One of the first things we did after moving down here, last year, was to start the kids in piano lessons. It was something we’d talked about for a long time, and logistics just never seemed to work out when we lived up north, but we have a highly-recommended teacher nearby, here, and so we were finally able to get them started.
Now, when we first went to the studio, one of the first things the teacher asked me was if the children have “a decent instrument” at home on which to practice. “Sure!” I said. “We have an electric keyboard!” (I did not mention that the kids love to set it to piccolo and play “hot cross buns” until I stab a pen into my eardrum.)
“And that’s a full-size?” He asked me, leaning forward as if we were discussing a peace treaty.
“It’s… ummm… about this big…?” I held out my hands, and he all but smacked his forehead.
The keyboard in question, you see, has only 61 keys. And how can I POSSIBLY expect my children to become MUSICIANS if they don’t have a PROPER INSTRUMENT, he wanted to know.
I resisted the urge to tell him that I was not looking for musicians, but perhaps just for something that would keep my son’s fingers out of his nose for a few minutes at a time. Instead, I told him that I wasn’t sure if the kids would truly stick with it, and that if we got to a year of lessons and they were still going strong, that THEN I would consider investing in a real piano.
He eyed me with suspicion but agreed to give it a year.
Guess how long the kids have been taking piano?
“Hey, Mir, I meant to tell you,” he started out, last week, “But I’ve decided to sell my spare electronic piano. It’s like the one in the outer part of the studio there—weighted action, sustain pedal—and I thought I’d see if you were interested in it.”
“Sure, maybe,” I said. “How much are you selling it for?”
“Eight hundred dollars,” he said. At least, I think that’s what he said. I began choking on my tongue after “eight hundred.” It’s possible he was looking for eight hundred camels, but really, either way it was out of my league.
“I’m hoping to find something for under five hundred,” I finally managed to say.
“Awwww, come on now,” he said. “You know a good electronic piano that’s got the weighted keys is going to cost more than that. I mean, we could probably find you an upright for under five, but if you want to go electronic, you’re going to need to spend more.”
“Yes, well, unless YOU want to buy us a piano, that’s where I’m at. We have to go electronic because it needs to go upstairs and I don’t want to deal with getting a real piano up there, and beyond $500 is out of my budget right now.”
He chuckled, and I chuckled, and he was thinking “stingy bitch who doesn’t understand the importance here” and I was thinking “pushy bastard who thinks I’m made of money.” We adore one another, truly.
“Hey MOM,” piped up Chickadee, in the wake of this exchange. “That piece I was practicing this week? It doesn’t even HAVE some of the keys I need to play it!” The piano teacher perked up and nodded, gesturing at my daughter as if to say “See? DO YOU SEE HOW THE INNOCENT CHILD SUFFERS?”
I rolled my eyes and retreated to the parents’ chair with my book. Hmph.
A week went by, and I began to wonder if perhaps I could convince him to drop the price on the piano he was selling. So we went in for lessons and I said, “Hey, have you sold your piano yet?”
“Oh yeah, it’s gone,” he said. “It went fast, an instrument of that quality for that price,” he added, meaningfully. “Why? You finally buying something for the kids?”
I sighed. “I told you, I’m looking for something for them. But I need to find something for around $500.”
“Well, the music store downtown has a weighted-action Yamaha on sale for $595. You should go look at that one!” he said. “It’s not bad at all.”
“I’m sure it’s not, but I need to find something for around $500.”
“You need to quit whining and scrape up another hundred dollars and go buy THAT ONE,” he laughed. For a moment I could actually picture the immense satisfaction that would come with picking up my MacBook and smacking him across the face with it. Instead my fingers may have twitched on the case, a bit, but I smiled and chuckled.
“Hey MOM,” said Chickadee, “You could use that money from that new contract!” She beamed, turning to her teacher. “Mom’s gonna get a bunch of money for this thing—”
“CHICKADEE,” I interrupted, as it dawned on me that she’d eavesdropped on a discussion Otto and I had had about a new job I’m taking, “Why don’t you show Mr. Piano Teacher how GREAT you can play that piece that you practiced for five whole minutes this week!” It was a low blow, and her eyes narrowed at me.
But the discussion of a keyboard was tabled. For the moment.
