Piano Reviewer https://pianoreviewer.com Piano Reviews, Guides and Tutorials Fri, 24 Jul 2020 21:14:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.4.2 https://pianoreviewer.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/cropped-logo-Logo-Transparency-1-1-32x32.png Piano Reviewer https://pianoreviewer.com 32 32 The Pianist’s Guide to Sight Reading https://pianoreviewer.com/guide-to-sight-reading https://pianoreviewer.com/guide-to-sight-reading#respond Fri, 24 Jul 2020 20:51:47 +0000 https://pianoreviewer.com/?p=2046 One of the most neglected aspects of learning the piano nowadays is sight reading. One of the most useful, necessary skills when playing a musical instrument is sadly sidelined by most students and teachers because “it’s too hard,” or “it’s too much work to teach it properly.”Unfortunately, this has led to most pianists being unable to sight read properly. This problem is ... Read more The Pianist’s Guide to Sight Reading

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One of the most neglected aspects of learning the piano nowadays is sight reading. One of the most useful, necessary skills when playing a musical instrument is sadly sidelined by most students and teachers because “it’s too hard,” or “it’s too much work to teach it properly.”

Unfortunately, this has led to most pianists being unable to sight read properly. This problem is not endemic to beginner and intermediate students; I’d wager that if you go into most conservatoires nowadays, you will find students struggling to sight read, even at the postgraduate and doctoral levels.

So what can you do if you are struggling and want to improve your sight reading? Fortunately, even if you struggle to read more than one bar of music without hesitation, there are a series of actionable tips and insights you can take in order to improve.


What is Sight Reading?

Firstly, let’s get into what sight reading is and what it is not. Sight reading is:

“The act of playing a piece of music at first sight; without ever having seen or practiced it before.”

Let’s look at exactly what this means.

If you are presented with a piece of music that you have never, ever seen before, and you are asked to play it there and then, then you would be sight-reading. However, once you have played through that piece of music, you are UNABLE to ever sight read it again. Anything after that is simply called “reading.”

Sight reading well involves the culmination and combination of many different skills. The ability to identify notes and chords, to be able to correctly identify time signatures and key signatures, to be able to look at the composer’s tempo and articulation markings and generate a convincing performance.

What sight reading is not is playing a piece perfectly without ever having seen it before. 


What other skills are involved in sight reading?

As we discussed, sight reading does not mean playing a piece absolutely 100% perfectly at first sight. Very few, if any musicians can do this. Even though there are elements of being able to interpret a piece accurately based on what’s on the page without having seen it before, there are much more nuanced elements that come into play when a good sight reader sight reads a piece.

The one absolutely key aspect of good sight reading is being able to maintain a consistent tempo.

It is not:

  • Playing all the right notes.
  • Following all the composer’s directions.
  • Reading the key signature right.
  • Reading the time signature right.
  • Making your performance as expressive as humanly possible.

These things are what PRACTICE is for. 

This may be difficult to understand for some people not familiar with these concepts, but think of it in this way. Many good sight readers are accompanists. They may accompany a singer, an instrumentalist, or they may even be part of an orchestra. 

If you are playing with a singer, what do you think is most important for them? The fact that you can keep a reliable and consistent tempo or that you played a few wrong notes or some of your rhythms were a little inaccurate?

Or, do you think they’d prefer every note and rhythm was correct and you stopped every few bars to go back to correct yourself? If you keep stopping and starting and correcting wrong notes you are going to annoy the hell out of our audience and your singer because they will keep getting lost. 

What’s far more important is keeping up with them, at a consistent tempo, to the point where you’re able to support their performance successfully. A few wrong notes, misread rhythms, etc aren’t going to bother them.

There’s a limit to this, however; if your notes are all over the place, even if your rhythm is correct, it won’t sound very good. You need to have a certain degree of note-reading accuracy, but as we mentioned, this is very flexible and nobody will really care if you play wrong notes as long as you can cover them well. 


Why would I want to sight read?

We’ve gone through what sight reading is and what it isn’t. Now let’s look at why you might want to sight read. I’ve used an analogy of playing with a singer, but what if you don’t have a singer or an instrumentalist to play with? Surely then sight reading doesn’t matter?

Not so. 

I will preface this section by saying that the ability to play with or accompany someone else is a really valuable skill, and not being able to do it will rob you of some great musical experiences. In my opinion, this alone is worth being able to sight read. The joy of sitting down to play with someone else you’ve never played with before without worrying about an exam or an audience is one of the best things about being able to play an instrument.

However, if you are just a solo player and have no interest in playing with anyone else, sight reading is still exceptionally useful for you, simply because it allows you to learn new pieces much, much quicker. Most pianist’s problem when learning new music isn’t their technical ability to play the notes; it’s that they can’t read and learn the notes quickly enough.

If you can sight read well, you don’t really have to worry too much about learning the notes; you can get into actually learning the music and learning how to play it well and expressively much more quickly, without having to spend hours and hours working out a chord or a scale pattern. You instinctively know where to place your fingers, and in my experience, that kind of rapidity of learning is invaluable.


Why sight reading is such a problem nowadays

As I mentioned before, people nowadays struggle to sight read. This is something that was taught pretty religiously in the past, especially in terms of the piano. Piano pedagogy has changed over the last 100 years or so, to the point now where actually learning the piano is very different to learning another instrument.

Let’s use the violin as an example. If you’ve ever listened to a violinist practice, you’ll hear that they spend very little time actually practicing pieces. They almost exclusively practice exercises and studies. Why is this? It’s because there’s much more of an impetus to be able to sight read well, and be able to put pieces together quickly.

Think about it. If you play in an orchestra, you’ll likely be given sheet music maybe one week or two weeks before a performance. Do you really have the time to learn your part in two weeks? Probably not. This is why the emphasis is on technical proficiency (hence why violinists practice mostly exercises) and on being able to read and learn quickly. There’s almost no value placed on being able to memorise long works, because the daily working life of a professional violinist or violin student doesn’t call for it.

Now imagine learning the piano today. Pianists are almost completely the opposite; we spend large portions of time practicing pieces, rather than exercises. Given that we rarely play in orchestras and rarely have the impetus (or the need) to learn pieces very quickly to play with others, we don’t develop that sight reading ability.

If you learned piano 100 years ago, you’d have most likely learned like a string player. You would have had the technical ability and the reading ability to learn most pieces very quickly and wouldn’t really need to spend hours and hours practicing them in order to just play them.

Whether this is right or wrong is not for me to say; it’s just how it is. However, it means that pianists need to specifically work hard on their sight reading, in a way that is just part and parcel of the learning experience of a string player or a wind player.


How to improve your sight reading

Enough philosophy. Let’s get into what you came here for; actionable tips on how to improve your sight reading. Firstly, we’re going to go through some basic steps to get you started, and as you improve you can incorporate my “key principles of sight reading” into your practice.


1. Find your level

As obvious as this is, some students fall at this hurdle because they pick music that’s just way too hard for them to sight read. If you are new to sight reading, or struggle at it, trying to pick the pieces you would normally play and sight reading them is going to doom you to failure.

For example, if you’re at Grade 5 level, you’re highly unlikely to be able to sight read other Grade 5 pieces (or if you could, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article about how to improve your sight reading.) You should go through the grades, find sheet music online (or anywhere else you can get it) and try to sight read as many pieces as you can until you have determined your level.

If your level is a Grade 1 piece, then great. That’s your ability and that’s where you start. But it’s hugely important to determine this before buying or borrowing loads of music to sight read; if the music is just too hard for you, you will get disheartened and discouraged.

 

2. Grab as much music as you can

Once you’ve determined your level, you need to have a continuous supply of new music. As we mentioned before, “sight reading” is not simply “reading” and in order for you to get better at sight reading you need to have a constant feed of fresh, new music you’ve never seen before. 

This can be difficult (and expensive) if you don’t have a huge music collection already. However, if you have a university near you with a music department, see if you can become a member of their library. There, they will have all the music you will ever be able to read in your lifetime, and you’ll be able to check out as much as you’d like. As soon as you’ve read through, return and check something else out.

Alternatively if you can’t do this, get yourself an iPad and download PDFs from IMSLP. There’s as much free music as you can shake a stick at on there; you will never run out of music to read.


3. Read, read, and read some more

Of course, all this music is useless if you don’t practice it. Sit at your piano for 20 minutes a day and just read through it. Don’t repeat, don’t go back; just treat it as if it were a book with words in it rather than music. Start at the beginning, and go on until the end. When you’ve finished, move onto the next book.

It’s really important that you go against your instinct to stop, go back, practice a bar or two, check the voicing of a chord, check your notes, etc etc. It doesn’t matter. You either get it right the first time or you move on. Never, ever stop to correct mistakes.


The 7 Key Principles of Sight Reading Practice

To finish off this article, I’ve come up with seven different principles that you need to live by when practicing your sight reading. These are super-important, and if you follow them to the letter your sight reading will improve quicker than you might expect. 

Don’t stop

I’ve mentioned this several times but it’s so important that I’ll keep saying it.

Never, ever go back to correct your mistakes.

Do not stop playing until you have reached the end of the piece.

If you need to imagine that there’s someone holding a gun to your head who will pull the trigger if you stop playing, then so be it. That’s how important it is that you keep playing. Do not ever stop to correct your mistakes. In concert, you have one chance to play the correct note, and if you do not, then you keep moving; the moment has passed. Treat your practice the same.

Don’t worry about wrong notes

As a continuation of the previous point, you should also not worry if you play a wrong note. A wrong note is insignificant. I feel like some students think that if they do not somehow go back to correct their wrong notes, it will negatively impact their ability to read music. This is not true. You know it was wrong; that is enough.

I’ll say it again; if you play a wrong note it does not matter. The only thing that matters is that you keep playing.

Don’t read the same piece twice

You can only ever sight read a piece once. Once you’ve sight read it once (even partially) you can never sight read it again; you can only read it. At this point muscle memory starts to come into play, and you are no longer practicing your sight reading - you are learning a piece.

Once you’ve read a piece, move on to the next one. Once you’ve finished the book those pieces are in, go and buy or borrow another book. Once you’ve read the piece, it’s over; it has already contributed everything it will ever contribute to your sight reading. Find something else to read.

Think of your mind as a sponge, where you need to absorb as much music as humanly possible in order to improve your sight reading. You won’t gain anything from re-reading; you have to read new pieces if you are going to improve your sight reading.

Find a variety of music

Sticking with the same type of music is OK, but you won’t learn nearly as quickly or as much as if you vary the music you read. Keep your brain guessing; the more your brain has to work to understand different styles the quicker you will improve.

Maybe check a book of Strauss Lieder out of the library. Once you’ve finished that, read through some Bach chorales or some church hymns. After that, read through some Mozart. After that, pick some pop songs, or some jazz. Always mix things up.

Read music you don’t like

This is an interesting one; you should read a wide variety of music, but don’t just pick music that you like. Pick anything; even the stuff you don’t like. This ensures your sight reading ability is as rounded and as all-encompassing as possible.

If you’re a rehearsal pianist and you get presented with a piece of music you hate, are you going to refuse to read it? Probably not. Practice for this and similar situations; it’ll keep you sharp and on your toes.

Start as slow as you need to

When you start practicing sight reading, there’s a temptation to race ahead and immediately play at tempo. Don’t do this. It doesn’t matter when you’re practicing (although it does matter in performance.) 

Keep things at a balanced tempo, where it’s not so slow that you’re in your comfort zone, but it’s not so fast that you can’t cope. Keep it at a challenging tempo where you’re forced to work hard, but it’s not so challenging that your playing falls apart.

Ensure you are reading ahead

This is really critical. You will never sight read well unless you get used to reading ahead. If you don’t read ahead, you don’t know what’s coming. Ensure that you’re always looking at least one or two bars ahead so you can prepare yourself for what’s about to happen in the music. 


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The Complete Guide to Recording a Piano at Home https://pianoreviewer.com/recording-a-piano https://pianoreviewer.com/recording-a-piano#respond Fri, 10 Jul 2020 21:05:43 +0000 https://pianoreviewer.com/?p=1972 Whether you are a performer or a composer, there comes a time in most pianists’ lives when they need to record themselves playing. Maybe for an exam, or for an audition, or maybe you just want to hear what your playing sounds like. There are a number of ways you can record your piano, and not ... Read more The Complete Guide to Recording a Piano at Home

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Whether you are a performer or a composer, there comes a time in most pianists’ lives when they need to record themselves playing. Maybe for an exam, or for an audition, or maybe you just want to hear what your playing sounds like. 

There are a number of ways you can record your piano, and not all of them will give you a particularly good result. In this article we’re going to go through the best ways to record your playing, the equipment you’ll need and how to set it up.


Acoustic vs Digital

Firstly, before you do anything, your recording method will depend heavily on the type of piano you want to record. If it’s a digital, it’s actually considerably easier to make a recording than with an acoustic, although if you record an acoustic piano properly, you’ll likely get a better result.

Digital pianos by their very nature are pretty easy to take recordings from. In terms of equipment, you probably have everything you need (within reason) in your home at the moment. You aren’t going to have to worry about going out and buying microphones or sound dampening equipment like you will with an acoustic piano. However, it’s worth saying that where you save money on the equipment, you’ll likely spend it on the software required to either capture a recording or edit the recording in post production. 

The same can’t be said for an acoustic piano, but in theory you don’t need a whole lot of software to make an acoustic piano recording; you’ll only need it if you want to make edits to the recording afterwards (which, I might add, is probably not going to be allowed if you want to submit your recording for an exam or audition.)

Recording Quality

It goes without saying that different recording methods are going to yield different results. Of course, it’s unlikely that in most situations you’re going to need professional studio-quality recordings. It might even transpire that using your phone, if you have a modern smartphone, is enough. For example, look at the kind of quality you can get with an iPhone 11:

However, in some cases this isn’t going to be enough, especially if you want to record a digital piano. As a result, I’m going to cover numerous different types of recording equipment and situations, to ensure that whatever you need to record, this article will be helpful to you.

Let’s go through the recording requirements for each type of instrument to see what you’ll need to buy and what you can make do with at home.

Note: I’m focussing on audio recording in this article. Video recording is a whole different kettle of fish and while some of the concepts are transferable, there are a different set of requirements.


