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How does a newbie test a piano effectively? #2846575 05/08/19 07:42 PM
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WeakLeftHand Offline OP
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I’m shopping for a new digital or acoustic piano (I haven’t decided yet). I can only play simple pieces, like the ones from beginner method books. How can I effectively test a piano at a showroom with so little knowledge and skill (and without totally embarrassing myself)? How does a person with so little experience even know what to look for? Thanks.

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 05/08/19 07:49 PM.

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Re: How does a newbie test a piano effectively? [Re: WeakLeftHand] #2846581 05/08/19 08:09 PM
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Bring a friend who plays; ask your teacher. The DP forum was great resource when I upgraded. My friend told me I need to focus on touch [my lessons are on an acoustic upright]. My first piano was tHe mid range Yamaha CLP, which was fine as a starter. My teacher would love that I get an acoustic, which is challenging as I live in an apartment.

If you can house an acoustic, I would recommend that is your first choice.


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Re: How does a newbie test a piano effectively? [Re: Pianoperformance] #2846588 05/08/19 09:12 PM
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When I decided to upgrade to a better piano which was an acoustic grand, I tested some out on
my own. When I knew where I was going to buy it I asked my teacher to go with me. We both played the one I was considering and played a duet on it. At that point I was starting to play Chopin Nocturnes and could not stand the tinny sound of my old piano. Some of it is individual preference as to the sound. I like a more mellow sound while my friend prefers a brighter sound.


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Re: How does a newbie test a piano effectively? [Re: WeakLeftHand] #2846590 05/08/19 09:43 PM
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Normally I can ask the sales staff in the store to explain the differences between keyboards. I've come across many of them who know a few tunes to do demos in front of you so you can hear the differences. Otherwise you have to rely on the few pieces you know already and just repeat the same pieces from 1 keyboard to another.

Initially you are mostly interested in the action of the keys that feels right when your hands play on them and a realistic piano sound. You're just listening to hear whether a keyboard has a nice piano sound unless you are looking for synthesized effects. My keyboard has limited sound effects but I rely on the piano & organ sound mostly because I play a lot of church hymns.

Re: How does a newbie test a piano effectively? [Re: WeakLeftHand] #2846616 05/08/19 11:27 PM
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I think the suggestion of bringing your teacher along is a good one, I imagine most would be willing to (I would pay them.) Make sure you listen well and choose one that your teacher likes, you like the sound of and you can afford.

Last edited by Chrispy; 05/08/19 11:27 PM.

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Re: How does a newbie test a piano effectively? [Re: WeakLeftHand] #2846622 05/08/19 11:54 PM
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You should never consider that you will embarrass yourself as a beginner looking for a new piano. There is one important thing: you hold the checkbook and therefore the power. As a beginner, play your music with simple melodies and ask yourself if you personally like the sound, and do you personally like how it feels. Play the same music from piano to piano: something loud, something quiet. You can also just play the white keys from low to high and listen.

Choosing a piano certainly involves quality of the piano... but it is also a very personal decision about what makes you smile to play it. If we all liked exactly the same sound and touch, there would not be so many choices. Play a lot of them in your price range. The one you buy will be in your house for YOU to play... buy one you will enjoy. Other opinions are great., but don’t dismiss your own opinion as not being worthy 😊


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Re: How does a newbie test a piano effectively? [Re: WeakLeftHand] #2846643 05/09/19 01:39 AM
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I agree with dogperson, don’t worry about embarrassing yourself. You are spending money and need to make the best choice you can. I know how you feel but it is something when I did this for myself was too important. I took my sheet music with me, and tried to practise my pieces on different pianos.

Part of my reasoning for not spending much early on is that my ability to judge what is good is limited. As my skill and experience improves my ability to judge what is a good DP for me improves. With time and proof to myself I am in this for the long haul I will buy an expensive DP but I am not there yet.

Re: How does a newbie test a piano effectively? [Re: WeakLeftHand] #2846646 05/09/19 02:22 AM
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If your buying a digital it is easy to get a feel for the piano by user reviews on the web. Bearing that in mind, it has to feel and sound right to you no matter what others have said.

