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So, I want to start learning piano. I have decided to start with a Clavinova digital piano. My questions are -

1. If I start with a digital piano, till which grade can I reach with it?


2. Should I start with a Clavinova CLP - 745/775 or a starter uprights from Yamaha JU109 and JX113 (available in Asia and oceania)? I don't know how good will they be. I am tight on budget, so the cheaper the better.

3. Will I learn faster on a digital piano or a cheap upright piano?

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When I was growing up, we had a grand piano in the house -- a 6' Young Chang which my mom still has.
In my pompous youth I used to say that I would prefer a good digital to a mediocre upright.
So when I graduated college and moved out of mom's house I did exactly that -- I bought a digital piano. Not a Clavinova though, I got a weighted action synthesizer. But the touch is similar to a Clavinova.
You know what? That keyboard stayed idle more often than not. It was just not inspiring to play. Fine for learning the notes, but not for making music.

A few years ago we took my wife's Baldwin upright piano from her parents' house. It's over 30 years old, was neglected, needs a fair amount of work, and is comparable to what you might find for $500 on Craigslist. But you know what? I play that piano more often than I ever played my keyboard.
It's an imperfect piano. But it's a lot more inspiring to play than the keyboard. I love having an acoustic piano in the house again. And now we are shopping for a grand.

So if you're asking the question, despite my pompous words that I uttered in my youth, I recommend a cheap upright to a digital.

Now... if you can get a hammer-action digital, such as a Yamaha N-1X, or the Kawai equivalent, those are amazing digital pianos. But since you mentioned a tight budget, I'm guessing those won't fit the budget either.

If you look on Craigslist you can find plenty of cheap or even free uprights. Skip the ones for free. There's a reason people are giving them away - they are usually junk.
You can probably find something decent in the $500-1k range. Try to find one sold by a piano tuner. I've seen decent uprights for about $1k sold by tuners. So there's a good chance that they are well cared for, unlike some of the junk that people are trying to give away.
Yamahas as a known quantity and hold up well. They also tend to be priced higher because of the name recognition. You can probably find a comparable Kawai for slightly less, or a Samick or Young Chang for a lot less.

Here's a thought -- rather than shopping Craigslist, to go ptg.org and find local tuners near you. Some of them restore & sell pianos. Check their websites for inventory.


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You *could* reach grade 6, maybe 8 with a digital but the chances are that you won't. After a couple of grades/years if you are still actively playing I'd put my money on you either upgrading whatever digital you start with now or going to an acoustic piano.

My suggestion is to start with pretty much the cheapest 88 weighted key board you can get. That's all you need to start and make sure you want to carry on with the piano. Even if you later get a better digital technology will have moved on and in two or three years time you will be able to buy a better one than you can now. Or you may instead prefer an acoustic.

I think you'll learn faster on an acoustic because there are fewer distractions and games and entertaining knobs to play with so you spend your time playing instead. Also there is more touch and responsiveness on an acoustic so you are learning real piano from the start although you can always transition later. That is assuming your end goal is to play acoustic piano - if you just want to pass grades and play in a band etc. then you might as well start off with, and stay on a digital piano.

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Unless severe budget restrictions apply in your case, I would suggest that you buy the "best" upright that you can afford. If you buy a digital, the same would apply, but I would vote for an acoustic piano. A "cheap" upright my not provide much of an inspiration because, getting what you pay for, the tonal quality may be compromised and even the action may not be what could be provided by a better upright.

If you have the opportunity to do so, why not try a few dealers who have used uprights. You are likely to get a piano that has been serviced, is in tune and you may also get free delivery and a tuning after delivery. All this for less than you might pay for a "cheap" upright.

Favouring an upright, I would repeat that you buy the best you can afford, not the cheapest.

Regards,

Last edited by BruceD; 04/13/21 01:15 PM.

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Hi WPianoY,

Twelve years ago, I was in my early fifthies and I choose a Yamaha Clavinova CVP because I thought it was the best choice since I was an adult almost beginner and I was not sure I would keep my desire to learn. A digital piano is easier to play than an acoustic piano and at that time I thought an acoustic piano was much more expensive.

Going back I should have chosen a CLP (closer to an acoustic piano), and ... after one year of music lessons I realized that making practice on a digital piano is a disadvantage, as much as a digital piano has weighted keys it will never be at par with an acoustic keyboard.

For the same price of a professional digital piano you can find a good second hand acoustic piano.