Digital Piano

By far the easiest way to record a digital piano is directly to your computer. In my opinion it’s pointless worrying about microphones when it comes to a digital piano; unless there’s no conceivable way to connect your digital piano to your computer (and for pretty much every digital piano made within the last 30 years, there will be) recording directly to your computer is by far the better option.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • No loss of sound quality compared to using a microphone.
  • You can record directly into whichever software you require, making it easier to layer sounds and apply other post-production effects
  • Very easy to change the voice of your piano, especially if you’re using something like a VST

That being said, is it as simple as plugging in one end of a cable into your piano and the other into your computer? In short, it can be, but not always. Let’s go through a few of the different methods by which you can record your digital piano to your computer.

Recording through MIDI

MIDI is one of the most important tools for music and musicians. Essentially MIDI is a language; a communications standard that allows your all digital music equipment to speak with other pieces of equipment.

MIDI doesn’t actually send any audio signals. It sends information, which can then be read by a programme, so the programme knows how the music should sound. Think of MIDI like digital sheet music; in the same way that a piece of sheet music conveys musical information without any audio; it’s up to you to interpret the sheet music and make sound. 

Common MIDI setups include a MIDI controller and a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW.) Your MIDI controller in this case would be your digital piano, and your DAW would be your computer. However, if you want to get more complex, you can include a MIDI interface, a computer with a dedicated sound card, a MIDI sequencer; the possibilities are endless depending on the scope of your project and the budget you have.


In this article I’m focussing on home recording, so we’ll stick to the basic setup; a DAW and a digital piano. It’s perfectly possible to get great recording quality with this setup.

Finding suitable software

You’ll need to invest in some software in order to make a MIDI recording to your computer, as it’s unlikely to have the necessary software to handle MIDI built-in (unless you’ve got a Mac, in which case you can use Garageband without having to invest in anything else.)

Some of this software is good, and some of it is not so good. There’s also a mixture of free and paid software out there, and as expected the free options have their limitations. Some of the paid options get very expensive, but in my opinion if you’re in any way serious about making a recording, you should look into investing in some of this software.


I have listed some of the most popular software below, the price you might expect to pay and my rating after testing it. (I am in the process of reviewing some of these products, so you may want to check back here soon in order to look at a more detailed individual reviews.)

However, buy what you need; there’s no real need for you to buy a $600 industry standard piece of software if it’s way overkill for your needs.

Software

Rating

Price

Amazon Link

Anvil Studio

Free

FL Studio

$

Cubase

$$$

Avid ProTools

$

PreSonus Studio One 4 Artist

$$

Ableton

$

Cakewalk Sonar

$$

Reason 10

$$$

Garageband

Free

Again, these ratings are completely subjective based on my experience with some of this software. You’ll need to try software out, read reviews and do your due diligence before you make a decision as to which one is best for you. I’d usually recommend trying with the free options first, but unfortunately you might find the free options pretty limiting in this case.  

Now that you’ve got your software installed, let’s look at hooking up your digital piano to your computer.

Connecting your piano to your computer 

This is generally pretty easy if you’re recording your piano at home. Depending on the type of piano have, you essentially have three options:

  • Connecting via MIDI to USB
  • Connecting via USB-to-Host to USB
  • Connecting via Bluetooth

MIDI to USB

If your piano has traditional MIDI ports, you will need to buy a special MIDI to USB adapter. This is as simple as it sounds; one end contains two MIDI jacks and the other end contains a USB plug. The MIDI jacks are plugged into your piano, and the USB plug goes into your computer.

You may need to install drivers for this; that will depend on the model of piano that you have. Usually you’ll be able to find what you need from the manufacturer’s website.

USB-to-Host to USB

This works in exactly the same way as MIDI to USB, except instead of MIDI you have a USB Type B adapter in your piano. This looks like a little square with the top corners rounded off (it’s the same jack that you might find on a printer or a scanner.) Again, all you’ll need is the right adapter; one end goes in the piano and the other end goes in your PC.

The point about drivers still stands; you may need to peruse the manufacturer’s site in order to get your piano working properly.

Bluetooth

This is a real lifesaver, and it’s a feature I’m seeing more and more on digital pianos these days although it is still pretty rare. Some pianos give you the option to send MIDI over bluetooth. This is especially useful if you plan to connect to an iPad or other portable device instead of a computer.

However, if your computer has bluetooth, or you have a bluetooth adapter, you can very easily pair your piano via bluetooth and start recording music this way.

Using a VST

Now, if you’re a little confused by all the software I’ve mentioned above, there is a simpler solution. You can use a VST.

VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology, and it essentially processes the MIDI signal received from your piano and converts it into audio on the fly. You can also choose to record this audio, meaning you won’t have to worry about learning complex software and audio production techniques; you essentially have a piece of software that will change the sound of your piano, and will also allow you to make a recording to your computer.

This is generally the easiest way to record your digital piano, it’s basically plug and play. There are a wide range of VSTs out there, some good and some not so good. Most of the good ones will contain actual samples from real, high end concert grand pianos and other instruments. Others don’t include any samples at all, and contain sophisticated sound modelling technology that literally generates the sound as you’re playing it.

Keep an eye out for the ultimate guide to VSTs, coming soon.

Making your first recording

And yes, it really is that simple; you have your piano hooked up to your PC, and as long as you’ve chosen and learned how to use a piece of software, you can record to your heart’s content.

But what if you want to record an acoustic piano? Well, that’s a whole different kettle of fish, and one we’ll get into now.


Acoustic

Now, let’s talk about recording an acoustic. This requires a little more of the traditional recording technique, but in my opinion the quality of the recording you get (if you need a piano sound) is far, far greater and more organic than anything a VST or DAW can give you.

Let’s dive in to what’s needed to record your acoustic piano like a pro. 


Upright vs Grand; Room Placement

Firstly, your recording technique will change depending on the type of piano you have, although the principles are generally the same. An upright piano is by its very nature harder to record than a grand piano. The reason for this is that generally upright pianos are kept against a wall; the idea being that the sound bounces off the wall and reflects back at the player.

However, if you want to get a decent recording of an upright piano, you might consider moving the piano away from a wall and putting microphones behind it, near the soundboard. The downside to this is that the piano will likely sound very different in this position than it will against the wall, and it will almost certainly sound very different in your recording than it will to you as you’re playing, due to the fact that you and the microphone are in different places.

You’ll need to experiment with placement of your microphones and your piano in order to get the best results. Ultimately if you’re doing this in a studio, the sound engineer will have done a lot of this prep work for you and will already know where to place the microphones to get the best sound, but if you’re doing it at home, you will need to do a little trial and error.

The same can be said for a grand piano, but really a grand piano is much easier; all you really need to do is open the lid fully and place up to three microphones over the soundboard. One will generally be enough for a home recording, but if you’re interested in a studio-quality recording without the studio, you may wish to experiment with more than one.

You can try moving your grand piano around, but ultimately it probably won’t make much difference to the overall sound, seeing as a grand projects its sound into the room, while an upright projects it away from the room. Be aware that the type of piano that you have will determine how you’ll need to set your workspace up.

Types of Microphone

We won’t get into the numerous different categories and sub-categories of microphone you can buy in this article; it’s a little beyond the scope. However, what’s worth noting is that there are two main types of microphone on the market today that you can buy. They are:

  • Dynamic microphones
  • Condenser microphones

Condenser microphones are preferred for recording the piano. The reason for this is because they work better on instruments producing higher frequencies. The piano can produce lower frequencies as well, but a dynamic microphone just won’t capture the middle and treble ranges of your piano as well as a condenser will. 

Dynamic Mic

Condenser Mic

What separates these two microphones can become very complex, but it’s generally down to a few things; condenser mics use a smaller and lighter diaphragm to capture sound. High frequencies don’t contain as much energy as lower frequencies, so it takes less energy for a higher frequency to move the diaphragm of a microphone as it does a lower frequency. As a result, because dynamic mics have a heavier diaphragm, they are less responsive to higher frequencies because higher frequencies aren’t able to move the diaphragm very much.

Because dynamic mics are heavier, they also tend to be more durable. This goes for the diaphragm as well as general durability; you’re likely to be able to beat up a dynamic microphone and have it survive without issue. A condenser mic is much more fragile; drop it on the floor, and it will probably shatter into a million pieces.

HOWEVER…

Good quality condenser microphones tend to be VERY expensive. Often above $5k. This isn’t really feasible for a home recording studio, so if you’re on a budget, you will probably need to look at a USB microphone.

You’ll never find a USB microphone in a professional studio. However, if you buy the right one, you can get a great quality recording at home for minimal outlay. It won’t be professional quality, but if you get the right one, it won’t be far off.

What’s more, you won’t require any additional amplification or interface; a USB microphone will plug right into your laptop or computer.

Here’s my top picks for microphones available for recording an acoustic piano. I’ve included a mix of all three types here; condenser, dynamic and USB, for all price ranges.

Piano

Score

Price

Type

Amazon Link

AKG Pro Audio C214 Condenser Mic

$$$

Condenser

Blue Yeti Crimson Red USB Mic

$$

USB

USB Microphone Kit 192KHZ/24 BIT MAONO AU-PM420

$

USB

Sennheiser e935 Cardioid Dynamic Mic

$$

Dynamic

Audio Technica ATR2100x Cardioid Dynamic Mic

$$

USB

It’s worth testing these out and seeing which one works best for you. However, I’d only really recommend this if you need a very high quality recording but don’t want to pay for the studio time. For many applications, your iPhone or Android phone will be enough to get half-decent quality. 

You may have already tried this and want the next step up; getting a dedicated mic and hooking it up to your PC is the next step up.

Mic Placement

Let’s talk about where to put your microphones. This is not a difficult subject, but you could spend hours trying different placements and testing a slightly different sound. My advice would be to stick to these main principles that I’m about to show you, and tweak depending on your circumstances and preferences.

Upright Piano Mic Placement

First of all (and we’ll get onto this in more detail a bit later) the type of room you're recording in will really affect an upright piano recording in particular. Try not to record your piano in a tiny little room where the sound has no space to resonate. Your recording will sound exceptionally dry and flat. 

However, if you’re at home, you may not have a choice. For a slightly improved sound even if you are in a tiny room, pull the piano away from the wall to allow for at least six feet of space. This allows good microphone placement, and allows the sound to resonate.

You’ll also want to remove any panels or woodwork that you can. Most modern pianos allow you to at least take the front panel and the fallboard off, and this can provide for a more resonant, fuller sound. Make sure you research how to do this, however; otherwise you might find you’ve taken the panels off and can’t get them back on again.

Let’s get into where we place our microphones for different effects and sounds.

For a brighter sound

If you want a bright, pop-like sound, you’ll need to place the microphones behind the piano (adjacent to the soundboard) at around waist height. The further away the microphones, the mellower the sound will be. If you’ve got two microphones, I recommend the following setup:

If you’ve just got one microphone, place it in the middle. 

For a mellower, more natural sound

Again, if you’re recording classical music this is probably what you’ll want to do. For a more natural solo piano sound, you may wish to place the microphones behind you as you’re playing. The sound you get here will be more similar to what you hear when you’re playing, and you’ll get much more of a feel of the acoustic of the room in this position.

Again, if you have just one microphone, place it directly behind you.

The one drawback of this position is that if you have a creaky bench or squeaky pedals, they may get picked up on the recording. If this is the case, switch to the other method, as this is less likely to be heard when the microphones are placed behind the piano.

Again, this is just a guide; experiment, experiment, experiment until you get what you believe to be the best sound.

Grand Piano Mic Placement 

Recording a grand piano is easier. Let’s stick with one or two microphones for now; if you have more, then you can experiment with a few of these positions and see the kind of sound you get.

Inside the piano

If you’re looking for a very bright, pop-like sound, positioning your mic(s) inside the piano is the way to go. However, be aware that if you’re playing classical or jazz music with a huge dynamic range, this won’t be suitable for you, as you invite distortion and compression whereby the microphone is unable to accurately pick up the dynamic range of your playing.

One microphone positioned inside the piano is best in this position:


And two microphones (ideally a stereo pair) is best in this position. 


If you only have one microphone, I really recommend keeping it outside the piano. This is because the sound picked up inside the piano by one microphone is likely to be too bright and too intense. 

Let’s look at positioning your mics outside the piano.

Outside the piano

This is my preferred option as it gives a much more natural, organic solo piano sound. Ideally you want to place one microphone just outside the instrument, like this:


Although if you have two microphones, you can position them like this: 

If you’ve got two microphones, keep them at around shoulder-height from the ground, and at least 1.5 metres away from the instrument. The diagram above is a guide; you will want to experiment with different placements depending on what sounds good to you. For this, it may be better to get a friend in to help position your microphones for you, or to play while you position the mics for your preferred sound.

It’s worth mentioning that any time you have more than one microphone, you must keep them at least three times further away from one another than they are from the sound source. This means that if your microphones are two feet away from the instrument, they need to be six feet apart from each other. This allows you to maintain correct phase alignment.

Adjusting the character of the sound

If you find your sound is too bright or too mellow, there’s a number of things you can do. If you want a brighter sound, your best bet is to move your microphones closer to the hammers, or further in towards the instrument. 

Don’t put your microphones too close to the instrument; you risk having the notes that the microphone is closest to overemphasised on your recording, and they’ll stick out like a sore thumb. 

If you find the sound is too dry, move your microphones away from the piano. If the sound is too roomy, move them closer. Experiment; trial and test a few different microphone placements to suit your preferences. 

Soundproofing

Finally, let’s talk about the room you’re in and how to soundproof it, as well as how to dampen the sound. If it’s a big room, you might find a lot of resonance, and as a result your recording is very “boomy” with a lack of definition and clarity. Also, for example, if you’re recording in a school or college, or you have some other source of external noise that you want to isolate, you’ll need to look at dampening the sound. 

Ultimately this is about mass; if your walls are thin, sound will pass through them. What you’ll need to do to make the sound drier or soundproof is add mass to your walls. In a home environment this is a difficult task without paying thousands of dollars to a contractor, so let’s look at the easiest way you can dampen the sound; sound panels.

You’ll recognise these; they’re used in recording studios. Buying a half-dozen of these and temporarily affixing them to the walls will go a long way to improving the quality of your recording environment.

However, there are other things you can do as well. Is there a creaking noise in your room from the floorboards? You can either fix this, or you can apply some kind of damping material to add weight to the area, so the vibrations from your piano don’t travel through the floor and cause excess noise. 

