It is high time I wrote to thank you for all the tips and encouragement you continue to send my way.
I am 76, and have never really touched a piano since I was about 10 – until I started to learn properly, in January of this year. You see, my 2 very young American grandchildren had just started having lessons, and my wife’s friend had just started too, so I decided I had some hope!
I started off by buying a similar keyboard (Yamaha EZ 200) to eldest my son’s family, and found the Zebrakeys website very helpful with FREE lessons and helpful resources for real beginners, and then I got tempted by a recommendation for the
Rocket Piano course – I can’t remember if it was you who recommended it, but if not it was you who inspired me to take my study further..
Anyway, I am now approaching the end of the Beginner’s book (about 160 pages).. The musical exercises are great, and I’ve just done all of them except for the Jam Tracks which I found more difficult. I’ve now gone back to try these again before I start on the Intermediate book.
One of my difficulties is that my eyesight is deteriorating and I can’t see straight! So I transcribe the music onto manuscript music paper where the vertical scale is increased by a factor of 3 and this helps. I still have difficulty sometimes in judging which line a note is on, but I have devised techniques for helping me round this also.
I really enjoy the original tunes, the course (though I think it needs slight modification in two or three parts) and the feeling that I am making progress – even if it sometimes feels rather slow.
So once again, thank you. Long may you succeed!
Many thanks for the free copy of your Digital Piano Guide which I found extremely helpful, but which raised almost as many questions as it answered, simply because of the huge range of instruments which I did not realized existed, and the wealth of information you have collated from your personal experience.
Having not owned a piano for many years, I wanted to try and re-interest myself in playing, and also perhaps introduce my two small sons aged 5 and 6.
Sadly I did conclude that what I needed was a second hand digital piano as opposed to an ‘real’ piano as, firstly, our small flat has old and uneven floorboards which creak and do not inspire confidence sufficient to be trusted to the weight of a reasonable sized older upright piano in my price range. (A smaller console piano, or cottage type of instrument would probably be too new to be within my budget). Secondly, ‘apartment life’ restricts the amount of noise I can make, as walls and soundproofing are not up to masking the sound of normal levels of playing. Thus I envisaged use of headphones at certain times of day were going to figure significantly. Another reason for my budget limitations is that it would be too great a burden to expect boys to avoid touching the keys and button with sticky fingers fresh out of the biscuit tin, or indeed to satisfy their curiosity as to whether keys will continue to work with lemonade, play-dough or coloured pencil applied liberally. I could not bear the pain of the results of these findings should I have chosen to choose to buy a new instrument at any price.
Your comments regarding the simple tests to apply when choosing a piano are well-founded, and these principles stand firm when buying practically anything which makes a noise or which has a continuous user input into a mechanized function. Like driving a car, it should feel responsive to degrees of touch, and feedback, both mechanical and aural should be pleasing whether driving or as a passenger.
I found the customer comments in forums relating to second-hand purchases particularly enlightening, as I sense that there is a balancing act between personal preferences colouring owners’ recommendations to others, and a need for these piano owners to inwardly justify their choice of instrument. Also, it seems that while the veracity of the piano sound as mimicked by a digital piano can be instantly compared to that of a real acoustic piano, the issue of touch is more or a problem. By this, I mean that we can never really be fooled into believing that what we are playing has real vibrating strings and all the imperfections, harmonics and cabinet resonances which create the magical event of sitting up close to a real piano, whether as a player or listener. In my opinion, part of the experience is that you can feel the wood reacting to the pressed keys and string movements, and hear the subtle mechanical noises of the action and pedal in use.
With these realities in mind, I have bought from a private seller an ancient Kawai 260 piano which has obviously been well cared for with very limited use. There is practically no lost motion or excess lateral play in any of the keys, which look to be regularly spaced with no anomalies. The touch is on the light side, and if graded weight is present it is extremely subtle, or perhaps years away from playing has left me insensitive to this. Sound quality is good, with a decent efficient amplifier and speaker combination to meet my needs. Rigidity of the key bed on its stand was one of my worries but while appearing slightly flimsy, this a very sturdy setup. As far as impersonation of a piano sound goes, this is worse than many I have heard, but better than most of the albeit older technology stage pianos within my experience. I can live with it as most of my playing is via headphones, and I am in process of choosing a pair which give me the best tonal balance to show off the better pianistic sounds of the Kawai (and smooth over the less realistic attributes).
