Buying a Piano or Electronic Keyboard

Jocelyn helps you decide which is best for you.

When looking for an instrument for your child who is taking lessons, an acoustic piano is always preferable to an electronic keyboard.

The touch, sound and visual sense of a real 88-key piano is needed for the full appreciation of studying and making music. Also, a piano looks beautiful in your home, often increases in value over time and becomes a family heirloom.

Shopping for an Electronic Keyboard

That said, an electronic keyboard can still be an affordable option for a beginning student. The word keyboard refers to the black and white keys on a piano, organ, harpsichord or other keyboard instrument. This word is also used to indicate the entire electronic instrument.

Make sure it is not a "toy." The keys must be the same size as a real piano. A "full-size keyboard" is often a misnomer; the individual keys may be full-sized, but the length of the keyboard is often only a few octaves compared with the acoustic piano's 7+ octaves. (The distance of an octave can be measured with an outstretched adult hand.)

While a professional musician may need the many features that an expensive keyboard offers, a child's needs are simpler. You can invest less than $150 in a 4- or 5-octave keyboard (3 octaves are just not enough). Casio and Yamaha make good 49- and 61-key models (you won't need 88 keys to start).

Plan on additional costs for the following optional accessories:

  • AC adaptor
  • batteries
  • headphones
  • foot (sustain) pedal
  • bench

Electronic keyboards are portable and can be used on vacation or at a relative's home. Your child will have fun with all the extra effects and features that come built in

Chris (pictured above) showed me two good keyboards in the $80-100 range. He or anyone else at Guitar Center (615-297-7770) near 100 Oaks can help you.

Shopping for an Acoustic Piano

If you decide to purchase a real acoustic piano, you have two choices:

  • vertical (upright) pianos range in height from spinet, console, and studio to upright grand;
  • horizontal (grand) pianos range in length from baby, parlor and so on up to the 9-foot concert grand.

Most people are surprised to learn how easy it is to find an excellent used piano. Pianos are not like mattresses or even cars. You can find a beautiful pre-owned instrument that meets your family's needs without much risk.

Pianos range from less than $100 to $80,000 and higher. A middle-income family looking for a decent upright could find one for $750 - $1200. Expect to pay more through a store or dealer (for sales tax, moving, tuning, guarantees, etc.). You can also rent to own.

If you're shopping for a used piano by telephone, ask the seller these specific questions:

Research the best manufacturing eras of the several well-known top brands (Steinway, Yamaha, Baldwin, etc.)
Larger usually indicates higher quality, but not always.
Similar to fine wine, an older, antique instrument is sometimes more desirable and valuable than newer models.
Pianos come in a variety of furniture styles, finishes and colors.
Minor scratches may not be important, but day-glow orange and broken legs are.
Sometimes an indication of quality, but not always.
Humidity and temperature extremes are of great concern.
The three strings which make up the A above middle C should be tuned to vibrate at 440 cycles per second. Click on the A-440 button while asking seller to play this note over the phone. Does it match?
All clues as to how easy it will be to bring and keep up to pitch.

In person, make sure you like the way your piano looks, feels and sounds. You may prefer to hire a technician to help you shop. You will probably also need to hire a professional piano mover and tuner once the piano has settled in the environment of your home.

Rick Fretter of Fretter's Piano Services (615-227-3062) can do all three. He also has good used pianos for sale from time to time. We also highly recommend Jonah Kraut of Jonah's Piano Tuning Service (615-686-6886) for specialized piano work.

Please feel free to call me at 615-383-8516 if you need help or have any questions.

Good luck and enjoy your musical instrument!

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Thank you so much for working with Mack this year. He has improved so much and he loves guitar! You do a great job with him. He needs direction and consistent discipline and he repsonds VERY WELL to you! It is amazing to see his interest and focus as you…

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Thank you so much for teaching my son… the guitar. Will loved taking lessons and I enjoyed watching his growing appreciation for music. I enjoyed the recital and appreciate all the hard work you have done. Thank you so much for all you added to our lives.

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