If you have gaps where excess noise is getting in, fill them with foam gaskets. If you don’t want to buy some, an old pillow will do. Get creative!

Ultimately, you may find that despite your best efforts, your local recording studio is the only thing that will provide a high enough quality of recording. However, given modern technology and advancements in recording capability, you can produce an exceptional quality recording from the comfort of your own home that’s good enough for YouTube, exam submissions, auditions and more. 


Check out some of our latest articles....

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How many octaves on a piano? https://pianoreviewer.com/how-many-octaves-on-a-piano https://pianoreviewer.com/how-many-octaves-on-a-piano#respond Wed, 03 Jun 2020 12:13:00 +0000 https://pianoreviewer.com/how-many-octaves-on-a-piano Over the several hundreds of years the piano has taken to develop, the number of keys has changed dramatically, from as little as 32 keys when the piano was first developed, to up to 96 keys on a modern Bosendorfer Imperial. But why is this important to you when buying a piano today? Is it ... Read more How many octaves on a piano?

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Over the several hundreds of years the piano has taken to develop, the number of keys has changed dramatically, from as little as 32 keys when the piano was first developed, to up to 96 keys on a modern Bosendorfer Imperial. But why is this important to you when buying a piano today? Is it important to know how many octaves your piano has?

Generally, a piano has 7 and 1/4 octaves.

A standard modern upright, grand or digital piano has seven and a quarter octaves; seven full octaves, and three extra treble notes; B-flat, B and C. There are variations, mainly in digital instruments, which we'll discuss in this article.


What is an octave?

An octave is defined as a series of eight; the term is derived from the Latin word "octo," meaning "eight." The same reason an octopus is called as such; because it has eight legs.

The word "octave" can refer to two different things in music; an interval and a scale. An octave scale is a series of notes, iterating through the seven notes of any particular scale until you arrive on the note you started on, but one octave higher.

For example, take this G Major scale:

The notes that I played in this scale were:

G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G.

You'll notice that we start on G, we iterate through all the notes of the G Major scale, and we finish on G. However, it's not the same G that we started on; it's the next G up on the piano. 

We refer to this as being an octave higher; essentially it's the next occurrence of the note you start on. This also ties into the octave as an interval; in the same way that a fifth is five notes apart, and a fourth is four notes apart, an octave is eight notes apart.

On a modern piano, the very bottom note is A. There are seven more As on the piano, making for a total of 7 A octaves. Older pianos finished here and just had seven octaves; modern pianos have an extra three notes; a B-flat, a B and a C, to make seven octaves plus three notes.


Why the piano developed into what it is today

 A very brief history lesson. Essentially, the piano is derived from the harpsichord, a seventeenth century instrument that itself derives from the virginal and the organ. Harpsichords often had more than one set of keys, but each was around four octaves in length. As a result, when the piano was first invented, it had around four octaves.

The piano went through a continuous period of development before it settled on the modern design we see today, in around the 1930s. The piano’s octave range generally expanded because musicians demanded it - composers like Beethoven and Schubert felt limited in the music they could make, because the key range of the piano was so small. Manufacturers responded by building bigger pianos with iron frames instead of wood, which were stronger and more capable of handling more keys, more strings and more octaves.

As we've mentioned, most pianos today have seven and a quarter octaves, or 88 keys. There are a few exceptions, namely by niche manufacturers such as Fazioli and Bosendorfer, who have added yet more keys, but this is not standard. The overwhelming majority of pianos you will play that have been manufactured in the past 60 - 70 years have 88 keys.


Modern day variations 

 As with any instrument, the piano is still undergoing a period of development and change, illustrated by the advent of the digital piano in the past 30 years. Many digital pianos do not have the standard 88 keys or seven octaves. Let’s go through the most common modern day piano key lengths, and the purposes these pianos serve.


Extra small: 25 - 37 keys (two - three octaves)


These keyboards are mainly used for making electronic music. They generally consist of spring loaded keys, and these instruments do not produce a sound - they are designed not for performance, but for composition. You plug them into a computer through USB or MIDI, and use a programme such as Sibelius or Cubase to compose music.

You wouldn’t use a keyboard like this to learn or practice on - they are almost exclusively used for composition.

Examples: Korg nanoKey USB MIDI controller, AKAI LPK25 laptop performance keyboard


Small: 49 keys (four octaves)

These keyboards are a step up from the previously mentioned models, but are still extremely basic. They come with a spring loaded action, but are designed for practice and learning so will come with basic sounds. They’re designed for complete beginners, looking to start playing without spending too much money, or for someone on the road a lot looking for portability. Realistically though, these keyboards won’t last you long - you’ll easily outgrow them if you’re serious about your music making.

Examples: Casio CTK 240 Portable Keyboard


Medium: 61 keys (5 octaves)

This is most probably what you would have started with if you began learning on a keyboard. This is the standard size for electronic keyboards, and shares most of the characteristics of the 49 key size, with the exception of being slightly larger. You may also find that studio and gig musicians have at least one or two of these keyboards, as their range is large enough for most pop music, but they remain portable and versatile.

Examples: Yamaha PSR F51, Yamaha PSR E463


Medium/Large: 76 keys (6 ½ octaves)

This is where you start getting into keyboards intended for serious musicians to practice/perform on. 76 keys is enough to play most beginner - intermediate repertoire, and keyboards at this level will often include features such as touch sensitivity and weighted keys. However, if you progress to a high enough level, you will eventually outgrow these models, but they are excellent to learn on while you’re at the beginner/intermediate stage.

I have a specialist article on the best 76 Key digital pianos if you are looking to purchase one of these models. Check it out and see what you think.

Examples: Yamaha Piaggero NP12, Casio WK240


Large: 85 keys (7 octaves)

This is really the minimum size you’ll get if you go for a real piano. However, the 85 keys is a bit of an anomaly. You won’t find a modern piano with 85 keys, but often if you buy a piano that was manufactured between 1900 - 1940, it will sometimes have only 85 keys as manufacturing of pianos was not yet standard at that time. This shouldn’t be too much of a hindrance, but if you play music by certain composers - Liszt, Debussy, Chopin, etc - you will find these pianos limiting. For example, some of Debussy's Preludes use the top three keys on the piano, that 85-key pianos omit. For most, they will be perfectly fine.

Examples: Search eBay for examples of used pianos with 85 keys.


Standard: 88 keys (7 octaves)

This is the standard range for 100% of acoustic pianos manufactured today. Most full-size digital pianos come with the full range of 88 keys. If you intend to be playing the piano for a long time, this is the size to go for.

Examples: Yamaha U1 (acoustic), Yamaha YDP 144 (digital)


Extra Large: 96 keys (8 octaves)

You won’t generally find pianos that have a key range this large, but there are one or two high end models on the market. Most classical and modern music calls only for 88 keys, but there are a few transcriptions of organ pieces that originally required foot pedals, and the extra keys are intended to simulate that. Be prepared to fork out over $200,000 for a model containing these extra keys.

Examples: Bosendorfer 290 Imperial


Whatever you decide to go for, it’s important to pick something with longevity in mind. Don’t cheap out now, only to buy a new piano/keyboard in a year’s time because you outgrew it.

For more advice on whether to buy a digital or acoustic piano, check out my article on “Do digital pianos ruin your technique?”

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Yamaha P125 vs Yamaha P45 https://pianoreviewer.com/yamaha-p125-vs-yamaha-p45 https://pianoreviewer.com/yamaha-p125-vs-yamaha-p45#respond Sun, 24 May 2020 00:55:29 +0000 https://pianoreviewer.com/yamaha-p125-vs-yamaha-p45 If you’re in the market for an entry level digital piano, you’ve probably come across at least one of these two options. Yamaha is one of the most prolific manufacturers of digital pianos, and their range is so extensive that it’s sometimes difficult to choose between the different pianos they make. Fortunately, sites like mine are ... Read more Yamaha P125 vs Yamaha P45

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If you’re in the market for an entry level digital piano, you’ve probably come across at least one of these two options. Yamaha is one of the most prolific manufacturers of digital pianos, and their range is so extensive that it’s sometimes difficult to choose between the different pianos they make.

Fortunately, sites like mine are here to help. These pianos are in relatively similar price ranges (depending on who you buy from) but the feature set couldn’t be more different. Worried that you might choose the wrong piano? Read on and find out which one is right for you.

​Which one is best?

​We break down the pros and cons of the P45 and P125.

​Yamaha P125

  • ​Great for beginner – intermediate players
  • ​More features than most need  
  • The more expensive option, but can be found on sale at certain times of year. 
  • ​Portability is on par with the P45
  • ​A great choice if you need to connect the piano to your PC
  • ​Speakers are good; better than the P45
  • Will be fine for most pianists up to around Grade 6 – 8

Our Rating: 4.5/5

​Yamaha P45

  • ​Good for beginner players but not much else
  • ​Very basic
  • ​Cheaper than the P125 but not by much. You’ll miss out on the extra features available for not much more money
  • ​Portability is on par with the P125
  • ​Not possible to connect to your PC
  • Speakers are OK but not great. You need a pair of headphones with this one.
  • Will be OK up until about Grade 4 or 5 ​
  • Read our detailed review

Our Rating: 3.5/5

​Overall Recommendation

For 99% of pianists we recommend the Yamaha P125. The features that are missing on the P45 mean that it isn’t worth the price saving. The difference between these two pianos can be as little as $100 and as a result, in our opinion it’s worth saving up the extra money to get the P125.


If you really can’t stretch to the price of the P125, the P45 will serve you well; after all, it’s a Yamaha. However, be prepared to accept the limitations, and realise that if you take the piano seriously, you’ll need to look at replacing it within two or three years as you progress.


​Specification Lists

The details: why the Yamaha P125 is the better choice


​Feature Set

Winner: Yamaha P125

Let’s start out by talking about the feature set. We’ve been through the specification lists, but what exactly makes the P125 the winner here? Why does it beat out the P45?

Polyphony

Firstly, a big issue. The P45 features only 64 note polyphony, while the P125 features 192 note polyphony.  Polyphony refers to the number of notes you can play at the same time. You may think you can only play ten notes at once, because you only have ten fingers, but that’s not the case.

You see, when you use the pedal, each note you hold down counts towards your polyphony. So if you play a three note chord and hold it with the pedal, and then play another three note chord, you have six sounds at the same time, even though your fingers are only playing three notes.

This can present problems, for example, if you play really thickly textured music that requires lots of pedal use. It’s pretty easy to hit 64 notes of polyphony in this case.

What’s more, if you’re using layer mode, or playing a duet, this further eats into your polyphony. If you hit the polyphony limit of your piano, you might start noticing notes getting cut off, which is no good for your music making.

The Yamaha P125’s 192 note polyphony means that you’ll very rarely, if ever, hit the limit, even if you have lots of pedal, lots of notes going on at the same time or if you’re playing with someone else. You’ll find that the P45 very easily hits this limit, and when I tested it for my review, I found that lots of notes got cut off. Not good.

For a more in-depth explanation of polyphony and why it’s important, have a look at this article I wrote.

Connections

The Yamaha P125 wins this one hands down. Not only do you get the connections you’d expect; the power plug and a sustain switch jack, but you also get a jack for a full three-pedal unit that makes the P125 just like a real piano. You also get AUX OUT, which allows you to plug the P125 into a PA system (great if you play gigs regularly) and USB to Host, which allows you to hook your piano up to a computer and use it with something like Garageband or Sibelius.

I wish I could say the P45 was as versatile, but unfortunately it just isn’t. You only really get the power plug and the sustain switch jack.​ You don’t get any way to hook it up to a speaker system. In my opinion this makes it useless for gigging, because you won’t want to rely on the P45’s puny 12W speaker system.


The other thing that sets the P125 apart is that it includes two headphone jacks. This is perfect for duet playing, or for teaching. The Yamaha P45 only includes one, and I really can’t understand why. This makes it much more difficult to use the P45 for duet playing or teaching.

Recording

This will be a quick one. The P45 offers no recording function at all. This is rare in the digital piano world; most of the pianos I’ve tested and reviewed offer some way to record your own playing. The P45 does not, which is a real disappointment, and this alone would be enough to put me off buying one. I say to my students all the time that recording yourself play and listening back to it is a really great way to identify where you’re going wrong and improve. You can’t do this with the P45.

The P125 features two-track recording, which is really the minimum I’d expect from a digital piano in this day and age. However, because you can connect it to your computer, you can use something like Garageband to record to your heart’s content. 

Modes

Let’s look at the number of modes you get. This is important not only for music making, but can be very important for teaching and learning the piano.  The Yamaha P45 features two modes, and the P125 features three. Not only do you get duo mode and layer mode on the P125 as you do with the P45, but you also get split mode, which allows you to split the piano down the middle and play one voice with your left hand and another with your right.

If you’re a composer, or want to do any type of your own music making and want to experiment with different voices, then the P125 is the easy choice, as the P45 will limit your creativity.

Pedals

We’ve touched on this briefly, but I’ll mention it again because I think it’s important. You can connect both a sustain switch and a full three-pedal unit to the P125. This is really important in my opinion, because it allows a student to graduate from using no pedal at all, to just the sustain pedal, to all three pedals. This means it’ll last you through your piano learning journey.


The P45 only allows you to plug in a sustain switch, and not a three pedal unit. This means you’re going to be really stunted in your music learning journey; as soon as it comes time to use any of the other pedals beside the sustain pedal, you’ll need to look at upgrading your piano.

Sound

Winner: Yamaha P125

The P125 wins out again in the sound category, but this is mainly due to the upgraded sampling technology, increased number of included voices and the better speakers. However, if you want to look at the piano sound, the samples sound pretty much the same: they’ve all been taken from the Yamaha CFX III Concert Grand piano.

Included Voices

The Yamaha P125 includes 24 voices, in six different sections. You get a selection of piano sounds, electric piano sounds, other keyboards (harpsichord, vibraphone, clavichord), an organ section, string section and choir section. As you’d expect from Yamaha, these sounds are all of high quality.

The P45 includes high quality sounds, but only 10 of them. For most players this won’t be a huge deal, as the piano sound on both models is of high quality, but at the same time if you’re a composer or you like to use different sounds, you might find the P45 limiting.

