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#908695 - 06/09/03 01:10 PM How good does a "starter" have to be?
Jolly Offline
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Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14051
Loc: Louisiana
I'll agree that many old verticals are money pits.

But I also believe that there are still decent old starter pianos out there, you've just got to pick and choose a bit.

Don't we do our new memebers a disservice, however, when we immediately condemn every old piano?

I have an old Briggs, that while not the equal of a new 131 Petrof, can still whomp lots of new pianos.

One can't make a definitive call that something is junk, until you've seen the junk.

If a piano's keys all work, if the pedals all work, and if the piano can be tuned to A440, isn't that good enough for the family only wanting to spend a few hundred dollars?
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#908696 - 06/09/03 01:20 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
Steve Cohen Offline
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Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 10471
Loc: Maryland/DC/No. VA
The problem is that most old uprights cannot hold 440 and most have cosistant action problems.

If Van Cliburn were to play on a piano of poor quality, it wouldn't have an effect on him as a pianist. He would recognise that the inhamonicity and lack of good response is due to the piano's condition. If you put a beginner on a poor quality instrument, it often deters enough from the learning process that they lose interest and quit.

As you can see, I am NOT the Defender of the Landfill Piano. \:D \:D
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#908697 - 06/09/03 01:58 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
Roxane Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/16/02
Posts: 932
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jolly:
If a piano's keys all work, if the pedals all work, and if the piano can be tuned to A440, isn't that good enough for the family only wanting to spend a few hundred dollars?[/b]
I think one has to be careful when defining *how* the keys work. My church had received well-meaning donations of tiny Chinese pianos made in the 1980s that actually hurt the hands to play. The keys all moved up and down and made the appropriate sounds, but the action (if you can even call it that) cannot be condemned enough. I truly pity those children whose parents had bought those pianos for them to learn on. It is no wonder they all gave up and the pianos landed in the church.

Last year when my church underwent renovation, I managed to persuade the worship director to throw those pianos out together with the rest of the renovation debris so that we did not have to pay for disposal. He actually wanted to see if we could give those away to parents who would like their kids to learn the piano!!! He was well-meaning but had not actually played them himself.

I donated my mid-1970's Yamaha P-something to the choir room and the pianist was ecstatic \:D

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#908698 - 06/09/03 03:32 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
Brian Lawson, RPT Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/04/01
Posts: 647
Loc: South Africa
How old are your "old pianos" ? I regularly encounter 1900 - 1935 European pianos that I pitch raise about a semitone.
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#908699 - 06/09/03 04:16 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
CrashTest Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/01
Posts: 4110
Even though people often say that a good upright will be better than a lesser quality grand, that is very debatable. As a pianist, starting with a grand that does not sound all that great due to its size is far superior than having the inferior touch and mechanism of an upright. Overtime, one's technique will not develop as much on an upright, and the quality of sound on a grand piano can always be made better later.

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#908700 - 06/09/03 04:21 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
Rick Clark Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/04/03
Posts: 1810
Loc: North County San Diego CA
Jolly,

I would tend to agree with you. However, when people come onto the internet asking what we think of some old piano or another we can't examine it. So the opinion tends to default to what we most often see in real life--- the oldie is probably a junker. Even though occasionally one is pretty serviceable. But the safest bet is it's the most common thing. What do people expect-- that we can telepathically know how good the piano they are looking at is??

Regards,

Rick Clark
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#908701 - 06/09/03 04:26 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
Jolly Offline
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Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14051
Loc: Louisiana
I thought all good techs were telepathic. ;\)
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#908702 - 06/09/03 08:38 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
Steve Cohen Offline
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Registered: 05/26/01
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Loc: Maryland/DC/No. VA
All good techs ARE telepathic, (or is that pathetic? ;\) )
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Maryland/DC/No. VA
Since 1937.

www.jasonsmusic.com
My postings, unless stated otherwise, are my personal opinions, not those of my clients.

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#908703 - 06/09/03 09:28 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
HammerHead Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/17/03
Posts: 354
Loc: Metro Atlanta
Don't know about techs, but given the occasional ads I've seen over the years on the tube by dealers (including the one I participated in eons ago) I say they are tele-pathetic. \:\)

HH
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HH
Completely and forever out of the music business (but still full of opinions)

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#908704 - 06/09/03 10:19 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
I can't comment from the perspective of a tech, but I can comment from the perspective of a former adult beginner. I think that a starter piano doesn't have to be that good, really. So long as the keys and pedals work, you can sacrifice quite a lot in tone in the beginning, in my lay opinion.

An equally relevant question might be whether a poor quality upright that works but sounds bad is better than starting on a digital or electric piano. I don't know for sure (I started on my pre-landfill piano), but I'd think it would be hard to learn to play with expression on anything but the finest digital piano.

