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Thread: I have always wondered about this:

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    Junior Member David born 1950's Avatar
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    Default I have always wondered about this:

    I was raised on the piano and thought that one would always be encumbered with its size if one wanted to be practicing in alternate venues. The voice, even the violin, escape this 'bulk predicament'.

    My question is this: Can an electronic keyboard supplant the need for the huge instrument required in providing a serious practice instrument? Do today's electronic keyboards have dynamics, in that the amount of pressure pressed on the key determines the volume of sound? And, as a bonus, can headphones be used in order to obviate one's need to be aware of annoying others as you practice?

    To me, it seems that, on all counts, the need for a huge instrument (and sympathetic neighbors) are no longer needed. If not, if you dispute this assessment, just why? Why would an electronic 88 key keyboard not satisfy the needs one has for serious, accurate practice? Finally, do any concert artists take advantage of this wonderful technology? - David Lyga
    Last edited by David born 1950; Apr-24-2021 at 11:55.

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    It's interesting that your question centres specifically on practice, which suggests that you would envisage playing a normal piano on occasions, perhaps in public performance. If that's right, I do dispute your assessment that such a piano is "no longer needed". The reason is that the touch is always noticeably lighter on a keyboard, even one which claims to replicate the touch of a normal piano. Keyboards just don't do that, nor do they offer anything like the same possibilities for shading and expression, and anyone practising only on an electronic keyboard in order to perform on a normal piano later on (especially on some big beast of a grand piano) will find out that difference the hard way if they want to perform to their highest standard. Keyboards have their place for relaxation and amusement (I use mine to play Baroque music on the harpsichord and organ stops) but IMHO not as a substitute for a piano, not if your intention is serious musicmaking.
    Last edited by Animal the Drummer; Apr-24-2021 at 12:15.

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    Junior Member David born 1950's Avatar
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    Well, of course I am not bold enough to state that electronic keyboards should be used for actual performance. And your assessment that electronic keyboards are lighter, dynamically, needs to be the start of another question: WHY can't they be built to match the dynamics of a standard piano?

    When I was eleven (1961) my piano teacher, Linda Cappabianca, in Stamford CT, presided over the visiting of Artur Rubenstein. Of course we were all enthralled to be seeing him perform in his recital. I will never forget the following as long as I live:

    After the concert, my teacher was talking to him in another room. His piano was still on the stage and everyone had left. I sat at his piano and started playing the compositions I had been practicing from my piano lessons. To this day, I cannot fully understand why, but it was SO MUCH EASIER to play on his piano rather than on the Wurlitzer spinet that my parents had at that time. (About a year later we acquired a used Steinway, I believe model L, from a recommendation from my piano teacher. It cost only $2,000 and was in perfect condition.)

    But I will never forget how the notes 'fell into place' so easily on Rubenstein's piano. And, to this day, I do not fully understand just why. But, perhaps, dynamics is all important here. It was pure joy to play it. - David Lyga
    Last edited by David born 1950; Apr-24-2021 at 12:31.

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    Fazioli
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    If you simply want to get the notes into your fingers and brain, then a digital piano is fine. As for a nuanced performance that duplicates an acoustic piano--forget it!

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    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    It will be hard (and could be expensive) to find a digital piano with the correct touch and hammer weight, that practicing on will prepare you for playing an acoustic piano. It would be better to find a used upright or even a spinet.
    Last edited by SanAntone; Apr-24-2021 at 21:02.

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    Senior Member Amadea's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David born 1950 View Post
    I was raised on the piano and thought that one would always be encumbered with its size if one wanted to be practicing in alternate venues. The voice, even the violin, escape this 'bulk predicament'.

    My question is this: Can an electronic keyboard supplant the need for the huge instrument required in providing a serious practice instrument? Do today's electronic keyboards have dynamics, in that the amount of pressure pressed on the key determines the volume of sound? And, as a bonus, can headphones be used in order to obviate one's need to be aware of annoying others as you practice?

