Buying a piano

One problem with learning to play the piano is that the instrument is expensive, and you can’t start out by hiring one from the Gloucestershire Music Service as you can with a violin, or a trombone, or a double bass.

Many start with an electronic keyboard.  This can be fine at first while you find out whether you are going to enjoy playing, and it can be a lot cheaper than a piano.  If you are choosing one to buy, make sure:

  • It has full size keys.  The small instruments with narrow keys are not really satisfactory;
  • The keyboard is at least 5 octaves long.  Shorter keyboards cannot cope with a lot of piano music;
  • If at all possible, that it is touch sensitive (i.e. plays more loudly if you push the keys harder).

But the electronic keyboard is a different instrument, needing a different technique.  If you want to play the piano, you will sooner or later want to acquire a piano.  But you still have a choice between buying a traditional acoustic piano, or a digital piano (the electronic version).

What are the pros and cons?  Well, a new digital piano is:

  • cheaper to buy than a new acoustic piano - they start at around 300 pounds.  You might of course get lucky and find a good secondhand acoustic piano cheaper than this, but you will normally have to pay more, even for a reconditioned one;
  • usually less expensive to maintain - no tuning needed for example;
  • smaller in size, and so probably easier to fit into a modern house;
  • more versatile: it will have extra voices (organ, harpsichord, etc), can be played with headphones if you want to avoid disturbing others in the area, and can be connected to a computer for recording, music writing, etc.

But a good acoustic piano still has an edge in terms of sound quality and, in spite of rapid development, there are effects you can achieve on an acoustic instrument which can’t be obtained on the digital equivalent.

Hopefully the advice above will provide a starting point.  You can find much more detailed information on the internet (e.g. the Digital Piano FAQ page).  Make sure you try any instrument you are thinking of buying, and if possible compare it with other alternatives.  Please get in touch with me if you think I can be of help.


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