Robert Estrin - piano expert
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Can you Start Learning Piano on a Keyboard?

An excellent question that deserves a great answer

Released on October 30, 2013

  
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Video Transcription

Hi, and welcome to livingpianos.com and virtualsheetmusic.com. I'm your host Robert Estrin. Today's subject is, "Can You Start Learning the Piano on a Keyboard?" Great question and there's a lot of ramifications to this we're going to cover today. I know a lot of people and they want to have lessons for their kids, let's say, and they don't want to spend a lot of money because they're just starting out. They figure, "Oh can I get a keyboard? Is that okay?" Well, not such a simple question. We're going to cover this today.

So, first of all, there are many different types of keyboards. From little Casio's, plastic things you can buy at Kmart, to top of the line $15,000 hybrid keyboards. So there's a difference in these. Many teachers feel that a bare minimum requirement for starting the piano is an 88 note weighted action digital piano. Now, what does this mean, weighted action? Well, if you've ever played a keyboard, they feel like an organ. The keys go down, the little springs are very very easy to push. But if you ever pushed the keys on a real piano, it takes much more effort. It takes about 55 grams of down weight to get the key down. So they make keyboards that have the same weight. So you figure, "Ah, I'm set. No problem."

Or are you? Well, it's not quite so simple. As you'll see if you've ever looked at a piano action, it's an incredibly complex mechanism with about a hundred parts to each note. So a keyboard may have the weight, but it doesn't have anything close to resembling the feel of a piano. More than that, the keys on a keyboard are very short. Not the part you see but behind the fall board, in a piano, the keys extend for about three times the length of the part you see. So when you push down a key on a keyboard, it's like being close to the center of a seesaw, if you're playing black keys or between black keys. Because the part of the key is so short that the leverage is very difficult when you're playing near the fall board. And it's much easier at the end of the keys. Not so with a Grand piano where the keys are longer.

Now there are also different factors. We started off with the worst possible scenario which is just a keyboard. Then we moved to a weighted action, which is better. Now an upright action is better still, but still not as good as a grand action. As I discussed in another video, there are many ramifications of a grand piano or a baby grand action that are superior. And virtually any pianist will eventually outgrow even an upright.

So I would say that a keyboard is certainly better than nothing and could be very valuable as an adjunct for practicing when a real piano is not available. For example, practicing late at night with headphones or in an apartment where you can't play a real piano. It might be all you can do. But realize you will progress faster right from the very beginning having a real piano and ideally a baby grand or a grand piano. And you will certainly outgrow even an upright and, ideally, should start on at least an upright piano in your studies.

So that's the long and short of it. I hope this has been helpful for you. Thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin, here at livingpianos.com and virtualsheetmusic.com.
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Evona York * VSM MEMBER * on October 30, 2013 @8:01 pm PST
I live in Mexico, and some people simply don't have the money even to buy a keyboard. One young girl could only play a real piano when she took her lessons. She practiced on a keyboard painted on a plank, and gained proficiency enough to win a prize for her playing. People who truly want to learn seem to find a way to do so! God is good.
Sr. Christine on October 30, 2013 @6:31 pm PST
I enjoy and benefit from your videos and piano tips. I am just wondering if you can show us how to play the "Oh Holy Night" in the key of C. god bless and than you very much.
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Robert Estrin - host, on October 31, 2013 @3:40 pm PST
We are planning repertoire tutorials and I will make a note of your suggestion.
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