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Do you teachers notice any difference in the progress of students who practice on acoustic as opposed to digital pianos?

Is there a difference where the student is focused on classical music?

I am aware that there are bad examples of both types of instruments. What are your expectations for prospective students and do you articulate them?


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Are you considering the different types and qualities of digitals, including "hybrids"? Should this be a factor of discussion?

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All things being equal, of course students progress much, much faster on quality acoustic pianos than bad keyboards. But not all things are equal. I've taught students who have a wonderful grand piano at home, but they might as well go bang their heads against a wall--they're such awful piano players.

Right now, my students who are practicing on digital pianos at home all crawl at a ludicrously slow pace. But that's because their parents don't really value piano lessons, and won't invest in a quality instrument when they clearly can afford one.


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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
... I've taught students who have a wonderful grand piano at home, but they might as well go bang their heads against a wall--they're such awful piano players...


Just think how much worse might they have been if they had only had digitals at home!!
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My first response was to draw attention to the range of quality and possibilities of digital pianos. There is also a range among acoustic pianos, there being uprights and grands, and within this, quality of the acoustic, maintenance (quality). But people are aware of the acoustic part. When "digital vs. acoustic" is brought forth, the "digital" is seen as one generic, stereotyped, probably cheap basic model whole. One cannot do that.

I'd like to see this addressed better.

AZNpiano made a start with " quality acoustic pianos than bad keyboards" at least defining the quality of both.

I used to play my parents' upright piano when I visited them. It had never seen a tuner, the sustain barely functioned but drowned out the notes through loud clangs, and there was a key that played E-Eb. Some keys had to be pulled up by hand. I had a poorish 2nd hand digital at the time. It was better.

I have changed from a cheaper model Yamaha dp to a Kawai CA97 hybrid, but still essentially a "dp". I am relearning some elements of technique due to a better instrument. I was "heavy handed" and "heavy footed" on the first dp. "feet" because the pedal had to be floored before the sustain engaged, which also hurt my hips. On the better instrument I move a normal range and can do subtle things. I compared with a grand on the floor before purchasing. "hand" because on the Kawai I can play the keys to different depths and still have it sound, which allows fast ornaments etc., as well as creating a sensitivity in the hand to possible depths. This sensitivity could have been spoiled by what got trained in by the first dp's, leaving me heavy handed. Here you have a scenario you'd expect to hear about dp vs. acoustic grand - but it is lower grade dp vs. higher grade dp. By the same token, this dp brings me much closer to responses in a good acoustic, and that would lead a difference in results of practising on this dp, and then playing a grand.

This as an example. I don't think you can just as "progress on dp's vs. acoustics" in such a generic way.

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Any student who only has a keyboard does get stunted if they don't upgrade. I had one student who last a year, and his progress was very slow. Then his mom finally bought a decent acoustic upright, and his playing took off. He was a hard worker and talented, but the instrument was holding him back. I'm sure if he had a digital piano from the start or an acoustic, he would have progressed much faster in the first year.


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Morodiene, are you using "keyboard" to mean an electronic instrument with unweighted keys, to distinguish such items from "digital pianos" that have weighted keys?

If so, what you say makes sense to me. As discussed elsewhere, I'll use such a keyboard for a day or two when I'm traveling and the only alternative is to skip practice altogether that day, but I can't see how anyone can progress in a decent fashion without having an instrument that reasonably approximates the action of a minimally decent acoustic piano. Some digital pianos do that, others don't.


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Originally Posted by ClsscLib
Morodiene, are you using "keyboard" to mean an electronic instrument with unweighted keys, to distinguish such items from "digital pianos" that have weighted keys?
Yes.


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I do have both a Yamaha upright and a Kurtzweil digital piano that I use for practice when I do not want to disturb others. I my limited experience I would say, that I find it easier to make my pieces sound right in the digital than in the upright. There is the additional factor of adapting myself to the touch of my teacher's piano, which is not instantaneous...it takes a fair few minutes every lesson....

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Neighbors have an acoustic. Their son go lessons on it for a year and then quit. Then at school he started keyboard and now plays at every bi-annual concert.

Turns out the piano teacher was really bad and the keyboard teacher at school is really good.


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Originally Posted by keystring
I don't think you can just as "progress on dp's vs. acoustics" in such a generic way.

That's why I added the caveat! There are indeed some extremely fancy digital pianos that far, far surpass a number of grand pianos in terms of quality.

But I think the hypothetical question here is cheap keyboards vs. cheap acoustics. Pick your battle.


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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by keystring
I don't think you can just as "progress on dp's vs. acoustics" in such a generic way.

