Weak fingers & digital piano

Posted by: cinstance

Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/13/09 09:35 AM

Sorry if the question has been asked before. I have done a lot of search but can not find answer to my specific concern.

I have a 7 year old son who has been taking piano lesson under a private teacher for almost a year. He uses a Roland HP203 digital piano since the start. His progress is very good, so far he has just finished level 3 and begun on level 4. I found he obtained absolute pitch at month 2 of his study, and his sight reading ability is probably higher than his technique level.

However my concern is his weak fingers. Since he has very good sight reading, he has the tendency to jump ahead of his current level, sometime way ahead. He seems to put a lot attention to speed but really struggle with play forte, because his fingers are weak. His teacher thought one of the reasons might be that the keyboard of a digital piano is too light compare to a upright acoustic.

I have been wondering which way is better for a child pianist to gain strength in his fingers, by natural growth or by playing with a heavy keyboard. I am open to the idea of replacing his digital piano to an acoustic one, but my son has been having so much fun with the digital and he does not want to have it replaced by an acoustic.

I respect his teacher's opinion very much, but I would like to hear more from other teachers on the forum regarding digital piano's negative effects on finger power. Your comments and advice will be greatly appreciated.
Posted by: rada

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/13/09 09:41 AM

If your son is progressing nicely. as you said, I would highly recommend a good acoustic piano. Personally I don't think you can really learn a good touch on a digital piano. He can still use the digital for fun .

rada
Posted by: cinstance

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/13/09 09:54 AM

Thanks, rada. That is exactly what I want to hear about. I will begin to look for an acoustic piano immediately.

Do you have any recommendation on which piano to choose? We do not have room for a grand, so it probably has to be a upright. We only have one child, so affordability is less a concern, as long as it won't break our bank account.

Thanks again,
Cinstance
Posted by: DragonPianoPlayer

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/13/09 10:06 AM

Hi cinstance,

I'm not a teacher, but I did originally learn on an upright as a kid and now practice on a digital piano (Casio Privia PX310 - which has a heavy touchweight) and take lessons on a grand piano.

I think your teacher has a valid suggestion, but he is not necessarily looking at all the options that you have with your Roland, and he may be using the wrong explanation of his reasons for getting a new piano.

First, suggestions to try: See if you have a way to change the sensitivity of your DP. Possibly try a light setting and then have your son try to play as loud as he can. Getting used to having to play harder on the DP should help him produce forte on the acoustic. Conversely, you can make the touch heavier and have him learn how to control light sounds. These settings don't change the weight of the keyboard, they just make it respond differently - light generally makes you press harder to get the loudest shouds and heavy make you have more control over the softest.

Now my reasons for moving to an acoustic would be the ability to create and control different tone colors with an acoustic and also the pedals. Most digital pianos that I have tried have a pedal that is no where near as controllable as an acoustics. I would agree with these reasons, but the weight on a digital should be fine for developing the strength needed for playing.

Rich
Posted by: apple*

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/13/09 10:07 AM

you are heading in the right direction. Take your time in choosing a great practice upright piano. YOu will want a quality piano with a professional (not super cheap, budgetminded action).

Quality pays. i would look at Yamahas, Baldwins, Kawais, Petrofs, and Charles Walters (my particular favorite) (and i'm sure other people will have suggestions.

the Piano Forum will help you very much. You ought to be Larry Fine's The Piano Book to educate yourself.

and please.. stay in touch. Many of us love to help people buy the perfect piano.

if you think your boy will stick with piano, you might consider a grand purchase one day. ... something to keep in mind when you establish a relationship with a seller (assuming you buy new).

Posted by: dumdumdiddle

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/13/09 10:11 AM

I thought the Roland 203 has weighted keys, compared to other digitals or keyboards that have only partially weighted ones. Unless you purchase a really good acoustic (my personal preference is Yamaha or Kawai), many pianos have an action that isn't much better than a digital, especially older spinets. I grew up with such a piano and would have been better off with a keyboard (since my piano had trouble staying in tune as well).
Posted by: cinstance

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/13/09 10:30 AM

Wow. I am really overwhelmed by the responses. I am typing this almost with tears in my eye.

I want to say thanks again for all your comments.

To Rich. The digital piano we have do have sensitivity control, currently it is set at the second heaviest touch (as suggested by his teacher). I will try tuning down it so that he can play forte more easily as we searching for an acoustic. Your comments regarding the tone colors control and pedal also is of tremendous help. Thanks a lot.

To apple. Thanks for the suggestion on piano purchasing. I have just ordered Larry's book. I do hope music can play a role in my son's life. We do have one very nice piano dealer nearby and I will keep in mind your suggestion regarding the relationship with them.

To dumdumdiddle. Thanks for sharing your own experience regarding digital and acoustic. I will keep your suggestion in mind.

Cinstance
Posted by: Gyro

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/13/09 01:41 PM

I grew up with classical piano lessons
and acoustic pianos only--an old
upright at home, and uprights and
grands in the teachers' studios and
at recitals--since there were no
digital pianos back then. I quit
in high school and didn't play a note
for 20 yrs.

When I restarted as an adult, I
bought an expensive acoustic upright.
A similar model today would be in
the ~$20,000 price range, although
when I bought it, it was less than
$6000. That upright is now in storage,
because I find digitals to be much
more practical for everyday playing.

We are now 20 yrs. into the Digital
Piano Age, and yet that are still
many piano teachers who: have never
played a digital, know nothing about
them and don't care to learn anything
about them, hate the whole idea
of digital pianos, will not take
students with them, and will discriminate
against students who have them.
But digitals now are all but
equivalent to acoustic pianos.
One forum member recently decided
to get a $6000 acoustic upright to
learn on, but for that price you
could get something like the Roland
V Piano, essentially a concert grand.
Yet there are teachers who would
refuse to take a student with
a V Piano, which is just disgraceful,
in my opinion.

Moreover, the basic idea behind digital
pianos is not at all new. They
are much like the old silent keyboards
that first appeared in the late
1890's. A silent keyboard is similar
to a digital piano with the power turned
off. Silent keyboards enabled
a pianist to play anytime and
anywhere and not disturb people.
And more importantly they allowed
a pianist to save his ears and
nerves from the cacophony that
is produced by an acoustic piano.
An acoustic piano can be heard a
block away, and that's just too
loud for many people to sit in
front of and play. Silent keyboards
used to be very popular with concert
pianists in the 1930's, and Claudio
Arrau used one all his life.

Your son's teacher has apparently
never played a digital and knows
nothing about them. And of course
his fingers are going to be weak.
He's only 7.
Posted by: Horowitzian

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/13/09 01:56 PM

Posted by: EDWARDIAN

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/13/09 05:29 PM

Horowitzian -

This is totally off-topic, and shows my complete (or almost) ignorance of computer tech, but where do you get your emoticons? They're adorable!

Joan thumb
Posted by: Bunneh

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/13/09 05:58 PM

I am in a similar situation as your child. I have a HP-203 and had problems for the better part of a year to play properly on my teacher's almost-new Boston grand which has a very heavy action. I practiced on the Heavy-1 setting as well.

For me, the solution was hooking up a computer with Pianoteq installed on it and tweaking the velocity curve so the sound "opens up" at a much heavier touch than the Roland sounds (does that make sense? It's not about volume, but rather the amount of brilliance in the sound produced at given strike strength).

Within 2 weeks of practicing with Pianoteq, almost all my issues of playing on the heavy-action grand went away and I now feel comfortable I am not harming my technique in the long run with my Digital.

That might be an alternative for you... But if you have the cash to spend for a great acoustic, do that of course!
Posted by: DadAgain

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/13/09 06:18 PM

I think your teacher is full of it.

I play a 9 yr old Roland HP237Re - and after years of growing up playing acoustic pianos have no problems whatsoever with its touch. I think its a WAAAY better piano than any acoustic I would be able to afford.

Your 7yr old probably just needs to grow a little stronger thats all!
Posted by: Horowitzian

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/13/09 07:45 PM

Originally Posted By: EDWARDIAN
Horowitzian -

This is totally off-topic, and shows my complete (or almost) ignorance of computer tech, but where do you get your emoticons? They're adorable!

Joan thumb

Hi Joan,

I get a lot of them from Runemaster Studios. The 'dead horse' I just found somewhere and saved a link to it. smile To get the ones integrated into the forum, use these codes and ASCII emotes:

Code:
:) ;) :mad: :thumb: :smokin: :3hearts: :bah: :cursing: :wow:


smile wink mad thumb smokin 3hearts bah cursing wow

Additionally, in the Full Reply Screen, there is a list of them on the top left of the text box that's labeled with a wee smiley face. smile

Cheers!
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/13/09 08:43 PM

Originally Posted By: cinstance
To Rich. The digital piano we have do have sensitivity control, currently it is set at the second heaviest touch (as suggested by his teacher). I will try tuning down it so that he can play forte more easily as we searching for an acoustic. Your comments regarding the tone colors control and pedal also is of tremendous help. Thanks a lot.

To apple. Thanks for the suggestion on piano purchasing. I have just ordered Larry's book. I do hope music can play a role in my son's life. We do have one very nice piano dealer nearby and I will keep in mind your suggestion regarding the relationship with them.

To dumdumdiddle. Thanks for sharing your own experience regarding digital and acoustic. I will keep your suggestion in mind.

Cinstance


Personally, I really wouldn't recommend going for the 'heavy' touch. It doesn't affect the action in any sense. It just means that you end up thumping a light action hard. That doesn't provide any better preparation for a heavy action. If anything, I'd simply practise loud, when doing some of the the technical work (as most pianists do anyway, on real pianos). Get used to the combination of physical effort coupled with a thin, dead sound and you might end up thumping real pianos out of habit. At least if you hear a loud sound, when thumping a key, you're not going to be inclined to think of that as the normal way to play.

No digital piano I know of actually offers adjustable keyweight. Also, my clp 370 simply cannot absorb true FF playing. Even when I feel I'm 'easing' through a finger, there's an almighty thud. The shockwave is far greater, compared to real pianos- which tend to absorb the energy smoothly.

I mentioned this in more detail in a post on a similar topic, very recently. I forget the topic. When you play loud, real pianos absorb the impact. This is where my CLP really shows its limitations. Once you go to a serious FFF, you barely feel any resistance at all (until you crack against the keybed). Forget the sense of resistance when you play soft. The more you push into a real piano, the more it pushes back. I've never played a DP that even approaches a good upright, nevermind a heavy-actioned grand. I'm surprised they haven't put more effort into the springs.

Gyro- if you have yet to experience the limits of your digital, have you ever wondered whether you're staying too far within your comfort range? As soon as you start looking for contrasts and dynamic range, the limitations immediately obvious. I saw a film of Katsaris playing an AvantGrand. They must have paid him bloody well, because within two or three notes it was obvious that it was merely a very expensive keyboard. I'm stunned that anyone would waste their money on such a heap of crap, when you could by a real 'hybrid' (which the Avant certainly is not) upright for vastly cheaper.
Posted by: EDWARDIAN

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/13/09 09:36 PM

Horowitzian -

Thanks so much. I'll check it out. The dead horse really made me laugh!

