Author Topic: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?  (Read 1513 times)

MBot

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In another couple years, our son will start piano lessons.

Both of us play other instruments, don't do piano at all these days, and can't remember much (if anything) of what it was like to learn as a kid, just vague images of lesson books and repetition. I'm not sure if our piano is just a space-hogging  placeholder or something we should keep around.

My question is - can a kid learn OK on a keyboard? Or should we keep our old piano and see if it can be tuned? Or could we do the first couple years on keyboard and get another piano if we really needed/wanted it then?

We have a 5 foot upright piano. Manufactured in my (Canadian)  province, but it hasn't been tuned for a decade I bet. Got it for free from an organization that was remodelling. Haven't paid for it to be tuned and I'm not sure how well it holds a tune. But used pianos (some that have been kept in tune) are also pretty often given away or sold cheaply.

I also have a cheap keyboard (~$100) that's about 5 years old.

BAM

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2017, 01:54:26 PM »
My son plays piano - in his second year. He's practicing on a keyboard and doing fine. We actually had an old upright that hadn't been tuned. It just took up too much space so we got rid of it and use the keyboard. IF any of my kids ever get serious about playing, we'll look into getting a new piano. Otherwise, I think the keyboard is just fine.

Chesleygirl

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2017, 08:00:18 PM »
I took piano for five years as a child. I think it depends mostly on the quality of the instruction they receive. They can learn on a keyboard just fine, to start with. But I'd keep your piano and get it tuned whenever you can. If they develop a serious interest, they're going to want more than just a keyboard to play on.

Goldielocks

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2017, 11:34:12 PM »
Sell it on craigslist for $200.  If after 2 years of keyboarding there is a strong interest, then buy another one back for $200.  Pianos go to the dump far too often around here.

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #4 on: September 17, 2017, 12:46:41 AM »
A good digital piano with a weighted keyboard is so much better than a poor-quality acoustic.  I'd say a normal keyboard would be okay to start learning, but if your kids become serious, you would need to get a weighted keyboard or a decent acoustic that plays with an even touch and holds a tune.
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AHNK

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2017, 04:59:32 AM »
DD has been playing for almost 5 years almost entirely practicing on keyboard, we are getting to the point where we will need to start looking for a weighted keyboard, but she had taken up the saxophone this year as well which took a big hit to the bottom line. 

chaskavitch

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #6 on: September 17, 2017, 07:09:36 AM »
If your keyboard is actually as long as a piano and has weighted keys, you're fine.  Even without the weighted keys, you'd be good for a few years, probably.  I only asked for a piano after I was good enough to learn songs that didn't fit on my 55-key keyboard, and that had actual variation in volume.

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #7 on: September 17, 2017, 08:47:57 AM »
Does it depend why they are learning?  If it's all about pop songs and singalongs, a keyboard will be what they are playing in any case.  If they are destined for a classical career then a piano is best.  But it would pretty soon have to be a decent piano rather than just a piano-shaped object.

If you get a piano tuner in to tune yours up they should be able to tell you whether it is any good, and quite possibly put you onto a good source for a new to you one if it is not.
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MBot

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #8 on: September 17, 2017, 01:51:26 PM »
Thanks for the feedback! It's good to know a keyboard can be so functional for the first stages. :)

ObviouslyNotAGolfer

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #9 on: September 17, 2017, 11:05:09 PM »
There is nothing wrong with learning on a keyboard. The child can learn the layout of the keys, how to read music, and can have a lot of fun while making some progress. Eventually however, if he/she becomes serious, then a real piano--and a good quality one--is going to be necessary for further progress.

A real piano is quite a different beast from a keyboard or even a digital piano. Fifteen years ago, I bought a very beautiful Kawai upright (1975 BL-31 Made in Japan--not China or Indonesia)--gorgeous mint condition, and a very deep, dark sound with singing treble and an interesting mix of harmonics in the bass. $2000! Previously I had played on a very good Yamaha digital piano, but, after buying the Kawai, I felt a much deeper connection to the music, and my teacher noted a rapid improvement in tone and interpretation.

Kawai and Yamaha are both excellent brands, but if you buy used, you should have a qualified technician--not just a tuner--inspect it. Problems with the pinblock, soundboard and/or action can be very costly to fix later on.

I would recommend getting a 48"--i.e., full sized upright. As Keith Jarret points out in The Piano Book, unless your ceilings are four feet high, lack of space is no excuse for not getting a full-sized upright. Avoid smaller uprights and especially spinets, which many tuners won't even touch. 

If you want to try to keep your old piano, get a recommendation for a good technician--not just a tuner--in your area to inspect it and give you an honest evaluation of how much it will cost to bring it into tune, and brief you on any other problems it may have.