When I bought my acoustic I took a long time to decide as I didn't have much experience. I tried many piano over months as I was not in no hurry, and even although I can't play anything great I could tell instantly by the touch or the sound whether I liked it or not. So I would advise the same, try as many pianos as you can and trust your own intuition.


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Re: How does a newbie test a piano effectively? [Re: WeakLeftHand] #2846652 05/09/19 03:02 AM
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I had only been playing for 1 year and a half when I bought my acoustic, and I was super embarrassed because I didn't have much to show, but the dealer himself was an accomplished pianist (as they often are) and demonstrated his second-hand uprights to me. He also gave me his opinions, which I think in the end were well-grounded and impartial, and I ended up buying a very good piano.

Six years later I'm starting to think that I should buy a grand piano, and I'm still super embarrassed when I try one, also because I can't play much from memory. I'd love to have a short routine, like chromatic scales, chord progressions, runs, etc. that I could play with confidence and that would show the qualities of a piano. I'd be grateful if anyone could suggest one.

Re: How does a newbie test a piano effectively? [Re: WeakLeftHand] #2846658 05/09/19 03:33 AM
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The Piano Shop staff usually are able to play piano and will give you a demonstration in the store. He will tell you about the piano, weighted keys, etc..
See if you like the sound, try out maybe two or three makes.
When I bought my Yamaha, the store person, who is a pianist demonstrated for me, and I chose the one I liked, whithin my budget by a good one.

Re: How does a newbie test a piano effectively? [Re: sinophilia] #2846664 05/09/19 05:08 AM
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Originally Posted by sinophilia
I had only been playing for 1 year and a half when I bought my acoustic, and I was super embarrassed because I didn't have much to show, but the dealer himself was an accomplished pianist (as they often are) and demonstrated his second-hand uprights to me. He also gave me his opinions, which I think in the end were well-grounded and impartial, and I ended up buying a very good piano.

Six years later I'm starting to think that I should buy a grand piano, and I'm still super embarrassed when I try one, also because I can't play much from memory. I'd love to have a short routine, like chromatic scales, chord progressions, runs, etc. that I could play with confidence and that would show the qualities of a piano. I'd be grateful if anyone could suggest one.

Why not just bring your sheet music to the piano store? Testing a piano is not like giving a recital! smile Why the need to play from memory?

I'd think that when buying a piano, playing some real music from sheet music or books, will allow you to better determine the musical character of the piano better than playing chromatic scales will.... unless you are a lover of how chromatic scales sound wink


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Re: How does a newbie test a piano effectively? [Re: WeakLeftHand] #2846669 05/09/19 05:33 AM
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Check out Piano Buying Basics in The Piano Buyer - see the the link in the column on the left.

Re: How does a newbie test a piano effectively? [Re: WeakLeftHand] #2846687 05/09/19 07:22 AM
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Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
I’m shopping for a new digital or acoustic piano (I haven’t decided yet). I can only play simple pieces, like the ones from beginner method books. How can I effectively test a piano at a showroom with so little knowledge and skill (and without totally embarrassing myself)? How does a person with so little experience even know what to look for? Thanks.


I was exactly in your position, having only about 2 months from start. In my case, I bought the ES100 digital before I started to have something (based on reviews), but quickly realized after playing my teachers Grand, and a friends upright, that I enjoyed the vibrations from an acoustic and had to get one. I took my method book with me to 4 different piano stores that had used consoles and played the same few pieces I could do on 20 or so different consoles (I stayed away from private sales at this point). Every store was happy to just let me go at it on my own and would answer questions at the end. After trying about 10 or so pianos I could distinguish ones I liked from a touch and sound standpoint. And my perspective was to find something that would be good for 2 years until I had more skill to figure out what I really liked before I go after something more expensive.

I was just about to go with one store that offered a 5 year trade-up guarantee (this was a used yamaha M series console), when I found a local turner in my area had the Baldwin I ended up getting. Good Luck!


