Can you Start Learning Piano on a Keyboard?

 

This is an incredibly common question for many parents who are starting their children with piano lessons. After all, a keyboard has the same number of notes as a piano (as long as it has 88 keys); how different can it really be?

 

Before we get into the finer details of the differences between keyboards and pianos let’s first examine the cost – which is the driving factor for most parents. Like pianos, there is a large selection of keyboards available. They range from a few hundred dollars well upwards of $15,000 for some very advanced models. If you plan on getting a decent keyboard you could be looking at thousands of dollars.

 

Most piano teachers will agree that the bare minimum for a beginning student is an 88 key weighted action digital piano. In case you might not have heard the term weighted action before, this refers to a keyboard or digital piano that has weighted keys – which replicate the weight of keys on an actual piano. If you’ve played a regular keyboard you might notice that the keys are incredibly easy to push. If you’ve played a piano you know that the keys take some force in order to generate a good sound. So if a digital piano (keyboard) can replicate this, will this be enough? Not really. An actual piano action has hundreds of moving parts on each key and while a weighted action keyboard has weighted keys, it’s impossible to replicate the feel of an actual piano.

 

The keys on a keyboard are also very short. On a piano, the keys extend far behind the fall board. On a keyboard, this is impossible to replicate. If you play on a keyboard it’s like pushing down on a see saw close to the center when playing black keys and between black keys. On a grand piano, the force necessary to push down the keys is more equal from the front to the back of the keys.

 

The action on an upright piano is an improvement over a weighted action digital piano or a keyboard but it still isn’t as good as a grand piano action. Here is another video where I explain the differences between uprights and grand pianos. Eventually, every pianist who continues to play will outgrow the action of an upright piano and must eventually practice on a grand or baby grand piano because an upright action isn’t fast enough to keep up.

 

One of the biggest reasons parents decide to buy a keyboard in lieu of a piano is that they are worried that their children won’t continue to play. There is truth in the idea that the interests of children change rapidly – but starting them off on an inferior instrument is really only a recipe for failure. Investing in a suitable instrument will not only reinforce the interests of the player, it will actually help them develop much more quickly. Having an actual piano to play on will do wonders for the development of any musician.

 

So is it OK to start with a keyboard? Sure, it’s far better than nothing. But if you plan on actually playing the piano, prepare to make an investment at some point in the future and get yourself an actual grand or upright piano.

 

Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  This is an incredibly common question for many parents who are starting their children with piano lessons. After all, a keyboard has the same number of notes as a piano (as long as it has 88 keys); how different can it really be?   Before we get into the finer details of the differences between keyboards and pianos let’s … Continue reading Can you Start Learning Piano on a Keyboard?

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Can You Outgrow a Music Teacher?

 

This is a very common and important question and I’m going to answer it as honestly as I can. Surprisingly, this doesn’t have to be as controversial a topic as it sounds. In some occasions there is a point at which some students can simply outgrow a teacher.

 

A common example of this is a student progressing past a teacher and needing someone with a larger range of experience and repertoire to continue to grow as a musician. This is something that teachers should be aware of and understand as a possibility. While it might be tough to see them go, letting a student progress to a higher level is something we should all strive for as teachers and sometimes it’s just best to let go. Keeping a student past the point of diminishing returns will only stunt their development and it could end up creating resentment. Many musicians will have a number of teachers over the course of their lives; it’s not something to be afraid of or avoid, it’s a part of musical development.

 

Another example is if a student wants to branch off into another genre of music that their teacher isn’t familiar or experienced with. Maybe you have a student trained in classical violin who decides they want to explore bluegrass and fiddling. Some teachers might turn up their noses at the idea of a different genre but it’s not something we can and should control. If a student wants to explore other genres of music with their instrument you should encourage them and help them however you can. If it’s beyond your abilities it might be best if you help them find another teacher that specializes in their desired genre possibly even an adjunct course at a local college in addition to lessons.

 

This can be a real touchy subject for many teachers and students but it’s not something that should get in the way of learning. If you are learning well and getting along with your teacher then you should continue to do so. If it’s time to move on, it’s time to move on. The best thing we can do as teachers is continue to help our students become the best musicians they can be. If they outgrow us it should only be taken as a compliment – after all, you laid the foundation for their progress and you’re part of the reason they have progressed so far!

 

Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  This is a very common and important question and I’m going to answer it as honestly as I can. Surprisingly, this doesn’t have to be as controversial a topic as it sounds. In some occasions there is a point at which some students can simply outgrow a teacher.   A common example of this is a student progressing past … Continue reading Can You Outgrow a Music Teacher?

