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Author Topic: Piano lessons and keyboard help NEW UPDATE
Belle
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**Updated information near the bottom of this page - post #48**

New thread, because it's a different topic than the last thread addressed to BandoCommando that I crashed.

Okay, so my son will start piano lessons in February. What I need now is something for him to practice on. Knowing nothing about pianos, and not wanting to spend a lot of money until I'm sure this is something he's going to want, I went looking for an inexpensive digital keyboard to start with (the piano instructor said to start out with, a digital keyboard was fine so long as it had full size keys).

What is a good price to pay for one? Any advice on where to go and what to look for? Are there brands that are good or ones I should stay away from?

Additionally, those with kids that have taken piano or those that have taken it themselves - any advice on how to make this a successful venture for both my son and me? What I should look for with the instructor or the lessons?

I am using a teacher recommended by a friend, who has kids my son's age that are taking from her. He's going to go for 30 minutes a week. He's so excited he can hardly sit still, every day he asks me how much longer until his first lesson and have I gotten him a keyboard yet.

[ July 29, 2008, 02:28 PM: Message edited by: Belle ]

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The Rabbit
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I have a Yamaha digital keyboard that I've been fairly happy with. I'm afraid I don't remember the model. Its one with 66 keys and was moderately priced. I'd prefer to have one with 88 keys that were weighted but there was a big price jump that I couldn't really justify considering how little I play.

I think its really important to get a stand and a bench that will put your son at the right height when he's playing. Probably even more important than the kind of keyboard you get. If he isn't in the right position, he will start off learning all kinds of bad habits.

I'd also recommend getting a very simple model. A beginner can easily get distract playing with all the background features and different voices and never really get down to learning to play.

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Zalmoxis
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Okay, this isn't really going to be that useful but maybe it will spark some activity by someone else who knows more.

The LDS Church has a basic keyboard that is used in congregations where there a piano and/or organ isn't available/feasible. I don't know who makes it or how you can get it. But I think that style would be good. So any other Mormons out there know what I'm talking about and what a market equivalent would be?

Edit to add: A-ha. After a little research, I think it's one of the models in the Yamaha PSR series.

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Zalmoxis
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According to this site, the vernacular used a Digital Piano vs. an Arranger Keyboard. You want the digital piano.

I'm no piano player, but from what I recall from playing around with digital pianos vs. real pianos -- one of the more difficult things with digital is how the keys feel when you press them down.

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pooka
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The one from LDS distribution services was like $85 last I checked. Try Craig's list too, just remember to watch for full size keys.
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Fusiachi
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If you want to keep it affordable, weighted keys probably aren't an option. For a beginner (who may or may not end up sticking with it), there are a lot of pretty basic keyboards out there on the market. I keep a 76 key Yamaha PSR-GX at arms reach by my computer. It's a decent entry-level keyboard. Surprisingly responsive, with decent sound output. Nothing fancy, but it works. The tradeoff, of course, is the tactile response offered by a piano (or a digital piece w/weighted keys).

In terms of trusted manufacturers, you're probably safe with Yamaha, Korg, Roland, Moog... I'd recommend something with at least 76 keys--66 key keyboard are more functional as midi controllers than for piano training/practice. You'll want to be able to use more range than 66 keys provides.

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The Rabbit
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The difference between digital pianos and digital keyboard is that the pianos have weighted keys so they will feel like a real piano. They are also typically fairly expensive.

Craig's list is an excellent idea.

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The Rabbit
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The difference between digital pianos and digital keyboard is that the pianos have weighted keys so they will feel like a real piano. They are also typically fairly expensive.

Craig's list is an excellent idea.

Do I remember correctly that you are in the Birmingham area? Is so this one on Craig's list looks like it would be good for a beginner.

http://bham.craigslist.org/msg/541517615.html

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advice for robots
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For piano practice, it's good to have a digital piano (as opposed to a keyboard) with 88 weighted keys and proper action. Even lower-end digital pianos nowadays have decent touch response and mimic a real piano pretty well. We recently bought a Yamaha digital piano that wasn't terribly expensive but plays pretty well. My only gripe is the sustain feature, which doesn't sound really super good and can drop notes. We got ours for our daughter who is taking piano lessons, but also so we could have a decent piano in the house.
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Teshi
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First of all, I kind of second all the comments about weighted keys and touch-sensitive response being important. I don't know about the prices or what kind of budget you're working with but a good electronic piano (or indeed any piano) never goes out of style (as they say.) Chances are your son, or someone in your family, will be playing for years and if you get a goodish piano now, you won't have to upgrade very soon.