I greatly prefer the darker sound and treble sustain of Kawai, but admit that Yamahas are very good pianos. Yamahas typically have a much brighter sound that some people prefer. I have extraordinarily sensitive hearing, especially in the upper registers, and the Yamaha sound wears thin very quickly with me. (BTW, Kawai made the first piano in Japan, and later taught Yamaha how to build them! Yamaha also build outboard motors, motorcycles, and the like!)

If money is no object and your kid becomes serious, get a grand. The action is fundamentally different, allows for faster repition of notes, a greater tonal palette, and offers a true sostenuto pedal--which very few uprights do. The older Steinways (my piano teacher's Model B from 1929 is the most beautiful instrument I have ever heard live), Bechsteins, Mason-Hamlin, and higher end Kawais are certainly worth a look.


« Last Edit: September 17, 2017, 11:20:25 PM by ObviouslyNotAGolfer »

Bird In Hand

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2017, 05:04:42 PM »
For our kids we started with a ~$200 61-key Yamaha keyboard.  They were able to learn the basics of music theory, finger position, etc.  After a year or two the pieces they were practicing required more keys in the lower range.

We agonized over getting an acoustic piano vs digital.  In the end practicality won out, and we got a decent digital for $800 or so.  We're very pleased with that so far, and the investment is fairly modest in the event that our kids decide not to pursue piano after a few years.

To me, keyboard -> digital piano -> acoustic piano is a very sensible upgrade path.  I'd dump the old/untuned acoustic.
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ObviouslyNotAGolfer

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2017, 07:45:20 PM »

To me, keyboard -> digital piano -> acoustic piano is a very sensible upgrade path.  I'd dump the old/untuned acoustic.

Depends on age, condition, and brand. Steinways (American ones) made between the two WWs are highly sought after and are superb sounding instruments. Some of these are now a century old. Cheaper brands with major problems--cracked pinblock, splits in the soundboard, problems with the action, etc. are probably not worth the expenditure. Square pianos = boat anchor. Pianos made before 1900 may likely have a different tuning system, and you don't want to mess with that--neither does your technician!

Bird In Hand

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #12 on: September 20, 2017, 09:50:42 AM »

To me, keyboard -> digital piano -> acoustic piano is a very sensible upgrade path.  I'd dump the old/untuned acoustic.

Depends on age, condition, and brand.

Well I'm talking about buying a keyboard/digital piano/acoustic piano for a child learner who might or might not stick with it.  I still contend that a sensible approach is keyboard -> lower-end digital piano -> good acoustic in this case.  It allows you to scale the expense along with the child's skill level and interest.

Now it's possible that the OP's existing upright can be brought into good playing condition with a modest investment.  I probably shouldn't have recommended they dump it without knowing more about what they have.  :D  Maybe they have a diamond in the rough that can be fairly cheaply rehabilitated into a good acoustic.  If not, then (IMO) it's OK to have their child get started on a keyboard.

Later on they can think about whether a digital piano or a good acoustic is the right choice for their budding player.  But for now, they are still a couple years away from anyone in the house even starting to play anything!
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Cwadda

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #13 on: September 20, 2017, 10:07:20 AM »
I started off on a small digital keyboard.  When I started to develop a serious interest after about a year, my parents bought an upright piano. We've had it for over 10 years and it's paid for itself countless times (I play music professionally as a side hustle).

How does your piano sound currently? Is it cringeworthy?  Does it have any broken/sticking keys?  You can look around for a good, honest technician. They aren't too hard to come by.  In terms of skill development even in the early stages, I recommend a real piano.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2017, 10:08:53 AM by Cwadda »

PoutineLover

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #14 on: September 20, 2017, 10:13:38 AM »
I learned on a real piano and liked it a lot better than keyboards, but it probably wasn't strictly necessary in the beginning. I'd be more concerned about the fact that your piano hasn't been tuned in 10 years, it might not even be in good enough shape anymore to bother keeping. I'd get it assessed, or tuned, and if it's still good just keep that as long as you still have room for it and can continue to tune it regularly.

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #15 on: September 20, 2017, 11:13:33 AM »
Hijacking this thread a bit:

Do any Mustachian pianists in this thread have specific keyboard recommendations?

I took lessons and played from age 6 to 18, and on-and-off after that until 21 (when I moved out of my parents' house).  My parents had an upright that I learned on and used over the years, and I have essentially zero experience playing on a keyboard/digital piano (maybe 15 minutes total farting around on a friend's in high school).  I'd love to get back into it at some point soon, but I don't want the size/weight/hassle/maintenance of a "real piano" until/unless I have a house with appropriate space for a grand (I definitely don't right now).