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What’s the Difference Between a Piano Tuner and a Piano Technician? Piano Tuner Vs. Piano Technician

 

Many people wonder if there is difference between a piano tuner and a piano technician. There is certainly a difference between the two but there is a surprising amount of overlap of these terms as well.

 

Nearly all piano technicians are tuners, but not all piano tuners are technicians. There are certainly exceptions, but this is a pretty accurate statement when it comes to these two different job titles.

 

Piano Tuners specialize in tuning pianos. However, if there is a sticking key, a squeaky pedal or a broken string, they may not deal with these issues?

 

Piano Technicians should be able to deal with a wide range of issues with your piano. Registered Piano Technicians (RPT) – are members of the Piano Technicians’ Guild – and have to go through a course to earn the RPT designation. This ensures that they will be able to cover a wide range of issues out in the field and have the right to call themselves piano technicians. However, there are also many fine piano technicians who choose not to become members of the guild.

 

The complex nature of the piano assures that no one piano tuner/technician knows how to deal with all piano issues. Occasionally we have had piano problems that required us to consult a number of technicians to solve. With over 12,000 parts, finding a technician who has seen every conceivable problem on different pianos is impossible.

 

Finding a piano technician who is a fine tuner can be a real benefit to you and your piano. Being able to have someone come over and not only tune your piano but take care of small issues and keep the action working optimally can be invaluable in extending the life of your piano while enjoying a high level playing experience.

 

I hope this was helpful and if you have any questions about this topic or any other, please email me Robert@LivingPianos.com for more information.

  Many people wonder if there is difference between a piano tuner and a piano technician. There is certainly a difference between the two but there is a surprising amount of overlap of these terms as well.   Nearly all piano technicians are tuners, but not all piano tuners are technicians. There are certainly exceptions, but this is a pretty … Continue reading What’s the Difference Between a Piano Tuner and a Piano Technician? Piano Tuner Vs. Piano Technician

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Dealing with Failure in a Musical Performance

 

If you ask anyone who has played music for most of their lives they will surely have at least one experience that was a complete disaster. You must remember that we are only human and sometimes mistakes can and will happen. This blog is designed to keep you in a good mindset with a persistently positive attitude even in the face of failure.

 

The whole draw of a live performance is to see the randomness of it all. People don’t go to Nascar races in hopes of NOT seeing a crash. Watching a trapeze artist at the circus is something we watch for both the entertainment and the thrill of the prospect of something going wrong. With any live performance there is the element of chance, and it’s something that draws us all in; you never know what will happen next – both good and bad!

 

The problem is that even though the performers might be confident in their abilities, they can still succumb to random events which end up in failure. There is nothing worse than practicing for a performance and putting in a ton of work only to go onstage and bomb. In a situation like this, ask yourself whether or not you really bombed or you just think you bombed?

 

Remember this, when it comes to a performance; the things you perceive as wrong aren’t always problems for the audience. Most of the time they won’t know any better – even if you failed in your own mind the audience might have thought you did perfectly well. Even though you might be upset about it, it’s not something you should share with the audience. You must keep these emotions to yourself and put on a happy face when the show is over. You certainly don’t want to point out mistakes and flaws when nobody else noticed them. It is an insult to the audience to tell them they are wrong about their perceptions of the performance. They came out of their house, traveled to where you were playing, sat there for a length of time, they enjoyed the show and they are going to leave happy. The worst thing you could do is put them in a bad mindset once they are about to leave – it is a mistake to let them know what they just dedicated time (and possibly money) to was something you weren’t pleased with yourself; why would they ever come back?

 

Sometimes failing can be an excellent thing overall. Sure, in the moment it’s going to feel horrible but it’s something you can look back on later and strengthen weak points. It’s a great learning experience. After all, it’s only music – nobody is going to die (unlike a trapeze artist!).

 

Another thing you will want to avoid is letting mistakes overcome the entire performance. Mistakes happen and the worst thing is to get into a negative mindset which can precipitate more problems – it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy! If something happens during a performance, move on – don’t dwell on it. Focus on where you are in the piece and perform as you know you can. Mental attitude is half the performance and you must maintain your sanity and control.

 

If you have a performance that ended up badly, the next performance should be low stress. You should put yourself in a comfortable atmosphere and play like you know you can. Maybe an in-home concert, maybe just play for friends to remind yourself how talented you really are. Nothing will build your confidence more than playing in situations where you know you will succeed.