The only advantages of a digital piano that I can see are:

1) you can easily bring it with you;

2) you are not really interested in learning to play alone and you prefer to deal with the background sound.

Last edited by Guido, Roma - Italy; 04/13/21 04:21 PM.

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WPianoY - I think the best answer for you is going to depend on a lot of things that we don’t know. I will also add this caveat - you posted your question in a forum that’s specifically oriented toward acoustic instruments, so the answers you get will probably be different than if you had posted in the digital piano forum (different people seem to populate each). And you may get a more balanced perspective from the adult beginners forum-so I would definitely think about reposting there.
I think your best choice will depend a lot on you, your goals, and your learning style/learning plan. Are you going to get a teacher? Are you planning to use apps to learn? Are you interested in classical repertoire (I’m guessing maybe since you talked about grades) or pop/something else? Do the extra possibilities of dps excite you (different sounds/voices, built in recording capabilities, etc) or will these be a distraction?
I will give you some advantages of dps: they need a lot less maintenance; the action (if you get a reasonable one) will be pretty even (not always the case with a cheap used upright, so the playing experience on a dp may be more enjoyable); they don’t go out of tune; you can play with headphones on (also a possibility with ‘silent’ acoustic systems). And there are more. HOWEVER, they are not acoustic pianos, and as others have said , some people derive a great deal of satisfaction from acoustic instruments that they do not get with dps. As you advance, you will also run into issues with the dps not fully responding the way an acoustic grand piano responds (although this is probably several years down the road).
So my advice is to find a dealer or multiple dealers that have some of each (dps and acoustics), check them out, and see what you find most motivating/exciting. Also spend some time thinking about your goals and how you plan to achieve them, as I think this will help a lot in clarifying what is the best option for you. If you are thinking about getting a teacher (which I would definitely encourage), then your teacher may have strong feelings about dps vs acoustics, or suggestions about particular instruments.
I do agree that whatever the choice, you will probably be happier/more likely to stick with it if you buy something that is on the higher end (but still within) your budget, as you will likely have fewer frustrations and will be getting a more satisfying musical experience.

I hope this helps! And do think about posting to the Adult Beginners Forum.

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I started with a Clavinova as well, it was in the early 2000s, so at the time, they were a lot worse than they are now. The touch was completely different from an acoustic piano and I always had a hard time when I practiced on it and then went to piano lessons where my teacher used a Yamaha U1.

I quit piano for maybe 5 years in between high school and college. In college, I bought a new piano - another Clavinova, but it's now 2010 and they have gotten a LOT better than they were 10 years earlier. The piano had weighed keys that felt pretty close to the real thing, although it was a lot harder to recreate pianissimo and forte if you move from a Clavinova to an acoustic. The touch is just different.

I would say that the current digital pianos are very good, I actually considered getting my third Clavinova before deciding on an acoustic that I have now. I'm an intermediate player and I don't play much classical music, but here are a few reasons why I prefer my current acoustic upright piano (Petrof P122) to the Clavinovas I owned before:

1. The sound. My Petrof produces a very rich, layered sound that neither of my Clavinovas ever produced.
2. It's much easier to play with expression on an acoustic piano.
3. The sustain pedal produces a lot of variation depending on how far it's depressed. I can do 1/2 pedal, pedal fully down, etc. and they will produce different sustain. My Clavinovas could never do this.

On the other hand, there are two very important things that make a digital piano superior to an acoustic. And if you move homes a lot, I definitely recommend getting a digital piano. I moved a lot in college (living in apartments), and it would have been a huge headache to have to deal with hiring movers on a yearly basis and having them navigate moving the piano from one apartment to another. With a digital piano, you could move it yourself with a buddy or two and a truck, simple. Secondly, you never ever have to worry about tuning a digital piano. Or having one of the thousands of parts inside break and have to be replaced, such as hammers, strings, etc. So unless you bash the digital piano on something hard or drop it from a moving truck, it's not gonna ever need to be repaired.

Last edited by sharra; 04/14/21 01:14 AM.
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Originally Posted by sharra
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So unless you bash the digital piano on something hard or drop it from a moving truck, it's not gonna ever need to be repaired.

I would say you are over optimistic here, all electronics need some repair from time to time, and more when they involve moving parts, switches, buttons and such.

Of course, some units are never repaired, but it is not something you can say as a generalisation IMHO


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Originally Posted by EB5AGV
Originally Posted by sharra
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So unless you bash the digital piano on something hard or drop it from a moving truck, it's not gonna ever need to be repaired.

