Q. Can I start lessons on a keyboard?
- The answer to this question depends on how you define the word “keyboard.” If you are considering a $100-$300 portable keyboard, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Toy keyboards – like what you find at electronics store or “Big Box” retailers are inadequate learning tools. They don’t have any similarity to the sound and touch of an actual piano and a vast majority of the students who begin lessons on instruments like this quit in the first year. If, however, you define “keyboard” as “any piano-style keyboard instrument that plugs in,” you’re in luck. There is a subset of keyboards called “digital pianos” that are specifically designed to emulate the sound and touch of a “wood and strings” piano. Digital pianos make excellent lessons instruments. You can even use mobile music apps and computer software to learn music symbols, musical organization, and timing on digital pianos.
Q. What kind of keyboard is best?
- As I mentioned before, I don’t recommend anything in the $100-$300 range. Rather than wasting money on a toy, I recommend renting a proper digital piano (We have rental options that start at $30/mo). The two most respected digital piano brands are Yamaha and Roland. We often call them the “Coke” and “Pepsi” of digital pianos.
Q. What should my keyboard have on it?
- Portable keyboards come in three basic sizes: 61 Note, 76 Note, and 88 Note. For piano lessons you should use an 88-Note digital piano (pianos have 88 keys) with full-sized piano keys, a “gravity hammer” key action, a proper bench, and a sustain pedal.
Q. How can I tell if my instrument has “full-sized” keys?
- The quickest way to tell if your keyboard, piano, or digital piano has “full-sized” keys is to do the “Dollar Bill Test.” Simply remove a dollar bill from your wallet and lay it down on one of the white keys (lengthwise – parallel to the key). The key should run from one end of the dollar bill (the end pressed against the felt at the hilt of the key) to the end of the ink on the other end of the dollar bill.
Q. What does “gravity hammer key action” mean?
- A gravity hammer key action is designed to closely emulate the feel and response of a grand piano. As you press the key down, you lift a counterweight at the opposite end. Then – when you let go of the key – the counterweight falls and pushes the key back up. There are no springs or mechanisms to wear out or get “sloppy” over time. This type of action – if properly weighted – will provide the ideal resistance for players of all skill levels. This is especially important for beginners – who are just beginning to build the musculature and coordination they need to play well.
Q. What is a sustain pedal?
- Sometimes called the “damper pedal,” the sustain pedal is the first pedal on the right of a piano or digital piano (and, sometimes, the only pedal on a keyboard). When depressed, it lifts the dampers off the strings so they continue to ring (this is simulated to provide the same effect in electronic instruments). Typically, students begin using this pedal in lessons within the first year of study.
Q. What about a Clavinova?
- Simply put, a Clavinova is a digital piano. More specifically, it is Yamaha’s most piano-focused digital piano line (far superior in tone or touch to Yamaha’s Arius “YDP” Series or the entry-level “P” Series. Clavinova competes directly with premium digital piano brands like Roland.
Q. How much do digital pianos cost?
- Digital pianos range in price from about $600 to $30,000. Most first-time buyers will select a digital piano in the $1300 – $3500 range. Then, as the player becomes more involved with the digital features, many will take advantage of Riverton Piano Company’s 3-year FULL TRADE option on digital pianos and upgrade to an instrument with even more learning and play along features.
Q. Which is better, a digital piano or a used piano?
- This question comes up a lot and it’s a difficult one to answer. Despite what their owners might tell you, most used pianos – especially those found in people’s homes – are in poor shape. Most piano owners just don’t understand how to properly care for their “wood and strings” pianos – nor do they want to spend the necessary money to do so. In cases like this, digital pianos are almost always a better choice since they are always in tune and their action is properly regulated.
- Digital pianos are also a better choice when compared to upright pianos because they have grand piano style key actions. Upright pianos play about 40% slower than grand pianos because their action is operated with spring-loaded mechanisms instead of simple gravity. Good digital pianos are modeled after grand pianos – so they can play faster and with more musicality than can their upright cousins. If you are looking for a vertical instrument, you’ll probably prefer a digital piano.
- Grand pianos are far more subjective, however. Some manufacturers make a truly stunning digital grand piano (like the Roland GP-609). Some folks, however, prefer the furniture look (especially in wood finishes) and the sound aesthetic that only a “wood and strings” grand piano can provide. If you have room for a grand piano and you want to commit to a slightly higher budget for your piano, you might consider either a digital or a “wood and strings” grand. You’ll know immediately which one you prefer. As with any instrument, the most important thing here is to find the right tool to keep the player interested. The choice is often highly individual.
Q. How much do new pianos cost?
- Pianos range in price as vastly as do cars or kitchen appliances. There are a number of poor quality new pianos today that are very inexpensive. However, on average, a good quality “starter piano” should cost around $3000. Then, based on size, color, sound, and style preferences, your new piano could range between $3000 and $300,000. (A huge majority of first-time buyers select an upright piano between the $2000 and $5000 range. Most first-time grand piano buyers select an instrument in the $10,000 – $20,000 range.) No matter what you decide to purchase, it is important to work closely with a professional piano consultant. They can help you find the instrument that will keep you interested and fulfilled for years to come.
Q. Do you rent pianos?
- Riverton Piano Company offers the Phoenix area’s most comprehensive rental program – from a basic piano at $30/mo to a premium baby grand piano, we invite you to Rent to Learn today!
Q. How can I learn more about pianos?
If you would like more information on how to select the perfect instrument for you or your family, church, or school, you might want to check out these important resources:
- “Digital Piano Basics – What to Know Before you Buy”: This short – yet powerful – article will give you all the tools you need to begin piano shopping. Learn the basics, see diagrams and illustrations and get the facts before you start to shop!
- “Piano Basics – What to Know Before You Buy a Piano”: If you’ve decided to purchase a traditional “wood and strings” piano, this article is a MUST for you. Find out why some pianos are $2000, and some are $20,000. Learn what to look for and where to go for help!
- “Finding the Perfect Piano” – This 10-page PDF buyer’s guide is a FREE tool to help you navigate the choppy waters of piano retail. Learn how to shop for pianos on the internet, Craigslist, and in stores. Learn what to avoid and how to know if a deal truly is “too good to be true.” Discover the most important things you should want from your piano before you start shopping!
I hope this basic tutorial has been helpful to you. If you’re in the area, please stop by one of our Phoenix piano stores for a personal tour and enjoy our warm, comfortable atmosphere. We pride ourselves in making your piano shopping experience as easy and entertaining as possible. See you soon!