Our teams often get asked why we don’t stock certain types of pianos. We’ve had many customers visit us over the years looking for an extremely low budget way of getting their children or perhaps themselves into the piano.
This usually entails a conversation of someone having visited either a department store or an electrical shop who have a number of ‘keyboards’ or supposed ‘pianos’ that are under £100 or so that gives the impression that entry level portable or digital pianos should cost around this much too. Of course there are exceptions to this in the form of infant toy pianos that can just be a fun toy for children to engage with at an incredibly young age.
In reality however those ‘pianos’ that the person has seen are essentially toys that are extremely low cost and feature almost none of the same features or functionality that modern digital pianos have. In our personal opinion, if you are looking to learn how to play the piano, then we’d actively encourage anyone to avoid these instruments entirely as if anything they can be a real hindrance to your learning.
We personally believe these items can be a genuinely harmful investment that instead of encouraging someone to learn the piano, will often leave them frustrated and out of pocket in a month or two…
So how can you tell if you’re looking at a keyboard or something that you should avoid?
Thankfully there are a few easy steps to follow when looking to purchase a quality digital (or even better acoustic) piano!
The first and most obvious is to ask the question: Does it have 88 keys? 88 Keys is the standard on any acoustic upright or grand piano as this gives you a brilliantly wide range of sounds and notes to choose from and will allow you to play nearly anything under the sun. Keyboard or pianos with less than 88 keys do exist, however pretty soon you’ll realise that you need those added keys, particularly in the lower and higher ends of the piano to achieve the intended sound that you are looking for.
Learn more about this in our guide to the differences between pianos and keyboards here.
The second most obvious way of telling that you are looking at a keyboard or toy piano is whether or not the piano has weighted keys. The premise is essentially that a keyboard uses a spring loaded mechanism that offers no real resistance, whereas a digital (or acoustic) pianos both use a physical weight in order to press the key. In an acoustic instrument, this is the physical weight of the piano action pressing down and movement of a hammer striking a key, in a digital piano this is a weighted system that then transfers how fast and hard the key was pressed and is then put into the piano’s processor to output the intended sound.
You can learn more about this in our article on how acoustic pianos work here.
The reason we believe that instruments that do not have this level of sophistication are a genuine hindrance on piano learning and a poor investment for anyone actually looking to learn the piano is because by not having this weighted action, expression is physically impossible. Truly beautiful piano playing comes from subtlety and nuance, being able to dip soften and louden the sound at will is part of what makes piano such an intricate instrument, whilst blocked sounds may be fine for the youngest of learners to play about on, they offer no real learning desire and as soon as they begin piano lessons, your piano teacher will almost instantly tell you the same thing.
Secondly, whilst more affordable than even the cheapest of digital pianos with weighted actions, these instruments can still be a few hundred pounds, so no small investment, which if you are looking to learn, will be money down the drain straight away as you’ll either need to upgrade or sell your instrument for one with a weighted action or 88 keys. Let us tell you first hand too that these instruments do not resell particularly well, even on secondhand markets and almost instantly will lose 50-60% of their value simply by being taken out of the box. If possible, we’d recommend trying to get a refund from the supplier as soon as you can.
For those looking at more budget options to help decide if your child might be interested in learning piano, instead we’d highly recommend considering piano rental as an option to get started as this removes almost all of the risk if they decide that piano isn’t for them.
We hope these tips help and give you a little more insight into the piano market and what is potentially out there and what to potentially avoid in order to begin your piano learning journey on the right foot!
For more information on digital pianos, visit our digital piano department or for acoustic pianos, contact our experts today!