Before you can even begin to consider rests and rhythm and the squiggly lines at the beginning of the music that give you migraines, you must first find an instrument to play on.
Naturally, you’ll have a lot of questions about acquiring a piano- should you actually buy one? Is it better to get a piano or a keyboard? Is it worth getting one second hand?
To help you, Jellynote has prepared a comprehensive guide to finding your dream instrument.
First thing’s first…consider the following points:
Is this something I am serious about? Or, just like the disturbingly lifelike artificial intelligence commonly known as “the furby”, is this just a passing craze?
Am I only in it for the short-term benefit? Or do I want to build a strong base for future learning?
Is there enough space in my house?
Can I afford this?
If you’re not sure whether you’ll stick at it…
…It’s probably best that you don’t actually buy a piano. New pianos can be extremely expensive, costing upward of $4,000 (and that’s not even for a grand piano). We recommend you rent one for at least a year before you consider buying it.
Renting a piano will allow you to see how often you use it and will give you time to decide whether piano is the right instrument for you.
Plans change, and you really don’t want to be on the wrong side of an ill-planned investment. Do you really want to be stuck playing an instrument that you don’t really like just because you’re financially obligated to? Think of the shame you’ll feel every time you enter the room and see the instrument which you effectively sold your soul (and perhaps your kidney) to purchase lying under a layer of dust. Talk about a guilt complex…
Plus, renting a piano allows you to try different models before settling on the one you will eventually buy. Think of it like dating. You wouldn’t marry the first person you met off the street, even if that person was Mark Ruffalo, so why should you commit to the first piano you encounter?
The piano vs keyboard debate…
A debate as old as time itself… (or rather since 1874 when the “Musical Telegraph” was first invented).
If you want to learn proper techniques…
…You should definitely consider a piano over a keyboard. Pianos have weighted keys, allowing you to build up finger strength, which will enable you to learn more challenging pieces down the line.
Also, pianos feel alive. Sounds strange, but hear me out. This is because when you touch them, there is a physical reaction within the piano. As you play a note, a hammer hits a string, which thus creates a sound. This process creates a much richer sound than a keyboard could produce.
Remember that the sound of an acoustic piano carries more than the sound produced by a keyboard so if you’re playing for a large audience it definitely has its advantages.
Plus, pianos are sexy! Imagine walking into a room where all the sofas are facing the piano, instead of the TV. Pianos ooze sophistication, whereas keyboards really don’t.
If you want a cheaper option…
…A keyboard is definitely for you.
Unlike pianos, keyboards require no maintenance and don’t need to be tuned. Also, keyboards aren’t affected by the environment or humidity.
Most keyboards allow you to adjust the volume and insert headphones. This means you can practice on a Sunday morning without starting World War 3.
While you forfeit an authentic piano sound, a keyboard allows you to produce a variety of other sounds, including, but not limited to, ducks quacking, babies crying and, perhaps most disturbing of all, the sound of a middle aged white man saying “yo”.
Keyboards can be good for orchestration as some include features that enable you to “play” (or rather use the sound of) another instrument altogether. Some allow you to record music so if you’re looking to record a song (but don’t have the money to spend on renting a recording studio), a keyboard is definitely the better option.
There’s also a matter of space. Keyboards take up a lot less space and can be packed away easily. If you’re a student, it may be the more appropriate option.
Should I buy it new or second-hand?
Having an item in your house with a mysterious history can be quite exciting! Take, for example, auntie Lizzie!
Plus, second-hand pianos are usually a lot cheaper than new ones.
That said, used pianos aren’t exactly timeless. Most pianos have a lifespan of about 60 years, which means you have to be careful about buying used pianos, especially if you don’t know the seller that well.
We advise you ask your friends and family if they know anyone looking to sell their piano before you start looking for one on the internet. You’ll have a better chance of not being ripped off and you might even get a discount.
Make sure you watch out for the following things when inspecting the piano:
Are any of the keys discoloured? Broken? Dirty? Wobbly? Do they stick? Are they levelled?
What’s your first impression of the casework? Are there any loose parts? Is the hinge damaged? What does the surface look like? A dented or damaged casing could be a sign that the previous owners didn’t take proper care of the instrument.
What does the inside of the piano smell like? A pungent smell could be a sign of damp or mould.
The soundboard is the panel behind the strings (or underneath for grand pianos). Inspect it for any cracks, which could damage the tone of the piano.
Take note of where the piano has been stored. Radiators, fireplaces or any area of the house where the temperature could fluctuate can lead to issues with tuning.
Ask the previous owner how often the piano was tuned. Anything less than twice a year will run the risk of you having to pay for special tuning, which could be quite expensive.
If the piano was regularly tuned, find out who tuned it. If it was done professionally, it should be fine, but if not, it may present problems in the future.
Lastly, remember the golden rule:
Try before you buy!
Do some notes ring even when you stop playing the note? Any rattles or buzzes when you play? Do the pedals work effectively? Do they squeak when you play them? Be aware of all these red flags.
Never commit to a piano before you’ve had an opportunity to play it.
When you ultimately come to choosing the piano, you will probably know immediately which one is for you. As a wise man once said:
The piano chooses the player, Mr Potter. It’s not always clear why.
The Jellynote Team x