 

Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  If you ask anyone who has played music for most of their lives they will surely have at least one experience that was a complete disaster. You must remember that we are only human and sometimes mistakes can and will happen. This blog is designed to keep you in a good mindset with a persistently positive attitude even in … Continue reading Dealing with Failure in a Musical Performance

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How to Hide Mistakes in Your Musical Performance

 

Everyone practices a great deal to avoid mistakes but we are all human and sometimes mistakes just happen. I don’t care who you are or how accomplished a musician you are, there are a myriad of reasons that could create a mistake. There could be a problem with the instrument, there could be a distraction in the audience, a finger could slip, your memory could fail for a moment; the list goes on and on of potential problems that could lead to a mistake.

 

The best thing you can do as a musician is to play with continuity. Let’s just say there is a really big train with a lot of cars. If the train derails, there would be utter chaos – the cars would go everywhere and you would have a huge mess. But if instead of the train derailing, it simply slipped back onto the track and kept its course, while the event might be scary, it would not lead to disaster; instead the train would simply chug along almost as if nothing ever happened. This is how you need to think about a musical performance. It must keep moving along!

 

The worst thing you can do as a performer is to stop and dwell on a mistake. It’s absolutely crucial that in the event of a mistake you continue to maintain the proper time of the piece and make sure that you don’t stop playing. If you make a mistake that is jarring for the audience, everyone will notice no matter what level of musical sophistication they have. Just like if you are watching a movie and the frame skips even a few seconds forward or back, it is much more jarring than if there is a moment of blurriness or garbled audio.

 

The most important thing is to keep the music moving. This is essential when you are playing with other musicians because you will not be playing together if you lose or gain time! Even if you miss a note or crack a note you must keep moving; don’t let a mistake slow you down or stop you mentally. If you pull this off correctly nobody in the audience will be offended by the mistake. You just have to keep the flow and the time of the music intact and everyone will enjoy the performance even if it’s not perfect.

 

Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  Everyone practices a great deal to avoid mistakes but we are all human and sometimes mistakes just happen. I don’t care who you are or how accomplished a musician you are, there are a myriad of reasons that could create a mistake. There could be a problem with the instrument, there could be a distraction in the audience, a … Continue reading How to Hide Mistakes in Your Musical Performance

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Upright Pianos Vs. Grand Pianos – Which is Better?

 

Grand pianos are generally better than upright pianos. However, there are 2 reasons to consider an upright piano:

 

  • Limited space
  • Limited budget

Although an upright piano may be considered because of space restrictions, because of its design, a baby grand may be easier to place. The back of an upright piano is ugly. This is why it is almost always placed on a wall. So you need about 5-feet of wall space to accommodate an upright piano (even a short one).

 

However, a baby grand piano looks good however you place it. The flexibility allows for placement in a corner or even the middle of a room. So in some instances where space is at a premium, a baby grand may be easier to place than an upright piano.

 

It is true that you will have to invest more money to get a baby grand piano compared to an upright. However, there are several distinct advantage in regards to sound and touch:

 

  • The sound of an upright comes out the back. As a result the sound goes into the wall. A baby grand or grand piano opens up into the room projecting the sound where you want it.
  • The keys of an upright are shorter than a baby grand (and much shorter than a grand piano). Not the part you see, but behind the fall board. As a result, it is harder to press black keys and between black keys on an upright than on a baby grand. Just like being near the center of a see saw, it is difficult to get leverage on an upright piano because the shorter keys don’t allow for the leverage you get on a grand piano.
  • The hammers travel sideways on an upright action instead of up and down as in a grand action. So even the best uprights have sluggish actions because they don’t have the benefit of gravity helping the repetition of the hammers.
  • Last, the pedals on an upright don’t do what they are supposed to do (except the sustain pedal on the right). The soft pedal (une corde) on a grand piano shifts the action so that the hammers hit only 2 strings instead of 3. This gives a change of tonal color which is one of the most magnificent expressive devices of a piano. In an upright, the soft pedal changes the touch by making the hammers closer to the strings which makes it harder to play loud but doesn’t change the tone at all. Also the middle pedal (sustento) rarely provides the proper function on an upright.

So if you can afford it, get a grand piano or a baby grand. You will appreciate the difference.

Although an upright piano may be considered because of space restrictions, because of its design, a baby grand may be easier to place. The back of an upright piano is ugly. This is why it is almost always placed on a wall. So you need about 5-feet of wall space to accommodate an upright piano (even a short one).

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