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Buying a piano

(28 Posts)
lunar1 Mon 27-Oct-14 06:29:42

Ds1 is 6 and has will be starting piano lessons at home after Christmas. Does anyone have advice regarding what to buy for a beginner to learn on?

lavendersun Mon 27-Oct-14 12:30:01

Can you ask his teacher? If I wanted a new piano I would ask my teacher and/or piano tuner where to go. I know that my teacher knows someone who sells good pianos but doesn't have a shop.

I suppose it depends on whether you want a new one, fairly new one or an older one.

I know little about it tbh but suspect it is easier to buy the wrong one if you are buying an old one. Mine is old and was re-conditioned/re-strung about 20 years ago when I bought it. It is lovely, my tuner really likes it (told me not to think about selling it when I considered buying a new (old) one) but the fact that it is so nice is down to luck really as I didn't seek anyone's advice at the time.

JulieMichelleRobinson Tue 28-Oct-14 12:39:44

Speak to the teacher. I have a lot of students who begin on electric/digital pianos - fine up to around grade 5. But I'm fussy about which ones they get and I only tolerate them because a) small flats and b) really bad second-hand pianos. My own teacher made us fork out £3k for a new upright when I started, but I was 11yo and working for grade 7 on another instrument.

mom17 Tue 28-Oct-14 14:23:33

Julie, On your suggestion I booked Yamaha Clavinova 545 and I was also in dilemma to go for acoustic when I am already spending so much but then acoustic comes with its own hassles of tuning etc. so thought its ok to go ahead with digital. Piano would be delivered tomorrow and seeing your comment making me feel " Have I taken a wrong decision ?" as I really don't want to upgrade again after 5'th grade though my DS is still near setp-1/2 as of now. Pls. give your opinion.

JulieMichelleRobinson Tue 28-Oct-14 16:06:53

The Clavinova should be absolutely fine unless your child is headed for conservatoire. When I say "grade 5" I'm thinking of the cheaper digitals. The Clavinovas are top end digitals and the differences with an acoustic probably wouldn't be apparent to anyone who wasn't past grade 8. As a teacher, I can tell you that my upright piano feels noticeably different to even the best digitals, but it also feels different to a Steinway grand. In fact, every piano feels different to every other piano. So you can feel the difference, but you learn to cope with the difference. The only time you would potentially have difficulties is with very fast repeated notes, or possibly at diploma level or above if tackling pieces like Liszt, Chopin or concertos and requiring an enormous level of finesse (rather than 'I can play the notes and get through it).

mom17 Tue 28-Oct-14 16:50:31

Thanks Julie.

stealthsquiggle Tue 28-Oct-14 16:55:21

We got an upright piano from Freecycle. It's a bit elderly and wouldn't take anyone to grade 8, but is more than fine to start on and the piano tuner said he would buy it from us and sell it on if we ever wanted to (but I would feel bad about that - if we do upgrade, I feel I should "pay it forward" by offering it back out on Freecycle). As it happens, DS now does 90% of his practice at school anyway! and mucks around on an old keyboard we were given which lives in his room, so I am very glad we didn't invest a fortune in a new piano.

GlaceCherries Tue 28-Oct-14 16:58:04

Do you have any instrument shops near you? They might have a rental scheme so that you can try before you buy (our local one offsets the rental cost against the purchase price).

Or would you consider something from Freecycle if that's available to you? Do you know that your DCs will definitely commit to learning the piano, so you're already clear that you want the expense of purchasing one?

We ended up buying one from a dealer in London, from the same place that our teacher got theirs.

lunar1 Tue 28-Oct-14 17:02:35

I think I'm completely out of my depth and budget here! I will ask the teacher but she is an honeymoon for the next month which is why we are starting after Christmas.

I am happy to invest money in a good piano if either of my children love it and want to play as they get older, but I was hoping to be able to get something for around £3-400 to start them off.