Joan laugh
Posted by: Horowitzian

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/13/09 10:26 PM

smile

You'll find it even funnier once you get acquainted with Gyro's idiosyncrasies. grin
Posted by: DragonPianoPlayer

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/13/09 11:21 PM

Nyiregyhazi,

I'm actually recommending the opposite approach. Use a light touch setting for developing control of loud passages and a heavy touch setting for developing control of soft passages. In other words, work in the region of the curve where it is the steepest and you need to develop the most control If you can play forte evenly on a light setting, then you have very good control over the dynamics. Also if you play piano evenly on a heavy setting then again you have control over the dynamics in that region.

You are right that you cannot change the actual touch weight.

Also, I would say that in my experience weighted pianos do not use springs, at least my Casio does not. It works via a hammer like mechanism and gravity.

Rich
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/14/09 06:16 AM

Originally Posted By: DragonPianoPlayer
You are right that you cannot change the actual touch weight.

Also, I would say that in my experience weighted pianos do not use springs, at least my Casio does not. It works via a hammer like mechanism and gravity.
Having repaired the same model as mine I can tell you that it is counter-weighted. My Yamaha P60 has a metal bar at the furthest end of each key. Knowing that does help to play it in a small way.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/14/09 06:47 AM

We started my daughter on an unweighted keyboard. she made progress, but slowly.

Then I bought a decent weighted keyboard Yamaha, similar to your Roland. Her progress took off. This piano was easily as good as the teacher's acoustic.

I would really advise waiting. Seven is too young to really need the acoustic. Yes, at some point a conservatory bound solo classical piano student is going to need one. But I suspect that point is several years away. And the percentage of piano students that end up in that category is small.

An out of tune acoustic may wreak havok with the absolute pitch development as well. Acoustics need regular tuning AND maintenance, and are sensitive to weather changes.

It is possible to practice loud and soft playing by setting the master volume (not the touch) in the opposite direction, by the way.
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/14/09 06:58 AM

Originally Posted By: DragonPianoPlayer
Nyiregyhazi,

I'm actually recommending the opposite approach. Use a light touch setting for developing control of loud passages and a heavy touch setting for developing control of soft passages. In other words, work in the region of the curve where it is the steepest and you need to develop the most control If you can play forte evenly on a light setting, then you have very good control over the dynamics. Also if you play piano evenly on a heavy setting then again you have control over the dynamics in that region.

You are right that you cannot change the actual touch weight.

Also, I would say that in my experience weighted pianos do not use springs, at least my Casio does not. It works via a hammer like mechanism and gravity.

Rich


Yeah, I think the OP was the one who said he'd been recommended to keep it on the heavy touch for normal playing. I'd be really careful about using that setting very much. I can certainly see your point on sometimes using the light touch as a practise method for control of loud passages. Sounds like very good idea for honing sensitivity, but I don't quite follow the other way around though. Surely playing on the heavy setting would simply increase the margin for error- as well as possibly encouraging thumping? I don't think that having to hit a really light action hard, simply to bring any sound out, is terribly conducive towards added sensitivty. Couple the fact that, when you hit them, DPs don't give you the warning of a hideously ugly tone with the fact that it may not even seem to be loud and it could end up being a recipe for bad technique. I think the fingers are best worked by moving a decent weight, not by having to pound something light. At least if you keep on the regular setting, you get the feedback of noisy sounds, to remind you that this is just one way of practising and not a normal way to play. If you get used to hearing quiet sounds in response to forceful blows, it could easily become ingrained.

I don't know the fine workings on what's inside my Yamaha but what I can say for definite is that I do not feeling I'm imparting energy into anything much but the moment where the key stops. I barely feel any resistance at all in loud playing- whether we're talking about a slow weighted motion from contact, or falling into the keys from a height. Whatever's going on in there, as soon as you play loud, the action simply does not push back at you in the way a piano does.
Posted by: Mrs.A

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/14/09 10:22 AM

I have been in trouble here before for my opinions of digital pianos.

It is one thing to say a student uses a digital piano because they can’t afford an acoustic or have room for one but I am hearing that you are asking which is better. Acoustic or digital. You came for advice and my advice would be to avoid a digital.

I am not one of those teachers who refuses to learn anything about digital pianos. I have played them extensively. There is a place for digital pianos. In my church enabling a sound man to balance other instruments and voices is a benefit and can only be done on a digital. As a teacher however, I insists on a piano. The touch is different- Not just how it feels but how the sound responds to the touch.

Consider that you are not actually making a tone on a digital piano. . When you play that digital piano, you are playing a RECORDING of at piano tone through a speaker. When you play a chord you are not getting a true harmony in terms of sound waves and physics. It is not true harmony.

I might change my mind if I ever see a concert performance played on a digital piano. Get an acoustic.
Posted by: Kreisler

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/14/09 10:29 AM

Originally Posted By: Mrs.A
In my church enabling a sound man to balance other instruments and voices is a benefit and can only be done on a digital.


A sound man can easily mic a piano and put it into the mix with other things. I had a church gig where we used an acoustic all the time.
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/14/09 11:23 AM

Originally Posted By: Mrs.A

Consider that you are not actually making a tone on a digital piano. . When you play that digital piano, you are playing a RECORDING of at piano tone through a speaker. When you play a chord you are not getting a true harmony in terms of sound waves and physics. It is not true harmony.
Agreed!
Posted by: Mrs.A

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/14/09 12:20 PM

Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Originally Posted By: Mrs.A
In my church enabling a sound man to balance other instruments and voices is a benefit and can only be done on a digital.


A sound man can easily mic a piano and put it into the mix with other things. I had a church gig where we used an acoustic all the time.


I agree that it can be done. I always prefer the real piano and a good sound man. But pianos are harder to find in churches. There is also argument that pianos have to be tuned but the Kurweil at church has had some costly repairs. Nothing more frustrating than right before a sevice the keyboard stops working- or starts doing CRAZY things.

As any technology, I do not believe a digital Piano holds its monatary value long.
Posted by: Gyro

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/14/09 12:49 PM

Mrs. A, I don't believe you when you
say you've played digitals "extensively."
Trying one out in a store--with a
mind set completely against it--is
not playing a digital "extensively."
If you knew anything about digitals,
you couldn't say the things you did,
because they are more than capable
of taking the place of an acoustic piano.
Certainly a big-time classical
concert could be played on a state of
the art digital today. All that's
preventing it is people in the
piano establishement like you,
who won't have anything to do with digitals.

I've been playing digitals extensively
since 1989, hard playing of the most
difficult classical repertoire, like
the Chopin op. 14 Concert Rondo,
for example. So I know what they
are capable of. I suppose you
would consider silent keyboards--
which you know nothing about--
as something to avoid too, even
though Arrau used one all his life.

Digital pianos have literally been my
salvation as a pianist, and have
enbled me to progress from a
run of the mill terminal advanced-intermediate player to
an advanced-intermediate player
who can tackle the most difficult
concert repertoire.
Posted by: Gyro

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/14/09 12:57 PM

And I don't care if you play a digital
at church. Your attitude is so
set against them that you must regard
that time on the church digital
with total disgust, and so you can't see
all the benefits digitals
can offer.
Posted by: dumdumdiddle

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/14/09 01:09 PM

I would also prefer that my students have an acoustic piano. However, the reality is that most students have pretty cr***y pianos. They get them for $500 in the newspaper, Craigslist, from Grandma, at yard sales, even off the side of the road for free (as one of my students bragged about... ughh:( ). How many teachers actually know what kind of piano their students practice on at home?

I gave a makeup lesson to a student and went to his home, as it was close to mine. I was horrified at their piano. It sounded like something in a saloon, 3 notes didn't even play... but they loved it because of the ornate woodwork, go figure.

The argument that 'acoustic is always better because it's a REAL piano' doesn't fly, in my opinion. I would rather students begin on a digital (or even a keyboard, for that matter) than a horrible acoustic. There are teachers who will say, "but of course, when I say acoustic piano I mean a GOOD piano", but the likelihood that ALL of our piano students own a quality acoustic piano is slim to none. Good pianos don't cost the same as digitals; they cost more. Yes, there are wonderful gems-of-a-deal to be found here and there, but they are rare.
Posted by: sotto voce

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/14/09 01:10 PM

Gyro, it sounds like you have the same bias toward acoustic pianos that you mistakenly assume others have toward digitals. Who else would describe the sound of an acoustic piano as "cacophony" from which one's ears and nerves must be shielded?

I'd like someone to offer an explanation of how and why a "silent piano" would be in any way useful. Without auditory feedback, how would one know one is playing wrong notes or with suitable dynamics and articulation? It makes as much sense as playing air piano.

Steven
Posted by: EDWARDIAN

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/14/09 01:53 PM

Horowitzian -

Thanks again. And I know what you mean. . .

Joan smile
Posted by: daro

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/14/09 02:50 PM

Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
I saw a film of Katsaris playing an AvantGrand. They must have paid him bloody well, because within two or three notes it was obvious that it was merely a very expensive keyboard. I'm stunned that anyone would waste their money on such a heap of crap, when you could by a real 'hybrid' (which the Avant certainly is not) upright for vastly cheaper.


Them's some mighty fancy magic powers you got there that let you make such extreme, dogmatic assertions about an instrument you've never played or even seen. What's your next trick, stock market predictions based on hearing an mp3 of the opening bell?
Posted by: cinstance

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/14/09 02:55 PM

Thanks again for all the comments and the discussion.

My son's problem is not because he can not control his power, but that he simply does not have enough power to produce the loud sound while maintain his normal action. I have since tuned down the touch to the normal position from the "heavy 1" setting. I can immediately hear the difference it makes.

I will read Larry's book first, and begin my searching for a good acoustic piano. During the buying process, I probably will have more questions and I will come back and ask your guys for advices. Anyway, we will keep the digital piano too, so my son can enjoy the benefit of both sides.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/14/09 03:15 PM

Originally Posted By: Mrs.A
Consider that you are not actually making a tone on a digital piano. . When you play that digital piano, you are playing a RECORDING of at piano tone through a speaker. When you play a chord you are not getting a true harmony in terms of sound waves and physics. It is not true harmony.


I have a CD set of Glen playing the Goldberg variations. Well, of course I have other CDs, piano and instrumental; I just listen to that one fairly often.

Guess what? They are ALL digital recreations of a tone, played through a speaker.

So unless you are such a purist that you never listen to anything but live music, I think this particular criticism is misplaced.
Posted by: Mrs.A

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/14/09 03:31 PM

Originally Posted By: Gyro
Mrs. A, I don't believe you when you
say you've played digitals "extensively."
Trying one out in a store--with a
mind set completely against it--is
not playing a digital "extensively."
If you knew anything about digitals,
you couldn't say the things you did,
because they are more than capable
of taking the place of an acoustic piano.
Certainly a big-time classical
concert could be played on a state of
the art digital today. All that's
preventing it is people in the
piano establishement like you,
who won't have anything to do with digitals.

I've been playing digitals extensively
since 1989, hard playing of the most
difficult classical repertoire, like
the Chopin op. 14 Concert Rondo,
for example. So I know what they
are capable of. I suppose you
would consider silent keyboards--
which you know nothing about--
as something to avoid too, even
though Arrau used one all his life.

Digital pianos have literally been my
salvation as a pianist, and have
enbled me to progress from a
run of the mill terminal advanced-intermediate player to
an advanced-intermediate player
who can tackle the most difficult
concert repertoire.