But then again, you folks are much more knowledgeable. What do you think? Pre-landfill piano vs. digital?

Cindy
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#908705 - 06/09/03 10:44 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
Matt G. Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/22/01
Posts: 3789
Loc: Plainfield, IL
My simple answer: A starter piano should be good enough so that playing it is pleasure, not torture. That makes it still very subjective on the part of the player, but I don't think that this can be quantified. A "good enough" piano for one player may not be "good enough" for another. As long as the instrument does not in itself become a disincentive or impediment to practicing, learning and playing, then it's good enough for the person that plays it. Anything less isn't good enough.
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#908706 - 06/10/03 02:34 AM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
KlavierBauer Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/02
Posts: 3773
Loc: Boulder, Colorado
I cringe everytime I hear the words "starter piano". The term itself implies that someone just beginning doesn't deserve a good quality, or otherwise functioning piano.

I'm of the belief that if you want to excel at anything, you learn on the best equipment you can.

Michael Schumacher didn't learn Formula 1 driving on a Big Wheel.

The thought that a beginner can't learn to identify a quality instrument is silly. Of course, the longer that a beginner plays on junk, the harder it will be for them to recognize a good piano when they find one. But someone starting on a good piano will learn very quickly what consistent touch is, and what quality tone is. This person is more apt to enjoy playing, and even more, enjoy practicing. This is the person who will put in more time, and consequently excel much faster.

CrashTest:
You mentioned cheap grands being preferred over "good uprights". But the problems you mentioned being in the uprights, are specifically addressed in what I would consider a "good upright". A good upright will have a very consisent touch, and a very controllable touch, comparable to many grands, especially the cheapies.

Rick:
I agree completely with your post. We comment on what we see most often. The old pianos I've seen that were "good" stick out in my memory. This means that there weren't many of them. Every time I'm called to work on an old upright, I know before getting there what I will see. And if I'm wrong, then it's a pleasant surprise.

KlavierBauer
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#908707 - 06/10/03 05:44 AM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
John51 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/31/02
Posts: 295
Loc: England
I've still got my first acoustic, it's awful. Never realised just how bad until I got the Aeolian. Practice time has quadrupled.
If I convert the birdcage to digital and weight the keys, will it be "suitable for a beginner"?
(The action will be disposed of.)
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#908708 - 06/10/03 03:04 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
JDWooWoo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/28/03
Posts: 123
Loc: cyberspace
 Quote:
What do you think? Pre-landfill piano vs. digital?
As an intermediate player who has had nothing but pre-landfills and digitals, I overwhelmingly endorse the latter over the former. I have a Roland FP-5 (upgraded the F-90) and find it much, much more enjoyable and expressive than my Wurlitzer spinet or my parents' old Kimball, both of which fit quite well in the landfill category.

That does not mean, of course, that a 5-octave Casio with unweighted keys is a good choice. You need to go at least to the level of a Yamaha P80 or a Roland FP3, which will run you in the low $1000+ range after adding speakers.
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#908709 - 06/10/03 03:44 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
Jolly Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14051
Loc: Louisiana
KB wrote:
 Quote:
I cringe everytime I hear the words "starter piano". The term itself implies that someone just beginning doesn't deserve a good quality, or otherwise functioning piano.

I'm of the belief that if you want to excel at anything, you learn on the best equipment you can.

Michael Schumacher didn't learn Formula 1 driving on a Big Wheel.
But Dale Earnhardt learned to drive on a junker. Not race, perhaps, but drive.

I don't know about parents in other regions, but I think I have a handle on the retail market down here, and for a lot of kids, it's either inexpensive piano, or no piano at all.

So if the starter piano must exist, should it not exist above a certain baseline?
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#908710 - 06/10/03 04:27 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
Steve Cohen Offline
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Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 10471
Loc: Maryland/DC/No. VA
I'm with Klav unless price is the overwhelming factor.

If all you can afford is a landfill piano, it is better than nothing, but not much better. I too, would rather have someone learn on a weighted-key digital than a typical old upright or spinet.
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Consultant & Contributing Editor - Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer

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Since 1937.

www.jasonsmusic.com
My postings, unless stated otherwise, are my personal opinions, not those of my clients.

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#908711 - 06/10/03 05:56 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
KlavierBauer Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/02
Posts: 3773
Loc: Boulder, Colorado
I don't even buy the price issue.

It's a matter of priority and nothing else.
It IS that simple.

We might have to agree to disagree, but I just don't buy it. As long as there are people choosing to buy a new car rather than a new piano, I won't accept the "can't afford it" excuse. Buy a $10k car instead of a $20k one, and you have enough money to buy a Sauter upright.

Of course I realize there are exceptions to every rule, and I understand there are people who truly can't afford a piano. I just thinkt hat the majority of people who say it, are really saying that they would rather spend their money on other things.