Alenzia

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #16 on: September 20, 2017, 11:20:08 AM »
As a piano teacher, I'd recommend a keyboard with weighted keys over a piano that's out of tune. There's a lot that can be done on a keyboard, and I'd rather have a kid exposed to proper pitch. Tuning a piano typically has to happen twice a year, and will cost a hundred bucks every time - no reason to commit to the expense until he's at a more advanced level. The weighted keys are important, however, as they will help build finger strength and coordination in a way that the keyboards with the little flat keys won't.

Cwadda

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #17 on: September 20, 2017, 11:26:02 AM »
Hijacking this thread a bit:

Do any Mustachian pianists in this thread have specific keyboard recommendations?

I took lessons and played from age 6 to 18, and on-and-off after that until 21 (when I moved out of my parents' house).  My parents had an upright that I learned on and used over the years, and I have essentially zero experience playing on a keyboard/digital piano (maybe 15 minutes total farting around on a friend's in high school).  I'd love to get back into it at some point soon, but I don't want the size/weight/hassle/maintenance of a "real piano" until/unless I have a house with appropriate space for a grand (I definitely don't right now).

How serious are you about it?  A basic keyboard is in the area of $300. A more professional one will be $1-2k. The best way is to visit your local distributor and test a bunch of keyboards.  There's a Guitar Center near me that has a great selection.

Meowmalade

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #18 on: September 20, 2017, 12:00:23 PM »
Do any Mustachian pianists in this thread have specific keyboard recommendations?

A Yamaha P120.  I had two over the years (different cities; first one bought new for $1100 about 15 years ago, second one bought used for $700 maybe ten years ago).  I saw one listed for $400 last year.  It has a very nice touch and the sound is good *if* you use headphones.  It has the same internals as a much more expensive Clavinova, but is less pretty on the outside  :)  (Of course, test all the keys, make sure all is in working order, etc.)  I'm not familiar with more recent models as I've been long out of the market for a digital piano, but I remember back then that people said the P120 was a better model than the P140 that came after it.
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elvizzle

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #19 on: September 20, 2017, 09:12:31 PM »
You definitely should get your acoustic piano tuned and looked at.  You may actually want to play it if it sounds good.  I paid about $150 to have my 80s Baldwin upright piano tuned. 

I would recommend not using the cheap $100 electronic keyboard for your child to practice with.  I've used those and they don't feel or sound good at all.  Something like a Yamaha P115 would be a great starter weighted keyboard. 

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #20 on: September 20, 2017, 09:40:54 PM »
As another piano teacher, I prefer acoustic pianos for students. A digital piano is an approximation of an analog experience. Try tuning your piano and see how it sounds.

Hargrove

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #21 on: September 23, 2017, 12:36:38 PM »
Don't buy all your food bars and tracksuits and sweatbands before you go to the gym.

I'm surprized at the volume of save-the-piano posts.

Sell the piano immediately.

Take the money and get an instant boost to your index funds.

In 3 or 4 years, take your money if the kid wants nothing more than a piano, and find someone else with a piano they haven't gotten around to using either, and buy it from them.

Far, far more likely: keep the money. Maybe downsize your house because it doesn't have a giant piano in it anymore.

I love enthusiasts, especially in art, because I am one. But when an inquisitive parent says the kid might start fingerpainting, and the responders direct you to Ye Olde Enthusiast Shoppe and Maimeri Puro, they're really just sharing their excitement with you.

MBot

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #22 on: September 23, 2017, 02:10:32 PM »
Haha I hear you, Hargrove. I admire the enthusiasm, but it comes from the enthusiasts!

It's a five foot upright (so it takes up the space of a hutch or a dresser, basically). Our house is not large and the piano doesn't make an appreciable difference in floorplan, just visual clutter.

Given the remarks on things like the weight of the keys, I get that there is some value to having a piano over the cheap cheap keyboard. I think I will pay for ONE assessment and tuning, since it was free, and see if it's worth keeping around. If not, out it goes.

 If it's decent, however, I still don't think I would get much or any money for it, (plus I wouldn't feel right selling a piano I got for free) and I do not want the hassle of finding another free or cheap  piano in a few years if I can avoid it.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2017, 02:13:23 PM by MBot »

Sunnysof

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Re: Can kids learn piano on a keyboard? Or do we keep/tune our old piano?
« Reply #23 on: September 26, 2017, 11:13:50 PM »
We got a keyboard because of space reasons, and found a used Roland with weighted keys. The kids love the variety of instrument sounds you can make with it, and because our piano teacher emphasizes improvisation with beginner learners, it has been a good choice.