Gyros,

First of all, I have played digital pianos for large churches and praise and worship bands for 20 years.

You said "If you knew anything about digitals,
you couldn't say the things you did" What did I say that was so incorrect about digital pianos? Backup your responses with specific. You also said digitals are more than capable of replacing acoustics. HOW? Again, you post flaming generalities and no specifics.

I always assumed digitals were not used in concerts as they were not good enough.....It never occurred to me it was a big conspiracy theory. Thank you for enlightening us.


I am so glad for you Gyro that your secret to your success is your digital piano…..I will pass this amazing discovery on to my colleagues in the “establishment”
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/14/09 08:32 PM

Originally Posted By: daro
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
I saw a film of Katsaris playing an AvantGrand. They must have paid him bloody well, because within two or three notes it was obvious that it was merely a very expensive keyboard. I'm stunned that anyone would waste their money on such a heap of crap, when you could by a real 'hybrid' (which the Avant certainly is not) upright for vastly cheaper.


Them's some mighty fancy magic powers you got there that let you make such extreme, dogmatic assertions about an instrument you've never played or even seen. What's your next trick, stock market predictions based on hearing an mp3 of the opening bell?


Why would I want to play or even see a $20,000 piano that sounds like a MIDI playback within the first few seconds? If I had that kind of money to burn, I'd buy a piano that is actually a 'hybrid' (not merely one that is referred to as one) between both a genuine upright and a keyboard. And I would literally burn the rest. At least, I'd sooner do that than waste it on something as primitive as a vibrating keyboard.

Quite how hearing something and deciding that it sounds like a heap of shit has a thing to do with predicting the future of markets from audio files, I'm at loss to discern. The failings were so characteristic of the typical 'digital piano' (or rather 'keyboard') sound I could have picked it out as being fake within seconds, even if I had never been told what I was listening to.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKktyeuIs1U

Try it for yourself. His sparse pedalling in the Chopin Waltz reveals the limitations in an instant. Long notes also reveal how the tone merely drones- rather than blossoming after the instant of sounding. Any serious professional would smell a rat in an instant (unless paid as well as Katsaris blatantly was).

If this can even be called a 'piano', it's a poor man's piano masquerading as a rich man's one (and worse, literally being sold at the price of a rich man's piano).

PS. Regarding 'bias', I personally forked out over a thousand pounds for my own keyboard. It's useful for practise purposes, but a person who restricts himself to that alone can only be poorer for doing so. Sorry for being harsh, but if a person cannot discern what cannot be produced from a digital piano (but which can even be produced from plenty of acoustics that are in rather poor condition) it only serves to illustrate that they have not learned how to approach tone-production to the high standards which acoustics permit. Perhaps that's the reason why some people prefer digitals- because they prefer the guaranteed tone-quality to the ugly tone that ensues if you use poor technique on acoustic? As I say, sorry for being harsh, but if anyone seriously thinks that a Horowitz or Cortot would not have been frustrated by the prerecorded (as opposed to personally instigated) tone quality of any digital, that's only a reflection on their own limitations as a pianist. Stick with digitals alone, and you'll never come to understand why you can't access the greater possibilities that even a lot of very cheap uprights can open up.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/14/09 11:03 PM

Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi

Why would I want to play or even see a $20,000 piano that sounds like a MIDI playback within the first few seconds?


Frankly, your bias is showing.

Even a $1,000 digital piano sounds better than a MIDI playback, to my ears. Maybe your ears are different.

Seriously, your position is that a 7 year old beginner needs a top of the line grand. How can you defend that, given what Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin learned on?
Posted by: daro

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/14/09 11:23 PM

Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi


Why would I want to play or even see a $20,000 piano that sounds like a MIDI playback within the first few seconds?


For one thing, it might actually allow you to make an informed judgment instead of just sounding like a pompous ignoramus. And of course we all know that youtube represents the very pinnacle of sonic fidelity.


Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi


Quite how hearing something and deciding that it sounds like a heap of shit has a thing to do with predicting the future of markets from audio files, I'm at loss to discern. The failings were so characteristic of the typical 'digital piano' (or rather 'keyboard') sound I could have picked it out as being fake within seconds, even if I had never been told what I was listening to.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKktyeuIs1U

Try it for yourself.


Um, I've actually tried the real, non-youtube variety AvantGrand for myself, thank you very much. Why don't you do the same - it might not change your opinion, but it would make it a tad more credible.

Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi


PS. Regarding 'bias', I personally forked out over a thousand pounds for my own keyboard. It's useful for practise purposes, but a person who restricts himself to that alone can only be poorer for doing so.


And when exactly did I or anyone, with the possible exception of Gyro, ever say that one should restrict oneself to digitals.

Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi


Sorry for being harsh, but if a person cannot discern what cannot be produced from a digital piano (but which can even be produced from plenty of acoustics that are in rather poor condition) it only serves to illustrate that they have not learned how to approach tone-production to the high standards which acoustics permit. Perhaps that's the reason why some people prefer digitals- because they prefer the guaranteed tone-quality to the ugly tone that ensues if you use poor technique on acoustic? As I say, sorry for being harsh, but if anyone seriously thinks that a Horowitz or Cortot would not have been frustrated by the prerecorded (as opposed to personally instigated) tone quality of any digital, that's only a reflection on their own limitations as a pianist. Stick with digitals alone, and you'll never come to understand why you can't access the greater possibilities that even a lot of very cheap uprights can open up.


Gee, thanks for your concern. I've been playing acoustics for over 50 years, many of those years professionally. I like to think I have some modest grasp of the possibilities, but I'll certainly work on those limitations and that ugly tone that you heard in my playing out there in your magical universe.
Posted by: Mrs.A

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/14/09 11:56 PM

Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: Mrs.A
Consider that you are not actually making a tone on a digital piano. . When you play that digital piano, you are playing a RECORDING of at piano tone through a speaker. When you play a chord you are not getting a true harmony in terms of sound waves and physics. It is not true harmony.


I have a CD set of Glen playing the Goldberg variations. Well, of course I have other CDs, piano and instrumental; I just listen to that one fairly often.

Guess what? They are ALL digital recreations of a tone, played through a speaker.

So unless you are such a purist that you never listen to anything but live music, I think this particular criticism is misplaced.


Good Gracious…..

First of all, my comment was not a criticism. I was stating a fact. A digital piano produces a recording of the tone. The harmonies are not true.

If given the choice, I would rather hear a live acoustic performance of the Goldberg variations over a CD digital recording through a speaker anytime.

Oh and yes I have a collection of CD's.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 08:14 AM

Originally Posted By: Mrs.A


A digital piano produces a recording of the tone. The harmonies are not true.


I don't understand what you mean by this. Any given piano note has the same overtone series whether produced by sampling, modeling, or an acoustic. How can the harmonies not be true? Of course some digital pianos do a better or worse job of this creation. Some add in additional factors like string resonance, etc. Actually I wish digitals were not as realistic. Those screechy tinkly notes at the top of an acoustic keyboard, or those growly pitchy ones at the bottom? I'd prefer those sound more like the midrange.

Perhaps you are objecting to equal temperament. Digitals are always in tune, but unless you choose a historical temperament (try THAT on an acoustic) they are always in tune to ET. Acoustics start detuning immediately after a tuning session, and that contributes to "true" harmony.

Originally Posted By: Mrs.A
If given the choice, I would rather hear a live acoustic performance of the Goldberg variations over a CD digital recording through a speaker anytime.


Well, I like live performance too. Imagine, I'm stupid enough to pay for concert tickets for a piece of music I already have on CD and can listen to free! How dumb is that? <grin>

But on a pure sonic basis, it is rare to find an acoustic environment where a live performer sounds as good as a CD recorded in a good studio. I'm not talking about the performance itself, which sometimes is better live, feeding off the audience energy, and sometimes is worse, due to nerves, etc. I'm talking about the acoustics of the hall, or church, or bar, and the ambient sounds of coughing, echoes, drunks, trains passing, etc.

My point is that the CD sounds good. And it is a digitized recreation through speakers.
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 08:19 AM

Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi

Why would I want to play or even see a $20,000 piano that sounds like a MIDI playback within the first few seconds?


Frankly, your bias is showing.

Even a $1,000 digital piano sounds better than a MIDI playback, to my ears. Maybe your ears are different.

Seriously, your position is that a 7 year old beginner needs a top of the line grand. How can you defend that, given what Bach, Beethoven, and Chopin learned on?


I would say that Bach, Beethoven and Chopin probably didn't learn on digital pianos.

My position is that a 7 year old beginner should learn on a cheap but competent piano. What on earth makes you attribute such a ridiculous strawman argument to me? A top of the line grand is the only alternative to a keyboard now, is it? I'm simply criticising overpriced keyboards.

Apologies if I'm showing my 'bias' towards $20,000 instruments that cannot even compete with a cheap upright.
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 08:25 AM

Originally Posted By: daro
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi


Why would I want to play or even see a $20,000 piano that sounds like a MIDI playback within the first few seconds?


For one thing, it might actually allow you to make an informed judgment instead of just sounding like a pompous ignoramus. And of course we all know that youtube represents the very pinnacle of sonic fidelity.


Precisely. The fact that it's so easy to spot the difference, without even having the benefits of optimum sound quality demonstrates just how easy it is to pick out the limitations. I haven't yet heard any recordings from real pianos on youtube, that sounded like they were digital pianos. So, I wonder- was it the fact that it was on youtube, or was it the fact that it doesn't sound like a real piano- that meant that it didn't sound like a real piano?

I don't think that exactly takes a genius- any more than it takes a Horowitz to realise what digital pianos are unable to offer...
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 08:33 AM

Originally Posted By: TimR
Originally Posted By: Mrs.A


A digital piano produces a recording of the tone. The harmonies are not true.


I don't understand what you mean by this. Any given piano note has the same overtone series whether produced by sampling, modeling, or an acoustic. How can the harmonies not be true? Of course some digital pianos do a better or worse job of this creation. Some add in additional factors like string resonance, etc. Actually I wish digitals were not as realistic. Those screechy tinkly notes at the top of an acoustic keyboard, or those growly pitchy ones at the bottom? I'd prefer those sound more like the midrange. [...]

My point is that the CD sounds good. And it is a digitized recreation through speakers.


Time to read some books on overtones, my friend. If you do not know anything about the complexity of how overtones respond when a pedal is down, you ought to read up. Not surprisingly, it's when a lot of pedal is involved that you hear the biggest limitations of digitals. The notes interact on a real piano. The way that this is simuilated on a digital is simply a very poor replacement. On a decent real piano, you can frequently hear a discernible swell to the sound that is produced (when pedalling). Within a fracion of a second, the sound blossoms in a way that it doesn't without pedal. The simulation is vastly limited. Compare this swell in a Horowitz performance, with the dead neutral tones in that Katsaris one. It's instantly identifiable as a fake, through that stone dead, emotionless tone.


You're talking about the difference between a recreation of a whole and a failed attempt to create that whole from individual components. Sorry, but it's simply not a justified comparison. It's scarcely more relevant than comparing a recording of a symphony to a MIDI recreation- and saying that both are digital so why should there be any difference? Whether we're talking pianos or orchestras, there is an extremely good reason for the differences- differences that are easily perceived.

