Birmingham, AL Studio: Piano or Keyboard? | Stewart Piano Studio | Piano lessons

Welcome to Stewart Piano Studio of the greater Birmingham, AL area! Erika Stewart lives and teaches piano in Montevallo, AL, just 30 minutes outside of Birmingham, AL.

Have you been considering piano lessons but are concerned about the investment both in lessons and a quality instrument?  Erika has been playing the piano since the age of 5 and has successfully been teaching piano lessons for the past 6 years from age 4 through 60.  She would love the opportunity to teach you or your child in Montevallo, AL!

But what about the investment of the instrument? There are many factors to consider and the primary question you may have is whether to buy a piano or keyboard. Perhaps the following will give you confidence in your purchase.  Here are the pros and cons of both piano and keyboard.

1.) Quality

As a child, I came across one piano teacher who was very strict both in her teaching method as well as her opinion of musical instruments.   She once asked what kind of piano I had and while I was still thinking about it, she promptly responded that if it was a spinet (a short upright piano), it should be thrown out the window!  This left a very poignant picture in my mind since we were sitting near a second story window! (Shh, I actually did have a spinet at home but I did not dare tell her!) I relate this story because while we could not afford a nicer instrument at the time, it was a quality piano that gave me a wonderful opportunity to learn to play.

An acoustic piano with real strings and real wood will offer a level of responsiveness, a wide range of dynamics and beautiful tone color that cannot be accomplished on the most expensive electronic keyboard.  There is no doubt that the beginning student will be given a much better opportunity to progress in skill and musicianship on a piano.

When an acoustic piano is not an option, quality can still be obtained and a budding pianist can still learn how to play!  The cheapest, most basic model is the portable keyboard and is best for travel, for beginners, or for fun.  They  weigh less than 20 pounds and come with different keyboard ranges.  Their greatest weakness is an extremely light touch, making it impossible to give any change of volume, feeling or tone color.

Digital pianos are cost and space effective and can be an excellent alternative to acoustic pianos.  They are intended to fit on a custom stand, weigh 25-60 pounds, can contain 61, 76 or 88 keys and the best part is that they can come with touch sensitivity.  Of course, a full keyboard of 88 keys is best but 76 key modals are also usable and give a basic range for the beginning student.

2.) Practicality

While every pianist may love to learn to play on a Steinway grand piano, this is neither affordable nor practical for most people.  You may want to consider your present and even future housing arrangements.  Keyboards and Digital pianos are much more convenient spatially.  Some apartment complexes do not even allow acoustic pianos because of the sound transmission.  Keyboards allow for a range of volume, low or high, as well as headphones.

There is also the factor of moving a piano up and down stairs and through tight spaces.  We jokingly call my grand piano “the whale” as we have drug it to 4 different places ($500 each time and piano movers charge extra for each step. Beware!) and even stuck it through a small opening in a small bedroom.  It can be done but you must be well attached to your instrument to go through that much trouble!

Cost is another major factor and may largely determine your choice of instrument. Acoustic pianos can range on average from $2,000-$10,000 and even cost more than a house! Keyboards may cost as little as $100-200.  The Yamaha PSR and Casio CTK each have 61 keys and can serve as a simple practice piano for the very young.  However, I would not suggest the student to remain on this kind of keyboard for very long.  Digital Pianos can range from $500-$1500 on an average.  If you are able to invest in a good digital piano, I would recommend the Yamaha P-105 with 88 keys and good key action for $600-$700. This keyboard would last the student much longer and would be a good investment musically.

3.) Musicality

I am always encouraging my students to “tell a story” with their music.  One of the main advantages of the acoustic piano is the ability to accomplish this!  This is due in large part to creating dynamics (louds and softs of music) and beautiful tone color (richness of sound).   There is also the creativity of one of my students who once asked to play one of my cheap keyboards.  He was so well trained in dynamics that he asked me to adjust the loud/soft button as he played!

When a piano is too difficult to obtain, consider musicality as you explore keyboards and digital pianos.  Cheaper keyboards have thinner, plastic, light touch keys.  Some of my students who have keyboards at home have difficulty playing on my piano because they have not built up hand strength.  An easy solution to this dilemma is to purchase a modern digital keyboard with full size weighted keys.  This will give the student a more realistic feel of an acoustic piano, giving the bass octaves a heavier touch than the treble notes.

I would recommend purchasing a Yamaha when it comes to digital pianos.  It is imperative for the keyboard to have a music stand and best to obtain both stand and bench.  This enables the student to develop good habits and sit properly without raised shoulders.  Ideally, the player’s arm from wrist to elbow should be at a 90 degree angle,  parallel to the floor.