The piano is used in a wide range of musical styles, including classical, jazz, pop, and rag. Electronic keyboards expand the range and sound possibilities.
Pianists often play as soloists, but also have opportunities to play with other musicians in small groups, such as chamber music groups or jazz ensembles. Additionally, they have opportunities to provide accompaniment for other solo instruments, as well as choral and other groups.
Piano is considered by many to be the best instrument to learn in order to have the most solid overall musical foundation. It has the greatest pitch range of any instrument, so playing the piano requires learning to read music on both treble and bass clef. On a piano, many notes can be played at the same time. Because the piano involves using a full musical range, keyboard facility is also useful for aspiring composers and conductors. Students with a good keyboard background often find it relatively easy to learn other instruments. Music schools generally require some piano proficiency for most students, particularly vocal music students.
Young pianists can start with either Suzuki method or traditional teachers. On-line programs are also available. They can start with either a standard 88-key acoustic piano, or a regular-sized or slightly smaller keyboard.
Pianos vs. Keyboards: Acoustic vs. Electronic
Beginners have several choices to make when deciding on an instrument. The first is whether to buy a traditional acoustic piano or an electronic keyboard.
Benefits of buying an acoustic piano include these:
- Acoustic pianos are beautiful and create a “real” sound.
- All acoustic pianos have a full range of 88 keys. Keys are “touch sensitive”.
- Players usually like the “feel” and responsiveness of an acoustic instrument.
- A good quality, well-maintained piano will usually hold its value well.
But there can be many benefits of starting with a keyboard, especially for beginners:
- Although an inexpensive keyboard may not have a full range of keys, great sound quality or advanced features, beginners can get started for a smaller investment.
- Headphones can be used for quiet practicing.
- Many are portable and take up less space.
- While they can break and do require batteries or electricity, generally care and maintenance is less, since they don’t require regular tuning.
- Some are capable of playing a variety of sounds or even different sounds on different parts of the keyboard, which can be really fun.
About the Piano
Before the piano was invented, keyboard players played the harpsichord. On a harpsichord, the strings are plucked, making a soft sound. In 1709, harpsichord-maker Bartolommeo Cristofori invented a new instrument with strings that are hit with “hammers”. This made it possible to produce either soft or loud sound, – thus the name “pianoforte”, which means “soft loud” in Italian. How it works: A piano has 88 keys, arranged in a black and white pattern so the player can identify them. When a key is pressed down, it triggers a hammer to “hit” strings that vibrate. The vibration, and therefore sound, is stopped by “dampers” that mute the strings. The piano has three pedals. The most frequently used pedal is the one on the right, the sustain pedal, which holds all the notes after the keys are released.
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