I have had excellent fun over recent weeks with my purchase, as have my sons, and have learned much from the buying experience, in no small way assisted by your free online publications. I was tempted to buy an early ‘90s Yamaha CLP-360 which I viewed and found had a very nice piano sound, if a little bright, but which had very uneven touch, and a few keys with huge lost motion and knocking. Clearly this was a much loved instrument with a lot of playing mileage, and these faults which I found impossible to justify paying to repair. Even with a modest reduction in price, I had to decline: I wonder how many prospective buyers would have been seduced by the sound, and ignored or not noticed the key faults? I now am convinced that the condition of key mechanics is of greater importance than realism of piano sound, given that the buyer’s budget will restrict each of these criteria in some way, unless they have thousands to spend. This would support your advice that in general, a new modestly priced digital piano with a decent guarantee is probably a better bet than an older one even if originally higher priced and better specified. I support this view wholeheartedly, and when funds allow will probably look at purchasing a modest new piano with a more realistic sound, probably a P1 or equivalent.
Many thanks again for some very interesting reading.
I’m currently doing some research on digital pianos. Last week I was in a music store in my city, with the thought of testing the Yamaha YDP-161, which sounded promising from the paper. I told the salesman, that I was looking for a DP with good keyboard and good sound and preferably good looking (“good” in a sense of “as-close-to-a-real-piano-as-possible”). Since I have a keyboard, I don’t need any special sounds and rhythms and stuff. Just the real feel of a piano with a close-to-real sound. I told him that I was aiming for something around 1000€. He just shook his head and said “not possible”.
He showed me the Kawai CA 13, with wooden keys, which was played really nice. It had a real nice touch and sound. After testing it I tested a real piano and it was really close! So I was stunned. But later I also tested the Yamaha YDP-161, and I have to say I was not disappointed either. After his reaction I thought it would be worse.
Now I don’t know which one to buy. In all the reviews in the Internet I read that the YDP-161 is a beginners piano. I want to buy the one-and-only. I don’t want to regret in 3 years that I didn’t pay those extra 700€ for the Kawai. But on the other hand, maybe the YDP-161 will completely satisfy me for the rest of my life.
As I mentioned I have a Keyboard, which I have been playing for 17 years now. Since a few years I started playing mainly piano songs on it, and last year I was abroad playing each week on a real piano. When I came back to playing on my keyboard, it was like playing with a toy.
Therefore now I finally want a digital piano. I’m far from ever being professional, there is no talent in those hands, but I really enjoy doing it and I would like to have an instrument that I can enjoy it with.
After reading all through your book and thinking, Yamaha is the slightly better company then Kawai, I went to the music store and ran back and forth between the Yamaha and the Kawai for two hours and tested them. I had the feeling that all the Yamahas felt about the same, so did the Kawais. There was a major difference in the feel between those brands, but not within those brands, no matter an expensive one or a “cheap” one. I was at the Kawai, I felt home. I went to the Yamaha, it felt weird first but then after a while I felt good as well. I went back to the Kawai, felt home immediately. Back to the Yamaha, weird but later ok. Then I also noticed the sound, which did sound more “full” at the Kawai. After two hours, I was sure that the Kawai is the right instrument for me. So I bought it immediately in that shop. I didn’t want to test it there for hours and then go home to buy online. Also, here I have people to talk to in case there’s something wrong with it (sure, online I would also have people to talk to, but somehow it feels different). And they just come to my place and repair it if something is wrong, online I need to have someone come to take it away, it’s a lot more trouble I guess.
It’s gonna be delivered on Wednesday. I’m expecting to be really happy with it In case I notice that I made a mistake and I’m not as happy as I expect to be, I will write you again. Otherwise, you can use my example as a happy case in your next version of the book, if you like And if you do, please send me a new copy.