During her lesson I sat with my computer perched on my knees, surfing Craigslist for an electronic piano, and found a promising option at a local consignment shop. Of course, we went to go see it last night and it was gone. Hmph. So we went to the music store to see the $595 Yamaha.
That doesn’t include the stand, by the way. Or the bench. Or taxes, of course. In fact, by the time we left I wasn’t really sure the black keys were included, either… those may have been extra.
In conclusion, I’m a horrible mother who refuses to use my many buckets of money to buy my children a suitable piano. Because it will be so much BETTER for them to refuse to practice on a really nice piano than the refusing to practice which they currently do on the crappy keyboard.
You’ve read the studies about the connection between music and math/science, right? You’re really talking about an investment in their education! And if you blog about it enough could you justify a partial tax deduction? I personally hate electronic keyboards, but as I’m about to pay another fortune to have my 40 year old upright tuned AGAIN, maybe I need to revisit that opinion…
It really does make a difference in the way they learn to play. I was able to resist buying one while my son took lessons, but I had to schlep him to the church daily to practice on a “real” piano (dad’s a pastor). He doesn’t play anymore, but if I had it to do over again, I’d have saved my pennies to buy a piano or electronic keyboard with the weighted keys. Have a lovely day!
I found a baby grand on-line for only $4,000 for you. Since it appears that you’re growing both $100 bills and jalapenos in the backyard.
I am woefully non-musical. I have nothing to add to this conversation besides smart-ass remarks. :)
I don’t think your MacBook would’ve hurt him enough. You need a desktop model for that.
How about Costco? They have this one. I know nothing about the piano vs. keyboard key thing, but this has hammer action, so maybe you could use it on someone’s head?
88-Key Keyboard w/ Stand
88 Keys w/ Hammer Action
Item # 249779
Shipping & Handling included
I never practiced my instrument of choice either. And I’m seriously awesome at math. Just sayin’. ;)
Take a look at your local freecycle group. A friend of mine got a free piano that way.
I would just keep your ear to the ground (is that a real saying or did I make that up?). When I was a kid, my dad got an upright for free, it just needed to be moved and tuned. I know you aren’t looking for an upright but maybe someone somewhere has an electronic one with a missing key or some other small repair. Not to show my cynical side again but you know what will happen as soon as the novelty of the new $500 toy wears off? “We don’t wanna take piano!!!!! We wanna be tap dancers!!!!! ” And you will be tossing up the difference between real tap shoes and just making them step on bottle caps.
Also, your piano teacher is pushy. I hate when other people try to spend my money (especially money I don’t have and/or don’t intend to spend that way).
P.S. If you ever take a vacation from want not, I think you may have found your substitute in Debbie up there. That is some serious, specific and awesome deal finding right there.
Keep your ear to the ground, indeed. And think about whether you really want an electric or a real piano. If either of your children continue to play into high school (or beyond!), they’ll do much better with an authentic instrument. I admit it: I’m biased. I studied piano all the way through college, and then taught privately for several years. Now I’m no longer a music teacher, but I still judge high school festivals for piano and voice. I won’t push you (that would be presumptious), but I’ll advise you to make an investment in a decent instrument when the opportunity arises.
Heck, if the kids quit in middle school, you can sell it and upgrade your computer! :)
Chickadee sounds a lot like me. I first started on the piano I inherited from my great-grandmother. Middle C didn’t work. Then, we moved back to Georgia and it had to sit in my parents’ bedroom and every time I practiced, my sister complained (my sister, who was never home because she was always at swim practice which was AN HOUR AND A HALF away. Don’t ask why I couldn’t practice during the 7 hours a day she was gone). Then, we moved into a rental house while our new house was being built and I had the excuse that I was practicing on a crappy key board. I was in trouble when we finally moved into our new house and my dad got me a shiny new upright. I was out of excuses. So, I quit. My dad is not bitter at all.
I never practiced the piano either, or the expensive flute I made my mom buy me. And what do you know, I majored in math in college.
My mother’s piano has been gathering dust for 20+ years. I wouldn’t buy one until you are sure you’re ready.
Good logic for going with extra curriculars.I have bought a keyboard for my daughter albeit she is learning vocal music.I will invest in anyother instrument once she gets really interested.I was renting her ice skates for a year and just bought her skates.There are piano places which rent out for 2-300$.One of my friends got one for her kids.