If you dislike the realism of the upper register and bass and prefer clean, neutral sounds, I'd recommend looking for an old Casio from the early 90s. You might have the 'piano' of your dreams...
Posted by: Arabesque

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 09:09 AM

I learned on a massive clunker of a German upright which had one key broken. I now practice on digital for practical reasons and alternate with hiring a grand piano practice room. Instead of producing too quiet a tone on the acoustic I notice the opposite. The tone is very loud and needs a lot more control. After working with this for half an hour I find I can adapt. However, it is essential to develop a good technique in order to manipulate tone.

Therefore I think it's not exactly a case of playing a digital means weaker fingers rather than the sensitivity of technique may need addressing. But this is really not a fundamental problem but rather an adaptive skill which will come later. The ease of playing weighted digital keyboards can lead to enhanced finger agility and speed as mentioned above. This is a good thing in early piano learning. And if one's child is happy playing then why worry? It's not about finger strength at all anyway. This is saying that you only play with the fingers which is unbelievably simplistic given three-hundred years of physiognymical studies as well as simple observation of pianists playing. When producing tone you actually do it from various parts of the body including arms and upper torso. Fingers are just for putting in the right places.
Posted by: Geoffk

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 09:14 AM

Historically, digitals have suffered from some technical limitations such as sample over-compression, limited sample length, obvious looping, lack of damper/string resonance, limited polyphony and other problems. But, frankly, most of these are only of historical interest now. The sound from a recent, high-end digital, is virtually a perfect reproduction of a miked acoustic. Most of the remaining limitations of current models are simply a result of the cheap and basic speaker systems that they have. Running a current digital though a expensive sound system will make it sound even more like an amplified acoustic than they already do.

Claims that digitals "don't sound like real pianos" or "Lack proper harmonics" are just blind prejudice. There's no technical or practical basis for that kind of assertion. And up to $5000 or so (a *very* high-end digital), a student would almost always be better off with a digital than an acoustic of the same price. Likewise, unless a family is prepared to *seriously* maintain their acoustic, a student will be playing a sub-optimal instrument most of the time with an acoustic--out of tune, missing notes, buzzing, sticking, etc. Whereas the digital will always sound and play fine.

We are truly blessed to live in a time where a trouble-free, arguably superior alternative to a traditional instrument is not only available, but costs a fraction of the price. But, instead, some people would prefer to be snobbish about it, and bask their extraordinarily discriminating ears in the superior technology of 1901. More power to you, but you're losing the war. I'm sure that Yamaha already sells way more Clavinolas than acoustics these days. And the technology is only going to keep getting better.
Posted by: Geoffk

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 09:29 AM

Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
Time to read some books on overtones, my friend. If you do not know anything about the complexity of how overtones respond when a pedal is down, you ought to read up. Not surprisingly, it's when a lot of pedal is involved that you hear the biggest limitations of digitals. The notes interact on a real piano. The way that this is simuilated on a digital is simply a very poor replacement.


Well, I know what you're saying. For example, you play a middle C note and hold down the pedal. Obviously, other C notes up and down the keyboard will play in harmony. But other strings will also vibrate slightly, as the harmonics from the C note sound their fundamental tone. And still more strings will vibrate from the base and harmonic notes of these harmonic strings. In short, playing this single note with pedal will result in a large fraction of the notes on the piano vibrating to some extent (assuming it's in perfect tune).

Where you lose the argument is when you say that digitals can't properly replicate this. This feature (called damper resonance) is on most high-end digitals. And it works extremely well--probably better than the real effect works on most real world, slightly out-of-tune acoustic pianos. It's more effective on some digitals than others (e.g. I think Roland does a better job than Yamaha). But claiming that this is something that digitals can't do is just acoustic prejudice. String resonance (a similar effect on any open string without pedal) is also on high-end digitals.

But please keep trying. I'm sure you'll find something that digitals can't "really" do. For a start, I haven't figured out a way to make a cracked soundboard buzz or a misadjusted key stick on a digital.
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 09:30 AM

Originally Posted By: Geoffk
Claims that digitals "don't sound like real pianos" or "Lack proper harmonics" are just blind prejudice. There's no technical or practical basis for that kind of assertion. And up to $5000 or so (a *very* high-end digital), a student would almost always be better off with a digital than an acoustic of the same price. Likewise, unless a family is prepared to *seriously* maintain their acoustic, a student will be playing a sub-optimal instrument most of the time with an acoustic--out of tune, missing notes, buzzing, sticking, etc. Whereas the digital will always sound and play fine.


There's no snobbery. I personally paid over a thousand pounds for a keyboard. It's very useful. It has countless positives. However I can HEAR the difference and very easily. What more needs to be said? If there are people who sincerely believe that neither I nor countless professional and amateur musicians do not have the ability to perceive major flaws (via their ears alone), they are simply deluding themselves.

As for the idea that there's no 'technical' basis- how about the fact that even high-end pianos only sample 5 differnt strike weights? Do you think that the piano can only produce 5 different sounds per key- and that everything else is merely equivalent to turning a volume switch up and down? That's without even coming on to the level of complexity that exists in how overtones interact in reality...

Stating untruths as if they were incontrovertible fact does not help the case for digitals.
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 09:37 AM

Originally Posted By: Geoffk

Where you lose the argument is when you say that digitals can't properly replicate this. This feature (called damper resonance) is on most high-end digitals. And it works extremely well--probably better than the real effect works on most real world, slightly out-of-tune acoustic pianos. It's more effective on some digitals than others (e.g. I think Roland does a better job than Yamaha). But claiming that this is something that digitals can't do is just acoustic prejudice. String resonance (a similar effect on any open string without pedal) is also on high-end digitals.


Sorry, but I'm at least 95% sure you are mistaken about 'damper resonance'. I believe it's to do with the noise the dampers make when hitting the strings. It's very minor, but it seems to make a little sound that can be heard when you play a rapid stacatto.

Of course, digital pianos have begun to include overtones. However, it's not even close to that which occurs on any urpight. Nevermind the absurdity of claiming that it emulates a grand...

If you prefer your digital piano that's fine. However, you'd be better off accepting the fact that it DOES pose a number of limitations, than making rather tenuous attempts to argue that it can achieve that which it simply cannot.
Posted by: Geoffk

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 09:40 AM

Yes that's true. Most digitals use three to five samples per key, split between 128 levels of volume. Frankly, based on carefully listening to digitals and acoustics, I think that you can reasonably simulate the range of expression available on an acoustic with this type of arrangement. Yes, there are theoretically an infinite number of tones that a single key can produce. But most of them will sound pretty similar except for volume level, so quantizing the tonal range to four or five with a wider range of volume loses very little in actual expression. And yes, I'm aware of overtone interaction. As I point out above this is very well simulated now.

If you think that you can hear a difference, than maybe you can. Or maybe, you hear what you expect to hear, and you are actually the deluded one. And, please, don't suggest to me that there is no snobbery involved. I'm sure that 50 years from now, when even lab instruments won't be able to tell acoustics from digitals, acoustic players will still be using the same arguments as today.
Posted by: Geoffk

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 09:46 AM

Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
Sorry, but I'm at least 95% sure you are mistaken about 'damper resonance'. I believe it's to do with the noise the dampers make when hitting the strings. It's very minor, but it seems to make a little sound that can be heard when you play a rapid stacatto.


No that's damper sampling. The sound of the damper mechanism is actually sampled and played back, in case anyone misses the slight mechanical noise that it makes. The fact that even an incredibly trivial feature like this is faithfully replicated tells you how serious digital makers are.

Damper resonance is exactly what I said it is. It's not even a very high end feature now. Most of the Yamaha Clavinovas have it, as well as most Rolands and Kawais.

You can argue all you want that these features and digitals in general have mysterious "limitations". Certainly, I wouldn't claim that my digital sounds as good as a big Steinway or Bechstein grand. But it sounds better than a lot of uprights and baby grands that I've played. And it *plays* better than they do as well.
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 09:51 AM

Originally Posted By: Geoffk
Yes that's true. Most digitals use three to five samples per key, split between 128 levels of volume. Frankly, based on carefully listening to digitals and acoustics, I think that you can reasonably simulate the range of expression available on an acoustic with this type of arrangement. Yes, there are theoretically an infinite number of tones that a single key can produce. But most of them will sound pretty similar except for volume level, so quantizing the tonal range to four or five with a wider range of volume loses very little in actual expression. And yes, I'm aware of overtone interaction. As I point out above this is very well simulated now.

If you think that you can hear a difference, than maybe you can. Or maybe, you hear what you expect to hear, and you are actually the deluded one. And, please, don't suggest to me that there is no snobbery involved. I'm sure that 50 years from now, when even lab instruments won't be able to tell acoustics from digitals, acoustic players will still be using the same arguments as today.


Sorry to be blunt, but if you cannot tell the difference, what position are you in to judge whether anyone else might be able to?

If I'd been played those recordings blind, at the very least I would have deeply been puzzled by the dead sounds in the Traumerei. It's all about how the sounds interact. When you listen in a certain way, you can tell when that does not happen.

In performances of jazz, I'll happily admit that there are cases where I might not easily spot the different between a miked up piano through speakers and digital. Put some drums over the top and primarily play without pedal, and I may not realise. However, if you do not believe that people cannot pick out the limitations of having only 5 different tone qualities and notes that do not accurately interact under the pedal (when something like a Chopin nocturne is being played) you are wasting your time to trying to persuade those who can hear the difference.

I would happily take a blind listening test- provided that the pianist plays to a high standard and not robotically (although even there, I would be surprised if you could catch me out). The irony of Yamaha paying Katsaris to advertise their piano is that having an artist with his range of touch exposes the flaws more than it demonstrates the positives.
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 09:53 AM

http://www.rosemorris.com/content/HP101.html

This page refers to it as the noise of the dampers being moved. It says nothing about the actual simulation of overtones. Obviously, having a sustain pedal does that to some extent anyway. However, I've never heard a DP where it sounds remotely sophisticated as a reproduction. There's never enough interaction between the sounds.
Posted by: Horowitzian

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 09:57 AM

I find this argument amusing because it is just exactly like the perennial "solid-state vs. tube" amp wars on electric guitar forums. smile
Posted by: Geoffk

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 10:01 AM

Sometimes I can hear a difference between acoustic and digital; often I can't. If it was a recording, than I probably couldn't tell, since the miking and digitizing for the recording would make the acoustic sound more "digital" anyway. And I don't think that "notes that do not accurately interact under the pedal" is a problem anymore with current digitals.

But your bat-ears apparently can hear a difference. I'd be interested in seeing a controlled blind test of that. You might be surprised.
Posted by: Geoffk

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 10:06 AM

From the manual for my Roland HP-207, here are the resonance features which are adjustable. Note that "Damper Noise" and "Damper Resonance" are separate features:

Damper Resonance Off, 1–10
This adjusts the damper resonance of the acoustic piano sound (the sympathetic vibration produced in strings other than those actually played when you press the damper pedal). Higher settings will make the sympathetic vibration louder.

Damper Noise Off, 1–10
This adjusts the damper noise of the acoustic piano sound (the sound of the damper releasing the strings when you press the damper pedal).

Duplex Scale Off, 1–10
This adjusts the sympathetic vibrations of an acoustic piano’s Duplex Scale (p. 29). Higher settings will make the sympathetic vibration louder.

String Resonance Off, 1–10
This adjusts the string resonance of the acoustic piano sound (the sympathetic vibrations of strings for previously played notes that occur when you play
another note). Higher settings will make the sympathetic vibration louder.

