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Good electric keyboards for beginner piano students


I am a piano teacher who has always taught on upright or grand pianos. Lately I have received calls from prospective students who want to buy an electric keyboard before they invest in an acoustic instruments. Any suggestions for good electric keyboards?
November 18, 2008 @12:26am

I don't know your location (which would be of interest only in that some products are not available everywhere), but:
I am a piano student who uses an electronic keyboard. For that matter, my instructor (who is a concert pianist) now has both an acoustic and electronic in his studio. He uses an electronic at home - since he is single, living in an apartment, and it is impossible for him to play an acoutic without complaint from others in the apartment building. I helped him in obtaining the instrument he uses, which is a Yamaha Nocturne. His comment is that it is not ideal, he still needs to go to a local church and use their Steinway for the last preparation, but it is good enough to carry him 90% of the way.
Basic requirements for beginners: Needs to be a weighted keyboard action, it is impossible to develop touch sensitivity on a non-weighted instrument. Since no company at present makes a weighted action smaller than 76 key, this means 76 or 88 keys. Truthfully, the feel of the action is more important in learning classical piano than the sound of the instrument (although most all current electronics are sampled from high quality grand pianos and sound at least better than the average spinet acoustic. A functioning sustain pedal is also a requiement. Instruments of this quality can be purchased new in the US for about $400 up, from Yamaha, Korg, Casio, Kurzweil, Roland, and others.
Requirements for intermediate pianists: Similar to above, but I would add a full complement of pedals, una corda, sostenudo, and sustain. The electronic response will not be identical to a top notch acoustic grand, but will be close enough in most instances to allow the student to develop, especially in pre-Romantic period music. Although some instruments support "half-pedaling" it is still a two-step process rather than with many shadings of pedaling. This is unlikely to be a problem until the student is working in early advanced or advanced literature.
The question comes up: stage piano type or something that looks like a traditional piano. Both types can be used, although it is a bit harder to find triple pedal assemblies that plug in to the stage piano type. The units that look like a traditional piano are built in both vertical and grand style cabinets. Kurzweil's best home unit is built into an actual Young Chang grand cabinet, and (when closed up) it is difficult to discern that it is not an acoustic by apperance. I personally prefer the stage piano type with separate amplification, since I play in several ensembles and transport my instruments accordingly.
I personally would love to have a Bosendorfer in my living room but I have several reasons that has not happened (financial, enough room to put the instrument without moving everything else out, and difficulty in my small town of getting a skilled technician to keep it playing correctly.) Instead, I have a Kurzweil PC2X, with triple foot pedal assembly and the needed amplfication. My wife, grandaughter, and myself all use this instrument in our practice. The wife and myself are beginning level 5 material. My shop/studio has the newest Kurzweil PC3X into a computer digital audio workstation with proper monitors. I also have a 61key Kurzweil 2661 for traveling gigs, and two older Kurzweils (K2000VP and PC2) at church, where I play with the worship team. My total financial investment in all of them might buy one of the most modestly priced Chinese acoustic grands.
I don't want to mislead - electronic instruments are still a compromise. However, most of us HAVE to make compromises at least to some extent. The over 50 year old Wurlitzer spinet that is in the studio at the music store where we take lessons has a lousy action, uneven keys, horrid tone - and is no where near as inspiring to play as any of my electronic instruments.
Interestingly, Bosendorfer has made an electronic instrument that is full world class concert performance ready, although it has not yet been released. With the change in ownership to Yamaha, I don't know if it will be released. They use the actual action of an Imperial Bosie with electronic sensors that are accurate to millionths of a second, into a quite high powered computer system with samples of an actual Imperial grand. The original intent was to make an instrument that could be carried by a world-class pianist for practice and set up in the hotel room. If it is released, the price will be quite significant, but it may finally put to rest the argument that an electronic can never feel nor sound as good as the "real thing."
November 20, 2008 @12:14am

excellent post Jim..........
I current sport the Yamaha XS, Korg M3 and Roland Fantom G. They all have excellent piano sounds. Lot's of people complain about the piano sounds of all three, yet, the real piano's most of us can afford can't compete with these electronic keyboards.
I would caution people that a great sounding piano sample will sound bad if not ran through a decent monitoring system.
November 20, 2008 @03:08pm

With the holidays coming up, Wal Mart will start to carry some entry level keyboards - both Yamaha and Casio. When I started 13 years ago, this was where I got my first keyboard, which barely sounded like a piano. But things have come a long way since then, and even the "Wal Mart special" keyboards are decent. The sound is much more realistic, the keys, while not weighted, are at least touch sensitive, and if they don't come with a sustain pedal, they at least have a jack to hook one up (you can pick up a cheap one at a place like Radio Shack). They are also MIDI capable, which you may find useful in the future. My advice is to get the Yamaha, not the Casio. And if you're tempted to pick one up that has light up keys, I can tell you those don't help very much. Los Angeles Piano Teachers
March 2, 2009 @07:18pm