However, at the music school I worked at, they had a variety of different pianos from the real kind to electronic ones without weighted keys (although they were touch sensitive- obviously important for anything but really very basic playing. It's really hard/impossible to develop musicality when you can't vary the sound.) So I think that for children non-weighted keys are acceptable.

Also, I agree with the as few features (instruments etc.) as possible. Although it's hard to find an electronic piano without some other instruments- and they can be fun-, having too many can be distracting.

quote:
Additionally, those with kids that have taken piano or those that have taken it themselves - any advice on how to make this a successful venture for both my son and me? What I should look for with the instructor or the lessons?

Strongly encourage practice a couple of times a week or more if he's happy with it but don't force it every day. Don't use practice as a punishment. Show interest in what your son is doing and help him, if you can (or let him help you).

In an instructor, look for at least some level of encouragement. Occasionally teachers can be very lax and basically are just happy with being paid by you and not about the child's actual progress. If you've been recommended to the person, chances are this isn't the case. You should get the sense that the teacher has earned the respect of your child and that they respond to the disappointment of the teacher by feeling the need to practice more.

Also, unless (obviously) you feel that the teacher is really cruel and denigrating (which likely isn't the case) or too much the other way, try to respect the teacher. You would not believe how many times my piano/singing teacher was happy that my parents weren't too interfere-y. But you're probably used to this with your daughter.

Most people's enthusiasm wanes a bit when they have to practice, but try to keep a moderately positive viewpoint towards the piano. I can honestly say it's one of the things I've done that I am most glad of.

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Fusiachi
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I don't know about the digital piano suggestions... If cost is a concern, a decent upright will run you less than most digital pianos. You'd just have to deal with tuning.
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El JT de Spang
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And uprights are usually available on craigslist for a song (no pun intended, of course).
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Fusiachi
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quote:
Originally posted by El JT de Spang:
And uprights are usually available on craigslist for a song (no pun intended, of course).

An accidental, then?
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advice for robots
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We bought our digital piano for less than $1000, which is way less than a decent upright.

Why didn't we just buy an upright? Because real pianos are dang heavy and a huge pain to move around. We had a real piano in our old house, and decided to give it away rather than try to move with it. A digital piano, on the other hand, is very portable and has the added advantage of not going out of tune.

That being said, I would much rather have a real piano. Someday I will buy a grand.

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Fusiachi
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quote:
Originally posted by advice for robots:
We bought our digital piano for less than $1000, which is way less than a decent upright.

The used piano market tends to be pretty saturated, though. For a grand I'd wager you can find a suitable upright for any beginner. Oh, and superficial scratches and dings both depreciate the piano and add character. Win/Win.

I've not been shopping around recently, though.

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Nathan2006
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Umm, I've, of course, always preferred a real piano, with 88 weighted key permanent postition keyboards coming in second place.

But a beginning child hardly needs this. He'll be (I'm assuming) playing on a decent piano at least once a week with his instructer, and for a beginner, I think that's fine.

If you get a cheaper model piano, with about 66 keys, you should be fine. Do you know what method of teaching the teacher will use?

Most start out with notes near 'Middle C' and gradually expand outward from that 'center'.

But others utilize the range of the piano, trying to familiarize the student with all of the keys, resulting in a broader, though somewhat weaker, grasp of the the different relationships of the keys.

In the first case, a smaller keyboard is fine. In the second, you'll probably want a greater number of keys.

There are models (I couldn't name them to save my life) that have a small amount of keys, and let you adjust the 'octave range' so that you can use them for the low range, and then adjust the settings, play the same notes, and be on a higher range. The notes themselves are the same, but the octave in which the note is is different.

However, I wouldn't recommend this model. Honestly, if your son is just beginning, and he really is excited, any model will do. And, if he's just starting out, this kind of keyboard could confuse him.