    To me, it seems that, on all counts, the need for a huge instrument (and sympathetic neighbors) are no longer needed. If not, if you dispute this assessment, just why? Why would an electronic 88 key keyboard not satisfy the needs one has for serious, accurate practice? Finally, do any concert artists take advantage of this wonderful technology? - David Lyga
    In my experience, you need it if you want to practice it seriously. I played the piano for some years and my sister is a pianist. Not having a piano, we started on a yahama electric keyboard, which we had chosen with our teacher that came with us at the shop. We had chosen a keyboard not only with all the right number of keys and good sound, but a keyboard that had the keys quite heavier than usual. That is important, as plastic keys are lighter than the keys of a real piano. That means when you play a real piano but you've played a keyboard for years, it's not the same thing, your fingers are not trained and strong enough as you have been playing "an easy piano". It is, for example, as you've been playing a violin that autotunes itself, so when you play a real violin it's more difficult as you've not really been playing on the real instrument. Not to mention a piano has 3 pedals, the keyboard 0 or 1. In the end, we had to buy a piano. So, if you want to practice seriously not only for fun, a real piano is needed. I know a piano is expensive, but you can always rent one. Or buy one with installments. There are good economic pianos (try Yamaha). My suggestion is an upright piano, which doesn't take too much space. It's gonna need care though and a piano tuner has to tune it from time to time. If you are just starting, my suggestion is to start with a keyboard to see if it's really your thing. Don't buy a piano if you don't seriously want to play it. You can also see if there are places in which you can play a piano, like a conservatory in which if you subscribe you can go there, rent a room with a piano and play for some time.
    Last edited by Amadea; Apr-24-2021 at 22:18.

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    Senior Member Amadea's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David born 1950 View Post
    Well, of course I am not bold enough to state that electronic keyboards should be used for actual performance. And your assessment that electronic keyboards are lighter, dynamically, needs to be the start of another question: WHY can't they be built to match the dynamics of a standard piano?

    When I was eleven (1961) my piano teacher, Linda Cappabianca, in Stamford CT, presided over the visiting of Artur Rubenstein. Of course we were all enthralled to be seeing him perform in his recital. I will never forget the following as long as I live:

    After the concert, my teacher was talking to him in another room. His piano was still on the stage and everyone had left. I sat at his piano and started playing the compositions I had been practicing from my piano lessons. To this day, I cannot fully understand why, but it was SO MUCH EASIER to play on his piano rather than on the Wurlitzer spinet that my parents had at that time. (About a year later we acquired a used Steinway, I believe model L, from a recommendation from my piano teacher. It cost only $2,000 and was in perfect condition.)

    But I will never forget how the notes 'fell into place' so easily on Rubenstein's piano. And, to this day, I do not fully understand just why. But, perhaps, dynamics is all important here. It was pure joy to play it. - David Lyga
    I think because to support realistic piano keys, you need a strong wood structure. A keyboard cannot support that weight. For the sound, well, a piano has strings, no electronic device can replicate well enough a real string. It's simply impossible for tecnology at the moment. Also, it can happen that keys on a piano might be less high or losen, so it feels easier to play.
    Last edited by Amadea; Apr-24-2021 at 22:27.

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    Junior Member David born 1950's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amadea View Post
    I think because to support realistic piano keys, you need a strong wood structure. A keyboard cannot support that weight. For the sound, well, a piano has strings, no electronic device can replicate well enough a real string. It's simply impossible for tecnology at the moment. Also, it can happen that keys on a piano might be less high or losen, so it feels easier to play.
    Well, this is what I was driving at when I said that I had played on Rubenstein's piano. The Wurlitzer spinet that my parents had at the time had a very weak action. The boldness, yet ease, which Rubenstein's piano had made it much easier for me to play his concert grand! Oddly, a deficient piano to practice on was beneficial for learning the technique! What is trying to manifest between the lines in all this is: Practicing on a weaker piano for me was actually beneficial for being able play on a 'proper' piano. Why? I don't know, but the following paragraph illuminates this and, to me, makes sense.

    I would love to hear from someone who at least partially, agrees with this assessment. It is a bit like practicing on a piano which forces one to try harder to achieve the notes and tone. This extra effort allows one 'to overreach' one's usual efforts. Then, when placed before a perfect piano, that 'overreaching' will prove to have been very wise time spent.

    I know that this sounds, on the surface, counter intuitive, but when you really think about it, it does make sense. It is a bit like a person walking around carrying weights, then, when the weights are removed, normal walking becomes much easier. - David Lyga
    Last edited by David born 1950; Apr-25-2021 at 15:41.

