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Digital Keyboards

What About A Digital Keyboard?

The digital or electric keyboard first gained popularity among those who teach note reading in group settings. Digital keyboards are less costly, never require tunings, and are easily transported. I look at mine as a fun toy, not an instrument that facilitates the development of performance skills. The touch of the keys on a digital piano have not yet been designed to duplicate the resistance of the touch on an acoustic piano. The touch difference between acoustic and digital can be somewhat compared to the difference in the stiff-touch of an old manual typewriter, versus the quick-touch of an electric typewriter. The touch and sounds produced are different, and the student will become confused practicing all week on his "easy" digital piano compared to the "heavy" acoustic grand piano at the lessons.

Disadvantages Of A Digital Piano For The Suzuki Student

If a child has a good instrument at lessons and a good instrument at home, it is easy to develop the child's sense of tone, because the sensitivity is already there. However, if the child is playing on a poor instrument at home, two things happen:

  1. The child becomes frustrated because he cannot make the same sounds he hears at the lesson.
  2. His ear starts to get dull because what he hears and plays on six days a week has more impact than what he plays on once a week. Soon, the child only hears the tonal range that his home piano has to offer. This can cripple the child's potential. It is very interesting that if you take a child who has a good piano at home and ask him to play on a poor piano, he will make that piano sounds its best, as he tries to match the sounds in his head. But, if you give a child with a poor piano at home a Steinway Grand to play on, the Steinway will only sound as good as the poor piano because that is the sound being matched.
  3. In all fairness to the child, I cannot accept a student in my studio who's parents have no plans to purchase an acoustic piano in good condition.

Beginning Lessons Focus On The Sound And Touch:

When a child is born, hearing is his most highly developed sense. Our sense of hearing is keenest at birth and gradually declines. Small children have extremely acute hearing. Their ability to hear very subtle nuances is the reason why they learn to speak their native language so perfectly. There are many languages far more complex in sound pattern and intonation than English. Yet, any infant placed in that environment will learn to speak that language. A child placed in an environment where language is used poorly, or misprounounced, will also develop that poor way of speaking. It is an interesting phenomenon that children who speak a very complex pitched language such as Chinese, or more than one language, learn to play music very easily. This simply means that they can hear and imitate subtle sound differences. Any child is capable of this, it depends on his environment. Just as a child who is exposed to adults who speak in a monotone will begin to copy that way of talking. Similarly, a child is either limited or expanded by the range of sounds his piano can make. A young piano student is developing his sensitivity to musical sounds. This ability, whether developed well or not, will stay with him for life. This is often difficult for adults to really understand, because they themselves can often NOT HEAR the differences. It is something which can be learned as an adult, but with much more difficulty and effort.

The ideal is to provide the developing youngster's ear with the instrument that will teach sensitivity from the start.