In responce to an earlier post, I actually don't think settings (rhythms and tones) are bad for kids. They're actually great fun. Letting your son experiment using the settings will encourage him to keep up with music. However, I would impose some regulations... Such as, you can play with the piano, but only after you practice, etc.

I've learned just as much experimenting with keys (whether with the rhythms and tones or without) outside of a structured practice as I have within. Apart from making music fun, it really helps develope relative pitch, and he'll develope some theoretical instincts.

Just make him practice the required amount (It should be about 15-30 minutes every day), and then let him have fun with it.

At the very least, if the model proves to be not satisfactory later (Like i discovered my roland 88 weighted key model was), have him practice using a church piano (if available).

But that should be way off in the distant future. Right now, honestly, about anything will do.

Good luck. [Smile]

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Nathan2006
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Becuase I'm lazy and don't want to edit, I'll also add that even the most sophisticated keyboards have their own limited range.

However, touch responce is very important. For a beginner, dynamics (loud and soft, forte and piano) are commonly taught fairly soon.

However, touch-tone sensitive is misleading. Pretty much, if you try to play loudly, and succeed on a digital piano, you'll end up accenting a whole bunch of notes on a real piano.

Pretty much, I'm starting to repeat myself.

Don't obsess about the perfect keyboard, because there isn't one. The only piano that matters is the instructor's, at this point, and even a brand new grand piano will be different from that. Your son will have to adapt either way. Given, that's a drastically different set of scenarios, but still. If your son loves music, I really think anything will work at this stage.

[/rambling]

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divaesefani
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We got our used upright piano for $400. It's in amazing shape and we've been very happy with it for the last year. Most of my friends have used pianos that they bought for under $600. I would look into the market. Good pianos can be found!
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Launchywiggin
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This is a question I get a lot (as a piano teacher/soon-to-be piano technician)--and I'm obligated to answer that you MUST get an acoustic piano, because I need work when I finish school [Smile] [Smile] [Smile]

But in all honesty, from personal experience (and asking around), I know that starting a student on a digital piano GREATLY decreases the chances that they'll continue playing. If you want your son to play piano someday, he needs a real piano, tuned and regulated, to practice on.

That said, I'm realistic about people's budgets. It's a scary investment considering he could lose interest after 2 months. I'd have to know your specific budget (and the age of your son) to give you the best advice (you can e-mail me at Launchywiggin@gmail.com if you want to chat--when I graduate, I'll make people PAY for my piano advice).

For my students, what they're playing MUST have weighted, full-sized keys, and a sustain pedal. I've NEVER seen a student that stuck with piano when they didn't have those basics.

About used uprights: there are a SLEW of what we call "beaters" out there that may LOOK pretty on the outside, but haven't been tuned in 10 years haven't been regulated since they left the factory in 1956. These pianos, unless ok'd by a piano technician, aren't worth the cost to move them (that's why they're GIVEN away). That said --I'll echo devesefani--good uprights CAN be found for cheap--but you have to be careful.

I recommend getting a cheap upright now and upgrading later if you have a blossoming virtuoso in the house. If you have a friend with a truck and 3 strong men, uprights are easy to move. Just make sure the keys ALL work, without sticking, and that the pedals work (the right one sustains, the left one softens, a middle one occasionally does something, but it's mostly for show).

**disclaimer** Do not read the following if you are also a piano technician...


If you can't find an upright that looks like a keeper (I hate saying it) but buying a high-end digital piano with weighted keys and pedals is a very nice investment, too. It never goes out of tune, has tons more capabilities (like HEADPHONES for practice, recording, sound bank, effects, and it's easier to move). My next piano will probably be a $3,000-range digital piano (until I have 40K to spend on a grand) [Smile]

But--again--I can't emphasize enough that learning on an acoustic piano makes a HUGE difference in the student's progression. I had a student who tried learning on a $600 digital piano with weighted keys and cheap click sustain pedal. He didn't practice as much as my students with acoustic pianos, and lesson times weren't as productive because he had to adjust to the feel of a REAL piano.

Anyway--it's a debate I still have with myself. There's just something more aesthetically pleasing about having a real piano in the home. It's a great piece of furniture.

My conclusion for now: I'm 70% for buying acoustic and 30% for a NICE digital piano (meaning at LEAST $1500).

