Is using a digital piano,bad for your fingers touch???

Questions on learning to play the piano, and piano music.

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Barrie Heaton
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Post by Barrie Heaton » 10 Aug 2003, 18:52

I was told that all piano exams in the UK grade 6 or above have to be taken on a real piano. You could get a big shock if you enter the exam room and it has
a grand with a heavy touch when ever possible you should play on as many different pianos as you can

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Post by l_walder » 17 Nov 2003, 11:29

There are different qualities of digital piano - if you have one with weighted keys then you are at least learning the touch associated with volume control.

What you will find impossible to learn is the different kinds of touch required to achieve different tone control, cantabile vs detached and for different composers - Bach vs Chopin vs Debussy vs Bartok for example. Hitting the keys on a real piano gives different tone according to not only how hard you hit it but the speed of attack, the depth of the key before you press down for the final "hit", how quickly you release the key, overlapping notes. You would find Debussy next to impossible on a keyboard because of the number of notes which need to be sustained simultaneously. Also you will not get any of the sympathetic harmonics from other strings which are necessary for the overall sound.
So in conclusion a digital piano is OK to practice on for the notes and fluency of the fingers but will not give you any tone control which you should be developing at grade 8 level.

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Post by steveburt » 28 Nov 2003, 16:50

What you say is certainly true of cheap digital pianos, but the better ones (Roland HP, Yamaha Clavinova) alter the tone depending on how the key is struck, and will also (for instance) incorporate sympathetic tones from the open strings if you have the sustain pedal down. Some of them even have an escapement action, just like a real piano. They usually have 64 or 128 note polyphony.
I'd say the top end Digitals (which usually cost &1500 upwards) are probably as good as a cheap upright piano - maybe better.
I'd agree with the advice to play on as many real pianos as possible, though. Some have unbelievably heavy actions, some are light, some are consistent, some are not; you need to be adaptable.

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Post by MerryChristmas » 19 Jul 2008, 11:23

Well, my mother says that digital pianos suck but I, myself, aren't really that sure. My mother is booking me up for piano lessons but the teacher wants us to use a digital piano. We already brought a normal one. My mother wants the teacher to teach me using the normal piano but the teacher is one of those people who think that digital pianos are the best. The teacher says that my fingers aren't strong enough to be able to play the normal piano but my mother says that she already brought a normal piano. But the teacher still refuses to teach me using the normal piano. So my mother says to my father that she will change the piano teacher and now she is searching for a new piano teacher. THE END :lol:
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Post by markymark » 03 Aug 2008, 16:41

Maybe this teacher was more into contemporary piano such as blues, jazz or rock. Personally speaking, I find that touch and response is not as important as is would be for classical music. That sounds like a risky comment, but when I play contemporary stuff, my main concerns are catching the mood of the song and not in precise toning or technique. However, if you are going to take classical piano lessons and want ot work through Bach, Chopin, Schubert, etc. an acoustic is really better suited.

It's kind of like driving. If you learn on a manual, you will be able to drive an automatic. In the same way, develop technique and control on a real acoustic, then you'll have no problem adapting to a digital. That sounds strange coming from a "Digital Pianos" forum moderator but, as I have pointed on there too, even the best digital piano will not - because technology can not - accurately replicate all the nuances of an acoustic.

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Post by joseph » 04 Aug 2008, 10:44

it is bad for your touch because your touch wont develop properly.

It is true that some high end digital pianos have a key weight equal to some acoustic pianos however its not all about weight and its not all about finger strength. Its about subtlety too.

You see, a digital piano effectively works by playing a number of different recordings of the equivalent note on the acoustic piano. There are two problems with this:

1. Somebody else has played the note in the first place so you are relying on their touch

and

2. The processor in the digital piano picks the sample closest to the dynamic level you played the key at, not the actual dynamic level. Because of this when you play a real piano your dynamics will sound choppy.

Also, to be honest the touch is so different to a grand piano you will feel like a fish out of the water and probably become very tense.

I will say one thing however- bad teachers have a more detrimental and longer term effect on touch than any digital piano, so please, make sure you are studying with a good teacher, preferably a Masters level graduate from a conservatoire, or better still, a teacher from a conservatoire if you can afford it. On average you will spend £1000 a year on piano lessons, over say the 10 years (on average some do it in less time, some take longer) it takes to go from beginner to grade 8 (not to mention inflation) you will spend a lot of money and time on lessons and yet so many people just choose the first teacher than jumps out of the yellow pages, or the cheapest teacher they can find which is usually a huge mistake, especially if you are considering a career in music (which includes teaching the piano on the side!).

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Post by abc1337 » 14 Aug 2008, 22:28

I have a roland A90, which is a nice piece of kit, especially when faffing with logic and some of the 'fake' piano's therein, but prefer to practice on the Zimmermann...there is just something about the touch of the real piano the fake one doesn't meet, even at a mere grade 3 standard :wink:
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Post by Mark Heller » 10 Sep 2008, 13:55

I'm also a Grade 8 pianist, and spent many years playing a top-of-the-range Yamaha Clavinova, on which I was very happy with the tone and dynamic range.

