This article covers some of the basic materials you will need in order to learn to play piano. Before we start, however, you may find it useful to review for yourself why you want to learn to play, and how you imagine yourself playing the piano. Your understanding of your expectations can help you set a budget and prioritize how the piano will fit into your lifestyle. For example, if you wish to study the instrument purely for personal enjoyment, you may not need that baby grand in the living room: an upright piano or even an electric one will do just fine.
Of course the first thing you will be considering is the instrument itself. If you have the space and the budget, your best choice is a quality acoustic instrument. You want to learn to play piano after all. No level of sophisticated electronics can replace the sound and touch of a traditional, well made acoustic one. An acoustic piano with proper care and treatment will last a lifetime, and hold its value. The disadvantages of buying an acoustic piano are that they require some regular maintenance, and their initial cost outlay can be high.
Pianos come in a range of sizes and models. Most people buy an upright piano. Try to think of where you want your piano to be, and if your playing might bother any neighbors. The loudness of your piano is related to its size, usually measured in height for upright style instruments. Apartment sized pianos with smaller string lengths tend to be on the quieter side and work especially well in cement buildings, where unit-to-unit noise is low.
The placement of pianos in apartments can be a little tricky. You do not want to have it against an outside wall due to temperature fluctuations, nor do you want it against a neighbor’s wall due to noise concerns. Your understanding of your needs and home will help you and a knowledgeable piano sales representative to pick out an appropriate instrument.
An increasingly popular choice for an instrument is a quality electric piano. The main advantages of an electric piano over an acoustic one are: that even with top of the line instruments, your initial costs go down; they tend to require less maintenance; and you can control their overall volume. In addition, major manufacturers are are actually coming closer and closer to replicating an acoustic piano’s sound and touch. If you go this route, remember that you want an electric version of a piano, not a synthesizer or midi controller. You need a full eighty-eight key keyboard, with full sized weighted keys and all three pedals. If you can, bring a piano-playing friend along with you shopping to test some of the different models. Someone with even a modicum of piano experience will be able to tell you if a keyboard’s touch and sound are relatively realistic.
Once you have chosen your instrument, you will also need a bench to sit on. If you have the budget, buy an adjustable one with a compartment under the seat for your sheet music and accessories. If you buy a cheap bench, you will find that it will eventually break down, something really not worth the hassle.
The other accessories you will need are a metronome, and your music books. The metronome is a tool you use while you learn to play piano to help you keep time, and work out complex rhythms. Electronic metronomes are relatively inexpensive and accurate. You do not need one with a lot of features: go for simple functionality and a brand name. If you have an acoustic piano, lay the metronome on top of the piano, and it will amplify the metronome’s sound. If you are learning on an electric piano, it might have a metronome built in. If not make sure you buy a metronome that is relatively loud, or you will not be able to hear it when your are practicing.
You may want to wait on buying method and repertoire books until you have chosen a piano instructor or course. Your instructor will favor a particular set of books and pieces to help you learn to play piano. Trusting their judgment in choosing this material is part of why you are paying for private instruction in the first place. The same can be said for any music course or class. Once you have built some skills, your instructor can recommend supplementary repertoire that is suitable to your level of playing.
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