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Orincoro
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If you go to a yamaha outlet, rather than a piano store, you can wack the cots of the upright down by about 300-500 bucks.

A cheap upright piano costs less than an expensive digital, sometimes by a factor of 5, and has huge advantages. No matter how hard they try, the best digital pianos are unable to replicate the complexity of the natural sound of the piano. As a result, the student learns much less, and has less interest because phycoacoustically, they are not being exposed to a "real" musical experience. The reality of a vibrating string, with the varied and specific colors of every register, is something that becomes implanted on the instrumentalist's mind. If that experience is faked, no matter how hard you try, you won't learn as much or know as much about music by doing it all digitally.

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the_Somalian
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I've been considering buying a digital piano too. The main considerations are cost and not annoying the family--so a digital seems like a nice option. But Launchywiggin, what you say about students starting out on digitals never continuing playing concerns me. Is there an exact reason why this is the case? I've been reading the digital pianos/keyboards forum at the Piano World forums and those guys insist that a good digital is a respectable replacement for an acoustic.
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Launchywiggin
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I was trying to say something like that, Lloyd--thanks again--you're always better with words than I am.

A few more things to add: Digital keyboards that cost less than $1000 are a complete waste in my opinion. I disagree with the assessment that they're "fine" starter pianos. It seems like a waste of lesson money when the student is learning on these instruments.

Tips on making this a successful venture:

1. Structured lessons and practice time. They don't have to be nose-to-the-grindstone, but they need to be organized with specific lessons--and your teacher needs to let him know EXACTLY what he needs to be practicing. The number one problem I've found is that students don't know HOW to practice efficiently--the teacher needs to teach him how to practice, not just what to practice. Have an assignment book that's for YOU and him.

2. Learn WITH him! You'd be surprised how much you can pick up just by reading his assignment book.

3. The "laissez-faire" vs. "forced, scheduled" practice debate is never-ending. You have to find what is right for him. I was never forced to practice, and I ended up majoring in music--though I WISH I had been forced to practice some more. Some kids just need a little prodding--which will be good for them. I recommend making practicing a daily habit rather than a cram session before lessons. Never make it punishment or force it, though, if it's clear he's not in the mood.

4. Encourage "playing around". Don't discourage it. I've spent an equal amount of hours (thousands) just messing around as I have scheduled practice.

5. The real fulfillment of playing an instrument comes not from "playing around" but achievement. Make sure that achievable goals are always in front of him, and that it's recognized when he reaches them.


*adding for the_Somalian*
a GOOD digital. Meaning at least $1500 is a respectable replacement for someone who's already learned on an acoustic piano. Like Orincoro said, the issue is that of a "real" musical experience. Learning on a digital is like learning to play baseball in a gym (with cleats on). It's still possible to do, but just not the same.

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pooka
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What access will he have to an acoustic piano? I imagine his lessons will be on an acoustic piano. Does he have any opportunity to practice on one at a church building or at a school? If he's able to use an acoustice a couple of times a week outside his lesson, I think a cheap as free keyboard can work for this early phase where he's still learning notes and rhythms.

But mostly I think this argument is a lot like whether a baby should be given a pacifier if they are breastfeeding. Some people are certain it will ruin their willingness to take the breast, and because that has sometimes happened, it's not worth risking with any baby.

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TomDavidson
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I play barrelhouse, blues, and jazz piano, and I've often found that for the sound I want, cheap uprights are better. I could pay $3,000 (or much, much more) for a grand, but grands sound mushy to my ears and don't have the right sort of key response; for $600, I can get a beat-up old upright, and I can get the keys and hammers reglued for another $200 -- and at that point, I have something that sounds perfect.

Do not get a "digital piano." I've actually been looking for one that I could bring to someone's house to play, since the downside of being a pianist (as opposed to being a guitarist) is that you can't just haul your instrument to the next campfire get-together -- but in nearly ten years of looking, I've found exactly three models under $3500 that I would even consider owning, and two of those were no more portable than my upright.

