Pianos come in many shapes, sizes, and styles. The kind of piano your child practices on will make a big difference in the quality of experience they have with piano lessons. The better the piano, the better the experience.
It is similar to sports equipment. Would you send your child to hockey practice with a broken hockey stick duct taped together or with rusty, dull ice skates? Of course they can play hockey with poor equipment, but will they grow to love the sport under these conditions? Chances are that they will become frustrated with the dull skates and wobbly stick and hate to go to practice. Likewise, if your piano has sticking keys and is out of tune, your child will not enjoy playing the instrument. An investment in a quality instrument is crucial to success at the piano.
A number of websites can help you determine if your piano is a good instrument. But here are a few rules of thumb…
The more money you put into the instrument, the better quality you will get.
Old uprights are rarely in good enough condition to warrant moving them. If an old upright has rusty strings, loose tuning pins or severely grooved hammers, the cost of fixing these things is usually more than the value of the piano. More information.
Spinet pianos (36–40” from floor to top of the case) are very poor pianos for a number of reasons. The tone quality, especially in the lower bass and tenor, is very poor. Their action is inaccessible and hard to service. Manufacturers invest more money into the appearance of spinets than into their musical quality because serious musicians don’t buy them. Most people interested in spinets are thinking of the piano as a piece of furniture. (Larry Fine, The Piano Book — A Guide to Buying a New or Used Piano, Brookside Press).
Electronic keyboards are not pianos and should not be used for piano lessons. They are not allowed in the Piano Lab Program. The touch is the same as an organ; the keys cannot create differences in volume; they have no pedals; the keyboards are shorter than a piano; the sound is created through electronic means.
Digital pianos try to feel and sound like an acoustic piano and better quality ones come close. These pianos have full sized keyboards with weighted keys. Weighted keys create the illusion that you are playing an acoustic piano where the pianist can make differences in volume by adjusting the speed and weight with which a key is played. They have a soft pedal and damper pedal. They do not need to be tuned and are easier to move than an acoustic piano. The biggest drawback is that the sound lacks the richness of an acoustic instrument due to not having an overtone series. The second drawback is that the feel of the keys does not allow a student to develop a sensitive control of sound production.
Caring for Your Piano
Pianos need to be cared for! The two most important things you can do for your piano are to control the humidity and to tune it once a year.