A beginner with a digital piano

Discuss the digital alternatives to the acoustic piano

Postby 104-1071722296 » Wed Dec 24, 2003 12:51 pm

I'm a 45-year-old who's getting ready to learn piano for the first time. I imagine I have quite a journey ahead! For my first instrument, I decided on a digital piano: a Yamaha Clavinova CLP-130. I decided on digital instead of acoustic for what I imagine are the same reasons many people do. We live in a small home, and space was a real consideration. Cost was a limitation; I probably would have spent twice as much for a good acoustic. Finally, the maintenance needs of an acoustic sounded expensive, but that was less of a consideration.

The debate between acoustic vs. digital for the student seems to center on how close the digital can mimic the feel and sound of an acoustic. With cheaper keyboards, I can understand the concern. But when I looked at the Clavinova, I was pleased by the quality of the instrument. The store had a $12,000 grand that I was able to use as a comparison. I couldn't tell the difference in the feel of the keys. There was a difference in sound, but not as much as I might have expected. As I progress and my ear is trained I'll probably become more sensitive to the difference, but for now, the Clavinova sounds great! My goal was to purchase an instrument that I would be happy with for the first five years. At the five year mark, I'll probably reassess whether to keep this instrument, step up to a better digital, or take the plunge and get an acoustic.
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Postby Mins Music » Thu Jan 29, 2004 9:45 pm

Good on you for venturing into the wonderful world of piano. Let me tell you, you're not alone. I taught my first lesson to a 66 year old man, I have a 58 year old student, a 47 year old, and a 45 year old - all beginners. I think more adults should start! How's your digital piano going? As long as you have a keyboard that works and you're happy that's all that matters. At least you have the benefit of touch - used for dynamics. Some of my students have no other choice but to use a cheap keyoard. I had a student who went all the way to grade 8 doing her AMEB exams on a digital piano. She now teaches herself and still has it. (I have an acoustic myself). Let us know how you're doing at lessons!
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby 77-1076694718 » Fri Feb 20, 2004 11:30 pm

Hello, HomeGrownSteve, I have a digital Piano as well...space is a problem and I would wake everyone up practicing at night, I have a Yamaha P-90 and of course a few other things connected to add some flavor...

I think the most important consideration I had is that I wanted to make sure what I bought had weighted keys and this one also has hammer action so it really makes it feel like I am playing an acoustic piano and helps me build finger strength...

But I a must admit an acoustic pianos can fill a room and I still like the feel of most better than the digital...

Hope to see you around
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Postby Annalisa » Thu Mar 18, 2004 10:57 am

Hi, add me to the digital piano user list :)
It's my dream to someday own a real acoustic concert grand, but for now I could never afford a NICE one, and I would not be happy with a cheap baby grand. And my husband just retired from the military, so having a digital was perfect for all the moving we did (lighter weight, smaller, no tuning etc...) I now have two Yamaha Clavinovas. I just purchased the CLP 175 to add to my older CLP 550. Love my Clavinovas!
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Thu Mar 18, 2004 12:04 pm

We have a Functional Piano lab at NMSU that has 16 Yamaha Clavinovas plus a more elaborate teacher console. I compared four or five brands before writing the bid specs and decided these were the best.

Digitals have a long way to go yet before they can do all the things an acoustical piano can, though. Most specifically, you can't play both fast and light on them, because the volume is directly dependent on speed of key descent. This is true on a standard piano, too, but in fast/light playing there the key doesn't descend all the way (there's not time), and so the action doesn't complete the full cycle ending in the break, or "let-off." Also, the tone spectrum of even the best concert Steinway is extremely 'imperfect', in that the overtone series does not come out in even multiples due to string tension and other factors (that's why you have to stretch the octaves when you tune); moreover, the percussive sound of the hammer impact is part of the tone--fully half of it in the upper treble.

These 'imperfections' are what give the piano and other acoustical instruments their unique character and warmth:they're imperfect--just like the players. It's ironic, ain't it, that digital imitations have to mimic by simulating 'imperfections'. Maybe someday when we get totally jaded by our electronic wizardry we'll discover that they weren't imperfections after all, but just part of the character.

But I certainly agree that a good digital keyboard is a lot better than most of the acoustic junk available on the market at comparable prices. There's no denying that if you want a fine piano you are going to have to make a major investment in both initial cost and maintenance.

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Postby Annalisa » Thu Mar 18, 2004 12:23 pm

Dr. Leland, your in NM huh? wonderful place! we were stationed at Kirtland AFB for almost 4 yrs.
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Postby 110-1079111554 » Fri Apr 23, 2004 12:21 pm

One of my pupils has a Yamaha Clavinova CLP130 and I love it! It is a great piano, and I am sure that both she and her children of whom I also teach will develop very well on this instrument. I play Yamaha P80 digital piano when I do gigs with my band, and it is the best piano type keyboard I have owned. I have used an original Clavinova clp100, a Kurzweil ( this was the very best to play but you need some very strong friends ), a Korg SP100, a Korg SP200, Roland RD something or other, and finally my P80 which I have had for about 18 months. I must admit for higher grade/advanced playing you cannot beat an acoustic piano for the touch and depth that it provides, however listen to the playing of Rick Wakeman on digital pianos and classical grands and you may be unable to tell the difference.
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Postby Lyndall » Wed Aug 04, 2004 6:19 pm

Hi,

Would any or all of you (Steve, Min's, Bill, Melody Man, Nic) be willing to disclose the cost of your digitals.

One of my young beginners (7 yr old) is moving house & doesn't want to move the old piano out but will instead buy a keyboard for cost & logistical reasons. I'm not really happy about it for obvious reasons, but what can you do?

What is the minimum amount you can spend to get weighted keys?

What about hammer action?

