Ackerson Music Lessons

Choosing a Piano

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There are a lot of options to decide upon when choosing a piano. The first of which is whether to buy a digital piano or an acoustic piano. Below is some information on both types. Hopefully it will help you choose the right piano for you.

Digital Pianos

A digital piano is a great choice if you don’t have a lot of money to spend. You’ll have the option of turning the volume down to practice at night. It’s also great for making recordings and is very portable for gigs.

If you choose to buy a digital piano, you’ll want to make sure it has the following options:
-full keyboard with 88 keys
-full size keys (narrow keys are nice if you have small hands, but will make it difficult to adjust when playing on a regular size piano for performances and lessons)
-weighted / touch sensitive keys (changes volume based on the pressure used to press the key)
-some resistance (but not too much) to pressing a key down will help develop finger strength and make it easier to change dynamics
-Ability to add a sustain pedal
-A high polyphony. The higher it is the better it is. This is how many notes the piano can play at one time.

Acoustic Pianos

An acoustic piano is an excellent choice if you can afford it. The sound and feel of an acoustic can be amazing. It’s perfect for developing finger strength and you have more control over dynamics. Most serious pianists will eventually want an acoustic piano.

The best acoustic pianos will not have any plastic parts, which wear out or break sooner. Their case will be made out of veneered wood, not plywood, hardboard, or compressed sawdust. The pedals will be silent and work smoothly. If you choose to buy an acoustic piano, keep that in mind as well as the following when making your choice.

Structure & Mechanics

Make sure the piano is structurally and mechanically free of problems.

-Inspect the soundboard for cracks. This is the large board the strings are strung across.
-There should be 2 strings per key for the lower notes and 3 for the higher.
-Play every key to see if any of them stick, buzz, rattle, or don't make any sound
-Make sure the pedals work and don't stick. If you play a few keys while holding the right pedal down, the sound should keep playing when you let go of the keys. If you play a few keys while holding down the left pedal, the sound should be quieter than when you play without the pedal pressed.

Touch & Tone

Sit down and play several pianos. Not all pianos will sound or feel the same . Take your time, relax, listen to each piano and decide which one sounds and feels right to you.

-Every piano has a different sound. Some are softer than others, some are louder, some have a brighter tone, while others have a warmer tone.
-The feel or touch of a piano is basically the resistance the keys give when you press them. You don't want the keys to be too easy or too hard to press down. If there is too much resistance, a beginner, especially a child, will find it hard to play. If there is too little resistance, the player will have a hard time controlling how loud and soft they can play.

Sizes

Below is a list of sizes available for acoustic pianos and a brief description. Generally, the longer or taller a piano is, the better the sound it will have and the more expensive it will be.

Vertical Pianos

35" - 39" tall
Called spinets, these are the smallest and least desirable size of piano. The sound is not very good due to the drop action hammers and the shortness of the soundboard and strings.

40" - 43" tall
Called consoles, these have 2 options, drop action or direct blow action. Direct blow action is better.

45" - 48" tall
Often found in homes and schools, the string lengths and soundboards are comparable to a very small grand.

49" - 52" tall
Often found in professional studios and schools, these are the tallest vertical pianos. They have a string length and soundboard comparable to that of a small grand. The tone quality is second only to the grand's.

Horizontal Pianos (Grand Pianos)

Under 5' long
Smallest grand, some tone quality is given up.

5'6" - 6' long
Commonly found in homes, this size has a better tone quality than the smaller grand.

6' - 7' long
Mostly found in teaching studios.

7' - 9' long
Usually found in concert halls, recording studios, and theatres.