Also I wanna thank you a lot for this book, since then I went with a sharpened view into the shop and “really” looked at those pianos. So finally, when I decided for the Kawai instead of the Yamaha, it was against everything everyone has told me. Everywhere I heard, Yamaha is better, music schools use Yamaha and so on … and still I wanted the Kawai. Makes me know, that I decided for the right reasons (feel and sound) and not just because it’s supposed to be the better brand.
Thanks a lot!
I am 76 years old. As a teenager I was quite good – remember being able to play Beethovens Pathetique. After 30 years of not playing I bought a Casio CDP-100 and started out again. I now feel I have played i to peaces and am saving for something better, and your book of 7 things carries just the information, I need.
As for practicing 20 minutes daily: I also bought af thin book by a Danish pianist written for the likes of me. It says: Practice no more than 20 minutes at a time (as a rule several times daily), decide what you want to practice these 20 minutes and stick to it.
It has a wonderful description of each finger, about the 2-finger: It’s a good finger, but lazy. After which I observed, that it’s the damned 2-finger, that always misses a note in a quick scale.
You mock imitating the defects of the acoustic pianos over to rhe digital ones, and I could not agree more. I’ve read about probably a Roland proud of having sampled the pedal noise of a Steinway.
I fully agree with you that plaing on a cheap piano will spoil my techniquie and a lot of more bad things. So I excluded this posibility from the beginng. If I know that the piano is realy good and meet my requirements (not to have many unnecessary features and so be much expensive) I would invest in it. I know that digital pianos are constantly devloping, so I may wait untill a suitable model for me is available.
I saw the rent-to-own program but I noticed it is available only in UK. So this is not an option for me.
There is also another problem: I have to pay customs tax when importing a piano from abroad. So I deside to buy here in Poland. But since the store is far from my town I cannot try the piano, so I have asked for an advice.
Thank you for your help. Whish you success in your business and all other matters.
I have done some more recordings (and more practice, ha ,ha) and can definitely improve the digital piano sound.
I will try out tomorrow. Windows Movie Maker always ruins the original audio. I was able to get round this by recording the audio seperately in Audacity and then overlaying the second audio recording into the Movie Maker project.
The quality of the audio is better but still not perfect, so it is not a solution I want to suggest for your website. The video quality is low here, deliberately. I don’t think this video is good enough for your website, it was just an experiment. I will do more in future.
But that is a cumbersome solution and Movie Maker ruins the audio further if left to save the file on its default settings, you have to increase the mb size to a maximum when saving the final video.
I know how to do everything else, down to specifying the volume levels of the piano, laptop microphone and audio setting and the debut software settings. The last bit is just simply editing the final audio and video in another free software. I think there are codecs that Debut is using and Movie Maker needs. I will investigate the software tomorrow to produce a solution for your piano forum thread.
At the moment I am just ‘toying’ with the idea of buying a digital piano. I’m 65 and like a lot of my friends I was sent to piano lessons as a child. I never excelled – didn’t practice enough! – but enjoyed relaxing at the keyboard. I am not ‘musical’ but with the help of sheet music I can attempt a tune. I bought a 2nd hand Kemble Minx about 25 years ago and sent our two daughters to piano lessons also. They have now left home and I thought I might treat myself. Hopefully I will be able to sell or trade in the Minx.
So by chance I came across our website and your amazing ‘’7 Things You MUST Know Before You Buy A Digital Piano’’ Wow!! It is so readable and informative, thanks, it has helped me a lot – I think!
Having read and studied it with the help of a highlighter I thought I had decided on the Classenti CDP1. However having listening to the sample video I agree with you that the sound is a bit bright. The CDP2 definitely sounds better but is just too expensive.
I remember buying a digital piano made by a certain company that also makes watches and calculators – the keys were really poor and started clicking after a short period of time – the whole keyboard was then replaced but soon exhibited the same symptoms. I complained and the local agent then got me to try their up market model – the keys were much more responsive and quiet, but within a certain half-octave the timbre changed and tuning flattened slightly so you felt you’d changed instruments…then further up scale it changed back again. This model had 2 acoustic piano settings.