Key Off Resonance Off, 1–10
This adjusts sympathetic vibrations such as an acoustic piano’s key-off sound (the subtle sound that occurs when you release a note). Higher settings will make the sympathetic vibration louder.
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 10:19 AM

Originally Posted By: Geoffk
Sometimes I can hear a difference between acoustic and digital; often I can't. If it was a recording, than I probably couldn't tell, since the miking and digitizing for the recording would make the acoustic sound more "digital" anyway. And I don't think that "notes that do not accurately interact under the pedal" is a problem anymore with current digitals.

But your bat-ears apparently can hear a difference. I'd be interested in seeing a controlled blind test of that. You might be surprised.


If you can't spot the difference yourself, you probably won't be convinced. I don't regard myself as having a terribly good ear for sound, but having only ever been interested in pianists like Horowitz, Cortot, gilels and Nyiregyhazi etc. distinctive tone quality is what I listen for and what I strive for when I play myself. I am actually rather impressed by much of what digitals can do now. However, they don't enable the full range of feedback. If I only practise on the digital for a long period of time, I wouldn't be surprised if my tone suffered on returning to an acoustic. My Bluthner has a very hard tone quality if you seize at the keys. However, push them the right way and it has a beautiful tone indeed. You cannot learn this vital technique (which defines the sounds of real artists) on any digital. The idea that hammer speed alone is the issue on a real piano is actually doubtful (if you look into the real details of how a hammer moves). On a digital piano, you really do just get a key speed.

I am not a 'hater' of keyboards (when used to complement real pianos). However, I do take particularly annoyance at hearing them put forward in a manner that is simply innaccurate. My CLP 370 has an action that is supposedly that of a 'grand piano' but it's hugely limited, when you start playing with a true fortissimo (even when you ease in from direct contact with the key). However good they are, they are always a substitute for a piano- a subsitute that still comes with limitations. Many acoustics may be worse than a piano but there is still no digital that can reproduce what even a moderately priced upright ought to permit.

Choosing a digital over a real piano is like choosing some sort of futuristic (yet relatively primitive) sex android over a woman. It simply isn't the same thing yet.
Posted by: sotto voce

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 10:39 AM

I can't see any point in assuming that anyone's preference for an acoustic is a matter of snobbery—or for characterizing the marketplace for digital and acoustic instruments as a "war" between winning and losing sides (unless, of course, one's purpose is to make people defensive and get them riled smile ).

Plenty of people have a digital and an acoustic and recognize that each has its place. Preferring an acoustic doesn't mean categorically dismissing digitals out of hand. Advocating for digitals shouldn't require denial that a mechanical instrument made from organic materials is essentially different or that others have a right to favor it.

I'm not threatened by digital technology, but the presumption that it must inevitably prevail rather than coexist—not to mention the gleeful anticipation some seem to feel about that prediction—is off-putting.

Steven
Posted by: Geoffk

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 10:52 AM

Sorry, if I struck a sour note there. But most acoustic players don't take the "separate but equal" view. They view the acoustic as gold and the digital as brass--still yellow, but not nearly the same. Even if they own and play one, it's a necessary evil that they need to make excuses for.

That's silly. If I traded my digital in for an acoustic, I'd miss many features (MIDI, recording, silent play, perfect tuning, alternate tuning, alternate sounds, etc.) that I've learned to enjoy and use. It really does have significant advantages of it's own.

I admit that there's something "organic" about an acoustic. But it's really a very complex device when you get down to it, and it's not really any more natural for sound to come from a string than a speaker.

I love acoustics, and I don't begrudge anyone else the right to love the as well. But I still think that acoustic players who take pride in belittling digitals and suggesting that students shouldn't study on them are ultimately being snobbish about their choices.
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 11:10 AM

Originally Posted By: Geoffk
Sorry, if I struck a sour note there. But most acoustic players don't take the "separate but equal" view. They view the acoustic as gold and the digital as brass--still yellow, but not nearly the same. Even if they own and play one, it's a necessary evil that they need to make excuses for.

That's silly. If I traded my digital in for an acoustic, I'd miss many features (MIDI, recording, silent play, perfect tuning, alternate tuning, alternate sounds, etc.) that I've learned to enjoy and use. It really does have significant advantages of it's own.

I admit that there's something "organic" about an acoustic. But it's really a very complex device when you get down to it, and it's not really any more natural for sound to come from a string than a speaker.

I love acoustics, and I don't begrudge anyone else the right to love the as well. But I still think that acoustic players who take pride in belittling digitals and suggesting that students shouldn't study on them are ultimately being snobbish about their choices.


The point is that they are not equal. Anyone who learns on a competent piano can transfer to a digital with no problems. Anyone who learns on a digital will bring the limitations of their learning to the piano. If they didn't learn the type of technique that produces a good sound on an acoustic, they will not produce a good sound on an acoustic. Seeing as a digital does not train that technique, it's rather unlikely to evolve to a high standard, if at all. For that reason, it's no surprise that those who have spent a lot of time on digitals often criticise the tone quality of real pianos and cannot hear such benefits as others can. In reality, it's likely to be their method of tone-production that is really at fault. You need to learn how to access such sounds, before you can expect to tell the difference.

If wanting kids to learn the ability to make a beautiful tone on any instrument (as opposed to cause a playback of one that was produced by someone else) is 'snobbery' then count me in.

To speak of them of equals is about as reasonable as referring to indoor golf simulations (where you hit a real ball into a screen) as being 'equal' to real golf. If you do not accept the limitations, it's reality that you are unwilling to accept.

I couldn't give a damn whether a sound 'comes from a speaker'. I'd sooner listen to a recording of Horowitz than most living pianists playing live. What matters is the qualities in that sound. When I'm the one producing sounds, I want to be capable of producing the sounds I intend to produce. Real pianos offers substantially more, in that respect. If someone only intends to express themself via 128 different volumes (with 5 different tone qualities) then they can feel free to limit themself as such. However, I'm certainly not going to nod and smile politely if anyone seriously tries to tell me that this is 'equal' to a real piano.

If they ever genuinely capture the full qualities of a good instrument in a digital, I'll be very happy. The problem is that they haven't yet done so...
Posted by: Gyro

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 11:27 AM

I think you flatter yourself if you
think that you're producing celestial
tones on your acoustic piano. How
about hitting all the right notes in the
right time at tempo, for starters?
If you could do that with a half
dozen or more concertos--never mind
the "tone"--you could go on tour
right now.

Why were the old silent keyboards
so popular with concert pianists?
You can't get any tone out of them
since they make no sound, but they
were the best thing for a pianist.
Digitals take up from where the
old silent keyboards left off, with
the added benefit of sound.
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 11:34 AM

Originally Posted By: Gyro
I think you flatter yourself if you
think that you're producing celestial
tones on your acoustic piano. How
about hitting all the right notes in the
right time at tempo, for starters?
If you could do that with a half
dozen or more concertos--never mind
the "tone"--you could go on tour
right now.

Why were the old silent keyboards
so popular with concert pianists?
You can't get any tone out of them
since they make no sound, but they
were the best thing for a pianist.
Digitals take up from where the
old silent keyboards left off, with
the added benefit of sound.


You can be sarcastic if you want, but my Bluthner makes an ugly sound if I let my technique go sloppy. It makes a very appealing cantabile, if I concentrate on the movements. I'm sorry if other people might not know how to make any difference, but it's not exactly unusual for a pianist to strive for or achieve such an ability- whether to a low level or a high one. My digital makes the same tone, whatever I do.

Indeed, I use my keyboard for technical work on a daily basis, when it's too late to play my acoustic. So what's your point?

Do you think any of those pianists who used silent keyboards ever saw it as anything other than a useful alternative, when a piano was not available for use? I'm not sure if they were ever 'popular'. Apparently Rachmaninoff only ever used one to learn his 3rd concerto when he was on a long journey.

PS. The world has more than enough pianists who can hit the right notes, without any regard for tone.
Posted by: Gyro

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 11:46 AM

If you can't produce "tone" on your
digital, then the fault is in your
playing, not the digital. I do
it every day on my $600 digital--and
in big-time pieces like the
Chopin op. 14. Of course, its not
exactly the same as on
an acoustic grand piano, but it's close
enough for all practical purposes,
and if I had to play an acoustic
piano, I could adjust to it with
little problem.

Again, this is why the old silent
keyboards were so popular and
why Arrau used one all his life.
They enable a pianist to develop
the strength and technique so
he can produce that great "tone,"
on any piano.
Posted by: Gyro

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 11:54 AM

It's like trying to talk to a brainwashed
cult member when you try to talk
about digitals pianos with
these "acoustic-pianos-and-
nothing-else-is-a-real-piano"
people. Nothing gets through to
them unless it's about acoustic
pianos.
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 12:04 PM

Originally Posted By: Gyro
If you can't produce "tone" on your
digital, then the fault is in your
playing, not the digital. I do
it every day on my $600 digital--and
in big-time pieces like the
Chopin op. 14. Of course, its not
exactly the same as on
an acoustic grand piano, but it's close
enough for all practical purposes,
and if I had to play an acoustic
piano, I could adjust to it with
little problem.

Again, this is why the old silent
keyboards were so popular and
why Arrau used one all his life.
They enable a pianist to develop
the strength and technique so
he can produce that great "tone,"
on any piano.


You're totally misunderstanding my point. I can produce elements of tone on my digital. It's interesting to see how much variety remains possible, when you are playing with neutral, pre-recorded sounds. However, it is not possible to contrast between ugly sounds and beautiful ones in the same way.

You can approach the keys of a digital however you like and it will still sound nice. That doesn't prepare you for real pianos.

Perhaps it's 'close enough' for you, but have you considered that this might demonstrate that you do not possess the range of sounds that thousands of professional musicians (for whom it is not 'close enough') do? Judging from your comments, it's obvious that you're not interested in terribly much beyond learning notes in the right order. Stick with the digital alone and you'll never get any closer to something beyond that.


PS. Considering how many people can consistently spot the difference in blind listening, it's pretty obvious who are the 'cult' members here. My own criteria are simply those of sound and response. The day a digital piano can match up to what I require, I'll say that they are 'equal' rather than merely a substitute.
Posted by: Geoffk

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 12:19 PM

Well, to summarize your argument:

- It's possible to produce an ugly tone on an acoustic
- Nobody would take an ugly tone for a sample, so all of the tones available on a digital are "good" ones
- So a digital player on an acoustic may find himself producing ugly tones, which his digital couldn't make.
- Therefore, studying on an acoustic is better.

I can see the logic of this argument, but it certainly doesn't convince me that an acoustic is a "better" instrument. It does suggest that a student should try to get exposure to acoustics during his learning, but I never argued that was a bad idea. And your continued insistence that digitals are second-rate instruments still sounds like snobbery, rather than fact-based argument, to me.
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 12:23 PM

Originally Posted By: Geoffk
Well, to summarize your argument:

- It's possible to produce an ugly tone on an acoustic
- Nobody would take an ugly tone for a sample, so all of the tones available on a digital are "good" ones
- So a digital player on an acoustic may find himself producing ugly tones, which his digital couldn't make.
- Therefore, studying on an acoustic is better.

