Instrument Guide - Piano


Looking to begin piano lessons, but you don't have an instrument at home to practice on? Are you looking to buy a piano, but you aren't sure which one is right for you? Our TKAM teachers have come together to answer some of your instrument FAQs!


What’s the difference between a piano vs electric piano vs keyboard?


Acoustic Pianos

An acoustic piano is not plugged in. It makes its sound by depressing the keys which in turn taps a hammer on the harp strings inside.


Pros

  • There is no substitute for a well-maintained, quality acoustic piano. In my opinion, the touch, sound, and action of a ‘real’ piano have yet to be perfectly imitated in an electronic version - at least, not in a comparable price range to an acoustic piano. Prices vary from FREE to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  • There are places in KW where you can buy, rent, or rent to own.

Cons

  • Acoustic pianos need to be maintained. They should be tuned by a professional preferably every six months or at least once a year. As a rule of thumb, I have mine tuned when the heat goes on and the heat goes off.

  • They can be very heavy and difficult to move. That is why you’ll find a lot of FREE pianos on Kijiji or Facebook Marketplace- people don’t want to spend the money to move them and tune them.

  • They can be expensive pieces of furniture that need a fair bit of room to accommodate.

  • Most acoustic pianos do not have a significant amount of volume control.

Some good names to look for are: Yamaha, Kawaii, Heintzman, Baldwin, Samick, Mason & Risch (this is not an exhaustive list)


Where to find them: Tri-City Pianos; Long & McQuade; Apollo Piano; Wall’s Piano Gallery


“Notes”

It is a great idea to ask a piano tuner to have a look at a second-hand piano before you buy or even pick it up for FREE. I thought I had a wonderful free piano and didn’t bother having a tuner look at it, only to find out that the soundboard was cracked and it was not able to be tuned. I ended up spending $250 to have it taken away!


My favourite piano movers are:

Here is a shortlist of acoustic piano tuners and keyboard specialists:


Electric pianos

These are a great option for beginner pianists who have shown an interest in learning. You will want to look for 88 weighted keys and preferably at least 2 pedals.

There are places in KW where you can buy, rent, or rent to own.

Pros:

  • Can be inexpensive compared to a decent acoustic piano

  • Easy to move and accommodate in smaller spaces

  • Volume control and headphone capability for musicians in apartments or late-night practicing

  • Don’t have to be tuned. Some can even be tuned to other instruments with the push of a button.

  • Most have: metronome (to keep time); recording capability (for composition or practice); a variety of different sounds to add extra warmth to your playing

Cons:

  • Most electric pianos don’t have the touch sensitivity or exact weight of acoustic piano keys, although most do allow you to create loud and soft dynamics using the weight of your fingers.

Some good names to look for are: Roland, Yamaha, Casio (this is not an exhaustive list)


Where to find them: Long & McQuade; Sherwood Music; Walmart; Costco (great returns!); Kijiji; FB Marketplace (buyer beware for the last two!)


Keyboards


When I think of a keyboard, I am thinking of a smaller instrument. Much less than 88 keys, not weighted (spring back easily after being depressed), not touch-sensitive (loud and soft volume can only be achieved with a button or dial), they don’t usually have a cabinet - they rest on a stand.


Pros:

  • Usually have hundreds of “voices’- different sounds

  • Usually have rhythms you can add as an accompaniment or as a solo pattern

  • Volume control and headphone capability for musicians in apartments or late-night practicing

  • Don’t have to be tuned

  • Most are midi capable - can connect to a computer via USB for a whole world of musical exploration

  • Very portable - can usually be put easily in the trunk or backseat for travel

  • Can be very inexpensive

  • Good for a very young beginner looking to test the waters of piano playing

Cons:

  • They don’t have a full keyboard of 88 keys so this can be confusing for a new student when playing on an acoustic or electric piano at their lesson

  • The keys are not touch-sensitive so dynamics cannot be practiced at home

  • Pedals are added accessories

  • Good piano technique cannot be taught on a keyboard due to the number, size, and weight of the keys

Some good names to look for are: Roland, Yamaha, Casio (this is not an exhaustive list)


Where to find them: Long & McQuade; Sherwood Music; Walmart; Costco (great returns!); Kijiji; FB Marketplace (buyer beware for the last two!)


Are all of these suitable for online lessons?


Any of the above instruments are suitable for online and in-person learning but you absolutely will need one of them when you begin lessons. You will be wasting your time, the student’s time, the teacher’s time, and your money if the student does not have an instrument to practice on during the week between lessons. Learning builds week to week based on the previous week’s acquired skills and understanding. The student must be able to practice what they’ve learned on their own so the teacher can see the strengths and weaknesses that need to be addressed.


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