Sound Technology

This is what sets the P125 apart from the P45. This is partly due to the fact that the P125 is newer, but there are other subtleties that make the P125 the better choice in this regard.

The P125 features the Yamaha Pure CF sound engine, with damper resonance and intelligent acoustic control. Yamaha have redeveloped the software that is responsible for generating their piano sounds, and the result is a much more refined and expressive sound.

The P45 uses Yamaha’s old sound engine, called AWM Sampling. This is a perfectly adequate sound engine, but it definitely feels a lot more digital than the CF sound engine you get on the P125. The P125 feels very natural to play; almost like a real piano, and the P45 doesn’t quite have that same level of nuance.

Speakers

Not much to report here. The speakers on both models aren’t great, in all honesty. The difference is that on the Yamaha P45 you get 12W of power and on the P125 you get 14W of power. I couldn’t hear much difference when I tested these models side by side.

What I will say is that the speakers on both models are good quality, without any kind of crackling or distortion when you turn the volume up to max. However, for a better experience, you’ll want to use headphones, which thankfully both the P125 and P45 allow you to do.

Keys and action

Winner: TIE

We’ve given lots of points to the P125 so far, so this is an area where the P45 begins to match the P125. While the vast majority of the P125’s specifications are an upgrade over the P45, one area that remains the same are the keys and action. This is actually a plus for the P45, as you get the same piano action experience for a lower price.

Keys

The keys on both models are plastic. This is to be expected at this price point, and in all honesty isn’t a bad thing. The keys are nicely weighted and absorb moisture well. They’re not quite as nice to play as some of Yamaha’s more expensive models, but they’re pretty close.

As you might expect, the keys are graded, meaning they’re lighter in the treble and heavier in the bass, just like a real piano. For anyone upgrading from a cheap keyboard, or even someone looking for a spare for their acoustic piano, both the P125 and P45’s are perfectly adequate.


Action

Both the P45 and the P125 use the Yamaha Graded Hammer Standard action. This action has been the go-to in all Yamaha’s pianos and keyboards around this price point for the last ten years. In all honesty, it’s dated, and needs an upgrade, but it’s perfectly fine for the beginner or intermediate pianist. Both the P45 and P125 have the exact same action; you’ll have the same piano playing experience whichever one you pick.

​One thing to note; you may find a lot of nasty things said online about the Graded Hammer Standard action. Some people really don’t think it’s very good at all. I can empathise to a point, as I think offerings from Casio or Kawai at this price point are better (but that’s an article for another day), there is nothing wrong with the GHS, and it’s perfectly adequate for most beginner to intermediate pianists.


Price

Winner: Yamaha P45

​A point for the P45 here. If we’re looking solely at price, the P45 is definitely the winner here. The usual price point for the P125 is about $200 more expensive than the P45. This isn’t a huge amount of money in digital piano terms, but it’s enough so that if your absolute maximum budget allows for the P45 and not the P125, the P45 will probably be your choice.

However, depending on the part of the world you live in, the price gap between the two models may be smaller; I’ve also seen the P125 on sale, where the price gap between the two models is only around $100. This makes the P125 more tempting, but the fact remains that if budget is your primary concern, the P45 is your best bet.


Value for Money

Winner: Yamaha P125

​While the P45 is the cheaper model, I think what you get for your extra $100 or $200 makes the extra expense worth it. I think any serious pianist is going to limit themselves by choosing the P45, as the feature set you get for the price isn’t great. The P125, on the other hand, includes much more features for not much extra money.


Build Quality

Winner: TIE

Not much to report in this final section; both the P125 and P45 are made by Yamaha, one of the most renowned and reliable digital piano manufacturers. As a result, you can be sure that both models are built to the highest specification and will last for years to come.

Yamaha have been making digital pianos since the 1980s, and there are certainly models that have been around since then and are giving excellent service to this day. You should have no qualms about buying a Yamaha product; they are built exceptionally well and are very hardwearing instruments.

​Final Scores

​Yamaha P125

​3 points

​Yamaha P45

​1 point

​Tie

​2 points

​Winner: Yamaha P125

If you’re serious about your piano playing, the P125 is the better buy. Considering the extra features you get for not much extra money, it begs the question why anyone would buy the P45 instead, unless money was the concern. That being said, you could pick up a used P125 for around the same price as the P45, and it would be the better buy.


Having said this, the P45 is a good piano in it’s own right, but it’s a dated model, and there are pianos by other manufacturers offering much more than what the P45 does. This is something you can read more about in my full Yamaha P45 review.


Final verdict; the Yamaha P125 is the better buy.

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Yamaha P45 (P71) Review: The Best Beginner Piano? https://pianoreviewer.com/yamaha-p45-review https://pianoreviewer.com/yamaha-p45-review#respond Sun, 10 May 2020 15:55:52 +0000 https://thehonestpianist.com/?p=1266 In this review we are going to take an in-depth review into the Yamaha P45. The Yamaha P45 is an entry-level, portable instrument released by Yamaha in 2015. It replaces the P35 in Yamaha’s “P” lineup. Yamaha makes lots of pianos in the “P” series, including the mid-range P125 which we’ve reviewed before, and the P515 ... Read more Yamaha P45 (P71) Review: The Best Beginner Piano?

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In this review we are going to take an in-depth review into the Yamaha P45. The Yamaha P45 is an entry-level, portable instrument released by Yamaha in 2015. It replaces the P35 in Yamaha’s “P” lineup.

Yamaha makes lots of pianos in the “P” series, including the mid-range P125 which we’ve reviewed before, and the P515 at the high end. The P45 is the entry-level instrument in the range, but it’s also the cheapest. As we’ve come to expect from Yamaha, this is a high quality instrument, that delivers great value for money.

However, the low cost and the portability comes at the expense of some features. Despite this, the P45 is exceptionally popular with beginners. There are big improvements over the P35, which we’ll get into later. However, is the P45 a smart choice when there are so many great competitor instruments on the market, such as the Casio PX160?

Yamaha have also released the P71, an Amazon-exclusive version of the P45. It’s essentially the same instrument, just a little cheaper. All the points that I raise here about the P45 apply also to the P71.

Yamaha P45 Summary

Features

A limited feature set for the price, unfortunately. Not many voices, no ability to connect a pedal board and overall a very basic experience.

Sound​

Speakers are exceptionally weak, but the overall sound system is OK if you plug in a pair of headphones. Don't expect to give concerts.

Price

A cheap digital piano, and good for those on a budget, but not great value for money by any means. A far better alternative is the Yamaha P125 or the Casio PX160.

Pros

  • Excellent build quality. Feels solid and well put-together.
  • Great piano sound; as we’ve come to expect from Yamaha

Cons

  • No recording functionality.
  • No ability to use three pedals.
  • Limited selection of voices.
  • Better models with more features for the same price. Not great value for money.

Yamaha P45 Summary after extensive testing

A good choice for the absolute beginner, or someone who wants the Yamaha name in a portable piano and doesn’t mind losing out on features.


However, there are better alternatives on the market, and you should explore them before purchasing the P45.

Our Rating: 3.5/5

Check the availability and the current price of the Yamaha P45 in your region:

UK/USA/Canada

UK and Europe

Now, let’s get started on a review of the Yamaha P45. Let’s first have a look at the specification list.


For a complete specification list, please visit yamaha.com.

Design

As with most pianos designed for portability, the Yamaha P45 is an exceptionally compact digital piano. It’s one of the smallest digital pianos out there, and is on par with competitors such as the Casio PX160. Naturally, this is great if you need to save some space, or you need to move your piano around a lot.

What Yamaha have done that I really like is make this piano as minimalistic as possible; there’s almost no visual clutter on the body of the piano itself, save for a few buttons or lights. If you like a clean appearance, this will appeal to you. However, there are some drawbacks around the control system as a result of this, which we’ll get onto later.

Again, as you’d expect at this price point, the piano is plastic. However, unlike equivalent models, especially from Casio and Korg, this piano feels exceptionally robust and sturdy, despite the fact that it doesn’t weigh very much. It feels like you could bash it about quite a bit and it wouldn’t make a difference. This is great news if you’re on the road as a teacher or session musician, where you might not be able to treat your piano as delicately as you might like.

The exterior plastics feel well-made, and they don’t feel like they’d be prone to scratches or gouges. I’d still invest in a bag or case if I were taking this out regularly, but that’s more to stop dust and other foreign objects getting between the keys.

The P45 is 133cm wide, which is on par with other models in this price range. The casework is thin enough to ensure that the piano takes up as little space as possible.

​​Weight

This piano is ever so slightly heavier than equivalent pianos from other manufacturers. However, not by much; the Casio PX160 weighs 11.3kg whereas the Yamaha P45 weighs 11.5kg. It’s unlikely that this will stop you taking it out and about; it’s still one of the lightest pianos I’ve ever tried.

You may have some reservations about the quality of the materials included as a result of this light weight, but after having tried the piano for some time, I had no such worries; perhaps it’s as a result of my trust in Yamaha’s brand, but the piano felt very solid.

Assembly

Assembly isn’t required for the Yamaha P45. You simply remove it from the box, place it on a stand or table, plug it in and start playing. However, there is an optional stand made by Yamaha, and if you plan on using your piano at home on a regular basis I’d recommend you go for this. Alternatively you can just use an X-frame keyboard stand; either is fine.

There’s a MASSIVE limitation with using this piano with Yamaha’s bespoke keyboard stand, or indeed any stand, which I’ll get onto in a moment. For now, you may want to look at this video, which demonstrates an unboxing of the piano, and everything you get with it.


Controls and Buttons

I’ve ranted about this before, so I will keep it short in this review. Yamaha have stuck with a specific method of controlling their entry-level pianos and keyboards for at least the last ten years, and it’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of it.

What you must do to control the Yamaha P45 is use what’s called a function + key control system. That is to say, to make the piano do anything, you need to press the “function” key, and then press a designated key on the keyboard to make the piano do something, for example play a demo song, change a voice or use the metronome.


In Yamaha’s defence, I will say that it’s been implemented a little better on the P45 than on some other models. Yamaha have actually written what each key does above the key itself, so there’s no need to actually memorise which keys do what, or keep the manual handy. I remember when I first came across this, I was testing the old Yamaha Arius YDP-140, and this required memorisation or keeping the manual handy because the key functions weren’t written anywhere on the piano.

However, there’s no visual or audio cue when you’ve selected something. Obviously you’ll notice whether the piano’s voice has changed, or whether the metronome is on or off, but you won’t necessarily notice if you’re fine-tuning to match another instrument, for example.

All in all, a frustrating experience, and one that I’ve written about several times before and will continue to do so until it’s changed. Props to Yamaha for improving it slightly, but it’s nowhere near as good as Korg’s system, for example, especially on the LP380; I know what each button does and it’s very easy to change things up without having to think about it too much.

Pedals

Here’s where we come onto a SERIOUS limitation of this piano. In all honesty this is what majorly lets the Yamaha P45 down, and is the sole reason I wouldn’t buy one in favour of a competitor’s offering.

We’ve spoken about the optional piano stand, and with other manufacturers this is usually a smart choice, as it allows you to add a three-pedal board to the piano to give you all of the functionality of an acoustic piano.

The Yamaha P45 features no such functionality. You cannot plug a three-pedal board into the piano; you can only use the P45 with a sustain pedal. That’s all it has a connection for.

I think this is so short sighted of Yamaha because it’ll be a dealbreaker for almost every serious pianist. If you’re buying the P45 as a beginner, graduating from a cheaper non-weighted keyboard, how can you expect to develop as a serious musician if you’re missing the required tools right from the outset? Casio includes this in the PX160, and Yamaha even includes it in the P125, so why haven’t Yamaha included it in the P45?


Unfortunately this is the main reason I wouldn’t buy a Yamaha P45, and why I won’t recommend one to any of my students. This, in my opinion, is a major oversight on Yamaha’s part and I cannot understand why they wouldn’t include this functionality. I mean, all they would need to do is make it compatible with the P125’s pedal board and include a connector on the back of the P45!

It’s worth saying that if all you need is a sustain pedal, this will be fine; but for any serious musician, they’ll require all three pedals and should avoid the P45 for something like the Casio PX160 instead.

Colours

The P45 is available in one colour only; matte black. This may irritate you if you like a white piano, or another colour; indeed, the Casio PX160 comes in several different colours. However, the piano looks smart, professional and a black colour hides marks and scratches much better.

Piano Sound

In order to faithfully capture the sound and experience of a Yamaha acoustic piano, Yamaha have used their AWM sampling technology in the P45. This is a full concert grand piano sound, recorded at different dynamic levels. The sound is then blended together using technology to create a more natural piano-playing experience.

The result is an excellent, lifelike and organic piano experience; almost like a real piano. Of course, it kind of is; the sound is recorded directly from a real Yamaha concert grand.


It’s worth saying that Yamaha have included this technology in their pianos for several years. While I believe the tone of the piano is better than almost all other digital pianos out there, the technology is not. I felt a much more organic and lifelike experience playing Roland or Casio examples. Yamaha have upgraded this in their latest Clavinova and Arius models, but don’t seem to have bothered here. It’s worth saying that the upgrade is much better, and is my preferred digital piano sound.

Other Included Sounds

You get ten included sounds available on the Yamaha P45.

I must say, 10 is quite limited, and won’t be suitable if you need lots of different instrument sounds to create a wide variety of music. However, the basic sounds included will be fine for most pianists.

The most important aspect, of course, is the main grand piano sound, which I’d encourage you to take a listen to. I think you’ll agree, it’s a fantastic sound, but unfortunately the playing experience it offers is a little lacking.

Speakers

The Yamaha P45 features a pair of 6W, 12cm amplifiers. Unfortunately I found the included speakers to be pretty pathetic. They aren’t suitable for anything more than individual practice, or maybe a small performance in front of family or friends.

The quality of the sound coming through the speakers remains acceptable, and is on par with what I’d expect from Yamaha. You get a clear, crisp sound, with no distortion or crackling. It’s just a shame the sound is so weak.

If you want to take the piano to a gig, or will be regularly performing music on it, you will need to plug the piano into a speaker system or PA. You’ll need to do this through the headphone port, as Yamaha offers no AUX Out port, but honestly I really wish they’d gone for a better pair of internal speakers. Casio nails this in the PX160; they have a 16W four-way speaker system that sounds fantastic.

