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Choosing your first piano or keyboard

What to consider when choosing between your first Piano or Keyboard

There are many factors to consider which will help you decide which is most suited to you and your style, including the sound, action, size and budget. Ask yourself some of these questions to help determine which style instrument best suits you? What influences me more to play? The sound? or The feel? Where can I place my piano? What is my budget for the cost of my instrument and the upkeep?

Classic grand piano keyboard in spotlight

Acoustic pianos

The ultimate iconic dream for most beginners, and by far the best option for playing experience and sound quality. But with this, it is the largest and can be extremely expensive.
This “acoustic” sound is produced with entirely physical elements, pushing a key sets a hammer in motion that hits a string, creating the piano sound we all know and love. The hammer mechanism gives the key weight against the finger i.e, hammer action. The strings’ vibration spreads to the air around them inside the instrument. This causes reverberations that bounce around the casing and escape through carefully designed holes in the body of the piano. So no electronics, sampling, or loudspeakers are applied, acoustic pianos come in two forms grand and upright. The grand piano is a low curved piano, the high dynamics of the grand piano give it a rich tone. The upright piano is tall, rectangular piano making it easier to house in a home as it can be placed against a wall, the sound quality is similar to the grand.

Acoustic pianos are ultimately the original sound, unfortunately, for this is the most expensive option to buy, and costly with upkeep. Parts respond to slight changes in moisture and temperature, therefore needing regular tuning. You should also consider where you place your acoustic piano. They can’t be kept in damp conditions or too close to a radiator, so enough space to house your instrument should be thoroughly thought about. With all this upkeep they do hold their value well and are thought of as an investment, with the iconic grand piano considered a symbol of wealth and status.

digital piano

Digital Pianos

Digital pianos recreate the playing experience of an acoustic piano well, due to the progression of today’s technology and due to the fact they have the full 88 keys, unlike the digital keyboard. They won’t require tuning or the upkeep and maintenance of an acoustic piano, therefore the cost of upkeep is minimal once purchased. Digital pianos give the feel of playing a keyboard while recreating the sound of a piano. The sound is usually either synthetic or sampled and as with a digital keyboard, the digital piano will give you a range of the piano and other instrument sounds also. A full-size piano keyboard has 88 keys, spanning seven octaves and three extra notes. Digital pianos vary in size and shape ranging from 88 keys down to 61 keys and five octaves, this will limit your playing range but if the size of the digital piano fits your home and space then work with what you can.

Key Action for the digital piano –

Key action is a phrase referring to the mechanism of a piano that produces sound. Digital keyboards and pianos don’t have the same physical parts as a real piano, so they use varied techniques to recreate the heavier touch and feel of a real piano’s keys. Better instruments do this by including or replicating versions of the moving parts and simulating the key responsiveness of an acoustic piano.

Key action guide

Hammer action: The highest quality and most expensive. Each key moves a mechanical hammer, giving an almost identical feel to an acoustic piano.
Weighted Weights: Weights are built into the keys, comparable feel to a real piano.
Semi-Weighted Action: Combines spring-loaded action with weights connected to the keys. Some dynamics are missing, okay for a first instrument.
Unweighted Action: Generally moulded plastic keys producing resistance with springs. The cheapest choice, is also found on many synthesizers.

Digital Keyboards

Digital Keyboards

Today’s modern keyboards are pretty good,  they’ve come on and can produce some great ranges of piano, organ and other non-keyboard sounds as well as being portable and usually the cheapest option. Most will come with a USB MIDI connection (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) allowing you to connect to a computer or device to access other programs with further sounds, learning apps or recording your playing. As with the digital piano, the keyboard doesn’t need any maintenance making it the cheapest option. It’s the smallest in size of all three instruments and comes portable, with built-in speakers, as with the digital piano the sound is synthesised or sampled. The experience of playing a digital keyboard can vary from excellent to not-so-good, this is based mainly on the number of keys and its key action as with the digital piano.
Digital keyboards are great as a first instrument, they are very versatile, convenient and the cheapest option. 

We hope this has been a useful insight into the differences between Keyboards and Pianos and will help aid you in your decision of which to buy! If you need more advice please don’t hesitate to contact your piano teacher at Pro Music Tuition

August 2022
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