The local agent then got me to go to their shop and try the latest model within the range. This model had an even more improved keyboard response, but they’d cut the acoustic piano voices down to one – you’ve guessed it…they kept the one with the same dodgy change in timbre and tuning!
So, I ended up exchanging that make for a Roland HP103 instead! Not perfect, but heaps better.
I really appreciated the free course you provided, it has helped me a lot. I am 68 and have wanted to learn to play for years, I realise that this is a long term have now set myself the challenge to learn to be able to get to play something by the time I am 70!
Your course also clarified for me that I cannot afford an accoustic piano and have settled on a digital piano keyboard for now – if I get better I will have a proper piano for my 70th birthday present!
I have lots of issues, memorising the keyboard – splitting my brain in two when reading music etc.
My keyboard has a built in metronome, it mentions beat and tempo as two separate issues, I need to learn more?????
Thank you again,
Thank you for your very useful guide. It has been extremely helpful.
You clearly have a preference for Yamahas which I can understand from what I have seen myself. But I also have been impressed by the Casio AP 620, which seems to have improved somewhat from when it was originally introduced. I don’t notice much difference in the the key touch with the Yamaha YDP-181 or YDP-V240, but that may just be because I haven’t seriously played piano for years (this will be primarily for my daughter). I also like the feel of the keys on the Casio, and it sounds and looks great. In fact, it looks much better than either of the Yamahas, which have pretty ugly consoles. And I find the sound to be better than the Yamahas.
Unfortunately, it comes with a shorter warranty than the Yamahas, which I find somewhat worrying given the reputation of Casio as a maker of cheaper, lower-quality products. But there is a local store that will sell an upgraded, 3-year warranty with in-home servicing for about $250 (~ 160 pounds).
You are also quite negative about Casios. But I have read many reviews from people who are very happy with it, and many that prefer it to the Yamaha’s. Apparently, Casio has been actively working on improving the quality of its instruments so as to compete with the Yamahas and Rolands. I also notice that you ranked it 6th in it price range, which seems to be a solid rank and not entirely consistent with the criticism you levied on the overall Casio brand. Apparently, the defects in earlier versions of the AP620 have been remedied.
Got a CA93 from Thomann (price good and built a package including better bench, phones, USB, costing no more than the piano itself and less than a “set” – don’t tell). Found your guide very useful. Deciders were sound and sufficient power, audio a touch better than CN43, not bothered about too many other instruments/sounds, or too many bits on control panel. Also prefer the action – not because wooden keys, but the action of the keys, pivot. And not bothered about let-off – I’ll never be that good! Also found some good reviews by independents (not forums) Had a Casio WK-3500 for years and key action is fine for keyboard and if you need long nails for classical guitar as well, but I now want something as close to real thing as I can get for feel/sound, though live in cold comfort farm and a real accoustic would quickly be ruined. And agree that soundboard on a DP apart from aforesaid damp risk, can’t be as accurate as good amp and speakers. If so why need tweeters as well? Can always run over my hi-fi if needed! Did also consider MP10
Those of us who hook up keyboards to our computers are experiencing a problem. The music we record from our keyboards is not faithfully produced by our midi notation software. Someone has come up with a thing called a Midi Bridge. It’s on the internet and is supposed to address this problem. Pro Tools tried to address the problem with their fast track invention. Do you know of a keyboard that can keep the “jitters” from creeping into our attempts at composing music?
Perhaps it isn’t the keyboard or the software causing this problem, but the computer system itself. How do we overcome this? There may be no answer to this. If you get on the internet and look up Midi Bridge, you will see what I’m talking about. This is the only thing I’m wondering about now.
Unfortunately, I live in Medford, Oregon, USA, and cannot meet with you in person, or go to some of your stores to check out some of your pianos. I studied piano/music for about 17 years, from 1955 through 1971. Then the whole “60s/70s thing happened, and drugs became my music. I dropped out of my dream of concert piano, and went into acting/show biz. Now I want to try to get some semblance of my technique and musicality back. I have had an absolutely horrible digital piano to play for the past few years. This Yamaha YPP-50 was a gift, and I had no $$ at that time to purchase a decent piano, acoustic or otherwise. Still though, this piano brought back my love of playing the piano, and I have that to be thankful for.