Effects and Reverb

Yamaha have included quite a few sound effects and reverb effects on the P45, which I’m grateful for as often this is lacking in some manufacturers.

Reverb refers to changing the acoustic of the sound; for example, it simulates the piano being played in a large room, or concert hall.

There are four reverb types on the Yamaha P45; from drier acoustics like “Room” and “Hall 1” to wetter, bigger acoustics such as “Hall 2” and “Stage.” You’re also able to adjust the strength of these effects to your liking.


Additional Sound Features

There isn’t much else to talk about, unfortunately. Yamaha have let us down with the lack of an AUX out, which is really necessary because the internal speakers are so weak.

You do get a USB to Host, which is a welcome feature if you want to plug the piano into a computer, or use it as a MIDI controller. However, the only port to really speak of is the headphone port, and even then there are only one of those, whereas most equivalent models include 2.


Modes

You get several different modes with the Yamaha P45. However, the feature set you get is basic (as you’d expect for the price) and will probably only suit beginners and maybe intermediate players.

Layer Mode

Layer Mode (also called dual mode) is a feature where you can play two sounds at the same time. This will allow you play, for example, piano and strings together. When you play any note on the keyboard, you’ll get piano and strings sounding simultaneously.

This is an interesting effect, and can be useful if you’re making music with a band, or simply want to experiment with new sounds. It’s also possible to adjust the balance, meaning you can make one voice louder than another. The P45 only allows you to do this with two voices.

uo Mode

Duo Mode (sometimes known as partner mode) is useful if you plan to give lessons on the P45, as it essentially splits your 88 note keyboard into two 44 note keyboards. The P45 is split down the middle, to give you two keyboards with identical ranges.

This is really useful because you as a teacher can play something or demonstrate something to a student, and they can repeat it while sitting next to you without either of you having to move.


Functions

Polyphony

For a more detailed explanation of polyphony, check out my related article.

Polyphony refers to the maximum number of notes that can be played at once on the piano. You may think that you can only get ten notes at a time, because you only have ten fingers, but this isn’t the case. Other factors such as using the sustain pedal, or making use of layer mode, also take up polyphony.

The Yamaha P45 has 64 note polyphony, which is much lower than what competitors offer in this space. I was actually very disappointed, as when I was playing rich, densely textured music such as Debussy or Ravel, I could hear notes being cut off as I reached the instrument’s internal memory limit.

If you are a complete beginner, you probably won’t notice this as an issue, but if you are intermediate to advanced, you should really look elsewhere.

Transposition

Transposition allows you to adjust the pitch of the entire keyboard. This is useful if you’re learning a piece in one key, for example, and you need to play with someone else who has learned the piece in a different key. Rather than relearning the piece, you can play at the same pitch just by transposing your Yamaha P45 up or down.

As is standard across other Yamaha pianos, you can increase the pitch by 5 semitones and reduce it by 6 semitones.

You also get a fine-tuning feature, which allows you to minutely alter the pitch in intervals of 0.1Hz. This allows you to match someone who’s playing in the same key as you but their instrument is slightly sharp or flat.

Metronome

One of the most useful practice features there is, the Yamaha P45 thankfully includes a metronome. You can adjust the time signature, the tempo and the volume, but you can’t do things like include an accent. This is basic, but it will do for the vast majority of players, who just need help keeping a steady beat.

Recording

The P45 offers no MIDI recording or playback feature, which is very disappointing. This is almost a standard feature on almost all digital pianos nowadays and I’m shocked Yamaha didn’t include this. If you want to record yourself playing, you still can do this, but you’ll need to do it via the included USB-MIDI connection using music software such as Garageband or Sibelius.


Keyboard and Action

This is by far the most important thing to any pianist aside from the piano sounds. Let’s take a good look at the keys and the action. Do they live up to expectations?

The Yamaha P45 includes Yamaha’s famous Graded Hammer Standard piano action. This means it has a fully weighted, scaled piano action that behaves a lot like a real piano.

The Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) is Yamaha’s cheapest action, and it’s been around for years and years. It’s commonly included on lower-end pianos made by Yamaha, with the higher-end instruments such as the P515 or Clavinova range including a better, more realistic action called the Graded Hammer action.

The GHS action is very quiet, and for the beginner player, is perfectly adequate to get used to the feel of playing a real piano. It’s certainly a massive step up from a spring-loaded action or a non-weighted keyboard.

You’ll also find that the keyboard is touch sensitive, so the harder you press the keys, the louder the sound. It’s also graded, meaning that it’s heavier in the bass and lighter in the treble, just like a real piano.

However, there’s a lot of hate out there for the GHS, with people saying that it’s inadequate and unpleasant to play. I can understand where these people are coming from, as I believe the GHS is inferior to most other piano actions out there today, including those by Casio and Roland. You’ll get a much more authentic and pleasurable playing experience by going with a different manufacturer, or a Yamaha piano with a better action.

However, as I mentioned, for the beginner player, it’s more than adequate, and shouldn’t cause you problems if you want to graduate to a better instrument in future.

​Touch Sensitivity

The P45 includes touch sensitivity; meaning that the harder you press the keys, the louder the sound. There are four different levels; light, medium, hard and off. This allows you to change how sensitive the keys are based on the strength of your fingers.

If you’re a beginner and don’t want to have to press too hard to get a loud sound, you can change the sensitivity to “light.” Conversely if you want more expression in your playing, you can change it to “hard.”

The Keys

The keys are standard plastic keys, which I actually like a lot. I’m not a fan of this “ebony and ivory keytops” thing that manufacturers do on higher end pianos. As I’ve said before, most real pianos now have keys made out of acrylic resin and wood, and haven’t been made from ivory for decades.


However, I like the matte black finish that Yamaha have put onto the black keys; it feels very pleasant to play, and results in your fingers being able to firmly grip the keys, even when sweaty or clammy.

Included Accessories

As we’ve mentioned, you don’t get much with the P45. All that’s in the box is the following:

As mentioned, the sustain switch is not fantastic, and you may want to consider a bespoke music stand. You also don’t get a music book, which Yamaha have included in more high-end models, which allows you to learn the demo songs included with the piano.

However, as with any digital piano, I’d really recommend you get a good pair of headphones. Read my recommendation for the top 5 headphones for a digital piano at the link below:

Digital pianos are great. They offer you a substantial musical experience that


Final Verdict

Our Rating: 3.5/5

Pros

  • Excellent build quality. Feels solid and well put-together.
  • Great piano sound; as we’ve come to expect from Yamaha

Cons

  • No recording functionality.
  • No ability to use three pedals.
  • Better models with more features for the same price. Not great value for money.
  • Limited selection of voices

Conclusion

Unfortunately it’s hard to recommend this model when there are so many alternatives available for a similar price that have a more extensive feature set. While the Yamaha build quality means this piano will last a long time, it’s quite dated now, so you’re better off going for something a little more feature-packed.


This piano isn’t great value for money. The lack of recording and inability to connect anything beyond a basic sustain pedal is a dealbreaker for me. It’s the reason I wouldn’t buy this piano.


If you’re an absolute beginner, this piano is perfectly adequate. If you’re anything more, I think you’ll be disappointed with the Yamaha P45.

Check the availability and the current price of the Yamaha P45 in your region:

UK/USA/Canada

UK and Europe

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Korg LP380 Review: A Great Budget Option https://pianoreviewer.com/korg-lp380-review https://pianoreviewer.com/korg-lp380-review#respond Fri, 08 May 2020 13:58:55 +0000 https://pianoreviewer.com/korg-lp380-review In this review, we’re going to take a thorough, in-depth look at the Korg LP380. This piano is an intermediate level slimline digital piano, priced in the middle of the market. However, it’s far from an average piano, and you get a lot for your money. The Korg LP380 is an upgrade from the LP350 and ... Read more Korg LP380 Review: A Great Budget Option

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In this review, we’re going to take a thorough, in-depth look at the Korg LP380. This piano is an intermediate level slimline digital piano, priced in the middle of the market. However, it’s far from an average piano, and you get a lot for your money.

The Korg LP380 is an upgrade from the LP350 and includes a multitude of new features. Korg may not be a household name just yet in digital pianos. They are a Japanese company that specialise mainly in synthesisers and electronic music equipment. However, they have quite an extensive and high quality digital piano range.

The LP380 is a fantastic choice for anyone who requires the feature set of a full size digital piano, but doesn’t have a whole lot of space. This model isn’t designed to be portable, and certainly isn’t as portable as the Korg B1, but it can be moved around fairly easily if necessary.

I spent around six or seven hours trialling and researching this model. So, should you buy a Korg LP380? Is it worth your money?

Korg LP380 Summary

Features

An acceptable, but not mind blowing feature set. Some significant features missing, such as the ability to record your own pieces.

Sound​

A high quality piano tone that's not too mellow or too bright. A great, powerful speaker system that isn't prone to distortion.

Price

Good value for money if you're on a budget, and a serious contender to the Yamaha and Roland alternatives. However, quite dated. ​

Pros

  • Slim and sleek, this design will fit in any home where space is at a premium.
  • Control system is FANTASTIC
  • Exceptionally energy efficient; nothing like it elsewhere

Cons

  • Action really isn’t fantastic; it’ll do but there are better alternatives
  • Pedals are adequate but not mind blowing
  • This model is around six years old and is due an upgrade, so may be worth waiting

Korg LP380 Summary after six hours of testing:

A great intermediate level piano, perfect for someone looking for their first “real” piano after having practiced on a keyboard or a cheaper digital piano and looking to upgrade. If you’re in an apartment or small home and space is at a premium, the slimline design ensures you don’t have to sacrifice space.


Build quality is maybe a little questionable but I wasn’t able to keep this model long enough to test this in full.


For home use, this piano is a great choice. You’ll save yourself money over equivalent models from the big players in this market (Yamaha and Roland) but in reality, I’d say the Korg comes pretty close in terms of quality and features. However, the Korg LP380 is a practice piano, if you need portability, or you need to perform on your piano, this isn’t the instrument for you.

Our Rating: 4/5

Check the availability and the current price of the Korg LP380 in your region:

UK/USA/Canada

UK and Europe

Now, let’s get started on a review of the Korg LP380. Let’s first have a look at the specification list.


For a complete specification list, please visit korg.com.


Design

I really like the job Korg has done on designing the Korg LP380. I think that while it looks a little basic, the design is very functional, and will fit into almost any modern home.

The LP380 has been designed to be as thin as possible without compromising on quality and player experience. I’m pleased to say Korg have managed to fit an excellent piano into a very thin and lightweight casing. It comes in at only 26cm in depth, and as a result will fit almost anywhere.


Another excellent feature is the soft-close lid, which doubles as a music stand. This is a feature of most slimline digital pianos, and while it’s an excellent piece of design, it does mean you can’t rest a laptop on of the piano in the same way as you can with a console digital piano, so the LP380 may not be the best choice for composing.

One thing I will say is that styling of the Korg LP380 isn’t really going to win any awards. Yes, it’s functional, but it doesn’t look as good as a Yamaha YDPS52, and comes across as utilitarian and basic. You may not care for this (I don’t, particularly) but it’s worth considering if aesthetics are a primary concern in your home.


​Weight

The Korg LP380 weighs in at 37kg including the stand, which is 5kg lighter than its’ predecessor, the LP350. This again is great news for anyone who might need to move their piano around on a regular basis. 37kg certainly is not light, but this piano isn’t designed for portability, so you probably won’t be taking it to gigs and concerts on a regular basis.

I get concerned when I review pianos that feel too light; it makes me feel like they manufacturer has scrimped on the quality of materials and the piano isn’t going to last very long. Sometimes a piano being too light can cause issues when playing too; the keyboard tends to move and bounce around. I didn’t have this problem with the LP380.


One important thing to note about the LP380 is that it’s exceptionally energy efficient. It only consumes around 15W of power when in use; other models can consume around 40 -60W of power. If you’re looking to keep your energy bills as low as possible, the Korg LP380 is a great choice.


​Assembly

Seeing as the Korg LP380 comes with a stand and pedal box, it will require some assembly. Fortunately this isn’t too difficult, and there are good instructions in the box as to how to do this.

One thing I will say about the assembly of the piano is that the materials used do feel a little cheap. While the keyboard itself is nice and weighty, the stand and supporting materials feel very thin.

I’m sure this is as a consequence of the piano being so light, and I have to say when the piano was put together and I was playing it I didn’t really notice this. However, it’s something to consider; when I’ve assembled similar models from Roland and Yamaha, the materials felt of better quality.

The assembly is fairly straightforward; lay the keyboard flat, attach the two sides with the included screws, and then attach and plug in the pedal board. Easy!

If you’re struggling to put the piano together, there is a really useful video from Korg on how to assemble it. It is in Japanese, but visually you should be able to follow along using the instructions as reference.


Controls and Buttons

One thing I really like about the Korg LP380 is its control system. So many times I’ve written about pianos in this range that use this stupid function + key press model. It results in you either having to keep the manual next to the piano at all times in case you want to change a voice, or memorising all the function and key combinations. Silly.

I’m pleased to say that Korg have made operating the LP380 very easy; you simply have buttons for everything. To change to the piano voice, for example, you press the “piano” button, then the “bank” button to choose which piano sound you require. And get this; there’s an LED screen that gives you the number of the voice you’ve selected!


You may spot the sarcasm here but I’ve been banging on about this for years with the likes of Yamaha and Casio not bothering to include a simple screen, and basically just leaving us to either memorise the combinations or guess. Korg’s control system is a victory for common sense, and in all honesty for me this is one of the reasons I’d choose this model over the equivalent Yamaha or Casio model.

Because of this I have no criticisms of the control model on the Korg LP380 at all. It just works, and you don’t need to consult the manual for it. Of course, this means you have lots of buttons on your piano, and if you like the minimalistic look, this might put you off. In all honesty I didn’t find it distracting, and felt it was a real welcome change after trying so many pianos with a clunkier way of doing things.

Of course, for some of the more advanced functions, you might find that you need to look at the manual every now and then. However, for the typical functions you’ll need in day to day playing, such as changing voices, adjusting volume or transposition or using the metronome, you’ll find the Korg LP380 very, very easy to use.


Pedals

Like many other models of digital piano, the Korg LP380 comes with an included pedal board. The design is slightly strange, as the pedal board is literally just a board of MDF with a pedal box added to it. It looks a little weird in my opinion; just as though the pedals were an afterthought, and the Roland F140R for example looks so much better as the pedals have been better included in the overall aesthetic.