I can see the logic of this argument, but it certainly doesn't convince me that an acoustic is a "better" instrument. It does suggest that a student should try to get exposure to acoustics during his learning, but I never argued that was a bad idea. And your continued insistence that digitals are second-rate instruments still sounds like snobbery, rather than fact-based argument, to me.


I attempt to exercise as much tonal snobbery as possible when I play (discriminating against ugly sounds in cantabile lines), so perhaps it's indeed snobbish of me to expect an 'equal' instrument to a piano to teach you how to do that. Also, a digital piano has quite a pleasing tone, but it won't give you the tone of a Gilels. Not a chance. Only on a real piano could you so much as hope to approach that.

Approach it however you will, the point is this: you can learn how to play any instrument well from a competent piano. You can learn how to play a digital piano well from a digital piano. What more need be said? It's not 'equal' if they are not interchangable.
Posted by: sotto voce

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 12:32 PM

Originally Posted By: Gyro
If you can't produce "tone" on your
digital, then the fault is in your
playing, not the digital. I do
it every day on my $600 digital--and
in big-time pieces like the
Chopin op. 14.

Gyro, aren't you flattering yourself by insisting on saying you play "big-time pieces like" Chopin's Op. 14, when in fact it's the only one?

Originally Posted By: Gyro
It's like trying to talk to a brainwashed
cult member when you try to talk
about digitals pianos with
these "acoustic-pianos-and-
nothing-else-is-a-real-piano"
people. Nothing gets through to
them unless it's about acoustic
pianos.

It obviously serve some agenda to depict the situation as between warring, us-versus-them factions.

I wonder what it's like trying to talk to you in real life! No one in this entire forum is as dogmatically insistent about his own version of reality, something that could be said to be a characteristic of a "brainwashed cult member." smile

Steven
Posted by: Geoffk

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 12:57 PM

Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
Approach it however you will, the point is this: you can learn how to play any instrument well from a competent piano. You can learn how to play a digital piano well from a digital piano. What more need be said? It's not 'equal' if they are not interchangable.


I'm sorry, but I still don't see the ability to sound bad as a big advantage for the acoustic side. I guess you'll argue next that acoustics are better because they can be out of tune (and frequently are...)

Yes, a student should try to study acoustic as well as digital. But either one is fine to play and is a valid musical instrument.
Posted by: Kreisler

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 01:50 PM

I'm always amazed that when these debate come up, the biggest difference seems to get neglected:

The sound from a digital piano comes out of *speakers*

The sound from an acoustic does *not*

That's pretty much all I care about.
Posted by: Susan K.

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 02:01 PM

It seems as if there are soooo many factors that make the acoustic vs. digital argument such a convolution.

- Age of pianist
- Ability of pianist
- Financial means of the pianist
- Cultural background of the pianist

Originally Posted By: dumdumdiddle
However, the reality is that most students have pretty cr***y pianos. They get them for $500 in the newspaper, Craigslist, from Grandma, at yard sales, even off the side of the road for free (as one of my students bragged about... ughh:( ). How many teachers actually know what kind of piano their students practice on at home?

I grew up with piano lessons but we were pretty poor. My mother saved for the $5 weekly lesson from the grocery budget. My father found a $300 spinet. It was by far the most expensive piece of furniture in the house. It was never tuned (I played for 8 years) and I never knew that it wasn't tuned and after 8 years of lessons, I always thought that I was a terrible player because NOTHING I played sounded any good.

Fastforward 30 years, my mother buys me a Yamaha digital piano (space issues) and I am SHOCKED how beautiful my playing sounds. My teacher says I play too well to play on digital, for precisely all the reasons stated before, touch, finesse. I love playing on her grand. BUT, we would need to move in order to go acoustic AND I am aware of how much upkeep an acoustic piano requires. I can budget in the tunings and I can save for a quality acoustic. But do I think that I'm hampered by the digital? Not at all. So much of the conversation on this thread is laced with privilege -- educated parents who know about music and understand the investment value in their children's music education. My cousin paid 2K for his daughter's beginning flute -- she stuck with it for three months before moving onto the oboe.

Unfortunately MOST families don't have that kind of cash . I understand acoustic preference, but I'm of the mind that these preferences (acoustic or digital) should never be imposed on anyone else. They are highly personal and THAT'S where it should stay. Obviously the original poster wants to give his son the very best and can afford it.

But most folks don't have the option. And while we lament that music and art are the first things to be cut in hard budgetary times, the fact of the matter is that all those things COST MONEY. And if digital pianos open up that love of music for a child, then it's worth it's weight in GOLD. I'm the kid that couldn't do most things because of equipment costs and was often told, you won't be any good because you don't have the "best" fill in the blank. In my parents' mind, they had bought me the BEST piano.
Posted by: Gary D.

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 02:05 PM

Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi

Yeah, I think the OP was the one who said he'd been recommended to keep it on the heavy touch for normal playing. I'd be really careful about using that setting very much. I can certainly see your point on sometimes using the light touch as a practise method for control of loud passages. Sounds like very good idea for honing sensitivity, but I don't quite follow the other way around though. Surely playing on the heavy setting would simply increase the margin for error- as well as possibly encouraging thumping? I don't think that having to hit a really light action hard, simply to bring any sound out, is terribly conducive towards added sensitivty.

You can't make any blanket statement about touch settings, because each DP is different. I own an old Clavinova, and NO setting works. Medium will not produce ff without hitting the damned thing with a hammer, and you still can't control the other end. Nothing works on it. "Light" allows very "powerful sounds", but they still aren't under control, and trying to play softly, with control, simply results in some notes not sounding at all.

The heavy setting makes it possible to control rought pp through mf, but there you have to exaggerate. You have to change everything you do to "adjust" to the totally artificial feel of a totally insensitive keyboard.

On the other hand, I have played at least one Yamaha that played rather nicely on the "heavy" setting. The reason is that the default was so exaggerated that it was much too easy to play loud passages (no effort), while control in soft passages was poor. The heavy made me work roughly the way I would on a good grand, meaning that I had to use some "effort", but then I also found it rather easy to get much better control on the other end.

I'm being very sloppy with my descriptions and terminology. My point is that if a teacher gets to play an individual DP, I would trust the teacher to make a good judgment about which setting is better. It is different on different DPs.

Now, about your link to Cyprien Katsaris. I don't know how much time you've spent working with different DPs, but it's very important to make a differentiation between action (which varies greatly from instrument to instrument, for obvious reasons) and the programmed sounds. I thought this ultra-expensive instrument sounded absolutely horrendous. To me it was shockingly bad, thin, one-dimensional, lifeless, and CKs playing sounded so glib that I couldn't help but think he was playing too fast and distorting things to attempt to mask the obvious shortcomings of the instrument.

So if I used this recording to make a blanket judgment about DPs, my conclusion would be much like yours. However, I have heard DPs for well under $1000 that sounded no worse than that over-priced (and badly adjusted???) instrument. I could not believe how thin and lifeless the sound was. Listening on my cheap laptop speakers, I can't always tell, in a matter of seconds, the difference between a DP and an acoustic. Usually it is the "too-perfect" sound that gives it away (no false beats in the treble, everything is too smooth in a way that is not natural), but in this awful recording I was aware of it in about three seconds.
Posted by: Ebony and Ivory

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 02:11 PM

Originally Posted By: Susan K.
Unfortunately MOST families don't have that kind of cash . I understand acoustic preference, but I'm of the mind that these preferences (acoustic or digital) should never be imposed on anyone else. They are highly personal and THAT'S where it should stay. Obviously the original poster wants to give his son the very best and can afford it.

But most folks don't have the option. And while we lament that music and art are the first things to be cut in hard budgetary times, the fact of the matter is that all those things COST MONEY. And if digital pianos open up that love of music for a child, then it's worth it's weight in GOLD. I'm the kid that couldn't do most things because of equipment costs and was often told, you won't be any good because you don't have the "best" fill in the blank. In my parents' mind, they had bought me the BEST piano.


Two thumbs up!!! You summed up the bottom line very nicely smile smile
Posted by: Gary D.

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 02:45 PM

Susan, I loved what you wrote!
Originally Posted By: Susan K.
It seems as if there are soooo many factors that make the acoustic vs. digital argument such a convolution.

- Age of pianist
- Ability of pianist
- Financial means of the pianist
- Cultural background of the pianist

Don't forget kind of music played. Ask any pianist who has to "gig" if he (or she) would prefer to play on whatever acoustic is available rather than use his own DP, and I'd wager most would prefer the DP.

The exception would be a "steady gig" where a good piano IS available and in tune.

Another factor is turning. An out of tune instrument drives me absolutely insane. I actually destroyed the pinblock of my second upright by fine tuning it daily (the unisons), which I admit is extreme. (It is also a good way to make sure that eventually the pins will be too loose to hold at all.)

My learning to tune my own instrument was the only way I could stand to make recordings, since when we hear recordings of excellent players, their pianos are always tuned to near perfection.
Quote:

Originally Posted By: dumdumdiddle
However, the reality is that most students have pretty cr***y pianos. They get them for $500 in the newspaper, Craigslist, from Grandma, at yard sales, even off the side of the road for free (as one of my students bragged about... ughh:( ). How many teachers actually know what kind of piano their students practice on at home?


That matches my own experience as a teacher…
Originally Posted By: Susan K.

I grew up with piano lessons but we were pretty poor. My mother saved for the $5 weekly lesson from the grocery budget. My father found a $300 spinet. It was by far the most expensive piece of furniture in the house. It was never tuned (I played for 8 years) and I never knew that it wasn't tuned and after 8 years of lessons, I always thought that I was a terrible player because NOTHING I played sounded any good.

Isn't it horrible? frown But most likely there were equally bad things going on. If the piano was never tuned, it was most likely out of regulation. I have played on student instruments that were so bad, I was embarrassed by the sounds I was making and afraid that people listening would think that I actually played that way.
Quote:

Fastforward 30 years, my mother buys me a Yamaha digital piano (space issues) and I am SHOCKED how beautiful my playing sounds. My teacher says I play too well to play on digital, for precisely all the reasons stated before, touch, finesse. I love playing on her grand. BUT, we would need to move in order to go acoustic AND I am aware of how much upkeep an acoustic piano requires. I can budget in the tunings and I can save for a quality acoustic.

The number one issue is privacy. People who have it will never understand that others live in places that prevent practicing on anything other than a DP with earphones. The freedom to play a good acoustic without bothering neighbors is a luxury that some people take for granted.
Quote:

But do I think that I'm hampered by the digital? Not at all. So much of the conversation on this thread is laced with privilege -- educated parents who know about music and understand the investment value in their children's music education. My cousin paid 2K for his daughter's beginning flute -- she stuck with it for three months before moving onto the oboe.

I agree. Ultimately the parents of talented young pianists will usually be able to find a way to buy a good acoustic IF they live in a place where it will not disturb others, but some of my parents have found weighted keyboards, 88 keys, for under $500, and there is no way I am going to tell them that they have made a wrong choice. IF the children of these children really advance—and I still think that is more to do with will, desire and hard work than in having a "perfect instrument"—then these same parents will usually consider an acoustic within a reasonable amount of time. But getting to that "second step" is taking longer in the current economy.
Quote:

Unfortunately MOST families don't have that kind of cash . I understand acoustic preference, but I'm of the mind that these preferences (acoustic or digital) should never be imposed on anyone else. They are highly personal and THAT'S where it should stay. Obviously the original poster wants to give his son the very best and can afford it.

