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Our 10-year-old has been learning classical piano for five years and loves the instrument. She is by no means a child prodigy, but she is a very good player for her age, having recently won a scholarship in a competition at her music school. The unresponsiveness, however, of the old hand-me-down spinet on which she practices at home is becoming an obstacle to her progress.

When we discussed the possibility of refurbishing the spinet with our piano tuner, he recommended applying the money instead to the purchase of a digital piano. While we would prefer, all else being equal, to give her a good acoustic piano, our budget is unfortunately quite limited. Furthermore, the ability of a digital piano to be played silently is especially attractive, since our daughter is frequently prevented from practicing by her ill sibling's need for unusual amounts of sleep and quiet (a problem that will soon be further exacerbated by the arrival of a new baby).

I have the following questions:

1) Can an intermediate student with high aspirations for performing classical music on a concert grand make good progress using a digital piano?

2) Are there suitable options in the $1,500-$2,000 range? If so, which are the best?

3) If the budget can be increased somewhat beyond this range (there may be some chance of familial support), can a meaningfully superior instrument (that is, for her current needs) be had? If so, what are the best options?

4) Are used digital pianos reliable? Would she get a better piano is we apply our budget to a used one?

Thank you very much for reading my post! I would be most grateful for any guidance that anyone can offer!

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Go to shop and let your daughter try out the following:
Yamaha P515
Roland FP90X
Kawai ES920


keep calm and play the piano :-)
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Thanks very much for the recommendation, Georg!

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For more budget (> 2500€) you could have a look on cabinet style pianos:
Yamaha CLP745, CLP775 or CLP785
Roland LX705, LX706 or LX708
Kawai CA59, CA79 or CA99

For even more budget (> 5000€) there are Hybrids with real upright- or grand piano actions:
Kawai NV5-S, NV10-S
Yamaha NU1X, N1X, N3X


keep calm and play the piano :-)
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It's very important to try them out before buying!
Some users complain about heavy actions on some Yamaha pianos.


keep calm and play the piano :-)
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Thanks again, Georg! This is all very helpful!

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1) Yes

2) Georg's list is probably the three most popular in the price bracket. Do bear in mind however that, at this price point, most pianos will come only with a single pedal unit. That might be fine, but it depends on her usage (and how much it bothers you to chase the pedal unit round the floor). The ES920 can upgrade to a tripe pedal unit (GFP-3) or through a unit that fits onto their stand. I imagine the others are the same.

Budget for the stand (and a seat, but you may have that already). If you're happy with fixed height, the product-specific stand with the three pedals is best. If you need to adjust height you'll need a third party stand.

3) I'd argue yes. The CA49, for example, is at sweetwater for 2299 and has a better key action than the 920. Plus as it's a cabinet digital piano you get the stand and the triple pedal thrown in.

4) Look at it this way: I converted to digital maybe 15 years ago and have probably saved over a thousand dollars in tuning over that period alone.

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Thanks very much, Svennig! This is very good information!

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Originally Posted by Georg Z.
Go to shop and let your daughter try out the following:
Yamaha P515
Roland FP90X
Kawai ES920

+1.

Those are all "slab pianos" -- no cabinets. So their cost doesn't include cabinetry. They all have actions which are substantially better than "entry level" DP's. IMHO, they're the best "quality per dollar" available.

Unfortunately, because they're slab pianos, they have amps and loudspeakers that don't do justice to their sound. Good headphones ("comfortable" is a part of "good") fix that (for the player).

Outboard loudspeakers can be bought at reasonable cost. (There are extensive threads, here, on "powered monitors" at various prices.)

It would be a good idea to involve your daughter in the purchase. I wouldn't say that about all 10-year-olds. But it sounds like she's musically mature enough, so that her opinion should be considered.

Good luck -- let us know what happens, please.


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Originally Posted by Clavichordium
1) Can an intermediate student with high aspirations for performing classical music on a concert grand make good progress using a digital piano?

2) Are there suitable options in the $1,500-$2,000 range? If so, which are the best?

3) If the budget can be increased somewhat beyond this range (there may be some chance of familial support), can a meaningfully superior instrument (that is, for her current needs) be had? If so, what are the best options?

4) Are used digital pianos reliable? Would she get a better piano is we apply our budget to a used one?

You need advice from experienced teachers and/or advanced players. For "high aspirations for performing classical music on a concert grand" and a player with 5 years of learning, I am doubtful that a digital piano in that price range will be optimal. You might be better off looking into a higher quality used acoustic, and extend the price range a bit. But I am not an advanced player, and may be wrong, so don't listen to me. Perhaps question 1 would be better addressed in the acoustic forum here on PW. There are lots of advanced players there who play concert grands. Questions 2-4 are well addressed here, and there is already good advice.