I would say you are over optimistic here, all electronics need some repair from time to time, and more when they involve moving parts, switches, buttons and such.

Of course, some units are never repaired, but it is not something you can say as a generalisation IMHO
I recently had my Yamaha SY77 synthesizer repaired. I bought the thing in 1990. Not bad for a 30 year run. Yes electronics do eventually need repair. But more likely it will become obsolete before it needs repair. I probably would not have bothered with my SY77 except all it needed was a new internal battery. (The floppy drive quit long ago, which is disappointing, since I had some compositions saved to disk. Oh well...)


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The venerable SY77!. I have also one (well, now really 5!). It was my first synth and I repaired it myself. Mine was bought used (and abused) in 2018.

Note that, for example, those units don't use rubber contacts on the keys, but metal ones which are lots more sturdy. My comment was oriented more to current keyboards, as the manufacture is lots cheaper and, on a not so long run, will probably fail.

BTW, regarding the SY77, the disk usually can be fixed by replacing the belt. And, if you have the chance, replace the electrolytic caps on both DM1 and DM2 boards (the two larger ones) as they always leak and will cause problems. Better safe than sorry!


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Originally Posted by EB5AGV
Originally Posted by sharra
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So unless you bash the digital piano on something hard or drop it from a moving truck, it's not gonna ever need to be repaired.

I would say you are over optimistic here, all electronics need some repair from time to time, and more when they involve moving parts, switches, buttons and such.

Of course, some units are never repaired, but it is not something you can say as a generalisation IMHO


As the other poster above said, a digital piano is likely to be obsolete before it falls apart.

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Originally Posted by sharra
As the other poster above said, a digital piano is likely to be obsolete before it falls apart.

I really, and I mean REALLY, wonder why this mentality of throwing out things perfectly operative is so prevalent today (knowing is not sustainable)

You say that it will be obsolete before it falls apart. WHY?

Because an instrument capable of generating sound in 2021 and which generates sound, let's say, in 2031, will be exactly capable of the same that is today. So, you will take it to the dumpster because then:

-There are better sounding instruments

-There are instruments with more realistic keybeds

-There are instruments with more bells and whistles (which lots of times are not used)

-Add your option here

All of these are rubbish. The instrument, if still working, would be equally useful and perfectly fitted for its function. And, if it fails, it could be usually fixed by a fraction of a new instrument cost (I fixed a 1994 Yamaha CLP some weeks ago, with still available original Yamaha parts and at less than 20% the cost of a new one, and the owner is happily enjoying it... in 2021)

I work at my home electronics lab all day fixing electronics, mostly radio-communication gear but also some synths and DPs from time to time. I have fixed 40 years old amateur radio transceivers, still working with vacuum tubes, and they are useful to these days. And plenty of 10-30 years old transceivers are fixed and keep running for a long time. Yes, now there are better, technically speaking, units (not cheap in general). But so do we need to trash all of these working units?.

Perhaps passing older instruments and radios to younger generations, if you upgrade, can teach them that NOT ALL OLD THINGS ARE BAD AND OBSOLETE

The mobile phone one-year obsolescence cycle is NOT the way to go. Nor is the digital piano 5 or 10 or 15 years cycle.

All IMHO, of course.

Jose


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Just because you don't want to throw it away doesn't mean that it isn't obsolete. And neither does being obsolete mean that you have to throw it away, many old and obsolete things are still used - I have a few of them. I also have new things that have replaced older still functional items, the most significant of these being my piano :-)

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Originally Posted by gwing
Just because you don't want to throw it away doesn't mean that it isn't obsolete. And neither does being obsolete mean that you have to throw it away, many old and obsolete things are still used - I have a few of them. I also have new things that have replaced older still functional items, the most significant of these being my piano :-)

The Collins dictionary says about obsolete:

Something that is obsolete is no longer needed because something better has been invented

So, if you still use it, it is NOT obsolete for you. I mean, are all petrol/diesel engines obsolete now that there are electric cars?. If so, people won't use them any more. Is my 2014 Full HD TV obsolete now that there are 4K, 8K and more?. Not for me!

What I am radically against is the programmed obsolescence and how that has permeated all the society, thinking that basically it is a good thing (subtlety, of course). And is not. It is not good to discard working items just because there is something new with, supposedly, some necessary-to-you (that is the trick they sold us) benefits.

Why we need each year a new iPhone launch?. To make yours obsolete. And, I repeat, this is not sustainable.

