buying the piano

piano spreadsheet

The piano will be digital.

All you purists can get up and leave now; please don’t slam the door on the way out.

But it is what the house demands.

Built in 1929, not only does it not have a piano window as do many of its era, it does not even have a piano wall. There are no spaces where anything over 55 by 14 can be put without interfering with traffic or functionality. For the moment I am ruling out placing a piano in front of the fireplace, or in front of a set of two large windows, or touching a steam radiator. And that narrows us down to a space that can handle something no more than 55 inches wide at keyboard level, and no more than 52 inches wide at floor level. Any deeper than 16 inches and it will impede traffic.

The first constraint was size. The second constraint was going to be price, but that quickly left once I started trying them out. Apparently my 8 years of piano lessons did leave some tracks in my brain. In testing low vs higher priced models, I could both feel a difference in the keyboards and hear a difference in the sound. The first model I had thought we would get, a Casio Privia PX350, sounded mushy in the middle of the range, and the action felt a little stiff.

After cycling back and forth between doing research, testing models and creating a massive comparison spreadsheet, I settled on the following desired features:

Best possible piano action and voice, because we want it to be primarily a piano.

Many (>80) other voices, because I’ve seen lots of interest in listening to the other sounds on the cheap keyboard, because this is an easy way to increase the fun value when practicing scales etc, and because some of the extra voices may be helpful for playing along with the oboe. Most digital pianos only have piano/electric piano/organ variations for the first 40+ voices, so we needed more.

Drum / rhythm capability, because I think this might be helpful for Opie in practicing oboe scales & arpeggios while also strengthening her sense of rhythm and timing.

Portability, because if I’m constrained to buying a keyboard, it might as well be able to be used somewhere else too.

When you put all these characteristics together, you end up looking for stage pianos. Most do not have speakers included, but that didn’t seem like a big problem. I looked at the Roland RD800, the Yamaha CP4, the Kawai MP7 and MP11.

We ended up with the MP7. There are things I don’t love about it, specifically the keys are noisy on rebound, but all of the pianos had things I disliked. I think I liked the CP4 key action a little better, but the controls were much less intuitive to use – a problem since its main users are kids.

We’ve had it about a week. Not only has Opie been playing for hours on end, her older sister has decided that she wants to start working through a teach-yourself book. And I’m having fun too trying to resurrect those 8 years of piano lessons.

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