Guest post by Arthur Stone
Sometimes, a full-sized acoustic piano might be just too expensive or too big.
Does this mean you can’t play piano if your space and budget are limited?
Absolutely not. There are other options.
In fact, there are two.
Today, we’ll be looking at these two compact and budget-friendly alternatives to the acoustic piano.
The First Solution
The first is the digital piano.
Most digital pianos (particularly the high-end models) are designed to look and feel just like an acoustic piano.
Naturally, some people will say that there is always a difference, no matter how slight.
The technology behind this is highly sophisticated; it digitally filters recorded samples of acoustic pianos to replicate the piano sound.
You might notice that the keys feel heavier in one end and lighter in the other on acoustic pianos.
This is the “Graded Hammer Action”, a system that produces “weighted keys.” When you press down on the keys, you’ll feel a certain amount of resistance.
Digital pianos seek to recreate this effect.
So, when you press down on the keys of a digital piano you’ll experience the same sort of resistance and feeling provided by a genuine acoustic piano.
There are decent digital pianos in the $500-$1000 range, considerably less expensive than investing in a grand piano, and cheaper than many (perhaps even most) upright pianos as well.
However, if you’re looking for acoustic piano alternatives, digital pianos are not your only options.
The Second Solution
Another option you have is the portable keyboard.
At this point you might think: “Surely keyboards sound and feel rather cheap!”
In reality, though, many of today’s keyboards sound really good.
And by “good,” we mean “realistic.”
In other words, a portable keyboard can sound a lot like an acoustic grand piano. The advantage, of course, is that they’re much more affordable.
This is the sort of instrument for which you can find space even if you live in a very small apartment. It’s also light enough for you to take to gigs, if you enjoy playing before an audience.
The Yamaha YPG-235 is one of many keyboards that can be acquired for under $300 and that produce a very credible grand piano sound.
Which is Best?
It’s important to realize, of course, that no keyboard or digital piano can fully replace a traditional piano.
Connoisseurs of the piano will argue (perhaps rightly) that the acoustic piano experience is truly inimitable.
- Some digital keyboards don’t give you the “weighted keys” effect, which may be considered a slight drawback.
- In terms of piano sound, it’s often very difficult to discern any difference between the sound of a digital piano and that of a conventional acoustic.
- If you’re currently not in a position to invest in an acoustic or grand piano, a digital model or keyboard might be a satisfying replacement, at least in the short term.
- You have the added advantage of owning a truly portable instrument.
- If you ever need to pack up and leave the home you currently live in, you’ll easily be able to take your piano with you. (As opposed to dealing with a giant grand piano.)
- Most people who use keyboards and digital pianos find it easy to transition to an acoustic piano if, and when, they need to, because the best digital pianos and keyboards feel and sound so authentic.
- Maybe you take piano lessons with a teacher on an upright acoustic; the good news is that you can practice between lessons even if you can’t afford your own acoustic piano.
The digital piano or keyboard will provide you with a comparable experience (whilst taking up only a tiny fraction of the space and without costing you a fortune).
So, with a high-quality keyboard or digital piano and a good guide to playing piano, you should be able to make substantial progress.
Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s impossible to learn the piano without investing in a full-sized upright or grand!
Weighted keys on a keyboard mimic the ‘weight’ of an acoustic piano’s keys, so that you feel like the hammers are hitting.
About half of today’s keyboards don’t have weighted keys, so you’ll need to be careful when you’re shopping.
Arthur Stone writes about the best ways to learn the piano. He is particularly interested in non-traditional methods that are helpful for people with limited space and budget.
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