However, to use, the pedals are good. Nothing to write home about, but they are perfectly adequate for the job at hand. If you’re more advanced, you may find that you don’t get so much control over the pedals as you would with a real piano, as the LP380 only supports half-pedalling and full pedalling. Although, to be honest, if you’re worried about this I’d imagine you’ll be looking in a higher price range anyway.

The pedals did feel a little spongy. I can’t really decide how I feel about this; if you play a Steinway grand piano you’ll find the pedals very heavy and not like Korg’s at all. but a Yamaha upright’s pedals are much, much lighter and are closer to what Korg have developed. I think I’d prefer a slightly heavier set of pedals, but there’s nothing wrong with the LP380’s pedal set. The inclusion of three pedals will certainly help towards your musical development and overall control of the instrument.


Colours

The LP380 comes in a variety of colours. The one I tested was black, and this seems to be the most popular model, but you can also get the piano in white. There are models in red, rosewood grain, black and red and rosewood/black finish. I wasn’t able find many of these models for sale in the UK, where I’m based, however; mostly I could only find the black and white examples.

The Rosewood Finish model.


If you’re dead set on any of the other colours, you may have to look a little harder than usual for them. However, I think they look pretty good, so pick the one that best blends in with the aesthetic of your home.


Piano Sound

Let’s talk about the piano sound of the Korg LP380; one of the most important factors when choosing to buy a digital piano.

The LP380 uses Korg’s Stereo Piano System. I wasn’t able to find much information about this system, and Korg don’t really shout about it in the way that other manufacturers do about their sound system. However, I found the LP380’s piano sounds of high quality, with a rich tone and most importantly, the sounds aren’t too bright.

The LP380 includes five piano sounds; two classic grand piano sounds, a jazz piano sound, a honky-tonk piano sound and a more modern, live, pop-style grand. I have to say I was only really interested in the classic grand piano sound, and possibly the honky-tonk sound. Here's a full list of the piano sounds included.


The classic and grand piano sounds on the LP380 are great, but perhaps a little behind the curve when it comes to other manufacturers, as it doesn’t include advanced features such as damper and sympathetic resonance, etc.

Have a listen to the grand piano sound and see what you think. I’d put it above Casio, but below Yamaha and Roland in terms of authenticity.


Other Included Sounds

The LP380 features 30 included voices in total; 25 extra sounds not including the piano sounds we've already discussed. They are:

In my opinion this is a little overkill on the supplementary sounds such as strings and choir; I’d have preferred Korg put their time into developing a more refined piano sound. However, the sounds are all very high quality; comparable with other instruments in this price range.  


Speakers

Korg have included a set of 22 Watt, 10cm amplifiers in the LP380. I have to say, I felt the speakers were of very high quality. It seems Korg has put more time into the speaker system on this piano than anything else, and it shows. The speakers are certainly a lot more robust than the speakers you get on other models in this price range, which allows for a lot more expression in your playing.

It’s very pleasurable to play the piano with the included speakers, and due to the extra power you get, it’s no issue to turn it up right to maximum volume; I noticed no distortion or crackling. I expected a decent set of speakers for this kind of money, and I’m pleased to say Korg have overdelivered here.


Korg have also included two headphone jacks on the LP380; pretty standard across the industry but a welcome feature nonetheless. This means that you can not only practice in complete silence if you so wish, but you can also play duets and have lessons just wearing headphones as well.

Effects and Reverb

Playing into Korg’s synthesiser roots, there’s actually quite a few different sound effects available on the LP380. You get three options; reverb, chorus and brilliance.

Reverb gives the impression you’re in a different acoustic, and changes the selected sound to suit that particular acoustic. So, for example, you can change between a very dry acoustic, like a small room, to a wetter acoustic such as a concert hall or stadium.

The Chorus effect layers the sound so that it seems as though multiple instruments are playing at once. The brilliance effect adjusts the tone of the selected sound, so you can make it brighter or mellower depending on your mood or the music you’re playing.

I appreciated the brilliance effect, as this allowed me to tone down the brightness on some of the piano sounds. This isn’t something you get with most other manufacturers, and is definitely welcome.


Additional Sound Features

The other features on the Korg LP380 are pretty standard. You get a line out, so you can plug it into a speaker system. This is good news for gigging musicians, so if you take your piano to somewhere with a PA system, you can plug it right in without having to worry about bringing your own speakers.

You also get MIDI in and MIDI out. This is great if you want to connect to legacy equipment, but most pianos today feature USB to Host which is arguably much better, not in terms of functionality but in terms of usability. USB to Host makes it far easier to plug into a laptop or computer. With the LP380, if you want to plug into a computer you’ll need either a dedicated sound card with MIDI sockets or a USB-MIDI adapter.


The other sockets are as you’d expect; power, pedals and headphones.

​Modes

I felt the Korg LP380 a little lacking in terms of the modes you get. While other models from other manufacturers include useful little tools and features such as bass split, the Korg only features two modes; layer mode and partner mode.

Layer Mode

Layer mode does exactly what it says on the tin; it allows you to layer two sounds and play them both at the same time. This allows you to combine piano and strings, for example, or electric organ and piano.

Partner Mode

Partner mode is a useful feature that basically splits your 88 key keyboard into two 44 key keyboards. It allows you to play in the same range with another person, with the keyboard divided in half between you and them.

If you’re a teacher, this is great news, as it allows you to demonstrate something, and then the student can replicate it on the same piano, without the teacher having to move out of the way.


Functions

Polyphony

The Korg LP380 features 120 note polyphony. This is a strange number, as most pianos have either 96 note polyphony or 128 note polyphony. 128 notes is less than I was expecting, and even though this should be sufficient for most players, it’s quite easy to see how you’d run out of notes if you have multiple effects, chorus, reverb and sustain pedal at the same time.

If you want to learn more about polyphony and why it’s important, check out this article on what polyphony is.

I would unfortunately consider this a dealbreaker. While I was playing the piano, specifically a piece of Debussy which involved dense harmony and lots of pedalling, I found myself running out of notes and I could audibly hear some of the notes drop out. This isn’t great, and unfortunately if you’re any kind of advanced player, you might find yourself hitting the limit of polyphony on the LP380.


Transposition

As with most other digital pianos, the LP380 has a transposition feature. You can transpose up to six semitones down and five semitones up, which is fairly standard. What I like about the transposition function on the LP380 is how it’s controlled; you simply press the transpose button, and then press the key on the keyboard relative to the number of semitones you want to transpose by.

As far as I could work out the LP380 doesn’t feature an octave shift mode, which for me wasn’t a huge issue, but if you use this feature a lot on your current piano, it might be a reason to look elsewhere for a new one.


Fine-Tuning

The LP380 allows you to alter the pitch of your music in smaller increments than the transpose function. This is done in increments of 0.5Hz, and is designed to allow you to match another instrument’s tuning exactly, if they are slightly sharp or flat.


Temperament

The Korg LP380 includes a rare feature that allows you to alter the temperament of the music you’re playing. Without giving you a history lesson, temperament refers to the intervals between notes, and how they are tuned. Most pianos today use what’s called “equal temperament,” but historically instruments have been tuned slightly differently to allow for a slightly different sound.

This is really helpful if you’re into historically informed performance, and allows you to select numerous historical temperaments including Werckmeister temperament and pure temperament. It also allows you to experiment with different types of music, and allows you to play in Arabic temperament, Slendro and Pelong temperaments for Indonesian music and more. There are 9 temperaments included with the Korg LP380.

This is a great feature, and while I might not use it very often, it’s exceptionally useful and should be included across more pianos and more manufacturers.


Metronome

As is standard in the industry, the LP380 includes a metronome. This is a useful practice tool and one that I think everyone should use. You can change between time signatures, allow for an accent on a particular beat, adjust the volume; this is one of the most feature-packed metronomes I’ve seen in a digital piano, and it’s great. Top marks to Korg here.

Recording

Amazingly, I could find no way of recording a piece on the Korg LP380 and playing it back. I’d really love to be proved wrong here, because this is such a standard feature, but it’s not mentioned in the manual and I couldn’t find a “record” button on the casing. This is a real disappointment; I would expect at least two track recording on any digital piano nowadays, and it’s almost universally included on pianos even in the very lowest price range.


Of course, you could connect the line out to a recording device, or use MIDI functionality to record, but that’s not the point; sometimes you just want to hear your playing back quickly and without bells and whistles. I was very disappointed in this.


Built in music

​There are 30 built in demo songs available on this piano, including some well known pieces. However, I couldn’t find a way to load my own music into the piano via MIDI, and there’s no lesson function or split function. I don’t mind this so much; this is mainly a feature included on lower end, beginner digital pianos. However, if this is important to you, you may want to consider a different instrument.


Keyboard

This is by far the most important thing to any pianist aside from the piano sounds. Let’s take a good look at the keys and the action. Do they live up to expectations?


The Action

Korg has included their RH3 (Real Weighted Hammer Action 3) keyboard in the LP380. This is just a fancy name to describe the fact that Korg have tried their best to replicate the feel of a real piano with real hammers.

As you’d expect (and as the name points out) the action is weighted, and it’s also scaled, meaning it’s heavier in the bass and lighter in the treble, as with a real piano.


The RH3 action, in my opinion, leaves much to be desired. It’s an OK action, and it replicates the feel of an acoustic piano quite nicely. However, I found the action to be incredibly heavy for a digital piano. If you’re used to playing an upright piano, it’s very rare you’ll find an action as heavy as you will on the LP380. A grand piano is a different story, but then the other limitations of the RH3 action come into play.

Korg's action has omitted so many features you get on other brands for a similar or lesser price range. For example, they don’t disclose how many sensors there are for each key. I could tell there are fewer than some other models, as I didn’t get the level of control that I wanted. There are also no velocity sensors, so you can’t really change the tone of the piano depending on how hard you play it; the sound is either loud or soft. This was frustrating to me, and I don’t think I could use this piano as my daily practice instrument.


However, having said this, it’s not a bad action; I’ve certainly played worse. I’d put it on par with Yamaha’s GHS action, but it’s not as good as a modern Casio, Kawai or Roland action. If you’re a beginner or intermediate player, you shouldn’t have too much trouble graduating to an acoustic piano at some point if you bought the LP380.


Touch Sensitivity

The LP380 includes three levels of touch sensitivity; Light, Normal and Heavy. This is great for younger players, or those without much strength in their fingers, as it allows you to adjust the sensitivity of the keyboard and allow for a lighter touch. Conversely, if you find the normal touch sensitivity isn’t giving you enough expression, you can switch it to heavy, whereby you’ll have to press the keys very hard in order to get maximum volume.

This is a good feature for those learning the piano. However, one drawback is that I couldn’t find a way to turn the touch sensitivity off, which most manufacturers include. I wouldn’t make use of this feature, as I found the default touch sensitivity more than adequate. It’s good to know it’s there, however.


​Keys

Not much to say here; Korg have included a set of plastic keys on the LP380, and haven’t gone with the “ebony and ivory” feel that so many manufacturers like to do nowadays. I appreciate this, as I’ve never understood why manufacturers do it. Piano keys aren’t made out of ivory any more and haven’t been for decades. If you look at the Yamaha U1, for example, the keys are made out of acrylic resin. In many ways, because of this, the keys on the Korg LP380 are more authentic than many pianos in a much higher price range.

Some manufacturers say that having plastic keys make it easier for your hands to slip off the keys, if you’re playing for several hours in a warm climate and your hands become sweaty, for example. However, I’ve never experienced this as an issue on a real piano and highly doubt this is anything for the intermediate player to worry about.


Included Accessories

You don’t get much with the Korg LP380, it has to be said. This is all that’s in the box:


You don’t even get a music book that features the included songs; this is something I’ve come to expect from other manufacturers, and it’s disappointing that Korg didn’t include it here.

Fortunately, you won’t really need to buy anything else, because this is an all-in-one package, and you don’t need to buy an extra music stand or pedal board. You’ll need a screwdriver to put the piano together; this isn’t included.

However, as with any digital piano, I’d really recommend a good pair of headphones. Read my recommendation for the top 5 headphones for a digital piano at the link below:

Digital pianos are great. They offer you a substantial musical experience that rivals some acoustic pianos, without the

More

Final Verdict

Our Rating: 4/5

Pros

  • Slim and sleek, this design will fit in any home where space is at a premium.
  • Control system is again, excellent
  • Exceptionally energy efficient; nothing like it elsewhere

Cons

  • Action really isn’t fantastic; it’ll do but there are better alternatives
  • Pedals are adequate but not mind blowing
  • This model is around six years old and is due an upgrade, so may be worth waiting

Conclusion

An adequate instrument for the beginner or intermediate player. I’m sure at the time it was released, this piano was a serious contender, but it’s becoming apparent that this model is pretty dated, and is in need of an upgrade.


However, given its price, it is good value for money. It is difficult to recommend over the Casio PX160 or the Yamaha YDPS54; I feel with those models you get more for your money. However, if personal preference draws you to the Korg, I’d encourage you to buy one. Try these pianos out first!


Would I buy the Korg LP380? No, I wouldn’t. Should you? Yes; if it meets your expectations and your requirements.

Check the availability and the current price of the Korg LP380 in your region:

UK/USA/Canada

UK and Europe

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What is polyphony on a digital piano? https://pianoreviewer.com/polyphony-digital-piano https://pianoreviewer.com/polyphony-digital-piano#respond Fri, 01 May 2020 15:05:00 +0000 https://pianoreviewer.com/polyphony-digital-piano Many people looking to buy a digital piano don’t really know where to start. There are so many models and variations on the market that it’s hard to know what sets them apart. However, I’m going to try to dispel a couple of these myths and breathe some clarity into what is a very confusing field. One ... Read more What is polyphony on a digital piano?

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Many people looking to buy a digital piano don’t really know where to start. There are so many models and variations on the market that it’s hard to know what sets them apart.

However, I’m going to try to dispel a couple of these myths and breathe some clarity into what is a very confusing field.

One of the things that can be confusing is the concept of polyphony. Many of you have never heard of this term before and won’t know why it matters.


Polyphony is super important when buying a digital piano, and it’s one of the things that sets apart acoustic and digital pianos. If you get it wrong, you might find that your musical progression is hindered. Let’s learn why.