I lived in London in 1967/68, and was a student for a short time at the Royal College of Music. This stop in London was on my way home from studying in Germany for 1 year, and I was supposed to start college in California, but I fell in love with England and the whole British thing that was going on back then. Hey, the Beetles were still together, what can I say?
So again, THANK YOU! You are a big help to someone who loves music.
I was looking for an E-Piano or Stage Piano. I’m no small kid any more, so I won’t become a Star-Player anymore. But I want to make music on some kind of piano without terrorising my neighbours. And my children (12 and 15 years old) want to play – in the real meaning of playing (like playing cards or playmobil or such games) – it as well, but together with friends and their own instruments – the small one play harp, the big one flutes.
As we don’t have place for a real piano (which ist noisy anyway and can’t be moved by a mother and a child), I decided for an electrical version in smaller size. So I looked around and found the new Casio CDP 120. And your homepage. In the last years my husband bought a lot films and ps2-games in GB, so why not a piano, if it is available for a really good price ? And whlie lokking for that I found this book and thought, it should be read, before buying an instrument for a bigger amount than my daughters’ pocketmoney. So I loaded it on my PC.
But my PC decided, that I shouldn’t read to much english texts and refused to open it. Meanwhile I learned, that he loves pdf-files – and nearly nothing else ….
Nevertheless I finally found two good musicshops here in Berlin (hard to believe but it is still possible to find people in Germany, who know their job and everything belonging to it ! But it’s difficult !). With their help I found the fitting instrument for me: the Yamaha P 95. With three pedals it offers all opportunities I need and the sound is good enough for our ears.
The price one of them offered me is better than of other shops somewhere in Germany, I’m waiting for the offer of the other shop, but I definitely can buy my Yamaha P 95 here in Berlin, what I prefer in case of trouble.
I thank you very much for trying to help me ! I wish you and your family a very good (peaceful) Christmas time and a happy (and healthy) new year !
Carola from Berlin
I would like to thank you for sending the link on how to pick a piano…it was very useful, considering the fact that I have no knowledge whatsoever!
I am from India and I have two kids aged 9 and 6 learning piano. The older kid is going to give grade 2 exams conducted by the Trinity college.
We have so far managed with Yamaha PSR keyboard. I feel it is a good time to pick up a digital piano as my kids are showing a lot of interest in the lessons.
I spoke to couple of Yamaha dealers…the models recommended by them include CLP 430R, CLP430, CLP 330, CLP 320 and Arius CDP 141. I believe CLP 320 & CLP 330 have been recently discontinued am able to get about 10% discount on them.
I also checked out Kawai KDP 80 model about the same price as CLP 330.
Uma from India
The piano is for my 14 year old daughter who is at grade 6. We have just moved from the UK to Madrid and so couldn’t take our UK piano with us. We chose the Yamaha YDP 161 after my daughter compared this and others including similar priced Casio’s. The feel of the keys and weight were a sway, but the reviews from your booklet helped us make the final decision.
I chose a specialist piano shop in Madrid, “Rincon Musical” having shopped around. I have purchased the YDP 161 for 850 Euros (inc stool and headphones, although I have to drive 20 miles to collect from the warehouse as they can’t deliver before Xmas). This equates to about £720 which is much cheaper than I could find in the UK (even though getting delivery to Spain is very difficult and probably costly.
Thank you again for providing good impartial advice. Your comments about being greeted by the pushy salesman stating one brand over another is exactly what we encountered, albeit in a different language, and your booklet helped enormously. Unfortunately we couldn’t give you our custom on this occasion.
Kevin from Madrid, Spain
I have a digital paino, a Roland HP 1500, which I purchased some 12 years ago. I also bought a Clavinova about 8 years ago which is in India. I also owned one of the earliest digital pianos. I forget the name. It was an Italian make (not Bon Tempi) and it must have been around 1974 when I acquired it. I disagree with you regarding a wooded cabinet making no difference. I purchased the Roland before the makers got it into their heads to have wooden casings. It was soon after I had acquired it that I began contemplating covering it with wood. Digital Pianos are okay in their own right, but so far I remain unconvinced that they match the better acoustic models. I did have about four acoustic pianos. One of them was a Bechstein, but being very old and uncared for it would not hold the tuning, and the keys and action were all in a sorry state. Having had the opportunity of, on a couple of occasions, playing on a Bluthner, I have to say I really loved that instrument, and if circumstances permitted that would certainly be the instrument I would love to own.