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pooka
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A tuning is between $100 and $200 depending on where you live, and it needs to be tuned after a move. In theory, they should be tuned every 6 months. We need a tuning on our spinnet that we got for free from someone.
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BlackBlade
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Belle: I don't know if you still have not bought one and I need to ask the wife first if she is OK with it, but I have a 60 key digital keyboard with pedal sans a stand, that I would be willing to give you if you are willing to pay for shipping. It's quite new, can't be older then 2-3 years old, and it was given to me by my sister in law who does not want it. I already have a better keyboard that I use quite frequently, but again let me talk to the wife first.

Let me know if this would work out for you.

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The Flying Dracula Hair
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If you have a computer and something to sit it on, I'd say

http://www.amazon.com/M-Audio-Keystation-88ES-Midi-Controller/dp/B0006676A0/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1201364411&sr=8-1

88 keys, semi-weighted. It is my sweet baby.

Especially if you have a Mac because it plugs right into Garageband no hassle.

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ClaudiaTherese
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:

Let me know if this would work out for you.

Awww ...
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Launchywiggin
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To pooka--a tuning should NEVER cost more than $140 dollars. A tuning with repairs and minor regulation on a piano that hasn't seen a technician in a few years might cost $200, but never a single tuning. My TEACHERS charge $100 a tune, and they're the best in the business (All former "tuner of the year" with the Piano Technicians Guild). The most I've heard anyone charging around here is $125--in the city.

Of course, I'm sure there are tuners out there who are happily swindling the public. Maybe I shouldn't complain?

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Belle
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That's really sweet BlackBlade, let me check with my husband. Hatrack rules. [Smile]

I appreciate all the advice. As of right now, he would have access to an acoustic piano maybe twice a week, one of those would be his lessons.

the teacher doesn't recommend investing in a piano yet, saying that you need to be sure he's going to stick with it and the investment is worth it. So, for now I don't want to spend a lot.

I wouldn't object to owning a piano in the future but it would have to wait until I finish school and am actually working. I'm leery of getting an older used one because the musicians in my family have told me sometimes they aren't worth the cost of moving them. Me not being an expert, I would have no way of knowing that unless I hired an expert to go look at it with me, and that's something I'm not ready to do yet. I'd feel better about buying one from a dealer that comes with a warranty, but as I said - that will have to wait.

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Teshi
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Launchywiggin basically said much clearer what I was trying to get across about practice. [Smile] I just want to be clear (for the sake of me) that laissez faire practice is not what I recommend, but a balance.

I was certainly party to a more laissez-faire mode of practice (except giving up was not an option- which I firmly believe should be the case). I did not progress as fast as my sisters, with whom my parents now take a firmer (but not rigid) hand.

As for non-weighted cheaper pianos being "an option" it really depends on your budget and how serious you are at keeping your child going on the piano. If you plan to keep him going (as I believe you should since it's such a useful/important/pleasurable ability) then buying a better piano is obviously going to be a better investment than buying up the scale as you go.

However, like I said before, some of the pianos at this music school where I worked were non-weighted (although probably not the cheapest). You can get a decent sound from them. If your budget is tight, it's not the end of the world if your child learns on a cheaper piano.

That said, obviously the better the piano the better the sound. I love the resonance of a real piano newly tuned. It just can't be imitated.

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BlackBlade
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quote:
That's really sweet BlackBlade, let me check with my husband. Hatrack rules. [Smile]
Let me know what he thinks, few things could make me happier then to know that a child embarked down the road of music, and that I could help that process in some way.

From this point if it's a go, email me through the forums and we can work out the particulars.

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Launchywiggin
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Belle, do you mind me asking how old he is, and what piqued his interest in the piano?
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pooka
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quote:
Originally posted by Launchywiggin:
To pooka--a tuning should NEVER cost more than $140 dollars. A tuning with repairs and minor regulation on a piano that hasn't seen a technician in a few years might cost $200, but never a single tuning. My TEACHERS charge $100 a tune, and they're the best in the business (All former "tuner of the year" with the Piano Technicians Guild). The most I've heard anyone charging around here is $125--in the city.

Of course, I'm sure there are tuners out there who are happily swindling the public. Maybe I shouldn't complain?

Well, my father in law only charges $85, but that's in Utah. I figured it probably costs more in New York or L.A.
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advice for robots
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I'd like to have an acoustic piano too, and we'll probably get one at some point, once we feel like we can move the darn thing if we need to. I agree that nothing compares with an acoustic, even a used one.