So as a person who majored in music (SO useful in my current career in public relations! ;-) ) and someone who’s played piano for the last 20-something years I can vouch for the fact that a good instrument really helps you improve. (I recently bought a used baby grand – an upgrade from my previous console-sized upright – and my improvement was almost immediate, for instance. And my previous piano was really a good instrument.)
Having said all that, though, I’m in your camp: if your kids aren’t practicing (much) I’d be loathe to allocate more money and space, since chances are the new piano won’t get much more use than the old one.
For whatever it’s worth, my recommendation would be to find an inexpensive acoustic piano on Craigslist or in a local shop (good deals can be had) if only because the electronic ones just don’t have the same feel and response. (If it were me, though, I would make purchasing the new one contingent on the kiddos demonstrating that they’ll practice more BEFORE making the investment. ;-) )
Yeah, talk about gathering dust. I say your instincts are right on this one, as usual.
I don’t know about electronic pianos (heck I didn’t even know they existed) so I don’t know how they stack up against the other kind. But a normal(?) piano is much easier to find for free for the same reason you can’t move it upstairs. They are heavy and lots of people have old ones they just want moved out of their house. I have seen that happen at least twice. But they do need tuning regularly and I don’t know how much that costs (see my piano that hasn’t been tuned since I was a child but hasn’t been played since then either). I will say though there is a big difference between practicing on a keyboard and an actual piano. Good luck.
Y’know, my parents had a very similar conversation with my grade school music teacher about a clarinet. He swore that they were absolutely abusing me by not buying me a good one. Since they preferred to, I don’t know, maybe buy groceries and pay the utility bills, they didn’t. A few years later, I was the youngest person to ever get first chair in the State Honor band. I was still playing that crappy plastic clarinet. When I was offered a music scholarship to the local college a few years after that, I was still playing that crappy plastic clarinet.
i say if you can find one in your price range then go for it. that’s like a sign. i think debbie found it. at the very least they will be able to play hot crossed buns in more octaves… won’t be fun.
it could be worse, my daughter plays the harp. we live in thailand. the aren’t easy to come by here.
i meant to say along with the sign and price range stuff only buy one if you want to buy it…
this was why we went with the viola. it’s portable too.
LOL! I have a suzuki with weighted keys – 88 of ’em. If you come and get it, you can have it for $500.
How far do you think you could shove a weighted key up the piano teacher’s nose?
I’m definitely biased, husband being a music teacher and all, but practicing on an instrument that is worthwhile will make the kids stay in lessons longer. Think of a quality keyboard as an investment. If the kids quit piano you can always sell the keyboard again. If it’s a good keyboard it won’t depreciateâ€“ much. Well, that’s of course only if Monkey washes his hands before practicing (you know, while his fingers are out of his nose).
This is an easy fix. Take a long piece of cardboard and draw 88 whole keys on it. Inform your “deprived” children that after they practice an hour a day on the paper board for a week (or a month, your call), you will start a fund for them to earn money toward a better piano. Extra chores etc will earn money toward the fund. You will match their total earnings. If they get motivated to do it, you can shell out the extra bucks, and if they don’t, the blame is on THEM, not you.
That way you can get some good jabs at Mr. Condescension by shaking your head and pondering whether they are INSPIRED enough to make music a REAL part of their LIVES. True love of music is, after all, something only a GIFTED teacher can give. And the thing is, if they aren’t MOTIVATED by their lessons to practice, there is no need to spend ANY money.
There. Now you are off the hook.
How can you skimp on an investment in your children’s future? Ppppphahahahahaha. I couldn’t keep a straight face to even finish typing that sentence. My extremely musically-talented parents insisted that we take piano lessons. Apparently this type of talent skips a generation. So I’m certain I’ll force my kids to play. Yep, I’ll dutifully set the kitchen timer for 30 minutes each day and plop their little buns in front of the upright eyesore that I will force dear hubby to haul into the living room. Then I will race to jam some headphones in my ears as quickly as humanly possible and crank up my ipod at full volume to drown out their obvious musical genius with some chords that God actually intended. Well, that’s how I picture it anyway. Good times. Good times.