I think parents are wise to listen to us (the teachers) when we recommend choice A over choice B, when both choices involve about the same amount of money AND when other problems (such as privacy) do not make one choice "not doable". In other words, if a family is about to consider a DP that costs almost $2000 and I, as a teacher, play on an acoustic that I think is going to be better, I think that family is foolish not to listen to me. However, I am also USED to adults not listening to me. frown
Quote:

But most folks don't have the option. And while we lament that music and art are the first things to be cut in hard budgetary times, the fact of the matter is that all those things COST MONEY. And if digital pianos open up that love of music for a child, then it's worth it's weight in GOLD. I'm the kid that couldn't do most things because of equipment costs and was often told, you won't be any good because you don't have the "best" fill in the blank. In my parents' mind, they had bought me the BEST piano.

And I have quite a few young students who I feel are just like you. Without a DP, to "get them in the ball game", they would not even have a chance. So yes, I think a lot of this is about people with money and advantages not fully understanding what it is like for people who have less and who have to make sacrifices.

HOWEVER: if you read many posts here, you will also read about families who have a ton of money who refuse to invest in anything better than a cheeap 61 key DP, so there is another side to this story.

[/quote]
Posted by: theJourney

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 03:07 PM

Originally Posted By: Kreisler
I'm always amazed that when these debate come up, the biggest difference seems to get neglected:

The sound from a digital piano comes out of *speakers*

The sound from an acoustic does *not*

That's pretty much all I care about.


Good point. Although the more relevant statement for most of us who use digital pianos because they allow us to practice when we are able to practice is that the digital piano sound comes out of *** headphones *** bothering no one, while the acoustic piano does not and is therefore completely unusable during at least half of the 24 hours in a day.

That's pretty much all that matters when you want to play but an acoustic is impractical.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 04:14 PM

Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi

The point is that they are not equal. Anyone who learns on a competent piano can transfer to a digital with no problems. Anyone who learns on a digital will bring the limitations of their learning to the piano.


You've left yourself an enormous amount of wiggle room, haven't you? And invoked the "no true Scotsman" argument?

You haven't defined competent piano.

And acoustics vary enormously. I used to do my practice for Sunday services on a digital. Sunday morning I had no trouble with transfer to the grand we used in services. But the clunky old upright in the rehearsal room downstairs? No transfer, and if I warmed up on that one I was facing a shock on the grand upstairs.

We have to reword your sentence a bit. Anyone who practices on the average unmaintained home acoustic piano can transfer to a digital with no problems.

Let's face it, the average beginning piano student has access to an acoustic that is levels of magnitude worse than a modern digital.

If we compared high quality acoustic to equivalent quality digital, I'd give the edge to the acoustic. But we're not going to do that. In the average seven year old piano student world, we're going to compare the acoustic that they can afford with the digital they can afford. And now I think the edge goes to the digital.
Posted by: Gary D.

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 05:51 PM

Originally Posted By: theJourney

Good point. Although the more relevant statement for most of us who use digital pianos because they allow us to practice when we are able to practice is that the digital piano sound comes out of *** headphones *** bothering no one, while the acoustic piano does not and is therefore completely unusable during at least half of the 24 hours in a day.

That's pretty much all that matters when you want to play but an acoustic is impractical.

In fact, playing on an acoustic is more than impractical when it simply can't be used. It is IMPOSSIBLE.

Case in point is wanting or needing to practice at hours when other people are asleep, which where I live not only includes my own family but also neighbors.
Posted by: Kreisler

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 06:25 PM

I agree, and I use my digital for the same - when work must be done silently or when an acoustic is not available. When I've done gigs that require keyboard work, I'd practice it on it to get acclimated to the feel.

Also, I occasionally use my DP to record my students. We'll use backing tracks and I can plug the DP directly into the mix without the need for all the microphones and cables. It can be a lot of fun, and the students enjoy the change of pace.
Posted by: dumdumdiddle

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 06:41 PM

Originally Posted By: TimR

Let's face it, the average beginning piano student has access to an acoustic that is levels of magnitude worse than a modern digital.

If we compared high quality acoustic to equivalent quality digital, I'd give the edge to the acoustic. But we're not going to do that. In the average seven year old piano student world, we're going to compare the acoustic that they can afford with the digital they can afford. And now I think the edge goes to the digital.



I agree!
Posted by: Gary D.

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 06:42 PM

Yes, and midi can be an excellent tool to show people, visually, what is actually happening.

For one thing, as you mentioned, recording is simple and instant. No setting up. In addition, and I do this a lot, you can PROVE that what is too slow now is actually correct and will result in a good effect by simply speeding up the playback.

It's also incredible, for showing what really happens, by playing (real-time) something that goes very fast in the sound equivalent of "slo-mo".

Things that sound very accurate at full speed prove to be much more uneven, at 1/4 speed. What is most impressive to students is to have the opportunity to hear that the unevenness that shows up when things are slowed down simply can't be heard when full-speed is resumed.

It's much like "seeing is believing", only in this case it is "hearing is believing".
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 06:52 PM

Originally Posted By: Geoffk
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
Approach it however you will, the point is this: you can learn how to play any instrument well from a competent piano. You can learn how to play a digital piano well from a digital piano. What more need be said? It's not 'equal' if they are not interchangable.


I'm sorry, but I still don't see the ability to sound bad as a big advantage for the acoustic side. I guess you'll argue next that acoustics are better because they can be out of tune (and frequently are...)

Yes, a student should try to study acoustic as well as digital. But either one is fine to play and is a valid musical instrument.


Not for anyone who wants to play in public. Keyboards do not sound good in a hall- regardless of whether a pianist is good or mediocre. That's without even mentioning the limitations to expression and dynamics.

Essentially, a keyboard makes a poor pianist sound better and a great pianist sound worse. That's why it's not 'equal' to a piano. If someone wants to limit themself to 5 tonal varities (if they own a top of the range- more likely no more than 3) and 128 different volumes, they are going to be limited to the limitations of that instrument. Again, that serves to illustrate that there is no 'equality'. Digitals ARE a simulation- just like flight simulators. It's quite similar- a flight simulator is a useful way to train, without having to have a commercial airliner at your disposal 24/7. But I would never trust a pilot who had never previously flown a real plane to the highest possible standard.

As I already stated, learn to play a piano well and you can play ANY digital to a high standard. Learn to play a digital well and you will likely sound awful on a real piano (unless you stumbled on the technique required for sound-production by pure luck). Even if there were little importance in the other various factors mentioned (which is not the case) this alone would be of paramount importance. If you refuse to acknowledge both the pros and cons, you're simply trying to will a dream into reality. Technology may one day get there, but there is no hint of equivalence between a top of the range keyboard and a similarly priced upright. Not in our current times.

Let's come back to the golf analogy. Would indoor golf alone equip a young golfer to win a professional tournament on real turf? If anyone seriously thinks they can reach the highest standards of playing an acoustic grand (via practising solely with the limitations of an electric), they can forget it. Both can be useful. I stress that as much as anyone. But only the acoustic trains that which makes a real pianist.
Posted by: Gary D.

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 07:44 PM

Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
Keyboards do not sound good in a hall- regardless of whether a pianist is good or mediocre. That's without even mentioning the limitations to expression and dynamics.

A spinet doesn't sound good in a hall either, especially one that is out of tune and needs other work. smile

Let me make clear that the last time I played in public, in a situation that was important to me, I played on a first class concert grand. We all know that the best pianos around are "the best", for that reason. However, few people have such pianos to practice on daily, and some of us who live in cramped conditions have to make huge compromises.
Quote:

Essentially, a keyboard makes a poor pianist sound better and a great pianist sound worse.

I agree with the second part, not the first. I think a poor pianist sounds just about as bad either way. smile
Quote:

But only the acoustic trains that which makes a real pianist.

Only a GOOD acoustic trains a pianist the right way. That's the problem. There are poor kids, trying to learn to play well, who are stuck on "beasts" at home. For some a good DP is a step up. Not where we would like them to get to, ideally, but at least the action is relatively even, no missing strings, no keys that stick down, etc., and the blasted thing is not a half step below pitch. A lot of these pieces of junk are in such bad shape that no technicain on the planet could make them work or sound right, but the parents don't yet have the money to buy another instrument.

For any student who has serious ambitions (plans to major in piano performance and so on), my goal will always be to help the family, when they are able, to find a grand. For others with less talent and less lofty goals, I don't think the instrument matters nearly as much.
Posted by: Horowitzian

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 07:51 PM

I prefer my Steinway B greatly, but my Clavinova CLP 240 got me started and I still like playing with non-piano voices and instant recording. Both have a place, but I did notice a lot of improvement in my playing after a month or two of practicing exclusively on the grand. There is a difference. But I agree with Gary, I'll take a good DP any day over a crapola acoustic that's better off in a landfill.
Posted by: Geoffk

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 08:03 PM

Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
Not for anyone who wants to play in public. Keyboards do not sound good in a hall- regardless of whether a pianist is good or mediocre. That's without even mentioning the limitations to expression and dynamics.


Well this is just silly. With he right sound system, a digital can fill a stadium. And it will sound better than a miked acoustic would.

As for these "limits on expression" you keep banging on, I'd really like to hear you distinguish between volume level 66 and volume level 67 on a digital. I'm sure that you couldn't--it's such a fine shading that it might as well be continuous. That fact that there are discrete levels is irrelevant. If the shading is fine enough to capture all of your nuance, than it's fine.

But, again, I don't expect to convince you. You've decided that every digital is not worth playing by a "serious" player like yourself. Congratulations on closing your mind and throwing away the key.
Posted by: daro

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 08:17 PM

Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi


As I already stated, learn to play a piano well and you can play ANY digital to a high standard.


I don't think anyone has argued that.

Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
Learn to play a digital well and you will likely sound awful on a real piano (unless you stumbled on the technique required for sound-production by pure luck).


This, however, is not so cut-and-dried. I would expect that anyone who can play a high-end digital well will have no problem adapting to an acoustic, especially an upright.

Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
Technology may one day get there, but there is no hint of equivalence between a top of the range keyboard and a similarly priced upright. Not in our current times.


That's simply false. For example, I love playing my beautiful, old Mason & Hamlin console, and given a choice, if I was just futzing around, I'd choose an acoustic over a digital any day of the week. However, if I'm working seriously on a piece that I know I'm going to be playing later on a grand, my old Korg digital translates a lot better. Just the size of the keys makes an enormous difference, especially when practicing tricky fingerings and shifts in hand position. Since the console's keys are shorter and narrower, translating to a grand would require constant adjustments on the fly. Working on the digital makes that unnecessary.

Also, and more importantly when it comes to the production of your "Gilelsian tone", is the whole issue of una corda. A well-designed implementation on a digital is always going to be superior than an upright, simply because it's physically impossible on an upright. As I said, I love my M&H, but depressing the una corda pedal does nothing but throw the whole action out of whack. If you know of any acoustic uprights that have a true una corda function, please let me know.

