I have designed the following post to be of reference predominantly to the parents of my students who are contemplating buying or hiring a new piano or digital keyboard.
I’ve been excited by how many parents have asked me about this in the last 6 months and so I provide this information as a way of helping you get started on this exciting journey!
As you are no doubt aware, cheaper keyboards with unweighted keys and with no pedals are only suitable for the very first semester’s piano study for a new student (even that’s pushing it!!). After this time, it is vital that students have regular access to either a real piano or a digital piano with fully-weighted keys (keys that feel like a piano to touch and where you can’t fit your finger under the key) and at least one, but preferably three, pedals.
A properly weighted keyboard is absolutely VITAL for a student to learn the correct touch and to practise dynamic changes. In addition, pedals very soon become as important to playing the piano/keyboard as the keys!
PS. As cool as they may be, iPads are not suitable for piano practice!
I realise that purchasing a piano is a considerable investment (second-hand pianos start around $3000-$4000 for reasonable older ones and new or reconditioned ones start around $8000+) so I’ve put together this information for you to consider with your family and to provide some suggestions for keeping costs down as much as possible.
Without a doubt, my first preference for your child is a real, acoustic piano.
You simply cannot beat the touch, tone and beauty of the real thing, as much as the keyboard companies might try to convince you! For beginner and school students, starting on a real piano that is in tune and in good condition is the best start to successful musical development.
I’ve had a good experience with students buying from Lyra Pianos off Auburn Rd in Burwood and I bought my own Kawai from Ian at Pat’s Music, cnr Centre and Warrigal Road Oakleigh Sth. Another place I’m considering using when we upgrade the piano at school is Melbourne Piano Sales in Richmond.
These guys apparently buy the second-hand stock from the big schools such as MLC, Scotch, etc. after a couple of years and they have a good reputation, although I’m yet to visit. I will update this post when I’ve checked them out!
There are, of course, many more entirely reputable piano showrooms around Melbourne, but I haven’t had the personal experience with them yet.
For real pianos, I’m a big fan of Kawai (my piano at home is a K3) and Yamaha is what all the schools and universities use because they have great tone and last forever.
The one I teach on at school is a 40-year-old Yamaha U1 and, although it has lost some of its top-end sparkle, it is still a great teaching and practice instrument. Please avoid cheaper brands such as Beale which are particularly poor quality Chinese instruments built very cheaply and with a very bad action (not to mention everything else).
The next best option, if you don’t have the finances or physical space for an acoustic piano, is to purchase a good-quality digital piano with full-size (88 key) keyboard, weighted action and pedals (at least one damper pedal, preferably all three pedals).
For something close to the school, speak to Mike Kelly @ Billy Hydes in Blackburn. Current deals that I believe are good quality are: Kawai KDP80 with Case, Roll Down Lid and 3 pedals: $1499. Roland FP4 stage piano with speakers: $1869.
Or for something cheaper, the Yamaha T95 Stage Piano with speakers $939. The stage pianos are more portable and will need a separate stand.
If you’re still unsure about buying, you can always hire. Here are some options:
The most important thing when buying or hiring is that the student plays the piano first and is absolutely 100% happy with the sound and feel of the instrument as they’ll be the ones spending all the time with it, regardless of what sales people might say!! It’s also very important to get an adjustable padded bench so that the student is always sitting at the correct height.
I hope this helps get you started. If you would like my guidance, I’m more than happy to meet you and your child at a piano showroom when they have selected a couple of instrument that are their favourites. I can then assess my own ‘feel’ of the instrument and give you guidance on price, etc.
Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular TopCast show, blogs regularly at topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, California Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.
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