However, I don't agree that our digital piano is hampering our daughter's ability and desire to learn the piano. She practices happily on it every day, and is able to sit down at an acoustic piano and not be thrown off by a different feel or sound. Our piano really does feel and sound like an acoustic, and has three "real" pedals that feel like real piano pedals. Honestly, it plays better than a lot of used uprights I've sat down at. And it can record what she's played and play it back, so she'll record 5 minutes of her playing and then dance around the living room to the playback. Plus, if needed, it has not one but two headphone jacks, ideal for when the baby's asleep.

On the other hand, our 60-key keyboard with touch response, which is what she was practicing on before, was messing her up. The keys are full-size but not weighted, and it just doesn't sound much like a piano. She got up to the acoustic piano at her first recital and played her song really, really softly, because she wasn't used to having to press hard for the keys to make a sound.

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Launchywiggin
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It sounds like a very nice digital piano--what I should have said is that learning on a sub-par instrument, whether it's a cheap acoustic upright or a less-than-great digital, can be detrimental to the student's growth.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Launchywiggin:


1. Structured lessons and practice time. They don't have to be nose-to-the-grindstone, but they need to be organized with specific lessons--and your teacher needs to let him know EXACTLY what he needs to be practicing. The number one problem I've found is that students don't know HOW to practice efficiently--the teacher needs to teach him how to practice, not just what to practice. Have an assignment book that's for YOU and him.

2. Learn WITH him! You'd be surprised how much you can pick up just by reading his assignment book.

3. The "laissez-faire" vs. "forced, scheduled" practice debate is never-ending. You have to find what is right for him. I was never forced to practice, and I ended up majoring in music--though I WISH I had been forced to practice some more. Some kids just need a little prodding--which will be good for them. I recommend making practicing a daily habit rather than a cram session before lessons. Never make it punishment or force it, though, if it's clear he's not in the mood.

4. Encourage "playing around". Don't discourage it. I've spent an equal amount of hours (thousands) just messing around as I have scheduled practice.

5. The real fulfillment of playing an instrument comes not from "playing around" but achievement. Make sure that achievable goals are always in front of him, and that it's recognized when he reaches them.


*adding for the_Somalian*
a GOOD digital. Meaning at least $1500 is a respectable replacement for someone who's already learned on an acoustic piano. Like Orincoro said, the issue is that of a "real" musical experience. Learning on a digital is like learning to play baseball in a gym (with cleats on). It's still possible to do, but just not the same.

This is an excellent primer on how to be a musical parent.

My dad, for a few years, tried to play the piano. I think there are several reasons he never got very far, but the excuses he gave for stopping had nothing to do with the real reasons he quit.

My Dad had good intentions, but he went about playing in entirely the wrong manner. First he would play the piano out in the living room where anyone could listen. When the family was home, he would practice as if on display. If he made a mistake, there was an anachronistic plink=plink of the keys, and he would resettle his glassed and do exactly the same thing again. He never really got anywhere because he was never having fun with it, never really listening.

Growing up my parents made ALL of the above mistakes, and as a result all us kids stopped playing. Ironically the one sibling who did keep playing in order to please my parents, because that was just her way, is less interested in music now than any of us.

I quit piano, after playing recitals and at parties as a child and being regarded as very talented for an 8 year old. But my parents didn't ever listen to me play or compose, which I was doing at the time. They didn't appreciate the music, never learned themselves, and treated it like a chore I had to do, even when I did enjoy it. They also- and I think this was the biggest mistake- chose poor teachers, from the neighborhood, who were not very good musicians. If I had med musicians as a child who are like the ones I have worked with in college, then i might have kept playing. But as it was, my teachers knew much less about music than I know now, and I am only 23.

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The Rabbit
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I just wanted to add something about practice.

For beginning music students (or beginning student in any field), daily practice is really important. Beginners will learn more by practicing for 10-15 minutes 5 days a week, than doing 30 minute practices 3 times a week. This is a result of the way the brain "wires" new path ways and is especially true for children.