How badly should I try to convince them not to buy simply a keyboard but to spend more on a digital?

Thanks in advance for your input.

L.
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Postby Mins Music » Wed Aug 04, 2004 7:18 pm

One of my students beginning AMEB exams (she's doing grade 1 next Friday) finally bought a digital piano. She was only using a keyboard before. I told her mother I would refuse to put anyone through AMEB at third grade and even second grade I didn't think their result would be good.

So off we went and bought weighted keys and hammer action for around $2000(AUSD). The mother would have even bought an acoustic (much to my delight) but the child wanted to start a 'band' and wanted something portable.

Keyboards may be fine to begin with, but if the student wants to continue to progress, digital pianos are a great alternative to acoustics and does have advantages -Not as heavy, 'stage' varieties are portable, and they don't need tuning and they can have groovy sounds like harpsichords and vibes and church organs etc.
"I forget what I was taught, I only remember what I've learnt." - Patrick White, Australian novelist.
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Postby Lyndall » Thu Aug 05, 2004 1:28 pm

Good luck with all your exam students! I know how that goes.

Unfortunately this mother has a US$450 budget in mind. So you see what I'm dealing with - it's hard to convince parents that they should spend at least twice as much even though their kids are so young. I think I'll advise her to buy 2nd hand - I bought mine at an 'auction' of ex university student uprights for US$600 + the cost of renting a van to cart it home. The kid wants all the voices & rhythms so I'll suggest they also buy a little $50 keyboard with extras just for fun.

I'm curious to know some other prices for weighted keyboards (digital or otherwise) if anyone else can help out.
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Fri Aug 06, 2004 10:12 am

I never bought a digital for myself, only handled the purchase of a whole lab for the university, and they always go through a competitive bid process--so the price of one Clavinova would be meaningless for a single private buyer.

Go to the Yamaha website and see if they have prices listed, or check out dealer. Too bad you're not in Indiana: IU just had a sale of their used Yamaha grands and digitals last weekend!

Dr. Bill.
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Postby Lyndall » Sat Aug 07, 2004 10:53 pm

Dr Bill, the Yamaha website doesn't seem to have prices, plus they have so many options that it's mind boggling.

Guess I was trying to take the easy way out by asking the forum but it's probably time to get to the music store - it's such an important decision for my student that I need to put the time into it. Actually my local store is going out of business so I ought to see if there are any deals...
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Postby 75-1095335090 » Fri Nov 26, 2004 8:52 pm

I realize this is a really old topic, but it's one that I know a bit about and thought I could help.

You can get a decent digital piano around here for around $2000 Canadian. That's still more than your student's parents are willing to spend, but there are lots of studios that offer payment plans.

The advice I give to my students, especially those who aren't sure if piano is right for them, is to get a keyboard for now (minimum requirements: 61 standard sized touch sensitive keys with the option of adding a sustain pedal. Regular price for one of those around here is about $400 Canadian). I recommend that while they're trying out piano lessons using theiry keyboard that they should start putting money away to buy a digital or accoustic piano in a couple of years. That way they have a nice down payment if they decide to continue, or a nice nest egg if they decide to move on to other things.

There is also the option of renting digital or accoustic pianos. I've heard it can be quite economical.

The best time to buy a digital piano is the end of August. That's when most of the stores have their sales. Back-to-School and all that. Here in Ontario, it's the best time because that's when the Ex starts in Toronto, and a studio sells pianos there, so all the others in the region drop their prices to compete... afterall, EVERYone goes to the Ex.... *rolls eyes*

(For those not in the know, the Ex is this big festival-type thing with rides, a midway, and a building full of trade-show-type booths selling all manner of things from everywhere you can think of. There's also lots of stage shows, and things like that.)
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Postby Lyndall » Wed Dec 01, 2004 10:06 am

Kitty,

For my student I ended up finding a used ~10-yr old Yamaha Clavinova which has a fairly decent weighted action & few bells & whistles to distract him which I liked. I'm hoping he only stays on it a year at most because I have already noticed that his fingers aren't quite as strong when he comes to play on my piano. He's only 7 so his strength & coordination isn't there yet anyway but I don't want it to be too hard to make the transition (assuming he keeps up with piano). We'll have to wait & see.
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Postby 75-1095335090 » Mon Jan 17, 2005 7:30 am

I am taking piano lessons again, and my teacher and I have noticed something about my overall playing that would seem to be contrary to the way digital pianos are considered.

Some background....

I took lessons for a year or so when I was about 5. I had an old upright to practice on... not that I did a lot of that!

When I started taking lessons again around the age of 11, I had a 61 key keyboard that was not touch sensitive. I practiced on this for a couple of years until my parents surprised me with a digital piano for my birthday (I think I was around 15 or 16 then). I upgraded that digital piano when I was in university, and again about a year ago (so, about 6 or 7 years after the last one).

My current piano lessons take place on a nice upright piano.

The general consensus is that my fingers shouldn't be as strong as they might have been if I had trained on an acoustic piano, but we've found that that is not the case. When I started up lessons this time around, my teacher asked why I was playing so loudly. She couldn't figure out where the power was coming from (I have the muscles of your average pencil crayon). We began to worry that I couldn't play lightly, but it turns out that I can (which shocked both of us).

So, while for the first time in my life I've began coveting an acoustic piano, I don't regret not really ever having one to practice on as I developed as a pianist. My advanced repetoire sounds better on the acoustic piano, but it doesn't sound bad on my digital, and easier music sounds great on both. I wouldn't worry too much about a beginner student using a digital piano to practice. Just try to keep in mind any pitfalls to the particular instrument the student is using (for example, my old non-touch sensitive keyboard left my ability to do dynamics lacking. When I got the first digital piano, my teacher focussed a LOT on dynamics).
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