I highly recommend the electronic keyboard over the piano. Getting a good keyboard is expensive (it has to have weighted keys, etc. to “feel” like a piano). But – and let me stress this – it has HEADPHONES. The kidlets can practice and you don’t hear them! Believe me, when they are in the endless scales stage, this is a godsend. Also, a piano has to be tuned often, which gets expensive mightly quickly.
New thought… once they are practicing 30 or more minutes a day for a year… then we look for that other keyboard.. because really why even spend 500 for it to just sit and collect dust… as if the difference in them practicing 5 minutes vs. 30 is due to the fact that there are keys they don’t have… PLEASE!
Also… music teacher can reduce his prices and that will allow you to save up for the fancier keyboard…
I also got an upright for free from a piano store when I was younger… just had to move it…
I grew up with a piano – first an upright (rented) and then a glorious antique baby grand. I can play…. nothing. And my years and years of violin? Have produced… erm… nothing again. BUT I know my Bach from my Bartok and I can condescend in three octaves. Worth every penny I figger.
My parents rented a piano for years. You might want to look into that and see if that’s a possibility in your area.
And this Piano instructor???? When he starts contributing to the family income, I’d let him bully me into buying anything. Until then, Beethoven’s 5th will have to stay a very silent dream….give me a break!
I’ll second the Freecycle list. If you could get a free upright then you could hire movers to go get it and take it up the stairs for you… just a thought.
Oh, this was really too easy, hon. How much do you pay him weekly for piano lessons? 50 dollars for both? You go buy the new Yamaha and cancel lessons for 3 or 4 weeks. Make sure to explain to him why…
Yep, you should’ve whacked him with the Mac.
you already have a piano! just draw the missing keys and they’ll be fine. it will make them more creative to imagine what the sounds of those keys make!
You obviously have the patience of a saint because I would have clawed his eyes out. Whacking him with your Mac might hurt your Mac and no one wants that. I’m with Deb, when he starts contributing to family finances, he can start making suggestions as to how you spend your money.
I played the flute for 9 years and I totally suck at math. Obviously, I didn’t practice hard enough for algebra to sink in.
As a mommy/piano teacher, I have to tell you…I only had one student who EVER deserved the instrument her parents bought her to practice with. She was my most talented, and the only one who ever practiced without Mommy telling her to. My second most talented kids, brother and sister, came from a family where $$ was a little tight…and what they could afford was probably about what you had. It was electronic, which meant they could plug in earphones and not wake up the baby, but, even at Level 2, they couldn’t play all the notes in their songs. So what?! They could play them at my house. The point wasn’t the songs, the point was that they were learning HOW TO PLAY. Once you learn that, you can teach yourself to play anything. Granted, their keyboard (probably like yours) didn’t have “weighted touch” or whatever…but they did that, also, when they came to see me once a week, and I know they at least PRACTICED pushing harder or softer on their little keyboard.
Stick your ground, Mama. You can afford what you can afford. I know piano lessons aren’t expensive. A teacher should NOT expect that a mother will drop $$$$$ on a piano that three of the members of the household may or may not be playing in two years!
Ebay sometimes has good deals on instruments. As a musician myself, it is funny to me how many people want their children to play piano without an instrument. Children can rent other instruments from school, but a piano is little harder to come by. It might serve you better if you’re honest with the teacher; you’re not serious about creating musicians, but just trying to keep their hands occupied. It’s kind of disrespectful to the teacher to expect them to teach someone that couldn’t even practice properly if they wanted to. You might be better off getting a self-teaching book to go with your toy keyboard.
Just an idea…but I found this on musiciansbuy.com. It’s not a weighted key piano, technically, but it does respond to weighted touch. It’s only 12 lbs, and comes with a free stand and free music writing software. It’s 76 keys (6+ octaves) and it’s Yamaha. It’s on sale for $300. Only if you wanted to upgrade.
stick to your guns. your kids are young yet to be investing major bucks in an instrument they might not keep playing.
as for finding a suitable keyboard/piano – don’t forget pawn shops or local instrument dealers. with as many bands that are spawned out of your town there are bound to be used pro-class electronic instruments at discounted prices. the instrument shops may also have installment plans. I know from my and my kids experience band instruments were all bought via installment.
check also with their school. if there’s a band program they may have a tie-in with a local instrument rep that might be able to locate something for you at school cost, or at least discounted.