What several others have said about structured practice is important to. People who have a good ear for music, will often start out by picking out songs and just playing with the piano. Don't discourage that but unless people learn how to read music well, they usually don't stick with it and rarely progress far. Beginning music lessons generally focus on reading music and the structured part of the practice will usually be designed to strengthen those skills.

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Belle
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quote:
Belle, do you mind me asking how old he is, and what piqued his interest in the piano?
He is seven, and I have no idea how he became interested. He would find any opportunity when we were at church to sit down at the piano in our choir room and play with the keys, but lots of kids do that. *shrug*

He just out of the blue began questioning me about piano lessons, and I put him off with a vague parental "We'll see" figuring it would go away. It didn't, and he began pestering me over and over again until he was asking me about it daily. He brings it up all the time now and every time we go to church he asks me if he can go to the choir room and "play".

I don't know anything about piano, but one of my friends who plays says if he likes and sticks with it he's got the hands for it, whatever that means. He is the one that has the loose joints, if any of you remember that, and his fingers are amazingly flexible. He can do some strange things with his fingers - I guess it's what most of us would call "double-jointed" but he freaks his sisters out by making his fingers go into positions that look unnatural. [Razz]

I don't know how much talk about hands and flexibility really affect how good of a piano player one will be, however. It might give him an edge reaching different keys because he can spread his fingers so widely apart, but I don't know how much of an issue that truly is.

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Belle
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Okay, update.

I got a keyboard, BlackBlade, thank you for your offer, but I was able to get one from somewhere around here. It's not high quality, I'm sure, but for a raw beginner like this, I think it will work out.

His first piano lesson was a huge success. He came home raving to me about how much he loves his teacher and how much fun piano is, and that he has to practice every day. She sent home a practice sheet for me to sign, and said 20 minutes per day, 4-5 days per week to start. Does that sound normal to you guys for a beginning seven year old?

I was not able to go to the lesson because it's a night when I have class, but my mom went, and the teacher had her come in the studio and meet her and they all talked and got acquainted. My mom really likes her, says she's got a caliming personality and seems to have tons of patience. She's been teaching for over 10 years.

He has two books he's working out of, the teacher said she works with both because they're slightly different and she wants to see which one he responds to the most. He has to practice his "songs" in each book this week. He wanted to practice right away last night but as it was almost bedtime, we had to put him off. He will have a practice schedule where he practices after homework.

Now, new question - my husband's grandmother owned a piano and now his sister has it. She has offered it to us, free, so long as we pay the moving charges.

My concerns - it's very old. Probably over 80 years old - it has real ivory keys. It's been sitting, unplayed for years now, and hasn't been tuned at least since his sister took it - more than six years ago - and I would bet it's gone untuned for years even before that.

Is this something that's even worth the money and hassle of moving it? I'm assuming the move will be pricey - it's from Jackson MS to Birmingham. It will need tuning, of course. What are the chances a piano that old and in that state of disrepair can be brought to good working order anyway? Is this worth me fooling with?

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Farmgirl
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quote:
Originally posted by Belle:
O She sent home a practice sheet for me to sign, and said 20 minutes per day, 4-5 days per week to start.

Absolutely. In fact, I think mine started out with even more time than that. And if he loves it as much as you say he does, you might have a hard time getting him to quit at 20 minutes.

quote:
Originally posted by Belle:
What are the chances a piano that old and in that state of disrepair can be brought to good working order anyway? Is this worth me fooling with?

Is there any way you can contact a piano tuner in the area where the piano now is, and have them look it over and make that judgment call? Some pianos can do really well over time (I have a 4-generational one in my house), and others don't. But a good tuner could go to her house, try to tune it, and then let you know he if thinks it is in good enough shape to make the trip and if it will hold a tune. Save you from moving it and finding that out later.
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advice for robots
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I think that's a pretty normal practice schedule and workload for a beginning piano student. My daughter has had two different piano teachers and has had about that much to do for practice.

The enthusiasm seems to fade after a while. It's good to set a specific time each day to do the practice, and perhaps make things he wants to do dependent on his getting his practice done (as with chores, homework, etc.).

In my mind, a good piano teacher will send the student home each week with a renewed excitement for playing the piano, but having a structured practice routine at home with nudging from the parents is what keeps it going all week.

