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I've been learning classical piano for about 2 years now. I've had several years of lessons as a child, but I have not retained a lot of the skills from back then.

I'm also currently taking piano lessons. I practice on a Kawai KDP110 digital piano at home, while I play on an acoustic upright during my lessons. Obviously, these pianos have very different actions, and the touch and feel are therefore also very different. This is probably compounded by the fact that one is an (entry-level) digital piano action, and the other is a proper upright acoustic action. I am currently waiting on a Kawai K500 acoustic upright, but with the current global supply chain problems, I'm not holding my breath.

The problem that I have is as follows: while I may be able to play certain pieces on my piano at home reasonably well, when I play the same pieces on my teacher's piano during a lesson, I achieve nowhere near the same level. My teacher then (as he should) gives me pointers on where and how to improve, however in many cases I feel the issues with my playing are due to playing on a different piano. It's not that I struggle to play on an acoustic piano per se, but rather that I am unable to adapt to the different action in the span of a single lesson. My teacher appreciates this, but the fact remains that he cannot therefore accurately assess my playing and progress. Because of that, I feel that I may not always be getting the most out of my lessons.

I've not really seen any thread in this forum about a similar subject before. I would be interested to hear if other students have the same experience, and how you deal with it. Is this because of my limited experience playing on different pianos? Does the ability to adapt to different pianos improve with practice? I'm hoping that once I get my K500, the difference between the two piano actions will be significantly smaller, and therefore I would be able to more easily adapt to my teacher's piano.

Last edited by Monoch; 09/16/21 02:40 PM. Reason: fix typo it title
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Oh, I can assure you that your teacher can assess your playing alright even though you may not feel 100% secure. Yes, it would be better for you to practice on an accoustic piano but a good teacher can still hear what you're trying to do even if it doesn't come out quite right.

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Originally Posted by Monoch
The problem that I have is as follows: while I may be able to play certain pieces on my piano at home reasonably well, when I play the same pieces on my teacher's piano during a lesson, I achieve nowhere near the same level. My teacher then (as he should) gives me pointers on where and how to improve, however in many cases I feel the issues with my playing are due to playing on a different piano. It's not that I struggle to play on an acoustic piano per se, but rather that I am unable to adapt to the different action in the span of a single lesson. My teacher appreciates this, but the fact remains that he cannot therefore accurately assess my playing and progress. Because of that, I feel that I may not always be getting the most out of my lessons.

......... I would be interested to hear if other students have the same experience, and how you deal with it. Is this because of my limited experience playing on different pianos? Does the ability to adapt to different pianos improve with practice?
We pianists can't carry our own Stradivarius with us (nor our Kawais, or Yamahas, not even Steinways - though a couple of well-known concert pianists do just that.....), so sooner or later, we have to learn to adapt to different actions, different key weights, different key inertias, different key dips......everything, in fact.

I don't think I've ever played your Kawai model (though I've played lots of Kawai digitals as well as acoustics), so I can't comment on how realistic its action is. Most Kawai digitals generally have decent actions, close enough to that of acoustics that most pianists are able to adapt easily. But the bottom line is that no two pianos feel the same to play on - not even two fully-prepped concert grands - so you might as well start learning to adapt, because when you get your acoustic, it still won't feel like your teacher's either. Teachers generally can easily assess your actual playing ability even if you feel 'clumsy' with an unfamiliar action, just as they are able to make allowances for nerves.

FWIW, I've been practicing on my home digital (Roland V-Piano) and performing on an ancient six-foot 85-key C.Bechstein grand for a decade. It has a shallower key dip than modern pianos, including my digital. There is no opportunity to "warm up" on it before my recitals: I have to launch straight into the first piece when I sit down (so I usually start with something that's not marked prestissimo con fuoco e molto cantabile ma sempre pianissimo...... wink ). I also play on lots of other pianos - uprights as well as grands - whenever I get the chance, in showrooms, shopping malls, airports, train stations, streets.....because I enjoy trying everything out. (Before I bought my own piano, I was doing just that - beggars can't be choosers - and it stood me in good stead for what I do these days).

When I was a student (from age 10), I practiced on the tiny, very cheap home vertical with ultra-light action and brittle-bright tone ("suitable for beginners", which was why my non-musical parents bought it) and, after the first year, had lessons on my second teacher's much bigger and heavier upright......and did my piano exams on all sorts of uprights. Eight exams over eight years, on eight different uprights. Whatever happened to be there in the exam venue. (BTW, almost all the current digitals' actions trounced that home vertical's action in 'closeness to acoustics' action', believe it or not.)

Then I had a concert pianist as teacher. He had two 6-foot grands in his home. When I had my first lesson, I could hardly produce a sound, so 'heavy' the action seemed. It was the first time I'd played on a grand. Over the weeks, I adapted. (Actually, I think it took three months before I felt comfortable with his two pianos - a Blüthner and a Bechstein -, which also felt very different to each other.) At the time, I was practicing on the uprights in the university's Music Department, so I rarely had the use of the same piano on two consecutive days. It was a steep learning curve to learn to adapt quickly to all sorts of actions, but I certainly had to, because I'd eventually be playing very difficult advanced pieces for the examiner in my final exam (for my performance diploma), on an unknown grand.