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Re: How does a newbie test a piano effectively? [Re: WeakLeftHand] #2846827 05/09/19 02:49 PM
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I would recommend you not to trust yourself in that matter. Your preferences regarding touch and sound will likely change several times in the upcoming years. So bring a teacher or a friend or a paid pianist with you to make a better choice. Just make sure that the sound of the piano does not irritate you, this is most important.

Re: How does a newbie test a piano effectively? [Re: WeakLeftHand] #2846833 05/09/19 03:06 PM
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My first keyboard was over 10 years ago. The shop is just down the road and the owner was in my high school music class. At the time I did not have much playing experience or a teacher but I knew what I wanted: something portable with a record feature. I was willing to settle for a Yamaha PSR series keyboard with just 61 soft-touch keys. The keyboard did have was a 3.5 floppy disk and record songs in either .PSR or .MID (for MIDI) format. My former classmate played the cello but his main instrument is guitar so he couldn't help much. The fact that the recording disk would become obsolete and my old recordings would not be retrievable didn't bother me. Nowadays, keyboards allow you to plug in a USB stick for recording.

The only regret was playing extra for the ability to record before I have reasonable recording devices or a good mic. Otherwise it was the best thing I could get for my budget at the time.

Re: How does a newbie test a piano effectively? [Re: WeakLeftHand] #2846843 05/09/19 03:54 PM
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Thanks folks! Lots of advice and encouragement. I should take my time and try as many different pianos/digitals as I can. And find someone who can help me with my search.


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Re: How does a newbie test a piano effectively? [Re: Iaroslav Vasiliev] #2846855 05/09/19 04:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Iaroslav Vasiliev
I would recommend you not to trust yourself in that matter. Your preferences regarding touch and sound will likely change several times in the upcoming years. So bring a teacher or a friend or a paid pianist with you to make a better choice. Just make sure that the sound of the piano does not irritate you, this is most important.


I think this is a good argument for spending the minimum possible to start with. Spend enough to make sure the action is good enough not to contribute to a poor playing style and the DP sounds good enough so you can enjoy hearing yourself play.

You will upgrade sooner but you will have more confidence in choosing the upgrade then and then sell your old one.

Re: How does a newbie test a piano effectively? [Re: WeakLeftHand] #2846882 05/09/19 06:49 PM
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Embrace your beginnerhood!
Easier said than done, I know, but bite the bullet and play enough and enough pianos to get over it a little bit. You'll start to notice differences and you'll notice what you like and what you don't like. For me, the "don't like" category was often evident after about 2 notes.


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Re: How does a newbie test a piano effectively? [Re: WeakLeftHand] #2846894 05/09/19 08:52 PM
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I just did this! I took my beginner method books and a set of headphones and tested everything I could within my budget. I don't know a lot about pianos, but I know what sounds and feels good to me. It's actually not very difficult to weed through all the options when they're in front of you. It's much more complicated when you're speculating based on online descriptions or what other people are saying about them.

(edited to add: I didn't mean that YOU are speculating... that's what I was doing, and it was complicating my life)

Last edited by enw10; 05/09/19 08:54 PM.
Re: How does a newbie test a piano effectively? [Re: WeakLeftHand] #2846914 05/09/19 10:59 PM
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The last thing you might consider is how often you want to change your keyboard. A lot of parents want their kids to take music lessons but not sure how long they would be playing might start off with a 61-key. By the time you get to a 76-key model you may be satisfied for a few years or you may want to upgrade to an 88.

Every few years, the action gets better and the sound gets better. At the high end you can get a Casio Celviano GP-500 which is a hybrid with 3 grand piano sounds or a Yamaha P-515 or Avant Grand. Especially when you get to serious playing, you may want to spend more in the beginning for something that you can keep for at least 5 years than having a low end model like a Yamaha P-45 and upgrade later. The sound of a P-45 isn't the best but you get 88 keys for a much lower price than the P515. A keyboard stand and the foot pedals should be part of the package.

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