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Piano FAQs

Piano Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.)

For more information on pianos, digital pianos, keyboards or modern player systems, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Highly trained on dozens of different brands, shapes, sizes, colors, and price points, the Gist Piano Center Service Team is uniquely-positioned to help you find the piano of your dreams.

Q. Can I start lessons on a keyboard?

A. The simple answer is yes – though we do not recommend it. While you can learn basic notes and rhythms on a keyboard, you will not be able to develop the proper musculature to play a piano. You will also lack the necessary control over loud and soft sounds that pianists call “Proper Technique.” It is like learning to drive a car with a golf cart – the controls may be in the same place, but you have none of the same feel. Nationwide, 80% of students who begin on keyboards get frustrated and quit within the first year of piano study.

Q. What kind of keyboard is best?

A. In recent years, the Roland Corporation (producer of fine, handcrafted digital pianos since the 1970s) has begun to build models that are affordable on any budget. Before wasting money on a “temporary” keyboard that will do nothing to help your student develop as a musician, explore the affordable – yet lessons appropriate – Roland Discount Digital Pianos.

Q. What should my keyboard have on it?

A. Portable keyboards come in three basic sizes: 61 Note, 76 Note, and 88 Note. If you want the most realistic playing experience, you should find an 88-Note keyboard (pianos have 88 keys) with full-sized piano keys, a gravity hammer action, and a sustain pedal. Most portable keyboards will come with at least 100 different instrument sounds and some drum rhythm options. These can be fun for the kids but will most likely not play a big role in their first year of lessons. Click here for a copy of our “Minimum Acceptable Practice Instrument” criteria.

Q. How can I tell if it has “full-sized” keys?

A. The quickest way to tell if your keyboard, piano, or digital piano has “full-sized” keys is to do the “Dollar Bill Test.” Simply remove a dollar bill from your wallet and lay it down on one of the white keys (lengthwise – parallel to the key). The key should run from one end of the dollar bill (the end pressed against the felt at the hilt of the key) to the end of the ink on the other end of the dollar bill.

Q. What does “weighted key” mean?

A. A weighted key action is designed to provide more resistance than the standard “organ touch” portable keyboards. Keyboards with weighted keys more closely simulate the gravity hammer action of a grand piano and, thus, are better to learn on. New developments in digital piano technology have produced a gravity hammer action that is even more similar to a grand piano’s touch. These are the ultimate choices for digital piano buyers.

Q. What is a sustain pedal?

A. Sometimes called the “damper pedal,” the sustain pedal is the first pedal on the right of a piano or digital piano (and, sometimes, the only pedal on a keyboard). When depressed, a piano’s sustain pedal lifts the dampers off the strings so they continue to ring. Typically, students begin using this pedal in lessons within the first year of study.

Q. What about a digital piano?

A. A digital piano (sometimes referred to as a “Clavinova”) is an acceptable choice for beginning lessons. Most digital pianos include recording options, additional instruments, and onboard learning software. Digital pianos are popular because they allow students to record themselves, play using headphones, or create their own music. …and, since they never need tuning, they are great for apartments, houses with little or no climate control, and school labs.

Q. How much do digital pianos cost?

A. Digital pianos range in price from about $600 to $20,000. Most first-time buyers will select a digital piano in the $1500 – $3500 range. It is always better to spend a few extra dollars up front than to start with a poor quality instrument that will not motivate your student.

Q. Which is better, a digital piano or a used piano?

A. That depends on the quality of a used piano and the interests of the player. Good quality used pianos that are properly tuned and adjusted are extremely hard to find. More often than not, preowned pianos have not received the care and maintenance they need. Bringing them “up to par” can be costly. Digital pianos offer more variety, headphones, and no maintenance fees (since they are always in tune). Thus, if a player prefers the sound, touch, and look of an acoustic piano, a good used piano will be ideal. If he or she wants to play with background song files, record, or practice privately with headphones, a digital piano might be the best option. As with any instrument, the most important thing here is to find the right tool to keep the player interested. The choice is often highly individual.

Q. How much do new pianos cost?

A. Pianos range in price as vastly as do cars. There are a number of poor quality new pianos today that are very inexpensive. However, on average, a good quality “starter piano” should cost around $3000. Then, based on size, color, sound, and style preferences, your new piano could range between $3000 and $90,000. (A huge majority of first-time buyers select an upright piano between the $3000 and $6000 range. Most first-time grand piano buyers select an instrument in the $10,000 – $20,000 range.) It is important to select the best instrument that will keep the player interested and fulfilled.

Q. Do you rent pianos?

A. After taking a close look at piano rental programs across the United States, Gist decided instead to offer our exclusive SpreadPay™ program. You select the piano you would like to play, put 10% down, and spread the payments out over two years. Payments start as low as $50/mo and, at the end of your rental period, you own the piano! With Gist’s SpreadPay™ program, we can help you spend less and get more without locking you into an inflexible lease.