I had a Kawai CA58 until a year ago, and I would not advise that one. After a few months it became quite uneven when playing in the soft range, probably because of how the let-off simulation is implemented. I have seen a video of a piano teacher experiencing the same problem on a new one in a store. In the meantime it has been replaced by the CA59 but I would only consider it if they changed the mechanism.

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Thanks very much, Charles, for this helpful information! I will certainly follow up when we've decided on something.

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Thanks very much, Gabe, for your helpful reply!

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Just to be curious, what do the teachers at her music school think about the digital option?
They know your daughter much better than anyone else here in the forum.

And very important: Where are you from? DP prices vary from region to region and if you want to shop for the best bang for the buck, the recommendations are different. For instance Kawai CN29 vs CA49. In the US the CA49 is only 15% more expensive - a nobrainer to get it over the CN29. Here in Europe you pay 50% more, in my opinion not worth the extra cash.


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Thanks very much, Wie Waldi for your reply (and for your avatar -- I was a great fan of the Muppets as a child)!

I do intend to speak with my daughter's substitute teacher at her lesson next week and with her regular teacher when she returns next month, before moving forward with a purchase. I'm just trying to gather information at this point so that I have something concrete to discuss with them.

As for our location, we live in a large metro area in the American Midwest.

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While you are confronted with numerous suggestions that include seeking advice of people who may have relevant advanced experience, it stands out that your tuner suggested you consider a digital piano.

Is this tuner someone you have known for a while, feel comfortable with and generally respect their skills/experience/advice?

Best of luck to you and your child!

Last edited by drewr; 07/14/21 01:05 PM.

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Quote
. . . When we discussed the possibility of refurbishing the spinet with our piano tuner, he recommended applying the money instead to the purchase of a digital piano. . . .

Originally Posted by drewr
While you are confronted with numerous suggestions that include seeking advice of people who may have relevant advanced experience, it stands out that your tuner suggested you consider a digital piano.

Is this tuner someone you have known for a while, feel comfortable with and generally respect their skills/experience/advice?

Best of luck to you and your child!

Yes -- he's not going to have any income from the DP!<g>

The "acoustic vs digital" argument can become very heated. I think, in the price range you're looking at, a new DP is a better option than a used (probably old, likely needing repair or rebuilding) small grand piano.

See what the teachers say. Some are stuck in the "DP's are toys" era, but most should have some experience with current designs. What were "high-end features" have filtered down into the mid-range:
. . . DP actions have improved,
. . . DP sound generators have improved.

Things really have changed, in the past 15 years or so.


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Thanks for your reply and good wishes, Drew! My wife (who nearly completed a degree in piano performance before a medical condition prevented her from finishing it) did a lot of searching before finding our current tuner, whom she thinks very highly of. He's serviced our piano for a few years now. We are struck by his recommendation that we purchase a digital piano (which he would not service) rather than hire him to refurbish and continue servicing the spinet.

It seems clear, then, that the only real options before us are 1) to find someone selling a quality upright at a deeply discounted price (giving it away, essentially) or 2) to purchase a digital piano. The latter option offers the advantage of near-silent practice, as the availability of practice time on an acoustic will likely be both limited and unpredictable in the near term due to the non-negotiable needs of younger siblings. Perhaps the piano that can be played more frequently and extensively is ipso facto the better choice, even if it should be inferior in some other respects.

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Thanks again, Charles! This is very helpful. Our daughter's teachers are both young enough to be up-to-date on the current state of digital pianos, and I would be shocked if they don't have at least some students currently using them.

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1) Can an intermediate student with high aspirations for performing classical music on a concert grand make good progress using a digital piano?

Up to a certain point yes. The finer nuances will be lost in a digital. The User experience is different so he will have to adjust when moving to a proper acoustic

4) Are used digital pianos reliable?

Everyone here is swearing yes. Truth is an acoustic life span is maybe 50 years. I do not know that there are 50 years digital around . . . IMO they are reliable but not as reliable as an acoustic. On the other hand your son will be moving to an acoustic sooner than that . . .

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I would look new slab like the Roland FP60x and get the stand and 3 pedal unit. Or the Yamaha P515 version. Thing is in my mind that you have a child that needs some special care and a new-born soon. The digital with a nice set of head-phones will come in handy for practice. Also with the slab even with the stand can be moved a lot easier if need be.

Roland Digital pianos were being used in Canada up to level 8 exams I believe. Jay from Roland use to be on this forum answering questions. He left Roland and went to work for Nikon in Canada.
So my point being that yes you can play advanced pieces on digital pianos.

Good luck in your hunt/search.

P.S.
Your tuner is right having you look at a digital and not investing in the old spinet piano to repair. He is being honest with you. Sometimes it isn't worth repairing the old ones.


All these years playing and I still consider myself a novice.
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