KlavierBauer
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#908712 - 06/10/03 06:14 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
Jolly Offline
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Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14051
Loc: Louisiana
At least it will be a pleasant disagreement.

I look at it in a totally different light.

Most people, especially those that do not play, will not pay for superior performance in a piano. For those people who do not play, and who are not going to spend the money for even a decent Korean vertical, yet still want their children to be exposed, and enjoy music, has it got to be all or nothing?

Maybe I'm foolish, but surely there must be a starting point, besides a 4 or 5k vertical? And while I'm running against the tide, wouldn't it be better to start with an acoustic, than with a digital?
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#908713 - 06/10/03 07:42 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
John51 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/31/02
Posts: 295
Loc: England
Must be a man thing. I've seen homes with a 20 year old vacuum cleaner, and hubbie proudly proclaims how reliable it is, no need for a new one. Of course he's not the one who uses it.
Then his power drill breaks, (used twice a year,) and he buys the coolest toy he can afford.
Now if the dealer hands him the remote control to a player piano and says "Check this out Sir, I think you'll find it's suitable for a learner." \:D
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Whaddya mean I shouldn't be swinging it? Beethoven wrote some great rags.

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#908714 - 06/10/03 07:51 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
Manitou Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/08/02
Posts: 1044
Loc: Colorado
I'm with Klavier..

You want to learn tennis, you go get a nice racket, not a 60 year old wooden peice of junk sitting in your attic.
You want to be a runner, you go buy good, expensive running shoes (not moth-eaten dried-up workboots sitting in your basement)
Think of all the great composers, how many would have been unjustly slighted if their parents only gave them a 60 note keyboard, or one without a sustain pedal...

My personal theory about Scott Joplin is that the reason he could only compse Rags is because his piano was a square grand \:\) ))

Manitou
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#908715 - 06/12/03 04:31 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
JDWooWoo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/28/03
Posts: 123
Loc: cyberspace
Good point about starting out properly. One big key is how well the piano is maintained. A well-prepped Pearl River is probably more suitable for learning than a beat-up Steinway D. Even if you're beginner level, playing on a piano with bad tone and regulation can force you to pick up bad technique to compensate. Not a good way to learn.
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#908716 - 06/12/03 04:51 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
Norbert Offline
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Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 14138
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
We've got a "complete trade up" policy for many years and unfortunately so.

Because instead to harping on people to spend their very last nickel on a VERY good piano, we take their last penny \:D on an only humble but decent one.

To be "traded up to a VERY good one" [for full value!] later.

And the hordes of customers aspiring to the more lofty prices and better intruments over the years are WHERE???

You tell me.

I guess the 'starter' was somehow good enough for most.

[or even TOO good.... ]

Damn!!

norbert
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Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
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#908717 - 06/12/03 06:11 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
Jolly Offline
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Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14051
Loc: Louisiana
Thanks, Norbert, for bringing us back to the real world.

I believe SteveC said one time that something like 97% of all buyers never took advantage of their trade-in policy.

I wonder if even 3% is too high a number.
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#908718 - 06/12/03 06:25 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
Rich Galassini Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 9200
Loc: Philadelphia/South Jersey
Historically, I would say those numbers are about accurate, but over the past year or so, we have had a LOT of trade ups.

I have no idea why.
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#908719 - 06/12/03 06:32 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 14138
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
...because everybody one day wants to own an ......
....you guessed right:

ESTONIA!! \:D

[I'm talking about those hard to find pianos you're hiding in the backroom,Rich ;\) ]

norbert
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Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
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#908720 - 06/12/03 10:11 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
Cindysphinx Offline


Registered: 02/14/03
Posts: 6416
Loc: Washington D.C. Metro
posted June 10, 2003 07:51 PM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Manitou:

"You want to learn tennis, you go get a nice racket, not a 60 year old wooden peice of junk sitting in your attic.
You want to be a runner, you go buy good, expensive running shoes (not moth-eaten dried-up workboots sitting in your basement)
Think of all the great composers, how many would have been unjustly slighted if their parents only gave them a 60 note keyboard, or one without a sustain pedal..."

I dunno. If I took up tennis, I would buy a middling racquet. I would not feel I needed to use whatever Serena Williams uses. I would work up to it as my skills improved and as I learned my preferences. That is exactly what I did when I took up running -- I bought an adequate pair and kept moving up as my habits became known to me.

With pianos, I think learning on an old upright is fine. As my husband tells me when he wants to make the case for keeping the old clunker we have, "Mozart could make that piano sound great!" ;-)

Interesting thread, folks.