​Polyphony explained

Here’s a real simple explanation.

Poly = Many

Phony = Noise/Sounds

Poly-phony = Many sounds.

Polyphony literally refers to how many notes you can play at once. But why does this apply to piano playing, you may ask? You only have five fingers on each hand, so surely you can only make ten different sounds at once?


Well, not so. You see, on a piano, the main thing that makes this complicated is the pedalThe sustain pedal stops the notes on the piano getting cut off after you release the key, and elongates the sound.

​So if you were to put the sustain pedal down and play every note one-by-one, you would have 88 separate sounds.

An acoustic piano, because the sound is dynamically generated by the instrument and isn’t recorded like on a digital piano, theoretically has unlimited polyphony. A digital piano doesn’t.


​What is polyphony on a digital piano?

Digital pianos nowadays generally have a polyphony of around 128 or above, although I’ve seen some as low as 64-note polyhony (Yamaha P45) or 48-note polyphony (the Casio CDP-130.) All this literally means is that you can have 64 or 48 different sounds playing at once.

If you go over this limit, the piano will simply cut off some of the sounds to make room for the newer sounds. You may or may not notice this, depending on what you’re playing.

The term “sounds” refers to two different things – the number of individual notes you’re playing, and the number of voices you’re using on the piano (strings, harpsichord, vibraphone, etc – whatever your digital piano offers.)

For example, if you play five notes with just the piano voice, that’s five-note polyphony. However, if you select both piano AND strings, that five notes now becomes ten notes. Add in some pedal, and the polyphony can really begin to add up, to the point where you’ve got more notes going on than your piano can handle.

​Other things that you might not have thought of also count towards your polyphony. Drum tracks that can play in the background take up polyphony.

Metronomes also take up polyphony. If you’re playing duets, especially with students, you’ll find that 10 fingers now becomes 20, and it’ll become much easier to hit polyphony limits on lower-end keyboards.


It’s not fun if the sound keeps cutting out every so often when this could easily have been resolved by buying a better piano.


​Why ​polyphony matters

Polyphony is important to every digital piano player in every genre. This is because if you buy a piano with too low polyphony, you’ll find it frustrating when you progress beyond a certain level and you’re trying to make music but sounds keep getting cut off.

This is especially true if you’re using your digital piano to play classical music, where you often have several different things going on at once in each hand.

If you’re using your piano to perform, as a stage piano or to give concerts, you can’t afford to have an inferior instrument jeapordise your performance. This is especially true if you’re mixing voices – for example, if you want to have a piano and strings sound for a ballad or something.

​You may have read this far and be thinking “yeah, right – I really don’t see how I’ll ever produce that much noise from my piano!” You’d be surprised. When I was at college, practicing Liszt, Chopin, Brahms, etc, I found that my 48 note digital keyboard simply wasn’t enough.


I would be holding notes down, expecting the sound to continue, and because there was so much else going on, by the time I had released the pedal expecting to hear the notes, they weren’t there. That got frustrating very quickly, to the point where I sold my keyboard and bought a Yamaha Arius.

As I’ve mentioned, this doesn’t just apply to college music majors – this is an issue that almost every pianist will run into as they progress past a certain skill level.

It’s important to set yourself up for learning as best you can – you want your instrument to last you as long as possible, not for you to outgrow it in two or three years.

If you’re a teacher, this is even more important. You don’t want good students coming to your house and deciding your piano isn’t good enough.

I’ve seen this before, when I used to teach for a music school that used old Technics digital pianos from the 1990s. An inferior instrument will cost you business. This is despite the fact that digital pianos can last a long time.


​What’s the solution?

The solution, at least from my point of view, is simple. Buy the digital piano most closely aligned with your budget with the most polyphony that you can get – at least 128, but preferably something like 192 or 256.

This will almost guarantee you’ll never experience problems of this nature. I am actually struggling to think of any situation where you would exceed 256 note polyphony, but to be honest if you’re playing music that complex you probably wouldn’t even notice if some of your sounds had been cut off!

If all you can afford is a 48-note polyphony piano, then that’s fine. If it meets your needs, you won’t be disappointed. But just be aware that if you’re serious about your music making, it might hinder your progression further down the line. This applies to any style – jazz, funk, pop, classical. If you're  interested in what kind of digital piano is best for a beginner, you should look at my recent guide on the 5 best digital pianos for beginners.

I think it’s always better to go for the best piano you can afford. ​If you're in the market for a new digital piano, you might want to check out some of the buyer's guides I've recently written for this blog.


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Yamaha U1 Review: The Best Upright Piano? https://pianoreviewer.com/yamaha-u1-review https://pianoreviewer.com/yamaha-u1-review#comments Fri, 01 May 2020 02:16:23 +0000 https://pianoreviewer.com/yamaha-u1-review ​​​Traditionally, this site has focused on review and informational articles on digital pianos. I’ve written some articles on upright pianos and acoustic pianos, but not much. I’d like to change that, as I believe there’s a significant portion of this blog’s readership that would benefit from review content around upright and acoustic pianos.In this article ... Read more Yamaha U1 Review: The Best Upright Piano?

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Traditionally, this site has focused on review and informational articles on digital pianos. I’ve written some articles on upright pianos and acoustic pianos, but not much. I’d like to change that, as I believe there’s a significant portion of this blog’s readership that would benefit from review content around upright and acoustic pianos.

In this article we’re going to be having a look at one of the most popular (probably the most popular) upright pianos ever produced: the Yamaha U1. I’m going to preface this by saying I own a Yamaha U1 and have done for around five years. I think it’s a wonderful piano in every respect, and no pianist will ever go wrong owning one; whether you’re a beginner or a classical concert pianist, it will be suitable for you.

But what makes the Yamaha U1 so good? Why is it the piano of choice for institutions, schools and pianists all over the world?

Our Verdict; Yamaha U1 Review

Yamaha U1 

Should you buy one?

Yes

  • Exceptionally solid construction
  • Robust, rich tone
  • Precise and accurate action
  • Holds its' value exceptionally well

No

  • Bright tone; will be too bright for some
  • New models are quite expensive; not good for pianists on a budget
  • Lots of very old models on the used market that are basically life-expired

Final Score

Our Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars


Yamaha U1 Specifications

As you can see, a fairly standard set of specifications for an upright piano. However, this is anything but a standard piano. These pianos are built exceptionally well, and are very versatile.

Let’s get into what makes the Yamaha U1 one of my favourite upright pianos.


High-quality Japanese Manufacturing

The piano market today is a real mish-mash of manufacturers making pianos in different countries of the world. As you might expect, a lot of pianos are made in China; some are made in Indonesia and Japan, and some are made in Europe and the USA.

You tend to find that the higher quality pianos are made in Europe, the USA and Japan, with more budget oriented pianos made in China and Indonesia.

There are exceptions to this rule, however; Feurich pianos are made in China and these are a serious competitor to Yamaha’s Japanese built range, both in terms of price, tone and build quality.

I plan to write a review on the competitor to the U1 fairly soon; the Feurich 122. I used to own one of these too, and it was a fantastic piano.


Yamaha U1 Competitors; what else is on the market?

Kawai K300

Another Japanese brand, these pianos are of exceptional quality, with carbon fibre parts and a mellow, soft tone.

Feurich/Hailun 122

Made in China to the highest specifications, a very European-sounding piano perfect for beginners and pros alike.

Young Chang Y121

A Korean-made piano; a tone perhaps even brighter than the Yamaha, but good for the budget-oriented.


However, Yamaha’s U1 range has been made in Japan since the 1960s. The manufacturing facilities there have had 50 years to hone their craft. Interestingly Yamaha used to have manufacturing facilities in the west; Yamaha used to own a British piano company called Kemble and used to make U1s in their UK factory.

This doesn’t happen any more and Yamaha’s U1 line is now all made in Japan. As a result, you can be assured of a highly consistent level of quality and performance from any U1 you buy, whether it’s brand new or 30 years old.

Manufacturing is an art form in Japan, and Japanese factories are some of the most automated in the world. Japanese pianos, whether they are Yamaha, Kawai or other brands, are among the most uniformly made pianos, and are designed first and foremost for servicing and longevity.

Despite the fact they may be more expensive than a piano built elsewhere, you won’t go far wrong buying a piano made in Japan.


Fine touch and rich tone

All U1’s I’ve tried have a very rich and resonant tone. It’s very suitable for classical music of any era, but also for jazz, pop and rock. Yamaha have done well to build a piano with such a robust and versatile tone.

 In many ways the U1 doesn’t really excel in any one area in this regard; it’s certainly not the perfect sound for many of these genres, but it’s an exceptionally good sound nonetheless.

I mainly use my Yamaha U1 to play classical and jazz music, and I find that no matter what I’m playing, it’s always very easy to mould and sculpt the sound to the music I’m playing. Very few other pianos give you this scope and this freedom of expression.

One thing that Yamaha U1s get a little bit of a bad reputation for is the brightness of their tone. And I’ll admit, Yamaha pianos are bright. Yamaha pianos probably produce the brightest tone of the mainstream manufacturers, with the exception of Essex pianos which have a tendency to get horribly bright, even a short while after a tuning.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There is such a thing as too mellow a sound, and the crisp, live sound you get from a Yamaha upright is very pleasant to listen to. It isn’t as mellow as a Steinway, but I’d probably put it on par with Bechstein pianos.

One thing to think about (and I’m not sure as to the science of this, and why it happens with Yamahas and not other pianos) is that Yamahas do tend to get brighter with age. In fact, I even notice this on my own piano. If I don’t have it tuned for a while (one year or more) the tone does become brighter than I would like. This is easily resolved by asking the tuner to tune it and voice the piano down a little, and then it becomes much more pleasant to play.

If you like your piano to have a crisp, lively sound, you won’t go far wrong with a Yamaha U1.

Speaking of tuning, in my experience Yamaha U1s hold their tuning better than almost any other piano I’ve played. Again, I’m not sure as to exactly why this is, but it’s a testament to the quality of the manufacturing. Even after being practiced on for three or four hours a day, my Yamaha still holds a tune very well. Newer Yamahas are even more robust; when your piano has settled into your home, you’d probably get away with having it tuned once per year or less.


Precise, light action

The Yamaha U1’s action is exceptionally precise. As we’ve mentioned, the sound is very suitable for any genre of music, but it’s important to note that the action is too. It’s not too heavy, and it’s not too light. It is on the lighter side, but the control you get over your music is almost unmatched in anything but the most expensive pianos.

For example, when playing demanding, virtuosic music with constant large shifts in dynamics, the Yamaha U1 responds admirably. I’ve played all but the most difficult music; the late Beethoven sonatas, Chopin Ballades and Scherzi, even a piano duet version of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, and I can tell you with confidence that my U1 performed every time.

And again, my U1 is several years old; the newer models are almost certain to perform even better. You won’t ever find yourself limited by a Yamaha U1.

The action gives you the ability to put a lot of power into your playing without the production of a harsh, overly bright sound, as well as the ability to really dial it back and produce some of the most wonderful tonal colours.

It’s as suitable for playing Bach, Mozart and Chopin as it is it is for playing Liszt, Debussy, Rachmaninov, Kapustin, etc; there’s not a genre of music I can think of that the Yamaha U1 wouldn’t be suitable for.

For the most advanced players, you get a wide palette of tonal possibilities, and an ability to easily mould and control the sound. A freshly tuned Yamaha U1 is exceptionally satisfying to play.

One thing about the Yamaha U1 that I will say is that if you leave the piano too long without having it looked at by a technician or regulated, you’ll find that the action becomes a little uneven, and some notes become slightly heavier than others.

This is normal in pianos that haven’t been serviced in a while, but I find that it’s more noticeable on the Yamaha U1 than on other pianos. This isn’t a big deal in my opinion, and can be mitigated by having your piano regularly serviced and looked at by a technician.


Exceptionally reliable

One of the things I look for when I look into a piano is how they fare on the used market. This might sound counter intuitive if I’m reviewing a new piano, but there is method to my madness.

A piano with zero used market suggests that the piano is either not reliable, or doesn’t hold its’ value well for a particular reason. This isn’t an issue with the Yamaha U1; this has one of the most robust and active used piano markets out there.

A Yamaha U1 is probably the easiest piano to sell used, because people know how well made they are.

I can testify personally as to the reliability of the Yamaha U1; not once in the five years that I’ve owned mine have I had to replace a part, or have anything at all fixed.

This piano has taken hundreds (probably thousands) of hours of practice since I’ve owned it, as well as a house move, and has taken everything I’ve been able to throw at it. Nothing has broken, nothing is out of place and everything works as it should.

And in all honesty, I haven’t maintained it as well as I should have. I should have had it tuned at least every year; sometimes the piano has gone 18 months without being looked at by a technician without issue.

We’ve mentioned the excellent built quality of these pianos, and it’s easy just to say this, but my personal experience of owning this piano for five years suggests that a Yamaha U1 is probably the most reliable, well made piano you’ll ever own.


Expensive?

One of the drawbacks of a new U1 is that because they hold their value so well, and are so well made, they’re not too cheap. You can expect to pay a minimum of $8,000 for a new model, and up to $11,000 depending on your location and circumstances.

You may be able to get a discount if you contact a piano store during a sale, or if they’re closing down, but generally this is what you should expect to pay.

On the face of it, this seems like a lot of money, and it is, but I really think the kind of value you get is second to none. If you want the piano that’ll give you the best bang for the buck, I really think the Yamaha U1 is the instrument that’ll give you the most piano for the money.

You can do a lot worse for the same money, especially in the used market, and to do any better, you’ll need to spend upwards of $20,000 in my opinion.

In fact, you can even do a lot worse for $20,000; compare any Steinway upright made in the last 20 years or so to the equivalent U1 and in my opinion, the Yamaha wins out every time.

The action and the sound are just better. This isn’t the case with Yamaha grands and Steinway grands; Steinway has Yamaha well and truly beat in this case, but for uprights, Yamaha is king.

If $8,000 is just too much, you can look on the used market, as you should be able to get a decent refurbished model for around $4,000. Just be careful that it’s been refurbished by someone competent and professional; a piano refurbished by a cowboy is just going to cause problems for you in the future.

This is why, for those of you in Europe, I recommend Thomann for used Yamaha pianos; their instruments are refurbished and checked over by qualified, trained technicians, and you’re guaranteed to get a quality piano at an affordable price.


