As your piano playing progresses, many players often see that their skills plateau at a certain level, where no matter what you seem to do, you can’t seem to progress any further. Perhaps there’s a particular string of notes that you can’t quite reach, or that your playing just doesn’t ‘feel’ as powerful, strong or colourful as it once did.
Oftentimes, many players think this is a fault with themselves or their technique, which it may very well be, however one particular factor that many overlook is their actual piano might be holding them back!
Today we wanted to break down a few signs that it might actually be your piano that is holding you back from becoming a musical maestro.
One of the most common reasons we see that a player has outgrown their instrument is all based around the response of their instrument. If you’re finding that you are able to return your fingers to a note but the key hasn’t fully responded back to its resting position yet, it’s likely that your action isn’t fast enough to support your playing anymore.
This is most common on pianists who practice at home on something like a portable piano or starter home digital instrument and have managed to begin advancing to perhaps the grade 4, 5 or above grades. During this intermediate level of play, speed and expression becomes a crucial part of your play and if your piano isn’t able to respond quickly enough, your pieces may feel short, clumsy or even unplayable.
How To Overcome This?
There are a few ways to test 100% that this is the case. The first would be to try another piano! Be this at your teacher’s house, a friends house or in a piano showroom (like ours). If, when you try the piano you are able to run through the passage you are having difficulty with with relative ease, that’s a pretty good sign that it might be the action on your piano causing the problem.
For the most part, the best way to improve your piano’s touch response is to improve the action. There are a number of ways of doing this, be it going from a portable instrument to something like a hybrid piano, or from a digital instrument to an acoustic piano. Learn more about action types on digital pianos here.
For those worried about transitioning from a digital instrument to an acoustic because they need their piano to play silently, read our guide to understanding how silent pianos work here.
Sound Or Processing
If you are also finding that your piano doesn’t ‘feel’ as powerful or impactful as it should when you are playing, it could be a sign that your piano (particularly if it is a digital instrument) doesn’t have a strong enough processor to support the styles of play you are looking to reach.
This is where the idea of polyphony comes into play (which we’ve got a handy guide to here). In essence, Polyphony refers to the number of notes a piano speaker/processor can handle at once. In particularly complex pieces, polyphony can reach as high as 200+, which if your piano only has a polyphony of 150 or so, you’re losing over a quarter of your desired notes, usually at the low end of the piano.
How to overcome this?
The best and easiest way to overcome polyphony or processing issues is actually to remove them entirely. Because acoustic pianos have no processors inside them and utilise real sound, they technically have an infinite polyphony, meaning that you will never experience ‘lost sound’ like you do on a digital piano. For those in need of digital options however, just ensure that your piano has a high enough polyphony to match your level of play.
Time To Upgrade?
If you are struggling with either of the above, then you may want to consider either upgrading your piano or learning about other ways to improve your playing.
For the most part, for those who can house one and have the budget, we would almost always recommend opting for an acoustic piano over a digital instrument. This is not because digital instruments are a bad way to learn, however they are more prone to: a) becoming outdated quickly as technology changes, b) do not hold their value well, so you might find it harder to part exchange in the future and c) are often far harder to fix due to the level of complexity in the circuit boards.
Want to learn more about digital instruments and things to consider? Read our guide here!
If budget is an issue for you, did you also know that you can actually rent acoustic pianos for as little as £20 per month? Or have you ever considered going second hand?
That being said, acoustic instruments are not without their faults and do require a) manual tuning every 6 months or so, b) can also have technical issues. However, for the most part, a well kept acoustic instrument, even one fitted with a silent system will be far more likely to be able to keep you progressing throughout your piano career.