Jose

PS: sorry if you find the tone of my message too strong, I am not aimed to anyone in this forum, but to the masters of obsolescence around the World


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Originally Posted by EB5AGV
Originally Posted by sharra
As the other poster above said, a digital piano is likely to be obsolete before it falls apart.

I really, and I mean REALLY, wonder why this mentality of throwing out things perfectly operative is so prevalent today (knowing is not sustainable)

You say that it will be obsolete before it falls apart. WHY?

Who said anything about throwing things out?

You're taking my words out of context. My point was that the electronics are likely to last a very long time, without needing any repair or maintenance. Case in point, I just repaired my 30 year old SY77. Still a perfectly good musical instrument.

Getting back to the original post of this thread, while an acoustic piano is generally preferable to a digital, the digital will require a lot less maintenance and repair.
My wife's Baldwin upright is about the same age as my SY77, it requires regular tuning. (The repair on my SY77 cost less than the cost of a single tuning). And it is at the age where it needs more in repair than we are inclined to have done.
Hence why we are shopping for a grand piano.

Did I say that the digital instrument is obsolete?
No, I just said that it will likely be obsolete before it breaks.


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Originally Posted by EB5AGV
Originally Posted by gwing
Just because you don't want to throw it away doesn't mean that it isn't obsolete. And neither does being obsolete mean that you have to throw it away, many old and obsolete things are still used - I have a few of them. I also have new things that have replaced older still functional items, the most significant of these being my piano :-)

The Collins dictionary says about obsolete:

Something that is obsolete is no longer needed because something better has been invented

So, if you still use it, it is NOT obsolete for you. I mean, are all petrol/diesel engines obsolete now that there are electric cars?. If so, people won't use them any more. Is my 2014 Full HD TV obsolete now that there are 4K, 8K and more?. Not for me!

What I am radically against is the programmed obsolescence and how that has permeated all the society, thinking that basically it is a good thing (subtlety, of course). And is not. It is not good to discard working items just because there is something new with, supposedly, some necessary-to-you (that is the trick they sold us) benefits.

Why we need each year a new iPhone launch?. To make yours obsolete. And, I repeat, this is not sustainable.

Jose

PS: sorry if you find the tone of my message too strong, I am not aimed to anyone in this forum, but to the masters of obsolescence around the World

I'm actually fully in agreement with you on these views. But I would like to offer an alternative dictionary definition which I think is possibly more helpful:

"not in general use any more, having been replaced by something newer and better or more fashionable:"

The "general" qualification I think should be there, clearly something can still be obsolete even if somewhere someone is still using one.

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You could argue human piano playing is obsolete because AI will eventually do it better.

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I think I would get a nice, used but everything still works and it still holds a tune, acoustic upright. Depending on where your piano journey takes you, having an acoustic piano teaches you how to play the full dynamic range with no volume knob. As people change from digital to acoustic they frequently have a very tough time playing softly on an acoustic. Of course if you don’t ever plan to play an acoustic, the dynamic control might not be an issue. I learned to play an acoustic as a child so I haven’t checked what is tested in the piano grading systems.


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Originally Posted by gwing
I'm actually fully in agreement with you on these views. But I would like to offer an alternative dictionary definition which I think is possibly more helpful:

"not in general use any more, having been replaced by something newer and better or more fashionable:"

The "general" qualification I think should be there, clearly something can still be obsolete even if somewhere someone is still using one.

OK, I think we have found a nice balanced point. I am glad you agree with my views also. Let's continue talking about pianos!

I am also of the opinon that you need at least an acoustic and then, if possible, a digital to fill the time gaps when an acoustic is not usually playable (i.e. at night or other time when you can interfere with others)

But even my humble U3H has some soul that even the best VSTs I own (which I would say are the VSL Bösendorfers) can't duplicate.


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An acoustic is definitely more satisfying to play, but there are arguments for a digital for those just starting out. If you buy a decent digital (not the cheapest, most basic, nor top of the line) and are still playing after a year or so, you should go out and buy a nice acoustic. A cheap acoustic usually (not always, but often) means it needs work, and as someone who has yet to begin learning to play, you don't need that added burden.

Use the year or two on the digital to be looking at and trying out acoustics. You will learn a lot in that time about what sounds and feels good to you. When you do find an acoustic, keep the digital for those times and occasions where you need to play with headphones, i.e. in silent mode.

What grade level you can achieve on a digital isn't really answerable. It depends on what kind of music you play, how good the digital is, and your skill. I started with a digital and then (at the recommendation of my teacher) bought an acoustic. The acoustic is a joy to play.


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