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How far can I get on a mid-range digital piano?


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#1 EllieD

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 07:16

Just wondering what you lovely piano teachers think about this?

 

Two years ago I bought a mid range digital piano (Yamaha CLP545, about £1,600), thinking it would take me to maybe Grade 7 and that that would take a few years ... as it turns out, I've taken to it so much I already am playing Grade 7 pieces! Which is great, but I wonder if a mid-price digital is going to be able to reproduce accurately enough what an acoustic can do when I get to pieces much beyond this level.

 

So far, I haven't found that it's holding me back in any way. My only criticism is that the notes in the higher octaves have much less resonance and tone than even my sister's very cheap acoustic, but maybe this is an issue with all digitals (does anyone know?).

 

If I had known how quickly I would advance, I would probably have opted for the next price up on digital pianos. Do I need to think about upgrading and / or thinking about how to get an acoustic in the house without worrying about being heard by neighbours? Or is it possible to advance to Grade 8 and maybe a bit further with an inexpensive digital?

 

I'd really appreciate anyone's views on this.

 


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#2 Dorcas

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 09:57

Grade 8 on a mid range digital piano is feasible.  If noise is an issue, you could consider investing in a better digital.  If you use head phones, adjust the volume so that you can hear a normal conversation whilst wearing and playing, to avoid hearing damage.  As your digital will not have had heavy usage, you should be able to consider part-exchange with a reputable piano dealer.  Don't forget, with acoustics, there is the practise or una corda pedal, which reduces the level of noise.   I live in a terraced house, and found that when I had the volume turned down, the neighbours complained about not being able to hear me or my students playing!!!!  I also get requests too.  Digitals have come on a long way, and although not the same as an acoustic, they are a decent substitute.   I would get in touch with your local piano shops and dealers and research different brands, acoustics versus digitals.  Whatever you do, take your time about it.  I have had an acoustic in the past, and to be honest, I would not be able to teach the hours I do, unless I used a digital.  I am going to be in a position to move next year, and will be looking for somewhere where I can build a sound proofed studio in the garden.  I plan on treating myself to a beautiful acoustic piano.


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#3 KathyB

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 10:56

I did grade 8 no problem with a 30 year old clavinova CVP8.
I guess by today’s standards it would drop off the bottom of even the cheap end of digital pianos.
I now loan that instrument to a pupil. ????
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#4 jpiano

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 11:23

I have taught students who have passed the highest grades (with merits and distinctions) who have digital pianos. I teach on a digital- i live in a mid-terraced house and my teaching hours would not be possible on an acoustic. We're hoping to be in a position to move over the next year or so and will be looking for a detached house for my teaching with more parking as well. But my digital has allowed me to build a successful teaching business at home over the last 20 years.

 

An interesting issue I've noticed in a few pupils with acoustic pianos in houses with near neighbours is a tendency to avoid using arm weight and a style of playing that is very quiet and limited to the surface of the keys. These do tend to be adult pupils- I don't think children tend to worry about noise and disturbing the neighbours!I would actually rather a pupil practice with headphones and feel that they have the freedom to produce the sound they need to rather than tiptoeing through the tulips. It's not ideal the world we live in- I think people are less tolerant than in previous eras. 


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#5 HelenVJ

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 11:26

Congratulations on your speedy progress, Ellie - reaching Grade 7 in 2 years is amazing! What level were you at when you began?

Of course it's feasible to get to Grade 8 and beyond using a digital - many players do. Just, if you progress to playing the bigger Chopin, Rachmaninov, Debussy pieces etc, you will miss a lot in terms of tone and resonance, and even the best weighted keys are not going to give quite the same feel, in my experience.  Also your ears will become acclimatised to the artifical tuning of even the best top-quality state of the art digital. Personally, I really dislike playing a digital for any length of time, but many pianists don't have an issue with it.

I've been very fortunate with my neighbours over the years, but I believe these days you can get new acoustics with headphones. I'm not quite sure how that works!


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#6 Clovis

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 11:29

Thinking beyond exams – what kind of music do you like playing? If it's Baroque and Classical, then a digital will serve you very well, but if Debussy and Messiaen are your thing, then you will certainly be looking for an acoustic.


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#7 Hildegard

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 11:36

 I believe these days you can get new acoustics with headphones. I'm not quite sure how that works!

 

A bar stops the hammers striking the strings and instead the hammers trigger electronic samples audible through headphones. So basically the piano is switchable between acoustic and digital.


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#8 ejw21

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 11:38

Hi EllieD, congratulations on your quick progress! If you're happy with the CLP545 then there's no reason to upgrade immediately. One thing you might want to consider is having the opportunity to practise regularly (e.g. say fortnightly or more often) on an acoustic if there's anyone near you that rents practice space. I found that having a regular opportunity to play an acoustic grand, even an oldish one, really helped - I have a CLP535, recently superseded by an acoustic but which I still use for headphones practice. 7am is too early for my OH!

 

You don't say what style of house you have, but one reason I stuck to digitals for so long was living in terraced houses...


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#9 zwhe

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 12:14

You should have no problem getting to grade 8, but diploma level might be a problem unless you have access to an acoustic as well. I wouldn't get a new piano until you have reached the limits of this one - by then you will have a better idea of what it is you are looking for. Instead, I would open a savings account - the more you have in it, the better the piano you will be able to get.