Cindy
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#908721 - 06/12/03 11:33 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
HammerHead Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/17/03
Posts: 354
Loc: Metro Atlanta
Another (fat) 2 cents here. First, few kids, and relatively few adults for that matter, have a musical ear developed and sensitive to tone and tuning at the level avid musicians do, professionals or otherwise. This is easy to forget (or deny), but it is true. I remember in college comparing a couple of prized Jr. High School All-State orchestra recordings with some other music guys; one (who would later play in the N.Y. Philharmonic) shook his head and commented, "how could ANYBODY ever have been able to listen to THAT!?". But we all remembered proudly thinking how great the sour mess we were now listening to sounded at the time (like our parents still did)! And this was with no lack of exposure to quality live playing and, of course, daily doses of world-class recordings. The "blessing" of the fine-tuned, hyper-critical ear usually comes later--it is not a prerequisite for enthusiasm, which is THE most important element. So...

I just do not believe that many budding careers in music have been aborted by sub-standard, if playable pianos--ridiculous, junk instruments are another matter (yes, some idiot parents do buy total crap to either deliberately discourage progress or present a "test" of the kid's desire--I don't know what you can do about that). But on the whole, I think a better quality piano is really more likely to encourage an adult beginner than it is to enrapture the kidly novice. Bad technique for life is not the result of starting on a clunky upright!

If the wallet IS hopelessly clenched, then rent a good piano for 6 months or a year and find out what kind of committment you really want to make. The only bad option is the one where the music never starts.

Also, there ARE some good 88-key digital keyboards out there at 2-3K, and that is certainly much better than a junk acoustic, though the technique developed on digitals isn't quite "right" when transferred to a decent acoustic; if you have regular access/lessons on a real piano it can be an excellent alternative, in fact ideal for what some people want to do with the keyboard.

If it's for you, find something you can afford, and that you or a tech thinks is OK and buy it, start playing; if you're buying for a kid, be responsible, do your job!
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Completely and forever out of the music business (but still full of opinions)

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#908722 - 06/13/03 12:22 AM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
BDB Online   content
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Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 21448
Loc: Oakland
I admit to having a different standard for adult beginners than for children. I think children should have a decent piano, although it doesn't need to be great. Adults who don't have great aspirations can make do with pianos that I wouldn't recommend for children.

I always remember what a friend who makes violins tells me, that if you buy a poor instrument, you are wasting your money on lessons, and when you consider that a decent instrument only costs what you pay for it minus what you can get for it used, the cost of lessons can be more than the instrument.

Using the same accounting, a digital piano can be more expensive than an acoustic piano. I don't recommend them for children unless that is the instrument that they want, or unless space or portability are considerations.
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#908723 - 06/14/03 01:36 AM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
erica w Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/01/03
Posts: 10
Loc: Alaska
Because I read this forum I avoided "clunker" experience. Thank you! Jolly recommended a digital for my situation & it's worked out very well for me. I'd recommend a digital to any beginner.

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#908724 - 06/14/03 02:52 AM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
Larry Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 9217
Loc: Deep in Cherokee Country
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jolly:
I thought all good techs were telepathic. ;\) [/b]
Posted February 12, 2002

I knew you were going to say that.........

:p
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#908725 - 06/14/03 11:35 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
Kevin101 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/04/02
Posts: 25
Loc: Waynesville, MO
I dont post often but i do my share of lurking. I would consider my self to be a defender of "landfill" pianos. In addition to my Baldwin 6000 i also have an old 1915 Singer upright. It holds tune better than the baldwin \:\( and the tone is equal and far Superior than most small grands that i have played and the action is smooth and plays like butter. I agree that it is possible to get a great piano for under $1,000 that would not be at all for a beginer or a pro. but it can be very difficult. I got mine for free \:D from a local university.

kevin

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#908726 - 06/15/03 02:20 PM Re: How good does a "starter" have to be?
Steve Miller Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 3290
Loc: Yorba Linda, CA
How good does it have to be?

It has to be good enough to hold a tune reliably and play at least reasonably evenly. Everything has to work - pedals and all. It also has to look good enough/sound good enough that it entices kids to want to play it.

Mostly though, it has to fit the family budget or no one will ever learn to play the piano at all. It is all well and good to start a kid out playing a $5000+ piano if the family has the $ (and the determination to "gamble" this sort of cash), but if the only pianos worth starting on are $5000+, then most families are not going to give their kids a shot at the piano at all.

This is my defense of the Landfill Piano, and I have expanded my defense to include such pianos as Baldwin Acrosonics and Kimball spinets. None of these pianos will pass muster with pianists of even middling ability, but without them there will be darned few that ever reach even that level of proficiency. Keyboards can help, but there is something about an acoustic piano that will hook a kid like no electronic piano ever will.

Hook 'em on the cheap stuff while they're young, and when they develop a taste for the good stuff they'll find a way to get it.

It's a marketing plan that has withstood the test of time.
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