Purchasing a Keyboard Instrument

Buying or renting a keyboard instrument can be overwhelming. Acoustic piano? Digital piano? Keyboard? Rent? Buy? Your decision will be based on your budget, your needs and how much room you have in your home. It is always in your best interest (and your students!) to purchase the best quality instrument you can afford. 

PIANOS – There are three types of pianos: upright, baby grand and grand. Upright pianos stand tall and the strings run from floor to ceiling. Both baby grands and grands have strings which run parallel to the floor. Baby Grands are about 5-6 feet long, Grand Pianos can run as long as 10 feet (i.e. a  Concert Grand Piano). The cost of new pianos varies, depending on their make, their size,  and the year they were made. Acoustic pianos require regular tuning by an accredited piano tuner, so keep this in mind when considering your purchase and your budget.

New pianos can be purchased locally at many different music stores. Since our studio uses the recital hall at SoCal Pianos in San Marcos, I highly recommend them! The sales personnel are trustworthy  and will work with your needs. (And I have coupons!) But if that doesn’t work for you, Artistic Pianos in San Marcos is wonderful as is Greene Music in San Diego. Feel free to call me.

Renting pianos is also something to consider. It is often possible to lease then buy,  and this gives you a chance to see how the piano fits in your home and how it sounds.

If you are considering a used piano, choose carefully. It is best to have a trained piano tuner/technician look at the piano before purchase.
( You will have to pay for the technician, but it will be money well spent.) A used piano can look wonderful, but if a string is broken, the keys stick, or the sound is off, it will not be a good investment.

New, used, or rental, the acoustic piano will have 2 – 3 pedals, a weighted keyboard (about 55 grams per key) and 88 keys. Pedals are essential: they are used a lot in piano music and add a richness and fullness to the sound of the instrument.

DIGITAL PIANOS – Yamaha, Roland, Casio, Kawai, are all good brands. When purchasing a digital piano, look for 88 keys, a weighted keyboard, pedals, and the ability to create dynamics. A digital piano is designed more like an upright piano and is much sturdier than the “X” stand used on  keyboard. A trained sales person can help you find a digital piano within your budget. Like a keyboard, the digital piano requires electricity to work.

KEYBOARDS -. A keyboard is the least desirable option. Why?  The keys are usually not weighted (ie  they have a very light touch), it has fewer than 88 keys, there is zero ability to create different dynamics (loud or soft sounds),  there are no pedals, and it rests on an “X” stand.. Practicing on this type of instrument can have great disadvantages at recital time or if your teacher uses an acoustic piano. Since the keyboard has fewer than 88 keys, it can be very disorientating for a student, when faced a sea of black and white keys, to know where to place their hands or locate middle C. The touch on a keyboard is very light, and when playing an acoustic piano, a student will experience difficulty when trying to control the sound. If the keyboard’s stand isn’t secure, it will rock when played and this can be very frustrating for the student (and teacher!). Furthermore, with no pedals and no ability to differentiate between loud and soft sounds, the student is unable to hear, create, or appreciate they myriad of sounds available on an acoustic piano.

LOCATION OF INSTRUMENT – Now that you have your instrument, where are you going to put it? It is best to place it in a well lit area and away from distracting noises (internet, TV, family).   If you purchase an acoustic piano, place it away from open windows, direct sunlight, air conditioning or heating units as these will impact its tuning. A new piano should be tuned about 1 month after purchase, to allow it to “settle”. Your sales person can recommend a great tuner as can I.

CONCLUSION –  Chose an instrument which works for you and your family! Sales people are very reliable sources of information about the best makes of acoustic piano or digital pianos. Feel free to call me as well. Have fun with your new purchase and enjoy the music your student creates!

Many thanks to Dr. Laurie-Jeanne Lister (www.musikmeister.org) who put this information together. I also relied on Nicola Cantan from Vibrant Music Teachers  (www.vibrantmusicteachers.com) for some of this information.