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BlackBlade
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quote:
I got a keyboard, BlackBlade, thank you for your offer, but I was able to get one from somewhere around here. It's not high quality, I'm sure, but for a raw beginner like this, I think it will work out.

Glad to hear it! The offer is still on the table if you decide otherwise [Smile]

quote:
My concerns - it's very old. Probably over 80 years old - it has real ivory keys. It's been sitting, unplayed for years now, and hasn't been tuned at least since his sister took it - more than six years ago - and I would bet it's gone untuned for years even before that.
That's a tough question. A piano that old might have a very difficult sound to deal with, but it depends on how generous time and players have been to it. Before deciding to take it I'd have to play it and get a feel for it.

[ February 09, 2008, 11:07 AM: Message edited by: BlackBlade ]

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Liz B
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Don't move that old piano without having someone look at it and try to tune it. It's probably NOT worth fooling with.

quote:
My next piano will probably be a $3,000-range digital piano (until I have 40K to spend on a grand)
Launchywiggin, we got a fabulous piano (Mason & Hamlin) for about half that price by buying used at Boyd's Pianos. And as you know, a good piano well maintained doesn't depreciate. [Smile] I included the link because I believe you're in VA, right?
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Flaming Toad on a Stick
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Put me in with the people who prefer uprights. The sounds I can get out of my fifty-year old, banged up, sticky, out of tune pink monstrosity always sound better to me than playing a brand-new grand. I love that thing.
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steven
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I love the sound of an upright. The key action on a really good grand, though, is better, IMHO. Uprights will probably never be made that have key action that good.
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Kwea
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BlackBlade, I would be interested in that keyboard if it is still something you want to get rid of...I could even offer you a little something for it other than shipping too. [Smile]

I love piano, and played a bunch of instruments when I was younger, but I never got to play piano. My wife plays, but we don't have anything for her to practice on. She really wants one with 88 keys, but we are saving for a new car right now, and live on the second floor of a condo. [Smile]

Just let me know. If not we will probably be buying a Yamaha one like my aunt and uncle has, although not for another year or so.

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Kwea
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quote:
Originally posted by Liz B:
Don't move that old piano without having someone look at it and try to tune it. It's probably NOT worth fooling with.

quote:
My next piano will probably be a $3,000-range digital piano (until I have 40K to spend on a grand)
Launchywiggin, we got a fabulous piano (Mason & Hamlin) for about half that price by buying used at Boyd's Pianos. And as you know, a good piano well maintained doesn't depreciate. [Smile] I included the link because I believe you're in VA, right?
However, the real ivory in it is probably worth a penny, as it is very expensive. I have a friend who just sold an old cue ball made of ivory to a cue maker and he got WAY too much money for it. There really aren't a lot of legal options for ivory any more, not even for accents, so most of what is used now is reclaimed ivory from carvings, cue balls, piano key.....you get the idea.
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Belle
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Okay, so it's been a while since I updated you guys on how piano lessons were going and I wanted to let everybody know what was up and thank you again for your help.

He loves piano. LOVES IT. He's already progressed through two beginning books and has two more books he's working through. The teacher told me he has gone through more books in six months than most beginners do in a year.

He played in the spring recital, and was really, really proud of himself. At that recital, one other boy played the Star Wars theme, and he really wants to be able to play that. But, it's not in any of his books.

So, he sat down and worked out the opening notes in the Battle march and played it for his teacher, who said he did it correctly. Now, I don't know if that's unusual for 8 years old and six months of experience, but his teacher seemed really impressed.

She (the teacher) seems really excited about his playing, and his progression. I've tried talking to other parents of kids that take there to make sure this isn't just how she talks to all parents, but none of them are getting the same types of comments that I am. So, maybe he really is talented. Regardless, what's most important is that he's happy, he's found something he loves doing and that he can excel in which is a far cry from when he tried athletics. That didn't go so well!

But, I wanted to tell you guys things were going well and he was enjoying it and thank you all for your encouragement and advice. We will be shopping for an actual piano probably around his birthday in May of next year. I may ask for more advice at that time!

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Farmgirl
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Glad to hear it Belle! Sounds fabulous!

Enthusiasm alone does wonders toward progression with talent. The fact that he loves it and has a passion for it will advance him far quicker than his peers.

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