Advice for piano upgrades

Purchasing a piano is a significant commitment and often a life-time investment. It's one of the most important decisions of your piano journey as a student.


Not having a quality practise instrument is the big obstacle to motivation and progress.


KEYBOARD

A full-size 88 keys weighted keyboard is the minimum requirement for beginner piano students. The keyboard needs to be positioned on a keyboard stand. This is a student instrument and will require upgrading within 6-12 months to either an acoustic piano or a digital piano. A keyboard is is not a high quality instrument, and has a short-life span for the student. It only allows for limited technique, sound and feel to be developed.


Expect to budget £500-1k for a keyboard, either new or second-hand are suitable due to this being only a beginner instrument.


For digital keyboards, I recommend Yamaha P45 or P121.



PIANO STOOL


Students require a height adjustable piano stool. Majority of online and in-store piano retailers will stock these, either as a package with the piano or as a separate item. I advise against fixed height stools since each individual has a different physicality, the stool needs to be able to be adapted to suit your stature.


X-frames are typically stage portables which are only suitable adults because children find these too unstable with a likelihood of being unbalanced. The best model is a 4 legged height adjustable stool, these can also include a storage compartment for piano books.


Expect to budget £50-150 for a piano stool.


See Piano Warehouse, Gear 4 Music, Amazon, Yamaha Music London, Bonners Music, Sutton Music Centre.


ACOUSTIC PIANO


Quality acoustic pianos allow for the full range of technique & musicality to be developed, and take players to advanced level (Grade 8+). From experience: students progress faster, perform better and practise/ motivated more with an acoustic.


Expect to budget £7-15k for a quality new acoustic, and £4-6k for a quality second-hand acoustic. Second-hand can be great but I would only look for ones sold from a reputable showroom and with a record of refurbishment & servicing.


For acoustic pianos I recommend both Yamaha U1 or U3 and Kawai. I don't recommend Steinmayer or Weber or Yamaha B models because these look/ sound/ feel cheap and have a short lifespan.


See Piano Warehouse, Yamaha Music London, Mark Goodwin Piano, Rimmers Music, Bonners Music



DIGITAL PIANO

For those who have noise sensitive neighbours or other circumstances prevent from making the large financial investment, I recommend the alternative: digital piano. These are great up to take players up to the late intermediate level (Grade 5/ 6). These are designed to imitate the sound and feel of a true acoustic piano.


Expect to budget £2-4k for a quality new digital, I don't recommend purchasing second-hand.


For digital piano I recommend both Yamaha CVP or CLP and Kawai CN.


See Piano Warehouse, Yamaha Music London, Rimmers Music, Bonners Music



HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN KEYBOARD AND DIGITAL PIANO?


Keyboards are stage instruments, designed to be light portable. Hence this sacrifices on the hardware and results in a limited sound and feel. Keyboards are often just the flat keys with a few buttons, and require a stand to place at the correct height.


Digital pianos on the other hand come with a lid which you close when the instrument is not in use. Digital pianos need a minimum of 2 pedals, with quality models showing 3 models.




WHERE TO BUY

I recommend both Yamaha and Kawai for acoustic or digital. Specifically for acoustics I recommend Yamaha U1 or U3. Specifically for digital I recommend Yamaha CLP or CVP or Kawai CN. For digital keyboards, I recommend Yamaha P45 or P121.

Places I recommend

Mark Goodwin Piano, Piano Warehouse, Sutton Music centre, Bonners Music, Rimmers Music, Gear 4 Music.



PIANO BRANDS


There are many piano brands, and I have not tested every single model available. However based on my experience, I have thoughts on the following. Tones, sensitivity, feel and comfort are subjective and down to personal taste. This is my personal order of preference.


Both Yamaha and Kawai are excellent brands, with Japanese craftsmanship and long reliability in performance. Yamaha's typically have a tone on the bright - medium spectrum where as Kawai is closer to the medium - mellow spectrum.


Yamaha: CLP or CVP are the high end models, Arius are the mid/ low end models.

Kawai: CN

Roland: not any notable models

Korg: not any notable models

Nord: Piano 3 and Piano 4 models are excellent stage instruments, but outside the budget of most people.


WHAT TO LOOK FOR


If you are able to, always purchase from a physical retailer where you are able to test out the instrument fully.

  • Play other pianos to compare

  • Play on grand pianos and get inspired with music

  • Does the retailer give a guarantee of 5, 10 or 20 years?

Bring a few different pieces that range in notes (low and high), dynamics (loud and soft), and articulation (legato and staccato) and pedal to fully test the piano.


I’m experienced and happy to give advice about buying the right instrument. Piano is a lifetime investment!