However, 18 months ago I treated myself to a brand new Yamaha C3 grand piano, and the difference is more staggering than I ever thought it could be. In my experience, there were 3 key areas where my electronic keyboard was vastly inferior to a 'proper' piano:

1. Tone

On my Clavinova, it was impossible to produce anything other than a very sweet tone, no matter how it was played; however, with the C3, it is all too easy to produce very harsh-sounding tones. It took me quite a while to master this, but now I have, I feel like my tone is vastly superior to what it was when I was playing the Clavinova.

2. Touch/Volume Graduation

The latest electronic pianos are extremely clever, and incorporate high degrees of touch-sensitivity. However, the volume range possible on my C3 is staggering in comparison, and it was initially very hard to regulate my volumes, as the slightest inaccuracy in touch made individual notes stand out like sore thumbs (or disappear into the mix)!

3. Keyboard Weight

Electronic keyboards have significantly lighter-weighted keys than my C3 (can't comment on the comparison to uprights). This made it very hard at first for me to play fast/tricky passages smoothly, and also meant that my hands tired much more quickly than they ever did with my Clavinova (I'm still struggling a little bit with this!).

Overall, I'd definitely recommend electronic keyboards for times when it's not possible to play a proper piano, and up to a certain level (Grade V/VI?), but beyond that I'd say that an electronic keyboard will be very flattering, and will make it hard to play a proper piano well...

Mark

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Post by joseph » 10 Sep 2008, 16:51

Exactly! Its the touch gradations that a clavinova just can't do!

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Post by cothse » 30 Sep 2008, 13:20

Most digital pianos have very different hammer and voicing mechanisms than acoustic pianos, which are certain to result in discrepancies in the way of technique and expression. The experience overall is also quite different, and I'd be concerned about the shock when switching between one and the other.
Pianos are such dignified instruments - they're either upright or grand!
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Post by Moonlight » 30 Sep 2008, 13:59

dave brum wrote:there is a hell of a difference when you're learning on an acoustic upright and practising on a Yamm. Culture shock!

:shock: :shock: :shock: Dave are you trying to scare me for my lesson tomorrow!? because I'll be playing on that Kawai grand !! Gosh, hope its not too much of a 'Culture shock' as you say. well I have very briefly had a go on a grand before and it wasn't too bad.

I'm not too nervous really. Its not nerves that gets me, its just that I get over excited and its that, that makes me make a mistake.

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Post by Moonlight » 30 Sep 2008, 14:29

aaaah thats nice of you to do a little prayer for me :lol: but i'm not getting my death sentence! I hope its not. :shock:

No we can't really sit in our digital synthetic ivory towers forever. Sooner or later we will need to get a real piano! its gonna be a Yam or possibly a Kemble for me. I heard some where black pianos of a well know make are easier to sell, plus I think Yamahas look nicer.

I hope you can get yourself one, oneday Dave, when the space and money allows you to, I'll pray for you.

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Post by S.Mitchell » 04 Jan 2009, 00:36

I abhor digital pianos, they're lifeless. A good 6 foot grand is the best you can get.

I had to use a digital piano for a few months before getting a grand, and it absolutely killed my technique. Stay away is my advice.
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Re: Is using a digital piano,bad for your fingers touch???

Post by joseph » 17 Jan 2009, 17:27

I understand your sentiment SMitchell, but I am in two minds. If somone only has 1000 quid to spend on a piano, they will go into their local piano store and buy something. Now, I am SURE the guys on this board who run shops will supply a decent upright that plays well and stays in tune for that price, and while it wont ever be a top class instrument (nor could it be for that price unless you are really, really lucky!) it will get someone started on the right road.

However, these pianos are getting harder to come by and some shops sell lots of really bad pianos for this price, some with tuning planks that don't hold the pins properly and old actions that are so uneven the pupil can't play them.

For 1000 quid you can get a CLP-320 and it will have a reasonable tone and touch, and stay in tune. The best thing is to get off the digital piano as soon as you can afford it, but I think a digital piano would be better than an upright that doesn't work properly, which can ALSO be very bad for the development of touch.

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Post by Moonlight » 20 Jan 2009, 15:11

S.Mitchell wrote:I abhor digital pianos, they're lifeless. A good 6 foot grand is the best you can get.
Of course who wouldn't want to own a 6 foot grand if the space and money permitted it! Unfortunately some people have no choice other than a digital piano. Speaking as a beginning piano student with only a digital at present due to lack of money for an upright. It’s ok if your are just starting out and are a beginner to own a digital, I think you can develop a good(ish) basic technique with one such as an awareness of finger action / strength due to the waited keys. However digitals are absolutely useless for developing a sensitively of touch IMO. It’s just not the same and you will never get the wide spectrum of nuances from a digital because its only samples and doesn’t behave in ‘real time’ as I call it.

