By Janice | April 21, 2008
Should I buy a piano for my child?
Will a Keyboard suffice for my child’s music lessons?
What’s the difference anyway between a piano and keyboard?
This is a question that we’ve been asked many times as music teachers, and that most music teachers have a different response to, so we can’t provide specific advice to your situation.
However we can give some general advice about what the differences are between pianos and the different types of keyboard available.
A real acoustic piano is a wonderful musical instrument, and a beautiful piece of furniture for the home.
Pianos, certainly good ones are also very expensive. They are a major investment for a lifetime. For example, our piano cost nearly $8000. New pianos range from around $4000 to $100,000 + for a concert grand piano.
The major piece of advice when considering a piano… don’t buy a cheap one!
You’ll find pianos offered for $50 in garage sales… Are they any good?
One can say with most certainty…probably not!
Pianos can have a range of problems, from cracked sound boards to broken strings and incorrectly set pins… so if you get one for $50 you’ll be likely buying one or more of these problems.
As a rough guide you should be looking to spend a minimum of $1000 on a piano if you really want a serious instrument.
A good piano technician will cost you a minimum of $100 per visit, and they’ll be able to tell you about the potential problems with any piano. If you’re seriously considering any second hand piano its worth getting a technician to look over them. Simply look up the piano tuners or piano technicians association in your local area and you’ll be able to get someone to look over a piano that you are thinking of buying.
You also need to consider the long term cost of ownership of a piano. Pianos should be tuned at least once a year, in order to keep them sounding tuneful. It is not pleasurable to play an out of tune piano – so even if you can’t hear anything wrong then it doesn’t mean that it is in tune. Your child will not develop a musical ear if they are playing on an out of tune piano.
All your child will know is that “it sounds different at my teachers house” and you’ll find your child being reluctant to practice at home.. this is an indication that your piano is out of tune! Music professionals and teachers can tell of course, so ask your child’s piano teacher to drop around and check if you are uncertain if your piano is out of tune.
Keyboards… different types
Where do you start here?
You can go to your local convenience store these days and buy an “electronic keyboard” for under $20!
You don’t need me to tell you that this WONT be suitable for your child to practice on!
Keyboards range from those super budget models, right up to full keyboards with all the “bells and whistles” that cost thousands of dollars.
Here is what you DO need if you are thinking of getting a keyboard for your child to learn music on:
1) you need FULL SIZE KEYS
A child (however young they are) should never be expected to practice on an instrument that doesn’t have the correct key size! The keyboard will say “full size keys” on the box, and if it doesn’t, don’t buy it!
2) The instrument needs to have a stand and a bench to go with it
The child must learn to sit up correctly. You simply can’t go without the stand and correct height bench! Children CANT learn piano sitting the keyboard on their bed or on their desk. Sitting at the wrong height and with poor posture will result in
3) The keyboard should be touch sensitive
This means that when you play a note softly, the sound comes out soft, and when you play a note loudly, the note comes out loud.
The very first keyboards did not have this facility, and its only become standard in the last ten years. Nowadays you can get a fully touch sensitive keyboard for around $200 in most places around the world.
The piano’s longer name is pianoforte – which means that it has the ability to play “loud and soft”. So to buy a keyboard that doesn’t have this facility is going back around 300 years in technology, where the harpsichord had the same problem.. It wasn’t touch sensitive!
4) The keyboard should have weighted or semi-weighted keys
This is the major difference between the $200-$300 keyboards, and the ones that are typically called “digital pianos” and cost around $1000 minimum.
They have an action in them that is similar to a real acoustic piano in touch. They also sound much better than the cheaper keyboards.
$1000-$2000 is probably as much as you should spend on a keyboard like this.
You don’t need the bells and whistles – they won’t get used!
If you are considering one of these types of pianos – there is a criteria you should use… go for the ones with the least number of buttons!
More buttons, more sounds, sound recorders.. all those things don’t help your child!
The music shop salespeople would hate me saying this, but don’t waste your money!
If you’ve got a choice between an 88 note fully weighted key digital piano for $2000 with one sound, and an 88 note fully weighted key digital piano with 1000 sounds, a sound recorded and disk player for $4000… then get the $2000 one and save the difference!
Those extra bits won’t get used! You’ll only need the basic piano sound and those things listed above.
One MAJOR advantage that digital pianos have over Acoustic pianos is the ability to use headphones for practice.
If you’ve got a busy household with multiple activities going on then it can be difficult for the piano to get practiced, particularly if its in a busy area in the house, such as the lounge room or dining room.
The ability to have headphones is a real advantage. think about it!
This is one thing that your childs piano teacher wont take into account when giving you advice…. so take it into account for your own sanity!
A fully weighted key digital piano is just as good as an acoustic according to several of the examination organizations around the world.
If youre reading this article, then obviously you are a parent looking to get the best for your child.
Why not consider renting?
Many companies offer renting either a nice quality acoustic piano or fully weighted key digital piano at quite competitive rates.
If you do this you’ll be giving your child the best chance of success in music!
If you buy a $200 keyboard you’ll be effectively giving your child a much reduced chance of success with music. They’ll be unlikely to want to practice on the keyboard long term, they’ll eventually get discouraged with the lessons and will quit.
This could happen if I spent $4000 on piano couldn’t it? True! It can happen, but at least you’ll be giving them the right start.
You wouldn’t expect an athlete to prepare for the olympics without proper running shoes would you?
So consider renting – at least at the start. It does make sense, even if the monthly fees seem quite high.
I hope this article has given you some food for thought on this issue, and whatever you choose I know that you’ll make the best choice for your child.
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