A Piano for Christmas?

My good friend and colleague Susan Blanchard Shaw put together this post for her students. She was doing research in her area in order to help guide her student’s parents in their selection of a piano.

I liked the post so much I asked her if I could repost it here for all of you, and she said yes. Thank you, Susan!

 

A Piano for Christmas?

Around this time of year, many people consider getting a keyboard for someone as a gift or upgrading from the one they have. If you are considering buying a keyboard ( versus an acoustic piano) please consider the following:

* The better the instrument, the better the progress. A student playing on an inexpensive keyboard with less than 88 Keys will not fare as well as one who has the full range of notes to play.

* Is the keyboard touch sensitive and does it have weighted keys? Most inexpensive keyboards do not. The keys are not weighted and thus do not give a real piano feel. This can lead to improper technique and frustration on the student’s part. A weighted keyboard will feel more like a real piano and will help the student be able to play with dynamic shading.

* Is the keyboard on a steady stand at the proper height? This is vital to proper technique. Students who sit too low, too high can develop issues with muscle tension. This could lead to tendinitis or worse. The student should be able to sit with their arms perfectly parallel to the keys.

* How does it sound? An inexpensive keyboard sounds like it. There is no depth of sound, no real piano feel or sound.

* What kind of pedal does it have? After the first year of lessons, pedal technique is usually introduced. A cheap square plastic pedal will not give the desired results and usually skates across the floor.

* How many notes of polyphony are there? Without getting into too much detail, the higher the number, the better. If you are going to play fast, advanced music, notes will blip or clip out on lower than 64 note polyphony. Imagine playing a piece and half the notes are silent. Then again, if you are an advanced player I suggest an acoustic piano.

So which keyboards are preferred? There are many keyboards in all prices ranges, with 88 weighted keys, solid stand, bench, and pedal. Here are my recommendations:

Yamaha P45- not as good as I thought for the money. $499 with a base. To get the good base and pedal would be an additional $150.

Casio Privia PX160. I liked this a lot. Great feel and sound, not a lot of bells and whistles. $499 for just the keyboard. But a site called kraftmusic.com has a bundle that includes the furniture type stand, triple pedal board, bench and headphones for 599.99 with free shipping.

Casio Privia PX 350. Above the 160. More bells and whistles. Better piano sound. Same feel as the 160. Piano only $599. With furniture stand, triple pedal board, nice bench with storage, dust cover and headphones. Kraftmusic.com. Has the best price at $879.

Now that is pricey. Once you get up there you may want to look at acoustic pianos.

Next up Yamaha DGX 660. Lots of bells and whistles including the ability to record. $799 at kraft music includes furniture stand, bench, headphones and a single ( not triple) pedal.

There are of course more expensive digital pianos out there ( Yamaha Clavinova).

If you are in the market for an acoustic I can do some research as well. A good acoustic will last 100 years if well maintained and will not lose value. There are quite a few nice ones on Craigslist. Anywhere from $350 on up

I would avoid the Williams pianos. The touch is very stiff and the sound is not great. I had to play one for a show and by
The end my hands were hurting.

KRAFTMUSIC.COM

Why do We Need a Piano and What Type Should We Get?

Students need a piano because they need to be able to practice at home. Learning to play any musical instrument is a big undertaking that depends upon regular lessons and daily practice. It takes practice to understand musical concepts and to acquire the coordination and motor skills it takes to become a pianist.

What Should We Get?

There are basically two types of pianos Acoustic and Digital. First, let’s look at Acoustic Pianos.

Acoustic Pianos are made of wood and have steel strings. An acoustic piano a great choice if you have space in your home to accommodate one and if you can afford it. Concert artists always play on fine acoustic pianos and almost all pianists prefer them. Acoustic pianos need periodic tuning, however, this is a minimal expense. If carefully chosen and properly cared for an acoustic piano is an investment that will last a lifetime.

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Seven Ways to Establish Good Piano Practice Habits

No one learns to play the piano without practicing: it simply can’t be done. A thirty or even sixty-minute lesson once per week just won’t cut it. Students need to practice at home. Musical concepts take time to grasp and the body movement required to play must be carefully repeated on a consistent basis in order to develop the strength and coordination it takes to play the piano.

I am often asked by parents how much practicing their child should be doing. For my youngest preschool students, I recommend five to ten minutes a day. As a student grows older and becomes more advanced, the length of practice time will gradually increase. Ideally, practicing would take place each and every day. While I know that sticking to a strict practice regimen is a real challenge for many of my students, I recommend that they try to come as close to this as possible.

Seven Ways to Establish Good Piano Practice Habits.

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Music Reading is Fundamental

When I was a little kid growing up in New York there was a TV campaign running called RIF. A little character would interrupt our Saturday morning Cartoons to remind us that “Reading is Fundamental”. Looking back, I’m pretty sure the NEA or some other teacher related group was conspiring to get us to turn off the television and do more reading. I didn’t think much about it at the time I was busy with Bugs and Elmer Fudd. Luckily my mother made me go to school and learn how to read. And that was a good thing, because you know what? Reading really is fundamental.

Reading opens the mind in ways that that would take volumes to express. Most importantly, reading allows the reader to gather and interpret information for himself. In this way, he becomes an independent reasoning human being.

Music Reading is Fundamental

Music reading for the aspiring musician is fundamental too. Can you learn to play music without reading music? Certainly, but you are going to be severely limited. Just like you would in school without language reading.

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Robert and Clara Schumann

Robert and Clara Schumann

Romance in the Romantic Period

Robert Schumann is considered a first rate composer. In addition to piano music he wrote music for; chamber ensemble, symphony orchestra, choral music, many songs for piano and voice and even an opera. Schumann’s “Album for the Young” contains some of the most beautifully written music for young pianists! All of my early intermediate level students learn selections from this great work. Schumann’s inspiration for the for the pieces in his “Album for the Young” came from watching his own 8 children play and grow. Since this work is such a treasure for both piano students and piano teachers I thought it would be interesting to learn about Robert Schumann and his very musical wife Clara Wieck Schumann. Continue reading

10 Things You Might Not Think of That Will Make Your Piano Really Teacher Happy

The number one goal for piano teachers, parents and students should be to give students the lifelong gift of being able to play the piano. Assuming that you have found a piano teacher that you really like for your child, a teacher you trust and respect, there are some unusual things you can do to help make the family-teacher relationship a great and long lasting one. Here are 10 things you might not think of that will make your piano teacher really happy. Continue reading