I take lessons on a kawai grand and often find during my lessons that notes drop out of the piece I’m playing as I haven’t got used to the ‘real time’ action / sound of an acoustic piano. The feel of a real piano is much more subtitle then digitals.

So anyone thinking of buying a piano for the 1st time get a real one if you can – I wish I could get one but no, not now. :cry:

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Re: Is using a digital piano,bad for your fingers touch???

Post by markymark » 20 Jan 2009, 19:12

It's like a say quite a lot on this forum, digital pianos were built to be a different slant on the acoustic piano with using various other voices and tones, etc. However, they do have a place in the music world, particularly for music production and recording where acoustics are not as portable or recordable without using sophisticated equipment.

In terms of developing a great touch for playing on an acoustic, they have reached their limits but then again, I don't really think that manufacturers are trying to make a digital piano a replacement for an acoustic. It is their to suit a purpose and situation. Usually people who come out with comments that decry a digital instrument are often folks who can't adapt their playing style to accomodate an instrument with a different touch.

If playing an acoustic all the time prevents you from playing a digital instrument, how then is that supposed to have developed a better touch for your fingers (in a holistic context) when you can only play acoustics well? :?

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Re: Is using a digital piano,bad for your fingers touch???

Post by joseph » 21 Jan 2009, 00:29

I agree Marky.

There are differences in touch between all pianos, and the more pronounced difference between a digital piano and a grand piano is really not much more than the difference between an upright and a grand, or the difference between using a Bluthner patent grand and a modern grand.

Yeah as far as pure piano playing is concerned, it would be nice if we could all practise and perform on grand pianos all the time, but life's not like that!

I still haven't tried a 380 although I'm intrigued. I'm scared I might buy one and just play with the sequencer all day instead of practising....

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Re: Is using a digital piano,bad for your fingers touch???

Post by markymark » 21 Jan 2009, 00:33

Hi Joseph! Long time no.....read? :|
Are you not late on the go tonight?

Playing in as many different types of instruments as possible is the key to developing a good touch!

Much like driving I suppose.

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Re: Is using a digital piano,bad for your fingers touch???

Post by joseph » 21 Jan 2009, 19:54

Hi Marky

I've been pretty much working flat out, as well as having some personal issues that are resolving now, just about. Not to mention the school is still trying to treat their instrumental teaching staff like dogs, but we're going to have a big-assed ISM fight about that. Hence not much posting done!

Yeah suppose I was late last night, but I was still wide awake. Funny isn't it, you can be shattered and not sleepy.... ANYWAYS....

I remember at college, and this refers to different instruments, that some students said they couldn't possibly be expected to practise on Yamaha C3s and needed to practise on the Steinways reserved for teaching. They said the C3s were bad for their development! Biggest load of tosh I've ever heard really!!!

Naturally, the Steinways became very ill, very quickly with all these people bashing out hanon on them. Some people. . . . .

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Re: Is using a digital piano,bad for your fingers touch???

Post by Gill the Piano » 22 Jan 2009, 13:25

The laugh of it is that if you'd covered up the names, etc., on the pianos, the majority of the students wouldn't have known the difference and might conceivably have preferred the Yams! :roll: Kids are easily seduced by labels and brands...it's only when you get older that you realise expensive isn't always better! :roll:
Glad you've got the ISM involved in your battle, Joseph; let us know how you get on. Good luck!
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Re: Is using a digital piano,bad for your fingers touch???

Post by ukpianos » 14 Feb 2009, 18:05

Yes, and no...

Years ago when I practiced for my grade 8, I had a Yamaha Clavinova.
It was a basic one, but, to me, it felt like playing a real piano.
Totally dedicated to getting a distinction, I practiced 2 hours a day,
every day, for 18 months.

So much practice!

I could play all scales with my eyes closed, pieces by memory, and
pretty much everthing else as well as I would have liked.

My exam was booked at the Royal Acadamy of Music. I was
really ready for it.

Surely I would get a distinction?

During the exam, I really struggled. My problem was with the
key weight, and the key feel. I stumbled on every scale, and
the pieces were an absolute disaster!

I realise now that it was all down to practicing too much on a
digital piano. My fingers just couldn't adapt to the different
feel of the upright piano's feel.

So it wasn't just the weight, it was the feel of the key on the way
down, and on the key's return that was different to an upright.

This was 15 years ago though.

Today's digital pianos, in particular the Yamaha CLP range, are
miles better. The key weighting is much closer to a real piano.

My advice to you is this. If you are up to grade 6 level then
practicing on a digital piano is OK. If you are above grade 6
then you should spend limited time on a digital piano. Just
practicing the pieces is fine, but try to avoid practicing scales,
and finger exercises. These should ideally be done on a
real piano.
Graham Howard, author of The Digital Piano Buyer's Guide (http://www.ukpianos.co.uk/7-things-you- ... piano.html) and Piano Advisor for www.ukpianos.co.uk - The place to go for piano reviews, questions, advice and lessons.

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