Robert Estrin - piano expert

Do You Need 88 Keys on a Piano?

Learn more about pianos with less keys.

In this video, Robert talks about pianos with less than 88 keys by giving you some interesting insights about them.

Released on March 9, 2016

  
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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Welcome, this is Robert Estrin here at livingpianos.com and virtualsheetmusic.com with a viewer question.

Are 85 key pianos okay? You may have seen them before. They're missing the last few keys and you figure, well how can you play? Is that gonna work? I know a lot of people are afraid to even contemplate getting a piano that doesn't have the standard 88 keys.

Well a little bit of history is in order here. The piano evolved over a long period of time, hundreds of years as a matter of fact. And over time, piano developed more and more keys. Well well into the 1800s, the piano kind of settled in at 85 keys. That's right, in the second half of the 19th century, most pianos had 85 keys. Occasionally, a piano would have 88 keys, but mostly 85 keys. It really wasn't until the end of the 19th century that 88 keys became standard. This is why virtually all the music you play only requires 85 keys.

It's not until you get to 20th-century music, music of the French composers like Debussy, Ravel, you know Prokofiev, the Russian composers, and other 20th-century composers that you may encounter those highest notes of the piano. So for the vast majority of piano music, 85 keys is just fine.

I know sometimes people feel a little bit squeamish about being gypped out of those last keys, but you know what? Sometimes you'll find a gem of a piano, a vintage piano's been restored to like new. And you can enjoy a beautiful instrument. And you know, even if you do play a piece that occasionally has those top notes, you know what, they don't last that long anyway. They're just a little tinkle up there. You're not really gonna lose the effect of the piece by not having those last few keys. You can play your music just fine. And there's so few pieces that use them anyway, that really for the vast majority of players it is not a big issue.

Now there are some exceptions to this. If you're a serious concert player, or playing particularly a lot of late period music that utilizes those keys, you're gonna want it for your practice. Otherwise it'll be uncomfortable if that's the only instrument you practice on, and you can't prepare playing those notes. Obviously this is not gonna work for you. But for most pianists, it's really not a problem. If it's a second instrument, it shouldn't be a problem at all. I would have no problems having 85 key piano to practice on for a good portion of my time.

I hope this has been helpful for you. And once again, thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin, here at livingpianos.com and virtualsheetmusic.com.
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