And BTW, as Geoffk noted, if you can consistently and distinctly produce over 128 recognizably different volume levels in a real-world environment in any one piece on any given acoustic, then you must have a technique that makes Gilels look like a third-rate hack.
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 08:53 PM

"A spinet doesn't sound good in a hall either, especially one that is out of tune and needs other work. :)"

Fair point, but I would honestly sooner take a bad upright than a keyboard. I've given a recital on a digital (which I will never do again- aside from dynamic limitations it echoed in a way that sounded AWFUL in the church). I've also played a recital on a very old untuned upright (that featured the Liszt Sonata, of all things to play on such a piano). In the ambience of the acoustic, it actually didn't sound too bad on the recording I took. It took a lot of effort to soften the lumps for cantabile and to draw a serious fortissimo from such a dead piano. However, I would sooner have had that to face than any digital. It simply does not offer the variety of dynamics or the character. If you know how to push a big sound out of a piano, you might be surprised how much will come out of a battered old upright. Look what Sofronitsky achieved on crappy pianos in Russia. Not uprights, but I'd sooner hear him make his own cantabile despite those awful pianos- than Sofronitsky MIDI files.


"I agree with the second part, not the first. I think a poor pianist sounds just about as bad either way. :)"

True, but at least their tone quality would simply be too loud- rather than inherently lumpy. A digital can really tone down 'fast' attacks in cantabile etc.



"Only a GOOD acoustic trains a pianist the right way. That's the problem. There are poor kids, trying to learn to play well, who are stuck on "beasts" at home. For some a good DP is a step up. Not where we would like them to get to, ideally, but at least the action is relatively even, no missing strings, no keys that stick down, etc., and the blasted thing is not a half step below pitch. A lot of these pieces of junk are in such bad shape that no technicain on the planet could make them work or sound right, but the parents don't yet have the money to buy another instrument."

People talk as though it's impossible to get a good piano for peanuts. A fried bought one of ebay for £500 that was marvellous. My own Bluther upright cost about a grand. Add that to my keyboard and we're talking about £2500. Not for every 7 year old beginner of course, but we're hardly talking a life-changing sum for anyone who can afford to own anything beyond a scrap-heap of a car. I would never insist that a young student must not start on a digital. The point is simply that people must ACKNOWLEDGE potential limitations and think seriously about them- not pretned that they don't exist. When people claim it's like having a grand piano for a fraction of the price, I wonder what planet they're on.
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 09:02 PM

"Also, and more importantly when it comes to the production of your "Gilelsian tone", is the whole issue of una corda. A well-designed implementation on a digital is always going to be superior than an upright, simply because it's physically impossible on an upright. As I said, I love my M&H, but depressing the una corda pedal does nothing but throw the whole action out of whack. If you know of any acoustic uprights that have a true una corda function, please let me know."

Great, so next time I perform the Vocalise, I'll simply put down the soft pedal. Thanks for the tip. The critics will be hailing my 'golden age' tone in no time. I'm aware of the benefits of playing into the soft pedal with a full tone, but if you seriously think that explains the Gilels tone, think again. In any case, if that's the trick and digitals do not take anything away- why does putting the soft pedal down on a digital not enable the Gilels tone? Or do you sincerely believe that Gilels could have sounded so distinctive on a keyboard?

"And BTW, as Geoffk noted, if you can consistently and distinctly produce over 128 recognizably different volume levels in a real-world environment in any one piece on any given acoustic, then you must have a technique that makes Gilels look like a third-rate hack."

Well, seeing as my own dynamic range is drastically reduced by playing on a high-end digital, thanks for the compliment. However, I'm am afraid that I'm going to have to refuse it on the ground that's I'm never going to make gilels look like a third rate hack.

Seriously what planet are you on? You don't believe a great master has more than 5 different tone qualities- at 128 different volumes? It can't contain my own range of dynamics, never mind that of Gilels.

I really don't follow why you based your argument for keyboards on the fact that they are useful for note learning. So's mine, and that's what I use it for. The problem is how responds, when practising tone-quality and cantabile and resonant fortissimos, rather than lumpy ones etc. No use, sorry. My upright was cheaper than my digital but gives vastly more feedback.
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 09:13 PM

Originally Posted By: Geoffk
As for these "limits on expression" you keep banging on, I'd really like to hear you distinguish between volume level 66 and volume level 67 on a digital.


Considering how one is literally an identical sound played with marginally greater amplitude, indeed, I probably could not distinguish which is which- which perhaps explains why performances on digitals sound so mind-numbingly bland, compared to the infinite variety of soundwaves which can emerge from a single note on a real piano?
Posted by: Mrs.A

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 09:16 PM

Originally Posted By: Gyro
and
in big-time pieces like the
Chopin op. 14. Of course, its not
exactly the same as on
an acoustic grand piano, but it's close
enough for all practical purposes,


What???? Digitals are "close enough". I actually agree with you. Digitals are close enough for practical purposes. For their midi' and earphone jacks but not "exactly the same" when playing big-time pieces.
Posted by: daro

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 09:40 PM

Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi

Seriously what planet are you on?


I guess your habit of consistently leaping to completely erroneous conclusions about the meaning of fairly straightforward and simple remarks is one of those things that makes your planet different from mine, but feel free to stop by any time.
Posted by: Nyiregyhazi

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 09:48 PM

Originally Posted By: daro
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi

Seriously what planet are you on?


I guess your habit of consistently leaping to completely erroneous conclusions about the meaning of fairly straightforward and simple remarks is one of those things that makes your planet different from mine, but feel free to stop by any time.


If you are not joking when you tell me that 5 different piano tones and 128 different volumes could put Gilels to shame, you really ought to ask that question of yourself. If it's all very well enjoying the positives of something. Being willfully blind towards its limitations (to the point of making such a comical suggestion) is a whole different matter.
Posted by: Gary D.

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/15/09 10:06 PM

Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi

Fair point, but I would honestly sooner take a bad upright than a keyboard.

I don't want to perform on one either. I became a teacher and stuck to teaching so that I would never again have to suffer such an experience.
Quote:

I've given a recital on a digital (which I will never do again- aside from dynamic limitations it echoed in a way that sounded AWFUL in the church).

The amplification of ANY instrument is a touchy thing and introduces a whole new set of problems. If done right, the end result should be much the same as playing a recording of a piano in a large area, and I think we have all experienced how horrible that can sound.

There is one point you keep hammering away at that I fully agree with you about. There are too few "steps" involved. 128 levels of volume is enough to fool the human ear, even when some of those "levels" are not usable (they would be inhumanly soft and represent sounds we can't make and don't want to.) I've done a good bit of recording on DPs, and where they let me down, where they make me want to SCREAM in frustration is the lack of difference in the samples. We don't know where the technology is heading, and it may eventually be possible to sample a fine grand with so many "steps" that we will hear that harsh edge that is sometimes so ugly, at other times necessary and appopropriate (Horowitz's really sharp attacks), or the velvet tones of pp passages, with and without una corda.

That's not even close. This is the one element that I believe compromises the sound the most, and to me it is most noticeable in the big Romantic works that demand huge contrasts and big effects.
Quote:

I've also played a recital on a very old untuned upright (that featured the Liszt Sonata, of all things to play on such a piano). In the ambience of the acoustic, it actually didn't sound too bad on the recording I took.

I guarantee that I would hate it. I would be so disgusted with the out-of-tuneness and obvious inferiority of the instrument that my mind would turn off, telling me that maybe in the future I'd get to hear you play on a decent instrument.

I wouldn't care to hear your Liszt on a DP either. Point is that I don't want to hear a fine musician playing on an instrument that does not allow him to show all that he can do.
Quote:

It took a lot of effort to soften the lumps for cantabile and to draw a serious fortissimo from such a dead piano.

I've never heard anything that sounds like a serious fortissimo from anything smaller than the so-called "conservatory uprights". At least those have enough string length to sound good. But the action is lacking. No one can play as softly or as loud on an upright as on a really fine grand, and that is without using the pretend una corda that simply pushes the hammers forward and makes a mess of the action, introducing lost motion that is never even equal across the whole keyboard.
Quote:

However, I would sooner have had that to face than any digital. It simply does not offer the variety of dynamics or the character. If you know how to push a big sound out of a piano, you might be surprised how much will come out of a battered old upright.

If you're talking to me, I would not be surprised how much ugly, out of tune, out of balance totally UN-satisfying noise can come out of those beasts. I hate them, and I've hated them ever since I got used to performing on fine grands and found out how many things can be done on them and ONLY on them.
Quote:

Look what Sofronitsky achieved on crappy pianos in Russia. Not uprights, but I'd sooner hear him make his own cantabile despite those awful pianos- than Sofronitsky MIDI files.

I don't want to hear Sofronitsky playing either DPs or crappy pianos. I also suspect that the worst of what you have heard him play on is far better than the kind of crap pianos others of us are talking about, which God Alimighty could not make sound like anything other than crap.
Quote:

A digital can really tone down 'fast' attacks in cantabile etc.

It's a trade-off. It tones down things that are important, that should be heard too, that the good pianist is actually producing, with the hands/fingers but that simply will not "register" due to tonal aspects that are lacking.
Quote:

People talk as though it's impossible to get a good piano for peanuts.

It is very close to impossible for people who buy used pianos without expert help. You have contacts. I have contacts. If I need to get the best possible instrument for whatever amount of money I have, I can do it. But God help anyone who buys a piano without having it looked at by a tech, unless the "someone" who is buying, even if an excellent player, is ALSO a tech.
Quote:

My own Bluther upright cost about a grand.

If you are "Mr. John Q. Public", with no musicians to help you, you are much more likely to get a complete piece of junk for a "grand". As I have clearly stated, I will always help a serious student get a first class instrument. That's an ideal situation. Usually students who come to me already have a piano at home, and if it's been tuned in the last few years, that's unusual.
Posted by: TimR

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/17/09 06:53 AM

Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi
Originally Posted By: daro
Originally Posted By: Nyiregyhazi

Seriously what planet are you on?


I guess your habit of consistently leaping to completely erroneous conclusions about the meaning of fairly straightforward and simple remarks is one of those things that makes your planet different from mine, but feel free to stop by any time.


If you are not joking when you tell me that 5 different piano tones and 128 different volumes could put Gilels to shame, you really ought to ask that question of yourself. If it's all very well enjoying the positives of something. Being willfully blind towards its limitations (to the point of making such a comical suggestion) is a whole different matter.


Maybe we ought to dispel another myth here.

The tone of a piano note varies slightly with volume. By tone, or timbre, of course I mean the combination of fundamental plus overtones. This variation is slight, but it means we cannot simply sample one note and ramp the volume up and down. No matter how many steps of volume are available, it won't sound realistic unless the timbre varies as well. That is why digital pianos sample several tones per key. Because the variation is small (and differs from acoustic piano to piano) there is no need for 128 samples. There is a limit to what the ear can hear. I would be surprised if 5 samples were not enough for the average ear; I'd be surprised if there were not a few ears much better than average.

The myth that I suspect somebody is dancing around is that we can produce timbre differences independent of volume. We cannot. We can only play the note louder or softer, and the timbre changes happen out of our control. Probably some people listen more to the timbre to guide their volume, others the other way around.

Certainly nobody can hear 128 steps. I'm not sure what the studies show we can hear.
Posted by: musiclady

Re: Weak fingers & digital piano - 08/20/09 03:21 AM

I have a number of students that play at home on a digital piano and they do just fine on an acoustic. But there are problems with those students who use the cheap digital pianos, which the keys are far too slipperly and the pedal is seperate from the piano.

Meri