If it were me, I’d find an old upright someone was giving away (or nearly so) and then pay for movers to take it upstairs. That’s what my parents did. I wasn’t super serious about piano lessons but I did take them for about 5 years and I can tell you that, unfortunately, a reduced-size keyboard is just not the same.
JMHO. I’m sure they will be fine either way.
Now do you really want to waste a perfectly good Macbook on a piano teacher? Save that for the insurance rep.
My son did Suzuki violin lessons for almost a year and half. It didn’t end well. (The story’s in a recent blog entry– 5/30). I was glad we were just renting the violin. He held out longer than I did, though. I played violin for a mere 3 months in 4th grade.
Anyway, I understand not wanting to invest a lot of money even after a year of lessons especially if the kids aren’t diligent about practicing. Good luck finding something in your price range.
I think you’re near a college/university, so a little tip. Because I’m on CU’s music mailing list, I get mailers every year about their Big!Piano!Sale! I guess the College of Music sells off the practice room pianos every year and gets new ones. See if there’s something similar by you. Also, check the music school’s for sale bulletin board, you might be surprised. Musicians do trade up instruments and while flutists might do it more often than pianists, the possibility is still there.
Oh, and by the way? Your teacher is an ass. I taught flute lessons for a gazillion years and only a few dedicated students decided to upgrade. I NEVER would have insisted upon it or continued harping on it. Harping…music joke…thanks folks, I’m here all week, try the veal. ;)
I think suburbancorrespondent nailed the solution. Tell the piano teacher to quit whining and you’ll see him when the keyboard is paid for.
When I bought Erin the full-sized keyboard with the weighted keys and six months worth of lessons, I really didn’t think she’d stick with it for long. But she majored in music and now teaches piano and a few years ago I got a nice thank you note. I don’t remember what I paid for the keyboard, but I do remember how great I felt when I got the note.
Ohhh … and here I was hoping the Barbie keyboard my daughter has would be good enough to start hehe.
If you feel your kids are not really into the piano lessons, I say stick to your current keyboard.
Here I thought I was being Mother of The Year by going out and getting my somewhat talented but certainly enthusiastic daughter a digital piano last fall after a year and a half of faithful practice and lessons on a keyboard like yours (“But Moooom! I NEED pedals now!!”), and what does her piano teacher do? She raises one eyebrow and says to my kid:
“Oh, I thought you were getting a REAL piano.”
I almost gave her an F Sharp right there.
GYAH. Lots of opinions on this one, and somewhere in the stack, there is really good advice.
1. Your teacher is rude and elitist.
2. Your teacher is right: an acoustic is the best choice for the long haul, but digital is fine, too, especially at this stage. I’m curious to know what curriculum he uses.
3. Weighted keys have a better feel, even to a beginner, but at the very least, touch-sensitive is mandatory in my book. That will let them hear whether or not they are actually changing their touch on the keys. They can practice it physically on any tabletop, but it really does make a difference if they can hear the changes. I have a lot more to say about that, but I don’t wanna sound rude and elitist. ;)
4. Aunt LoLo’s keyboard suggestion would be just fine. Yamaha makes good digital pianos, period.
5. Everybody who said keep your ear to the ground for bargains? Yup. Good advice, all.
I want to give your teacher the benefit of the doubt, that maybe he just wants to make sure they get the most out of the money you’re spending for the lessons. There’s no disclaimer in a recital that says, “This kid only had a strip of cardboard as a practice tool.” His rep is on the line a little, too.
Then again, he sounds like a complete jerk.
Have you looked into renting one?
I had a similar-ish discussion with my oldest’s orchestra instructor…
Me – We are thinking of buying him a practice cello. Any recommendations?
Him – You can get a good practice one for around $3,000.
Me – (No response as I was lying on the floor with a cool rag on my head.)
P.S. A lot of places, if you rent, apply your rental fees to the purchase price if you decide to purchase in the future.
For example, we are renting out daughter’s violin. If we decide to purchase from that shop in the future, all of our accrued rental fees would go toward the purchase price. We are up to $500. Once she reaches full size violin we will have enough equity to trade in for one to own. I know many places do the same with pianos.
I haven’t read the other comments, so someone may have suggested this, but we rented a piano several years ago. It wasn’t great, but it was in tune and had all 88 keys. It was only $15/month (ok, it was the mid 90s – probably more now) but still – it’s cheaper than buying.
