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Music For Kids By Kids
Chapter 1.4: An appropriate instrument


In an ideal world, all children would start their lessons on a seven foot Hamburg Steinway grand piano. Unfortunately, a good piano is a major investment nowadays. I recommend getting the best piano you can afford, even for the young beginner. The better the instrument, the richer the sound and the greater the incentive the child has to make beautiful music. Also, the easier it is to develop good technique and to play musically.

A new or used six to seven foot grand with a light and well-regulated action is the preferred instrument. The upright piano is significantly less expensive, however the action is not the same (it is actually much harder to control) and the tone is typically not nearly as full and rich.

Most parents are understandably hesitant to make a large investment in a piano until there is some evidence that the child is going to "stick with it". There is a bit of a catch-22 here. The better the instrument, the more likely the child will enjoy playing, and the more likely that motivation will continue. However, renting or buying a good used upright is an option for the first few months. Ask your piano teacher or other professional pianist to help you choose a used or rental piano. Though the quality of these instruments varies considerably, there are satisfactory ones out there for a reasonable monthly rate.

When you consider the expense of a piano, keep in mind what you spend on a car. A piano is truly an investment, both financially and "spiritually" and you will have it for the rest of your life. If things don't work out, you can normally resell a good instrument for a profit, or at least without taking a significant loss.

If you can consider purchasing a high quality new or used grand, it is well worth paying consulting fees to a professional pianist/teacher and a technician for help in finding an instrument to fit your budget and needs. A professional pianist can evaluate the sound of the instrument and the ease of playing it. A piano technician can inspect it for construction quality and possible flaws.

Too many times, students are handicapped by their instruments. Learning to play piano on a poor instrument is like trying to learn how to play tennis with a poorly constructed racket. Both the student and the teacher become frustrated. If you are not in a position to acquire a good instrument, I advise postponing lessons until you are.

Caveat:

Under no circumstances, let your child begin playing on an electronic ("digital") keyboard. Despite what the salesmen may tell you (that they sound and feel just like a Steinway grand!), they do not have the sound or the keyboard action of a real piano. Electronic keyboards can damage the student's listening skills, (they do not produce an acoustic sound created by string vibration, but rather an electronic sound with no musical "life"), sense of rhythm, technique and, because children have very delicate muscles, can cause tendonitis and other physical problems. Electronic keyboards are for adults (primarily pop, rock and jazz musicians) who already know how to play.

Your piano should be tuned approximately every six months and, when necessary, voiced and regulated.

Guidebook for Parents and Teachers