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    I think I now have a better understanding of the point you're making, which seems to boil down to the fact that you had to press harder on the keys of the spinet to get an adequate volume of sound than you did when playing Rubinstein's piano. However, I'm afraid your argument that this makes it unnecessary to have practised on a piano before playing one still seems dubious to me. For one thing the piano's touch will be different, as the rest of us have said above, and for another you are still not going to be able to get the right musical nuances out of a keyboard, but instead will have to import them from scratch when you actually sit down at a real piano. They are essentially different instruments and need to be treated as such, IMO of course.
    Last edited by Animal the Drummer; Apr-25-2021 at 16:11.

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    Senior Member pianozach's Avatar
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    There are some sophisticated keyboards that mimic pianos quite well.

    The technology has improved considerable in the last 60 years. The first touch sensitive keyboards would have limited "sensitivities", so you'd play and only have a few volume dynamics, but now it's pretty cool the way you can get multiple volumes for every key.

    The Alesis Concert 88-key Digital Piano is a great value at $269.00. Semi-weighted keys.

    Even better is the Yamaha DGX-660 at $799.

    Best may very well be the YAMAHA CP88 STAGE PIANO. $2500

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    If I can add my 2 cents worth to this discussion, not from a piano players perspective (I play a keyboard) but from a woodworkers perspective (antique refinishing and repair), I think that sound is reflected differently against wood. A piano contains a tremendous amount of wood structure which I think affects the sound of the struck string and thereby the amplification of this sound and other technical aspects to which I am not capable of speaking to. A keyboard is not constructed to perform this function; therefore, no keyboard can truly duplicate a piano's sound.

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    Senior Member pianozach's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Festus View Post
    If I can add my 2 cents worth to this discussion, not from a piano players perspective (I play a keyboard) but from a woodworkers perspective (antique refinishing and repair), I think that sound is reflected differently against wood. A piano contains a tremendous amount of wood structure which I think affects the sound of the struck string and thereby the amplification of this sound and other technical aspects to which I am not capable of speaking to. A keyboard is not constructed to perform this function; therefore, no keyboard can truly duplicate a piano's sound.
    Well, yes and no.

    Yes, it's true that with a real piano you have 88 notes all coming from a slightly different sound source. The sound waves all reverberate against the sound board from slightly different angles, and bounce up against the top of the piano differently. But a grand piano sounds different when the lid is closed, as opposed to when it's propped open, and we don't complain that it doesn't sound "right".

    Modern digital [high-end] pianos use sound samples of real pianos in stereo, so you're actually reproducing the sound of a real piano when you play. The only difference is, of course, the dynamic action, and that the sound direction is replicated in stereo.

    I'm betting that in a blind audio test (of course, on a sound system) many people couldn't tell the difference. I'd wager that unless you are comparing an unamplified piano against a top-end digital piano, many people would not be able to correctly identify which is which.

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    Senior Member Pat Fairlea's Avatar
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    As a rubbish and arthritic amateur, I'm content with a Roland digital, having originally learned on an Aiello upright. No, the Roland doesn't sound quite like a well-tuned concert grand, but it stays in tune, I can transpose it up and down to suit the voice if Mrs Pat decides the composer pitched the song in the wrong key AND, above all, I can play on headphones so only I have to suffer.
    Yes, I would love to play a Steinway regularly but reality often requires pragmatism.

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    I have a Native-Instruments 88 (weighted keys) and a bunch of software. My favorite piano sounds are from Pianoteq. I can have a modern Steinway or a historic Pleyel! I'm fooled by the sound, but the weighted keys don't feel right. It doesn't feel strange when I play a real one though, but I'm a pretty bad piano player...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pat Fairlea View Post
    As a rubbish and arthritic amateur, I'm content with a Roland digital, having originally learned on an Aiello upright. No, the Roland doesn't sound quite like a well-tuned concert grand, but it stays in tune, I can transpose it up and down to suit the voice if Mrs Pat decides the composer pitched the song in the wrong key AND, above all, I can play on headphones so only I have to suffer.
    Yes, I would love to play a Steinway regularly but reality often requires pragmatism.
    I like the Roland digital pianos too, and my mother has enjoyed hers into her nineties for the same reasons as you.
    Last edited by Roger Knox; May-02-2021 at 01:33.

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