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#10 EllieD

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Posted 18 June 2019 - 14:04

Thank you everyone for all your helpful comments! I will carry on with my Yamaha for now, then, but when I get the chance I think I may spend a bit of time trying the various different pianos out in my local music shop.

 

Congratulations on your speedy progress, Ellie - reaching Grade 7 in 2 years is amazing! What level were you at when you began?

 

Thank you - yes, I am really thrilled!! I hadn't played the piano for more than 20 years before starting again, and before that I was largely self taught - all I'd done was learn pieces by memory, painstakingly, bar by bar, so I hadn't really learned technique and skills of phrasing, articulation etc. No doubt my speedy progress, though, was helped by the fact that I had previously learned the oboe to a high standard, and although I also haven't played that for 20 odd years, I guess the musicianship skills I learned have not deserted me.

 

Clovis - that's a good point. My musical tastes are definitely taking me to early Romantic - Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Chopin especially so far. Though I do like to have a broad view of things and would always try something different. I ended up playing a Blues version of "To a Wild Rose" with my teacher a few months back, and that was great fun! 

 

Ejw - I live in a semi, but there is little barrier to sound between houses. I could possibly have an acoustic in the small bedroom upstairs as that doesn't join on to next door, though I might have to smile very nicely indeed to get piano delivery people to take it upstairs!!


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#11 semplice

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Posted 19 June 2019 - 00:06

HelenVJ and Clovis make an excellent point ... that is, playing on a digital piano will be fine for some repertoire but will be limiting for others. So I think it is possible if you and the teacher are willing to work within this limitation. 

 

I have taught a student with a good quality digital piano (Yamaha clavinova) who was playing a little below your standard. While, I could work with issues of the touch of the keyboard he was never able to manage fractional pedalling on my acoustic. Maybe the pedals on digital pianos have improved? Anyway, something to think about if you decide to upgrade to another digital piano. Well done on your progress so far! 


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#12 corenfa

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Posted 20 June 2019 - 11:56

You should have no problem getting to grade 8, but diploma level might be a problem unless you have access to an acoustic as well. I wouldn't get a new piano until you have reached the limits of this one - by then you will have a better idea of what it is you are looking for. Instead, I would open a savings account - the more you have in it, the better the piano you will be able to get.

Seconded. I could not learn some of the stuff I wanted to, the way I wanted to, on my digital piano. Things like tone and touch I simply couldn't learn on the digital.

Before I got my acoustic piano I had the good fortune to play at an event in Steinway Hall. Many pianists played on that day. I got someone to record my performance and when I listened to it, it sounded like I was playing a digital piano. I had variations in volume but no variations in tone colour, and when the instrument in question is a Steinway grand, it's not the instruments fault. Plenty of the other pianists did manage to get different tone colours out of that very expensive piano.

I'm currently working towards my diplomas- maybe technically I might be able to pass without displaying much variation in tone colour but that's not how I want to play.
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#13 ma non troppo

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Posted 20 June 2019 - 13:02

That hits the nail on the head. Pianists who only play on digital pianos often sound very two dimensional when they play an acoustic piano - I hear it a lot. Generally, the better the piano you play, the more you can get out of other pianos. It's about responsiveness to touch.
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#14 fsharpminor

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Posted 20 June 2019 - 13:07

I am very surprised by some of the replies here.  I really think by Grade 8 you should be playing an acoustic, particularly for Romantic and later repertoire. Youmight be OK with Baroque and Early Classical.


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#15 ejw21

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Posted 20 June 2019 - 14:49

Thank you everyone for all your helpful comments! I will carry on with my Yamaha for now, then, but when I get the chance I think I may spend a bit of time trying the various different pianos out in my local music shop.

 

Congratulations on your speedy progress, Ellie - reaching Grade 7 in 2 years is amazing! What level were you at when you began?

 

Thank you - yes, I am really thrilled!! I hadn't played the piano for more than 20 years before starting again, and before that I was largely self taught - all I'd done was learn pieces by memory, painstakingly, bar by bar, so I hadn't really learned technique and skills of phrasing, articulation etc. No doubt my speedy progress, though, was helped by the fact that I had previously learned the oboe to a high standard, and although I also haven't played that for 20 odd years, I guess the musicianship skills I learned have not deserted me.

 

Clovis - that's a good point. My musical tastes are definitely taking me to early Romantic - Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Chopin especially so far. Though I do like to have a broad view of things and would always try something different. I ended up playing a Blues version of "To a Wild Rose" with my teacher a few months back, and that was great fun! 

 

Ejw - I live in a semi, but there is little barrier to sound between houses. I could possibly have an acoustic in the small bedroom upstairs as that doesn't join on to next door, though I might have to smile very nicely indeed to get piano delivery people to take it upstairs!!

Lol I have a town house semi and my piano had to get upstairs. Premium on the delivery fee because of using a specialist mover and the 3 men who delivered took the front panels and key cover off. Took them about 40 minutes. I studiously wasn't watching... but they did do a very good job. Something to bear in mind for your piano savings fund :)


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