Just a thought. :)
Next time Mr. Piano Teacher starts pushing you to drop some cash on a new instrument, tel him that your family’s motto is: A little suffering builds character. That oughta shut him up for at least ten minutes.
Another idea is to suggest that he charge you less for the kids’ lessons, so you can put that money towards purchasing the instrument. THAT oughta shut him up for maybe another fifteen minutes.
Do you, perchance, have relatives of the grandparent sort who like to spoil the children with toys at holidays? toys that can barely fit in your too-small house, because they are still playing with the toys the relatives of the grandparent sort got them for the last holiday?
Oh wait, that’s me.
Anyway, the grandparents chipped in and got my daughter an electronic weighted keyboard with all 88 keys for Xmas last year and we LOVE it.
If you have a Mac, it will even work with garage band. they can improvise a song on the piano and the Mac will transpose it for them.
full disclaimer: I had 12 years of piano lessons, so I, too, can be an “elitist snob” about these things. I think it is much more enjoyable to play piano on an instrument that has the weighted touch and all the keys (but mostly the weighted touch.)
I actually think it is kinda sweet that your music teacher is so passionate about such things. Think about it: have you ever met a nonchalant artist-type, ever?
We got our piano as a gift, but I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have invested in one ourselves until we were pretty sure that the piano would be an important part of our daughter’s life. How can you tell when she’s only 6??
Check out local colleges and Universities. Call the Music Department and try to talk to their main office. Let them know that you are interested in purchasing a piano, specifically a full size electric, and if there comes a time in the near future when they’re purchasing new equipment — ask them to give you a call about selling the old equipment to you. Also – It does sound like you’re dead against an upright, and with the inclusion of needing to go up stairs I understand. But if you change your mind, also check out local churches. Sometimes they have pianos they want to get rid of/sell for just a couple hundred dollars or even free.
I have played the piano for 18 years – Since I was 6. I took lessons from Age 6 to 18 and intermittently through college. I dragged my heels and practiced about as much as you say Chickadee practices until my Junior year in High School. In my Junior year, I sat down at the piano and all of a sudden something clicked and I loved it. I couldn’t get enough of it. I would play when I got home from school, when I was stressed and wanted to bang on something, or when I was happy and wanted to just play something.
I’m so thankful now that my mom nagged me, otherwise I may never have gotten to the point where I could really love it. I don’t play nearly often enough now, and I miss it. It was a great part of my life.
So apparently all the big bucks are in teaching piano?
We ended up renting a piano with a “rent-to-buy” option. If the kids don’t practice, I threaten to send the piano away, which for some reason has some weight with them. Or maybe they think that I’m threatening to send THEM away. Either way, it seems to work.
This is going to sound like a STOOOOOPID question…..
Can you rent or lease a piano with option to buy?
That would be kinda’ cool because not only could you call them to come and get it if they lose interest but you’ve got leverage with, “If you don’t practice, I’m calling them to come get this thing!”
See? If I had actually READ THE COMMENT BEFORE mine, I would have conserved bandwidth.
Slaps forehead and scurries away….
I always wanted to learn piano, but my mother made me take guitar instead. I’m thinking you couldn’t get a piano with Bluechip Stamps, that and the lack room required.
Little Bug has done well for three years on the very small Yamaha. Someday when I’m rich the Baby Grand will fit nicely in my living room. HAHAHAHAHA.
When we moved in December to the larger house, my parents sent up my childhood piano – I love having it, but we’re not playing it an awful lot yet.
Someone in the comments above had the idea of taking the piano cost out of the pushy teacher’s lessons – that was funny!
A beginner piano student can get away with a smaller, semi-weighted keyboard for a while. Unfortunately, when repertoire begins to get more dificult, a weighted keyboard is needed.
Weighted keyboards give individual finger muscles a workout, promoting dexterity and finger strength. Also, the pieces that more advanced curriculum offer use a large range on the piano.
I know that music lessons and equipment are expensive. Do the best that you can. In the beginning, as long as your kid is practising and having fun, that’s the main goal.
You really need a better instrument but – while I don’t know what electric pianos cost around where you live – you might find a decent one that’s used. Just keep asking around.