I recently read your guide about pianos. I found it very helpful, and when I arrived at the shop I knew a couple of things to look for on a piano. I want to buy a digital one, to have it at home, because I am a student, and I need a good digital piano to practice with.
When researching pianos, I found that Yamaha has good reputation. I like the Clavinova CLP 430, and, although it is expensive, I am willing to make an effort if it is worth it. That is why I am writing to you, because I know you are more experienced than I am and are willing to help me make a good decision.
I am a beginner, but I want to have a good instrument to practise on, and I also want it to last, so I prefer to spend a little more now but make sure that the piano will be in perfect condition year after year.
I have also seen the Casio Celviano AP6BP, and I also liked. I am worried, though, because people on the internet say that the keys become “wobbly” after a while.
Both pianos have a similar price in the stores I’ve been.
I am after an upright piano ASAP! I sold my classenti digital piano before Christmas
and I am regretting it to be honest…. I feel so lost with out keys I don’t know
what to do with myself!
(1) The intended instrument must have a very good tonal quality throughout its keyboard range, especially the mid range of notes.
(2) The piano can be either acoustic or digital as far as I’m concerned. However with digital I think it would be necessary to select a piano from the ‘Baby Grand’ range of instruments that are on offer. So far I have no set preferences for any particular make of digital piano, although established makers like Yamaha do hold sway over other makes.
(3) The new piano is to replace my old Technics P330 digital assemble piano (Which incidentally I’v
(4) I’m not in a mad rush to purchase a new piano, although i have decided that this year 2012 is when I will buy another
Thank you very much. My wife is the pianist and her (father’s) old conventional piano is virtually beyond recall now. So, she is considering an electronic one, but wants to carry out research before taking the plunge. Your guide will help her considerably. In the past she has owned a Korg (since passed onto our son, also a very good pianist). She was happy with it, but recognised that she did not use most of the functionality and now wishes to play a machine that sounds as close as reasonably possible to a conventional piano.
We have few dealers in this corner of the world, so if she wishes to visit a dealer (that is when she is ready to take further – she is currently recovering from cataract operations), we would probably have to go down to Manchester, possibly Preston, unless she is content to order on-line.
Either way, I am most grateful for your advice and research and will contact you when my wife is able to make progress.
Thanks once again.
I have been to see various pianos and ended up bidding on e bay for a Kiwai. I will always kick myself for not bidding enough for the first one I went to look at.
Everything about it was right. The nice guy selling it, the good condition. The three foot pedals still had plastic covers on.I bid £500.00 and in the last few seconds someone outbid me by £10.00. It was an all singing all dancing piano. It started me thinking about buying a new one. It is second time around for me and while I was thinking about whether or not I would enjoy playing again and if it justified spending a substantial amount on a new piano my wife casually said why dont I have a look on Gumtree. So thats what I did and can you believe there was an advert for a Kiwai KSP5. There advert said there were a couple of electronic faults with it and this is why he had not had any interest in it, but im a bit handy in that department and after getting it home and taking it in bits and removing various plectrums and rubbish managed to get it going. For an old battle scarred piano ,its a lovely sounding instrument with a good action. Im well pleased with it but to be fair I think if I continue to enjoy playing as much as I have since I bought it, I would perhaps go for a new one or certainly something a lot newer.
I’m currently in the process of working out a budget for a digital piano.
I’m slightly torn between Roland and Yamaha. Last year a music teacher friend
expressed concern about quality control issues she’d encountered with
Yamaha digital and upright pianos. I wonder whether this was just a bad batch.
Sound wise, I’ve always felt that Yamaha were a better bet. I ‘grew up’ using an
ancient Roland for practise. A friend’s even more ancient Clavinova was
easier on the ear.