Many people – whether they are just starting to learn to play the piano or have been playing for some time wonder what piano will suit their skill level best. There are quite a few needs each person might have that will help them pick the right piano for their playing style or skill.
Many people assume that when they just start playing the piano, it’s O.K. to get a keyboard and get a piano later if they stay with it. If you are going to get a keyboard, be sure it has a weighted action. However, even high quality digital pianos with weighted actions present substantial compromises to your studies. It will never feel or play like a real piano – no matter what model or brand you get. Even a modest upright piano will offer a better playing experience than a keyboard and you are more likely to enjoy success with an traditional piano.
If you look inside a piano you will notice there about 100 parts associated with each key you press. Even if a keyboard has a good weighted action, it will never be able to produce the same expressiveness and feel as a real piano. While many keyboards respond to touch, they can’t replicate the wide range of expression and sounds created with a real piano with the hundreds of strings, soundboard and harmonic interaction of the tone.
Another thing to keep in mind is getting at least a console size piano to start with. For some people, spinet pianos are a great option because they have a lighter action and are easier to play. This may be appropriate for someone suffering from arthritis or other hand problems. If you are just learning and are young and healthy, you will develop a better technique on a console or larger piano because of the direct blow action which is lacking on spinets which have drop actions.
There is a point during your piano studies that you will outgrow even a fine upright piano. There are several reasons for this. Most importantly, in upright pianos the hammers travel sideways and don’t have the benefit of gravity as in grand pianos in which the hammers go up and down. This creates a slower and less responsive action. It’s very noticeable when trying to play trills or repeated notes because the hammers can’t repeat with the same energy.
When you start playing more advanced music you will realize this is a problem because it will affect the speed in which you can play. Once you progress beyond the Sonatina level, you will benefit greatly by having a grand or baby grand piano for practice. Studying music of Bach, Schummann, and Chopin on an upright piano presents many compromises. Students who practice on grand pianos and baby grand pianos progress better than students practicing on uprights.
Once your playing progresses to a very high level you will want to focus on playing and practicing with a larger grand piano. This is because the tone produced is much different – especially in the tenor and bass registers where the tone becomes expansive. The saying, “The bigger the better” really applies to pianos. It will always be better to learn and practice on a larger piano. For some, an upright or baby grand is a better option to start with – for either budget or space reasons – but eventually (if your playing progresses far enough) you will want to practice on a larger piano.