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Unfolding the Intrigue: The Extraordinary Tale of a Folding Piano

I've never been one of those piano purist teachers. Never...



folding piano music teacher macclesfield Cheshire congleton


Electric pianos and keyboards receive an awful lot of bad press for being too unlike the real thing, and whilst I agree that they certainly are unlike the real thing - and do in fact stand by my mantra that the closer your instrument to the real thing, the better - I am also very aware of the problems that they carry and create;


  • Pianos are expensive


  • Pianos are loud


  • Pianos take up lots of space


  • Pianos require maintenance


Probably the four main ones, listed above.


So in this day and age, I do stand by the following beliefs:


  • Buying an electric piano or even a 61 key keyboard is OK if you are testing the waters. Until you're absolutely convinced, a piano - and even an electric piano, for many people - is too much of a gamble to take as a beginner.


  • Buying a keyboard is sometimes the only way to go. Many modern houses - and apartments in particular - aren't designed for something as bulky and as loud as a piano.


  • It is far better to sacrifice things such as number of keys, weight of keys etc. in the first instance than repressing your desire to learn the instrument. I myself learnt on a Yamaha PSR 290 up until Grade 5, by which time I was finally taken seriously enough to be bought an electric (a Casio Priya PX 700).


Note: I did do a blog here about the differences between acoustic and electric pianos, and if you are looking at which to invest in, give it a read as it will give you a good checklist as to what to look for for the best results.


Yet time and time again I am finding myself hearing the contrary from other piano teachers, pupils, reading other blogs and articles etc., which make me doubt myself. They say it is absolutely essential to learn on a piano from the start.


So it fills me with joy whenever I have success stories to share. And last week I was presented with one such story:


One of my pupils came to me to learn piano casually having received a digital keyboard for Christmas. She has been making good progress, but quite understandably the difference between the keys on a keyboard and on a piano do rear their head and make themselves known when she plays on my piano. At first it was rather timid in sound, because the keys on a keyboard are by nature more forgiving (they are programmed to always give a nice clean sound, whereas the hammer action on a piano responds much less predictably if you don't give a satisfactory velocity on the key).


This particular pupil has family overseas. Far overseas. And thus it is logical that she does need to go over for fairly extended periods of time (4-5 weeks, give or take) a couple of times a year. The first time this happened during her session of lessons wasn't too detrimental to her learning anyway. However, the time that she has just visited, she prepared herself.


A few weeks prior, she informed me that she had purchased a folding piano. Of course, I've seen these online but have never actually tried one. Naturally, she was already aware that it was no substitute for piano - or even her existing keyboard - because, as she said, the keys are squatter and overall smaller, naturally, but as we agreed (and - in similar vain to my points above) - if you need to practice, it is better to practice on something than nothing.


I was delighted to see this pupil again last week after 5 weeks, and all the more so when she told me that - thanks to this piano - she had been able to practice some exercises and pieces from her workbook and keep refreshing her memory of the pieces she is learning ('Für Elise' and 'Canon in D').


So she turned to the first piece in her book that she had been looking at and played it. And what an improvement from any of her performances of that piece in the past! -


  • more confident dynamic


  • more evenness across the fingers in playing chords (notes all played at the same time and all the same volume)


  • a more upbeat tempo


The whole thing was a remarkable improvement, and as she observed;


'Perhaps it was the need to hit the keys harder to get a result from the folding piano that improved the technique enough to translate to a real piano'.


(paraphrased - I'm not in the habit of recording my pupils!)


And on that note, she left me said keyboard to try for myself. As you can see, the picture above of me - mid-move and in casual attire to show for it - could not resist the urge to try this.


So I did...


And I have to say, I agree.


Is it a great sound?


No.


Are the keys uncomfortably small?


Yes.


Is it an ideal practice piano?


Not even that!


But regardless, it did something for my pupil that improved her confidence playing on my piano (a real piano).


And so, for as much as people may worry over an electric piano that is literally recognised as the closest-to-the-real-thing-as-you-can-get being 'not good enough to learn properly on', I think this story highlights the unsung benefits of using what resources we can get rather than just saying 'no' outright.


(If I'd have said no on this principle, I'd never have played piano because our house just wouldn't have fit an acoustic one in!)


 

Jack Mitchell Smith is a piano teacher based in Macclesfield, Cheshire. Click here to find out more.


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