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Getting a Piano for Your Kids and Other Technology Problems

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Posted on : 8:45 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

For Christmas this year the big present for the family was a keyboard.  I play the piano, compose some music and I used to teach and do accompaniment for the high school, so naturally I want to expose my kids to music.  It's easiest to do this by having a piano around.  


So here's a quick guide to buying a piano for your family.  Normally it seems like I'm a bit of a luddite, but really we have quite a bit of technology around the house.  We have really tried to balance technology vs. the old ways, and it's not always easy, but pianos are one exception.  Ideally I would like to have a room full of musical instruments, including a nice grand piano but that's just not practical, so we have a digital piano.  We hook this up to our Macbook Pro via a USB and use a software called Logic to write music.  We also plan to get a program called Ivory which is just extremely high quality piano sounds, so you can pick whether you want to play a Yamaha or a Steinway or even a Bösendorfer.  This is all professional equipment and having the kids expose to it is invaluable.  A digital piano is also amazing because you can use it to recreate any instrument.

I have gone through many digital pianos though.  I was classically trained and I am used to an acoustic piano.  When you are learning to play the piano it is actually very important to have heavy keys that are sensitive to the pressure and speed that you are putting against them.  It also has have a good piano sound, and be easy to use.  Here's what I have used and how they measure up:

M-Audio Keystation 61 -  This is good keyboard for the price.  At only $250, it has pretty good semi-weighted keys and works well for kids to practice on.  You have to have extra speakers since it doesn't have its own, and works well with a Mac which is nice if you want to start the kids using Garageband to write their own music.  Overall a pretty good keyboard for a family and well worth getting over those cheap Casio ones.

Yamaha Clavinova CLP 280 - All CLP pianos have the same basic features and the only difference is the sounds and program options really.  They have a graded hammer system (rather than just being weighted) which simulates an acoustic piano, and the keys are made of wood instead of plastic.   They also have self-contained speakers.  Even the basic one has some helps for learning piano and different songs that are programmed in, which can be fun for kids.  If it is a concern, they also look fairly nice.  But at around $3000 I'm not sure if this is the best buy, as I wasn't that impressed with the sound or the feel... it seems like that price should buy more.

Yamaha M08 - After I had the Clavinova I wanted one that would work better with Logic and the computer in general.  This is a synthesizer, which means that it has a lot more control over the sounds coming out of it and into the computer.  The keys felt pretty good for a synthesizer as well, but I still felt like I had compromised on the feel.  You do have to have speakers and software on the computer also.  It was used around $2500, I'm not sure what it is new, but there is still better things you can buy for that price.

Roland RD-700GX - I think keyboard names are ridiculous! lol  We got this for Christmas, and it is by far the best keyboard yet.  It feels exactly like a piano, and the sounds are very nice.  With a good set of  speakers you can use this on its own without the backup of a computer.  It is also extremely easy to use and the kids have no trouble figuring out how to change the sounds, start up a drum rhythm, or mix another sound in.  It runs about $2500 also making it a good value in comparison to the other keyboards that didn't quite live up to my expectations on feel and sound.  

Besides good speakers you also need a foot pedal and a very good stand.  The Roland was made for stage performing and they make a very good heavy duty stand so the kids can't knock it over.

Ok so how does someone justify having a digital piano, but no electric mixer in her home?  How can I have a huge piece of technology, and no microwave?  Maybe it's because I spent a lot of time reading about the Amish, lol.  I believe in using technology that only supplements what you are doing, rather than taking it away from you.  I also think some technology is unhealthy. A digital piano doesn't take anything from the person - you still have to learn to play it.  For myself, I think that having a mixer might make my cooking different and I want to feel connected to the women who mixed everything by hand.  But I make an exception for a bread machine and a rice maker because I think we would eat more homemade bread, and I already know how to make rice in a pot - I just don't like to do it, lol.  It's a minimal amount of electrical devices, all carefully chosen.  I also don't like doing the dishes every day (although I enjoy it sometimes), and I appreciate a dishwasher.  

Every child should be given the chance to play around with a musical instrument, and a keyboard is the perfect way to do that.  

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