Keyboard or Piano…what to buy?

lucas pianoWhen you register your child for hockey you must pay a fee which allows your child to participate in hockey games and practices. In addition you must also purchase all of the equipment needed to play the game. Skates,socks, shin pads, pants, protective cup, shoulder and elbow pads, neck guard, practice jersey, helmet, mouth guard, gloves, and tape to hold it all together. Oh and let’s not forget the stick and a giant bag to carry everything in.  The gear required to play hockey can be quite an investment since you have to replace most of the equipment every year or two as your child grows. It’s non-negotiable though – if you want to play, you have to have the equipment. For me personally, I want my son to be safe  and so my husband and I buy the best equipment we can afford.

Piano lessons also require equipment – well one piece of equipment actually…a piano. Don’t laugh…some children go through months of lessons without one! Some parents are hesitant to spend money on a piano when their child is starting music lessons as they are afraid the child will not enjoy it and then quit, leaving them with an unwanted instrument. I would ask, would you put off buying hockey equipment for your child until after the first month of hockey, to see if they like it? No of course not, seems silly doesn’t it?

The reality is, a child who does not have a piano or keyboard at home will fall behind really quickly because they can’t practice. The odds then, are in favour of that child becoming frustrated and wanting to quit. Who could blame them?

Set your child up for success with purchasing the best instrument you can afford. Here are some options and things to consider when making your purchase.

  1. A small keyboard is a great starter instrument for young children. The keys are easy to press, the size is not overwhelming and they are not a huge investment (ranging anywhere from $150 – $800 dollars) You are looking for a keyboard that has at least 61 full size keys. Touch sensitivity would be a feature to look for as well.  I recommend a keyboard at the lower end of the price range since your child will most definitely grow out of a keyboard by their grade 1 piano year.  Bells and whistles are fun but not necessary. : )
  2. Digital pianos are a terrific investment and the option I most often recommend. A good digital piano will serve your child from the beginner stages straight through to advanced levels. Digital pianos take little space and headphones can be used which allow students to practice without being disturbed or disturbing the rest of the household. Digital pianos do not require tuning either and some offer a variety of effects and voices for added fun. They are also portable! Have piano- will travel!! Kawai and Roland digital pianos are my favourites. They feel almost identical to their acoustic counterparts and the sound is great. Look for high polyphony. 94 is a good number to shoot for. Polyphony is how many sounds can be produced simultaneously. Low polyphony causes the sound to cut out when you are sustaining and playing large chords. Play some digitals and notice that  in some brands the keys bounce back at you. Play a Kawaii or Roland and you will notice an immediate difference. (no I am not getting commission)
  3. Last but definitely not least, the acoustic piano. To be honest, you can’t beat an acoustic  piano for character, and personality. Every acoustic has it’s own unique tone and touch. There are some things you can do only on this type of instrument. An acoustic piano does require more space than the other options we’ve talked about and requires regular tuning (once or twice a year), and with an acoustic piano, there is no escaping the sound – it can’t be turned down and headphones aren’t an option so practicers are going to be heard by everyone in the house. This can be a wonderful thing, but in some households it can affect how much practice a student can accomplish each week. You can buy second hand pianos at auction sales and some stores like Pianovations.  They can range anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. When buying used, play the piano and take a look at the inside. A nice looking piece of furniture does not mean a nice piano. You are looking for a nice clear tone, keys that are all in working order, and when looking inside the piano it should be clean (look for signs of four legged tenants. If the piano had been stored in a basement or garage, it could be that something was living inside!!) Look at the hammers and strings (be sure they are all there).  When buying a new piano, play many of them. Listen for differences in tone quality, and find a piano that feels right for you (Easier action is preferable to some, for others the preference is keys that offer more resistance).

 Before you make your purchase ask yourself if this is a transitional instrument (in which case a keyboard would suffice) or is this going to be “the” instrument for your child’s music education? Are you looking for an heirloom to pass on through generations or just a decent sounding piano to get your child through his/her lessons? All things considered, by providing your child with the proper equipment, you are letting them know that you are committed to their musical success which may, in turn, strengthen their commitment to it too.

Happy piano shopping!

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