Is that budget realistic? Does anyone have a link to something suitable? Or is it too small a budget. I was planning to go for an electric piano to start with.

lunar1 Tue 28-Oct-14 17:05:37

Obviously I have no idea if they will commit to it but ds1 has been asking to learn for 2 years and is pretty committed with whichever extra curricular activities he has started.

I can't get a freecycle one as I don't have a car. I will look into rental though, I'm sure they will have a shop in manchester, what sort of price would that cost?

TeenyfTroon Tue 28-Oct-14 17:16:18

I traded my 'proper' piano in for a Roland which cost about £1100 ten years ago. It's lovely, but the 'piano' part is very heavy and the cabinet it's in is not really strong enough for it so has sagged. If you get down and look at the keys end on it looks as if it's smiling!
I complained to Roland after about 5 years and their answer was basically, 'What do you expect with a digital product?'
So you're supposed to upgrade regularly, like a phone. I was not pleased - my old piano would have lasted longer than me and I didn't intend to buy another piano ever!
So just be careful.
There are some pianos which are just horrible to play, so if you go for a real one, I think getting your son's teacher or another pianist to try it out would save you from buying a bad one.
My first piano was a give away and lots of the notes didn't work so my dad mended it and I still loved it. My second was also a giveaway but much better quality. The digital one was the only one I've ever paid for!
Good luck.

lavendersun Tue 28-Oct-14 19:02:16

I would wait if I were you. The teacher might know someone who is just about to upgrade, know of someone who sells nice enough pianos for what you need right now, you don't need anything too swish for now.

You might find someone who wants to get rid of their piano so much they will deliver it - sounds silly but I have seen it happen twice in the last year in a group I belong to.

JulieMichelleRobinson Wed 29-Oct-14 10:09:40

Yep. Wait and ask the teacher.

Mistigri Sun 02-Nov-14 11:21:50

We have a yamaha digital piano - they cost around £500 new but I would guess that second hand ones come up pretty regularly on the usual sites and would be in your budget, if the teacher is OK with that.

We bought ours when my son started piano a while back, he stopped after a year but my daughter recently started using it. She is around grade 5/6 standard and her teacher isn't bothered by her using a digital piano, but she's not working on exams at the moment.

newgirl123 Fri 21-Nov-14 15:46:16

we found a specialist secondhand piano seller - he had about ten to choose from - we chose one that cost about £850 which was one of the cheapest. It should be fine to do the grades on. Also budget £50 a year for tuning. Our piano teacher said big no for electric keyboard.

JulieMichelleRobinson Fri 21-Nov-14 17:07:37

There's a notable difference between a digital piano and an electronic keyboard, but it's always important to check with the individual teacher. I allow digital pianos and even keyboards sometimes, mainly because so many of my students are really young when they begin lessons (the youngest isn't 3 yet). When you're still learning 'this is a high sound, that is a low sound' the finesse of touch isn't so much of an issue. We also live in a place where buying second-hand is not really an option and second-hand instruments wouldn't usually come through a reputable shop. OTOH, I insist on teaching on an acoustic piano, but even I only have an upright (space is an issue!).

Ferguson Tue 30-Dec-14 19:53:25

Hi -

It seems to me there is a great deal of 'snobbishness' around children learning to play any instrument. Do parents REALLY want their child to learn for his/her own sake, or do parents want bask in reflected glory when they perform at their first concert - whether it be at school, or the Albert Hall.

As a TA I taught 'informal' music for around twenty years - introducing children who had keyboards to very basic improvising and making up their own tunes; ten years in primary school with recorder clubs, ran a percussion club for a while, and coached children on percussion to accompany the Christmas 'production' for ten years.

But all of this was for FUN - no ambition or desire to take Grades; that can come later, if a child enjoys making music and is prepared to put in the work.

A digital piano, ideally with weighted keys and 88 of them, (though you can manage with fewer) is quite adequate to start a 6 yr old. Personally, I favour a Keyboard, which can be more fun in the beginning than a piano. Either can be connected to computers for recording or multi tracking. I would steer clear of 'flashing light' tuition systems.