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Your question has come up quite frequently although it may have previously been about going from one acoustic piano to another acoustic with a very different touch. The ability to adapt to a different or very different action will improve with time and experience but it is often not immediate for even the most experienced players. I have played for around 65 years and can still remember about 20 years ago when I practiced on a M&H grand with a heavy action and had to go to a rehearsal of a musical where I played on a Clavinova with a much lighter action(the reverse of your situation). It took me 15-30 minutes to adjust and during that time I felt like I had no control. Kind of like going from a typewriter with a heavy touch to an electric typewriter.

In the previous threads on this topic the only suggestion I remember is asking the teacher if you could warm up for five minutes. This may not give you complete control but it might be worth losing a few minutes of lesson time just so could feel you could play at least somewhat better. I disagree with the previous poster who said the teacher could assess your playing even though you had difficulty adjusting. You clearly said you play much worse on the acoustic, but the teacher would not necessarily know which of your problems had something to do with the different piano vs. ones that did not.

There is a good chance that when you get your own acoustic the amount of adjustment needed at your lessons will be much smaller or almost nothing.

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Yes, it's a problem to adapt to different pianos. The way to deal with it is to practice -- even just a little bit -- on as many different pianos as you can. Look for places -- churches, schools, etc. -- where you can get permission to play their pianos.


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My piano teacher uses a Yamaha Clavinova for teaching. I practice on a Yamaha P125 at home and on a Yamaha C3 grand in the local conservatory.

Definitely needs time to adjust to different pianos & keyboards with weighted keys. I do most of my recordings at home with the P125. I don't find the action too far off from a C3 grand but a good warm-up is still the best way to adjust to a new instrument.

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I started with. Yamaha YDP144 Arius and lessons were on acoustic uprights and grands. It was tough transitioning from home to lessons. I get it, when I played back in the lessons: it was challenging adjusting. Once, I knew I was staying with piano, I upgraded to a hybrid. The weight of the keys were so much better and the transition was negligible. Your teacher will still give you honest opinion and feedback, but it maybe worth an upgrade at some point for your own benefit, not necessarily for your teacher’s benefit.


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The Kawai k500 will have a nice light action. I've played the k200, 300 and they were lovely.
The problem with digitals isn't necessarily in the action; it's in the response.
Digitals have a softer response than an acoustic, usually, and that makes playing harder.
Acoustics too have different feeling actions, and responses. Yamaha uprights are a bit heavier than kawais. The Yamaha response isn't as lively as that for the Kawai either (modern uprights)
So . . .does it really matter too much?
Good luck!


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Thanks everyone for the responses. Good to hear at least that I'm not the only one struggling with this.

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
In the previous threads on this topic the only suggestion I remember is asking the teacher if you could warm up for five minutes.
That sounds like it could work, at least to alleviate some of the difficulty adapting.

Originally Posted by pianoloverus
You clearly said you play much worse on the acoustic, but the teacher would not necessarily know which of your problems had something to do with the different piano vs. ones that did not.
Yes, this was my point exactly. Specifically, some of the problems are with dynamics which is especially hard to control on an unfamiliar-ish piano, while I have much better control over it at home.

Being conscious of needing to adapt also plays into your anxiety, which makes it even more difficult. I guess the main takeaway (as expected really) is to practice on and try other pianos as much as possible, and over time the ability to adapt will improve. Hopefully, it will be less of a problem in the short term once I get my new acoustic.

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I play an old Steinway at my lessons, the action feels heavy and slow. I used to own a C3 and loved the action on that piano, I now have a clavinova 785 that I enjoy.

- I never play as well at my lessons as I do at home but it is not just the piano. whenever I complain that I don't play as well, my teacher says " I have never played the way I want to at a lesson"

So I think it is a combination of issues. Playing a lot of different pianos does help but clearly just the stress of playing for your teacher might be part of the challenge.


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It's good to play on a lot of different pianos, of all types, but that is difficult for most of us to do. That's one of the things I loved about Summerkeys, practicing on all the different pianos. And performing on different pianos. But Summerkeys has been on hiatus for 2 years because of covid.

Then when I was at University I played a lot of different pianos, and had to perform on some pianos that were not very good. All excellent experience.

For the last couple of years I have been going to piano group meetings in people's homes and playing in recitals at a piano store with a recital space. My experience at playing different pianos has paid off. At the piano group meetings it is common for other players to have difficulties. Especially those with no experience on grands. Just looking at the music is a challenge for them since the music is higher that it is on an upright or a keyboard.

But it is all good!

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I had trouble going from my Kawai K-200 acoustic to my teachers grand piano. Sometimes notes wouldn't even make a sound on her piano. She advised me to play everything louder, when I practiced at home, but still play the different dynamics. So with (p) soft I'd play (mp) moderately soft. You get the idea. It was mostly the soft sounds that I had the most trouble. But I feel that I never play as good at lessons as I do at home. And I can't blame her piano for that.


