paramount in your child's piano development.
The first 2 reasons are available on more expensive keyboards, but the last 2 are irreplaceable.
1. 88 keys. Not all keyboards have all 88 keys. In piano lessons at my studio, from the very beginning, students experience sound and timbre from the whole range available on the piano. It's important for beginners to get used to moving around and becoming familiar with all parts of the piano range. In fact, the exploration of the high and low extremes of the piano comes naturally for kids. If you watch them at the piano, that's what they do.
2. Dynamics/volume. Some keyboards come with touch sensitive keys now, but for the rest, the dynamics, or the loudness of the sound, is merely controlled by a volume knob and not by the speed at which a key is pressed. The concept of loud and soft sound in music is introduced from the very beginning of my curriculum because it is an integral part of music.
3. Weighted keys. A real piano's hammer action is actually composed of over 50 different parts; no simulated weighted action of an electronic keyboard can replicate this. Proper piano playing technique simply can't be experienced or practiced on a keyboard. Also, the dramatic change in feel from an electronic practice instrument at home and the grand piano at FreshStart Piano Studio can be a source of unnecessary frustration for students.
4. Tone production. On a digital instrument, the sound is recorded electronically and reproduced by speakers. On a real piano, it is produced by the previously mentioned 50 some parts, plus the wooden sound board, plus the giant resonating box that is the piano. The combination of all these parts allows for a myriad of different tones to be produced on a real piano that a digital instrument can't achieve. Also, because the sound is pre-recorded and digitally produced on a digital instrument, a good tone is automatic, the student doesn't have to learn or work at producing a good tone themselves.
While I might sound dogmatic for insisting on having a proper instrument at home to practice on, it is because I care about my student's musical development and well-being both physically and emotionally. However, I also understand the financial and space limitations of different households. Here's how I rank the different options.
#5 Electronic keyboards with incomplete number of keys and non-touch sensitive keys:
Don't even think about it.
#4 Digital keyboards with weighted and touch sensitive keys:
Acceptable as a temporary solution if finances and space doesn't allow for an upright or baby grand piano.
#3 Upright piano:
Yay, acceptable as a long term solution if finances and space doesn't allow for a baby grand piano.
#2 Baby grand piano:
Congratulations, you've made a great investment in your child's musical education.
#1 Grand piano :
Can I have student recitals at your place?
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