[I have replied many times on this topic, so if you search my name with piano, keyboard etc you can probably read several articles on this.]

PM me if you want more help.

Mistigri Wed 31-Dec-14 11:34:00

My 11 year old just started himself off on a cheap secondhand midi keyboard that was originally bought for his older sister to plug into the iPad for recording purposes. He's learnt some Christmas carols and whizzed through a borrowed set of John Thompson books (1-3) and it's been absolutely adequate for that. He doesn't want lessons though so we don't have teacher requirements to take into consideration.

Ferguson Wed 31-Dec-14 19:02:08

Mistigri - after John Thompson, next check out the Kenneth Baker books - for piano, keyboard, or organ; easy to follow tuition books, with a selection of 'repertoire' books in a wide range of genres.

And people 'into' MIDI and computers can do a vast amount of multi tracking, composing etc.

In due course, if you want to move onto more professional stuff the Sibelius range of software is very comprehensive:

[and if you should be interested in the history of Sibelius Software, I can tell you about its origins]

BackforGood Wed 31-Dec-14 23:04:11

Pianos are regularly offered for free on freecycle.
Or our piano tuner put us in touch with someone who wanted to get rid of one for free, as they were upgrading, after he condemed our previous one.
I would def ask the piano teacher too.

JulieMichelleRobinson Thu 01-Jan-15 01:46:16

It's not always snobbery... A piano and a a keyboard are different instruments. I can't actually teach keyboard very well because I don't cope with all the fancy buttons and stuff.

Also free pianos round here are usually unplayable and offered to people because you have to pay someone to take them awY otherwise.

Mistigri Thu 01-Jan-15 16:30:30

There is an element, if not of snobbery, then at least of lack of realism when it comes to teachers' demands.

How many 6 year olds who start piano are still playing 3-5 years later? The ABRSM stats show a huge fall off in numbers between grades 1-2 and 3-5, and the numbers taking grades 6-8 are tiny. Most beginners will never be good enough for it to really matter. Even reasonably good intermediate players (like my DD who is tackling grade 6/7 repertoire) don't "need" an acoustic piano - it would be nice but she's never going to be a concert pianist so it's not essential.

bathshebaeverbusy Thu 01-Jan-15 16:40:48

I'd go for a second hand reputable British made upright that is about 40 years old and costs less than £1k. best balance between quality and cost.
i really do not like brand new Chinese made pianos - as the tone is generally too harsh and not mellow enough, but they are very reasonable price wise.

JohnFarleysRuskin Thu 01-Jan-15 16:46:37

We've just bout a korg? Between £300-400 for dcs and er me.

The dcs will be having lessons, I've been downloading carols.

Ferguson, Would the Kenneth baker books best for me? I'm looking for easy pop/classic songs for fun really.

Ferguson Thu 01-Jan-15 18:23:56


Yes, they ARE different instruments. But its not just the 'buttons': keyboard presupposes that one knows about chords, as that is often all that is needed in the left hand, to achieve an accompaniment. PIANO needs the left hand to do a fair amount of 'work' to generate an accompaniment to go with the right hand.

Young children, I feel, need to get satisfying results fairly quickly and also to ENJOY themselves. Which is why I invariably suggest a Keyboard as a good starting point for primary age children. If they do become keen and show a commitment to practice, then they can progress towards learning piano technique as they mature. The ABRSM 'drop out' rate may well be because the satisfaction of hearing pleasing results can take a long time. A three year old can start to make pleasant music on a keyboard in the first half hour; 'fake' music, if you like, as the programmers at Korg or Yamaha have done all the hard work, but it is entertaining and satisfying for a three year old.

Kenneth Baker has produced a huge range of tuition and repertoire books, and there are not many genres he hasn't covered. I first used his Complete Organ Player in 1980. This link covers much of his output, and our DS used them from about the age of five:


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