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If you want grand piano key action and the versatility of digital, I strongly recommend Casio GP-510. It has a beautiful real C.Bechstein wood keyboard. You can actually see the hammers!
I could not be happier with it. It feels and sounds even better than my upright. By the way, I have 4 pianos in my home and office, from $500 - $8000, and I play Steinways in my teacher's studio.

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This sounds very familiar. I have a PX-S3000 at home and the music school where I take lesson is having an old upright piano that is (ab)used by almost every piano student in town.

At home I play better than in the classroom. First I thought it was maybe the much discussed item about black and white keys that is haunting casio, but I tried it out and the difference is so minimal that a beginner like me does not even notice it. THe problem is something else ...

The upright piano plays more heavy and the keys are more slower or "sticky".
And it plays too loud as well.

Later I realised that all digital piano manufacturers try to make their instruments feel and sound like a $200.000 grand piano. But in real life, the music schools are using old piano's. Be real .. how many music schools have a beachstein for their beginning students :-)

So what we need is not a digital piano that imitates a grand piano, but a digital piano that imitates an old heavily used piano ... but I think sales will drop if you actually try to sell one.

I asked the piano teacher if I can use the piano if the classroom is not used. So I can get used better to the feel.
At home I set the digital piano to heavy touch response to practise myself to use more force.


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My opinion is that the main reason for the difficulty in adjusting from a cheap digital to the teacher's acoustic is the amount of upweight in a digital. That is, not the force that you push down on the keys but the force that it pushes back up at you once it has been played.

On a cheap digital the upweight is the same as the downweight, it's the force of the weight attached to the key to simulate the hammer inertia. About 50 grams or so. Whereas an acoustic piano disconnects the key once it's been played so the upweight is only about 20 grams or so.

This is a huge difference and I found it really hard to adapt to my teacher's acoustic. My solution was easy - buy an acoustic. Not possible for everyone of course. Top of the range digitals can simulate this change in upweight.


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Originally Posted by H@ns
And it plays too loud as well.
That's not the piano's fault. It's because you are used to playing the digital with a low volume. IMO, the sound in almost all digitals is too soft compared to accoustic pianos unless you play at max volume. Turn up the volume (yes, I really mean MAX volume) and learn to play softly with your fingers.

If you think the old upright is too loud then you're in for a surprise the first time you try playing on a concert grand. wink

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There are many difference between digital and accoustic pianos. Besides the ones mentioned above:

- Digital pianos don't simulate the escapement correctly. On most models these days you can feel a "notch" at the escapement point but that is it. On an accoustic piano the weight of the key is different past the escapement point and the sound is sustained because the dampers are off.
- You are much less likely to get ghost notes on a digital because the sensors register any pressure whereas on an accoustic there is a cut-off velocity at the escapement.
- On an accoustic the weight of the keys is much lighter when the sustain pedal is down.
- The sound is not as rich and natural, even on the highest end hybrids. You may dismiss this as a superficial aesthetic concern but it actually has a huge impact on how you play. At least for classical music you need to be able to listen for finer nuances and adjust to how you sound in real time. This is called "tone control". IMO, a trained pianist who already has good tone control can get a good sound out of a digital piano but for someone who is just learning an accoustic piano is far superior for learning to control the tone.

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I was casually checking out the selection of keyboards/digital pianos at the store recently. I used to have an entry level Casio keyboard way back when - but *boy* have I forgotten how the touch feels! On these cheap keyboards the action really is like a spring, i.e. the further you press the key, the harder it pushes back (force is proportional to the displacement), whereas in real piano action you're just pushing against gravity, i.e. the weight doesn't change whether the key is depressed by 1 mm, 2 mm, etc. But I guess as long as you don't expect these to perform like a piano, it's ok.

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Originally Posted by Monoch
but rather that I am unable to adapt to the different action in the span of a single lesson

Adapt to the different action. Adapt how?
What is it that you want to adapt?
After 2 years of lessons, what exactly are you playing that requires you to adapt?
What is the actual question here?
I struggle to see how the action would be relevant or significant enough for you to be concerned with it.
You're saying when you play your teacher's piano you get nowhere near the same level.
Level of what?
Are you talking about dynamics i.e. volume?
It doesn't sound like it because you mention issues with your playing?
I'm confused.
It sounds like the guy who thinks he's hitting golf balls 300 yards at the driving range, who hits them 150 yards on the course.
What are the exact issues?

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Originally Posted by JohnnyIssieBangie
What are the exact issues?
Haven't you ever had to play on an unfamiliar piano? Anyone who did will know exactly what are the issues.

- Differences in action weight mean that the same touch gives different dynamics.
- Differences in the escapement (see my previous post above) mean that the hammer is released at a different velocity, which can cause ghost notes.
- Differences in pedal stiffness and pedal release point mean that you have to adjust how much you press the pedal.
- Differences in volume and room accoustics cause you to perceive the sound coming out of the piano very differently, which objectively affects how you play (unless you're one of those people who play without listening).

Even the exact same model of piano can feel different because of how it's regulated and because of the room accoustics.


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