That's why I added the caveat! There are indeed some extremely fancy digital pianos that far, far surpass a number of grand pianos in terms of quality.

But I think the hypothetical question here is cheap keyboards vs. cheap acoustics. Pick your battle.

Also why I mentioned your caveat. smile

It may be that a fair number of teachers who know acoustic pianos inside out may not be aware of digital pianos. It would be good to have a greater awareness in this regard. For one thing, if a student cannot have an acoustic in the home because of thin walls, then a knowledgeable teacher may be able to advise them about choices. I have thin walls and thus was limited to my hybrid, but there are also good and less good digitals below that level. Dps are not what they were 15 years ago.

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Originally Posted by keystring
Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by keystring
I don't think you can just as "progress on dp's vs. acoustics" in such a generic way.

That's why I added the caveat! There are indeed some extremely fancy digital pianos that far, far surpass a number of grand pianos in terms of quality.

But I think the hypothetical question here is cheap keyboards vs. cheap acoustics. Pick your battle.

Also why I mentioned your caveat. smile

It may be that a fair number of teachers who know acoustic pianos inside out may not be aware of digital pianos. It would be good to have a greater awareness in this regard. For one thing, if a student cannot have an acoustic in the home because of thin walls, then a knowledgeable teacher may be able to advise them about choices. I have thin walls and thus was limited to my hybrid, but there are also good and less good digitals below that level. Dps are not what they were 15 years ago.


I agree with this, and would go further. I'm surprised not only by how little many (not all) teachers know about current digital piano options, but also how little they know about the acoustic piano market. I shouldn't be. One can be a great teacher without being a "piano geek." But there it is.

Last edited by ClsscLib; 06/26/17 10:42 AM.

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The piano has to make a louder sound the harder you press the key. Acoustic pianos do that automatically.
The piano has to be kept in tune. Digital pianos do that automatically.
The student has to like playing their piano. At first, the digital maybe has a gadget/fun factor that is appealing, but most students will eventually prefer the sound of a good acoustic piano to anything else.


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Digital pianos satisfy the first requirement as well (sensitive to touch). I actually think that students with digital pianos will progress faster because they will be able to put more time practicing at any time of day or night. In addition, they will probably have their very own instrument dedicated to them and their practice exclusively so they do not have to share with their siblings and parents or grandparents.

I learned to drive on a used old American car, I loved her and really had very hard time parting with her when the time came. I don't think a BMW or F150 as my first car would make me into a better driver any faster...

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Originally Posted by PerAspera
Digital pianos satisfy the first requirement as well (sensitive to touch). I actually think that students with digital pianos will progress faster because they will be able to put more time practicing at any time of day or night. In addition, they will probably have their very own instrument dedicated to them and their practice exclusively so they do not have to share with their siblings and parents or grandparents.

I learned to drive on a used old American car, I loved her and really had very hard time parting with her when the time came. I don't think a BMW or F150 as my first car would make me into a better driver any faster...


This isn't a persuasive analogy. Driving for most of us in most situations (especially the DC area) is mostly about being able to do safely and competently what everyone else on the same crowded road is doing. One needs to hit a plateau on one's learning curve fairly quickly, but once the plateau has been reached, there's not much gain in improving one's driving skills. (That's different if one competes in auto sports, but there I suspect competitors would prefer better cars to worse cars.)

In piano (as with many other musical instruments), there is no common plateau at which one aims. A student who is really a student is always looking to get better; there is neither a ceiling nor an acceptable level of performance at which everyone agrees we are "good enough."

Most would prefer getting better quickly to getting better slowly. Playing a better instrument facilitates getting better quickly.


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I keep my fingers crossed that many local parents think along these lines so hopefully some "better instruments" hit the secondary market the moment I reach my plateau 😀

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I can only speak for my child but for her, teachers made a difference much more than instrument types.

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Just to put things into perspective...

The quality digitals I'm talking about can cost up to $4,000 brand new. Some fancier models cost a lot more.

You can get a semi-decent used upright for $3,000. A really good used upright may cost around $5,000. My students bought a brand new Yamaha U3 for less than $9,000.

I'm also working with students whose parents bought them a $400 toy keyboard. That's all they want to spend--they are perfectly capable of spending way, way more money than that.

Sometimes I wonder if I should cater my "teaching" to suit the amount of investment. On second thought, I think I already do.


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One of my children started lessons on a touch sensitive but unweighted keyboard, one of those abominable springloaded things. Kind of like an organ, but I digress.

We upgraded to a decent but not top of the line weighted key digital piano, and her progress really started from that point. It made a huge difference. It was used and an older model, but in good shape.

In fact, it was in considerably better shape than the teacher's unmaintained, marginally tuned acoustic.


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