New vs Used?

There’s a lot of concern out there about used Yamaha pianos. Some of these pianos come from Japan, where they’ve been used in schools for 20 – 30 years, sold to a dealer or distributor and then shipped overseas for sale in another country.

This is called a “grey market” piano; simply because the piano was manufactured for the Japanese market and is now being used elsewhere. Yamaha themselves don’t like this practice, but is it something to be worried about?

In my view; no. Most used Yamaha U1s in the US and Europe are grey market pianos. Mine is too. And I’ve had absolutely zero problems with it in the time I’ve owned it. Of course, for the greatest longevity, you’ll want to buy new, but I see no problem at all with a grey market/used Yamaha piano if that’s all you can afford.

Final Verdict

Is the Yamaha U1 the best upright you can buy?

Our Rating: 4.5/5


An excellent instrument in all respects; you will not go wrong with purchasing a Yamaha U1. If you're buying a used one, just be careful, and make sure it's been looked after or refurbished properly. A new Yamaha U1 will last you for years and years, and as long as you look after it, it'll be all the piano you'll ever need.

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How do online piano lessons work? https://pianoreviewer.com/how-do-online-piano-lessons-work https://pianoreviewer.com/how-do-online-piano-lessons-work#respond Sat, 21 Mar 2020 21:55:02 +0000 https://pianoreviewer.com/how-do-online-piano-lessons-work One of the great things about the internet is that it has allowed evolution and advancement in so many industries. For example, in business, tools like Slack and Zoom allow you to communicate with colleagues on the other side of the world as if they were in the same office. The music industry is no ... Read more How do online piano lessons work?

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One of the great things about the internet is that it has allowed evolution and advancement in so many industries. For example, in business, tools like Slack and Zoom allow you to communicate with colleagues on the other side of the world as if they were in the same office. The music industry is no exception, and in particular piano lessons.

It’s been possible to get piano lessons online for several years, but what exactly are they, and how do they work? Are they really a viable substitute for an in-person teacher, or are they a waste of time and money?

Just as an aside, we’re putting together a waiting list for online piano lessons at The Honest Pianist. At the moment, we’re simply gauging interest, so if you’d like to be notified if and when we offer online piano lessons, please provide us with your name and email below.

What are online piano lessons?

There’s a little confusion as to what constitutes an online piano lesson. Does something like Flowkey constitute an online piano lesson? What about a course from Udemy? Does that qualify?

Well, in short, no. What we’re talking about here is one to one, dedicated, live piano lessons with a teacher. You’ll have the freedom to ask the teacher any questions you have, as well as receive feedback on your playing, live. Think of them as a substitute for an in-person lesson with a teacher if you’re not able to get to one, or if there isn’t one in your local area.


Generally, these lessons are done over Skype, Zoom, or similar video conferencing client. However, depending on which part of the world you’re in, or which teacher you choose to go with, the software may differ. Some teachers even have a dedicated messaging app, whereby they can send sheet music and lesson feedback instantly without having to make notes in pencil or send away for expensive sheet music books.

All this allows you to have a very personalised piano learning experience, almost exactly as you’d have with an in-person teacher, but from the comfort of your own home and from your own piano. What’s not to like?

How are online lessons different from online piano courses?

Now, regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve written an article on Flowkey, and that I think it’s an excellent tool for those who don’t have the money or aren’t yet ready to commit to regular weekly lessons. And that’s fine; Flowkey certainly has its place in the library of piano learning tools.

However, I have also repeatedly said that the best way to learn the piano is with a live, in-person teacher. And online piano lessons could be a perfect alternative if you’re considering something like Flowkey, but want something a bit more comprehensive.

But what are the benefits of in-person online piano lessons versus an online piano course?

Online piano lessons provide you with instant feedback.

Don’t think of an online piano lesson as an alternative to an online piano course. Think of it as a substitute for an in-person teacher. What online piano lessons offer you is instant feedback from an experienced teacher, which is something you just can’t get from a course, or from videos on YouTube. The teacher can tailor their teaching style to your playing and will be able to work out a plan of attack to improve your playing. This plan will be bespoke to you and only you, and not the millions of other people who’ve already bought Flowkey or any of the other courses you’re looking at.

An online teacher can spot mistakes very easily.

With a good camera setup, an online teacher will be able to instantly spot your mistakes. When you’re learning the piano, you might not pick up on all the mistakes and errors that an experienced teacher would, and an online piano course is certainly not going to help identify your mistakes for you. You’re left on your own, and sometimes this can be damaging, as you have nobody to ask for advice. An online piano teacher can point you in the right direction and help you correct your mistakes.

It’s worth saying that as with anything in life, you get what you pay for. You’ll pay more for online piano lessons (although no more than what you’ll pay for in-person piano lessons) than you will for an online course, but I guarantee, as a pianist and teacher of many, many years, it’s worth the extra cost.

How do online piano lessons work?

Let’s get into the details of how you actually go about finding an online teacher, and setting up your workspace for lessons.

Firstly, you need to find someone online to teach you. This shouldn’t be too hard; online teaching isn’t majorly popular at the moment, but lots of people do offer it, and a quick Google search will show you plenty of teachers ready and able to teach you.

It would be remiss of me not to say that we’re looking at offering this service here at The Honest Pianist. If you’re interested, you can fill your name and email at the top or bottom of this page and we’ll let you know as and when we set up our service. It’ll be competitively priced, and taught by one of two teachers; either myself, a Bachelor of Music, or my wife who has a Master’s in music.

So, once you’ve found your teacher, you’ll need three things:

  • Your own piano. It doesn’t have to be fancy; if it’s a digital piano or keyboard, that’s fine. If it’s an acoustic, that’s also great. As long as it’s roughly in tune, and it works properly, it’ll be fine.
  • A camera/smartphone/laptop. Again, you don’t need a dedicated camera for online piano lessons, although it helps. Any modern smartphone will have a camera and a microphone that’s good enough for lessons. Just make sure that it gives a clear picture and the sound works, so you can hear your teacher when they give you feedback.
  • A computer. You’ll usually need a computer to run the conferencing software, and to view the teacher’s feedback. This isn’t mandatory; you’ll of course need one if you’re using a separate camera and microphone, but if you’re using your phone, this should be fine.

Bonus equipment; not necessary, but definitely will enhance your experience.

  • A tablet/iPad. Tablets are a fantastic way of displaying sheet music, and if you have one, it might save you some money in the way of purchasing scores. It’ll also allow your teacher to send scores to you for sight-reading or learning.
  • A USB-MIDI interface. Most modern digital pianos come with this, and if you have a computer to connect it to, it’ll provide your teacher with crystal-clear audio quality. Of course, if you have an acoustic piano, this isn’t necessary.

Test your equipment and make sure that it works properly. The last thing you want is to have communication or technical problems when you’re having a lesson. You’ll also need to make sure your internet is reliable and fast enough to stream video without interruptions.

Your teacher will probably want to get to know you in the first lesson, as well as make sure all your equipment works as expected. They might get you to play a piece to them, to ensure they can hear your piano properly. You’ll receive some good feedback, and you’ll get an idea of whether the teacher is right for you, and whether you want to continue with them.

What’s more, most teachers offer this first lesson free or discounted, so there’s nothing to lose, although not all teachers do. Make sure you check the teacher’s policies before you schedule a lesson.

What are the drawbacks of online piano lessons?

Of course, like anything, there are bound to be drawbacks to having online lessons. These aren’t really too much of an issue for most people, but they are worth bearing in mind before signing up and paying a lesson fee.

You need a fast internet connection.

The last thing you want when you’re trying to communicate with your teacher or play a piece to them is a laggy connection. For online piano lessons to be useful, you’re going to have to have an internet connection that can stream high-quality video. Most homes in large cities have this capability, but if you’re in a rural area or less developed country, you may struggle.

You may need to purchase equipment.

We’ve already spoken about the equipment required. It’s generally not a huge list of requirements, but if you don’t have it, you’ll need to go out and buy it. We’d certainly advise you to make do with what you’ve got, but if you don’t have a computer or a smartphone, online lessons won’t be much use to you.

They’re more expensive than piano apps or online piano courses.

I don’t really consider this a drawback; again, you get what you pay for. However, if you’re on a tight budget, online piano lessons may not be an option for you in the same way that in-person lessons might not be an option if they’re too expensive. However, realise that you’re getting a lot more for your money if you sign up for lessons.

How do I sign up for online piano lessons?

Like we’ve mentioned, we’re currently scoping out interest in this. If we get enough feedback, We may launch our own online piano studio. Watch this space!

If you can’t wait that long, you’ll need to do a Google search for another teacher. They should be very easy to find; there’s a number of very famous YouTube names that offer this service.


In the meantime, happy practicing!

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Why you need to practice your piano scales right now https://pianoreviewer.com/practice-your-scales https://pianoreviewer.com/practice-your-scales#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2020 23:35:05 +0000 https://pianoreviewer.com/practice-your-scales “Scales.” The very word strikes fear into the hearts of piano students around the world. Why on earth would you want to practice scales, anyway? They’re so unbelievably boring and tedious that there couldn’t possibly be any benefit to practicing them. Why learn piano scales?If this sounds familiar, then you aren’t alone. I’ll confess that ... Read more Why you need to practice your piano scales right now

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“Scales.” The very word strikes fear into the hearts of piano students around the world. Why on earth would you want to practice scales, anyway? They’re so unbelievably boring and tedious that there couldn’t possibly be any benefit to practicing them. Why learn piano scales?

If this sounds familiar, then you aren’t alone. I’ll confess that I never really practiced my scales as a child. I suffered for it, and it meant that I didn’t develop as a musician nearly as quickly or as thoroughly as I could have.

Why learn scales?

Scales are the building blocks of all piano playing. No matter what music you play, from whichever era in whichever genre, chances are you will experience scales somewhere in the piece. The fundamentals of western classical tradition, and by extension all music that followed (jazz, pop, rock, etc) are based on scales.

A big part of the problem with pianists nowadays is that they don’t practice fundamentals of technique, such as scales and sight reading. And in some ways, I understand why; scales and sight-reading aren’t pleasant to practice if you’re not very good at them. Coupled with the fact that most students only really want to play a particular piece, people neglect their scales. Many students don’t even think about scales until they need to do an exam.


However, this is counterproductive, because scales provide you with three major benefits that will impact your playing of pieces.

  1. Scales train your internal metronome. So often I hear students play pieces that they love, with absolutely no sense of timing. Advanced students too, although sometimes they get clever and blame it on “rubato.” Newsflash: I know what rubato is, and adding an extra beat to every bar is not it. Scales help immensely with training your inner metronome, as you’re playing the same pattern often at different speeds. You’ll find if you start practicing your scales with a metronome, pretty soon you’ll be able to play them without one, and this will positively impact your ability to stay in time in other music.
  2. Scales offer wonderful ear training. So often I hear students play wrong notes, and when I ask them whether they can identify where they played a wrong note, they can’t. Their ears aren’t accustomed to the tonality and the key in which they’re playing. However, if they’d practiced scales in that key, they’d instantly be able to identify a wrong note and would be able to take steps in their practice to correct it.
  3. Lastly, and most importantly, the scale pattern is the most common pattern in music. Think of scales almost like a “cheat sheet;” a chance to practice and perfect bits of pieces you haven’t even thought of playing yet.

Why fingerings are so important

Now, we come onto another contentious subject. Again, I get this from my own students. “Surely as long as I play the notes, the fingering doesn’t matter?”

Not so.

Let me explain why. Firstly, fingerings have been worked out in scale books for decades for a reason. They work, and they’re the most efficient way of playing a scale. Granted, everyone’s hand is different, but by and large, scale fingerings are uniform for everyone. Following the given fingering just makes things much, much easier for yourself. If you master the technique, these fingerings are designed to help you play your scales as fast and as smoothly as possible without tripping over your own fingers.


The given fingerings also train your dexterity, and help with smoothness in transition points, for example when you have to pass the thumb under the hand, or pass the third or fourth finger over. 

However, the main reason why the given fingerings are useful to learn is that once you have them solidified, you will automatically use them in scale passages in other pieces. Imagine if you were playing a Mozart sonata, and you had to work out every single scale passage as you came across it. It would take you forever. Had you already practiced your fingering, you’d automatically know which fingers to put on which notes.

This also helps during sight-reading; you have less to worry about. There’s no need to busy yourself with worrying about your fingering; you simply concentrate on finding the right notes.

As I’ve said, the usual given fingerings for scale passages are pretty comfortable for 99% of players, and there shouldn’t really be any reason to change them. If for whatever reason, however, you can’t do what your teacher is telling you or what’s written down in your scale book, figure out your own fingering, but make sure you stick to it. Having a consistent fingering across your scale patterns is more important than the semantics of exactly which finger goes where.

How to practice scales

The great thing about scales is that they are exceptionally versatile. For every scale, there’s a million ways to practice it and modify it so that you can extract even more technical benefit out of it.

For example, start with your basic C major scale. Even if you don’t change any of the notes, here’s a few things you could do with it.

  • Change the rhythm.
  • Change the articulation.
  • Accent different notes; every three, every four, every six, every eight.
  • Play more than one octave.
  • Play contrary motion (left hand going down, right hand going up or vice versa.)

However, for those just getting started, or maybe haven’t had experience practicing scales too much, here’s a few tips that you can follow to achieve scale mastery.

Get the fingerings right

I know we’ve spoken about this already, but it’s crucial. Work out a fingering, and stick with it. Again, I highly recommend going with standard scale fingerings as featured in your scale books. You’ll pick them up fairly quickly and they’re almost certain to be better than what you’ve come up with yourself.

Go through every key, every scale, and learn which fingers to put where. This is more important than anything else.

Play slowly

We’ve all been dazzled by those who can play scale passages so quickly their hands just seem to fly across the keyboard. However, nobody who can do this was born able to do it. They had to practice, just like you and I. They practiced slowly and methodically, too. You won’t ever be able to play quickly if you don’t practice the fundamentals as slowly and as carefully as you dare.

This advice stands for any music. When you play slowly, you can identify mistakes and errors in technique much more easily, and you’re less likely to brush over them as you would when playing quickly. Look up my concept of deliberate practice in an article I wrote about practicing the piano efficiently. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you develop your piano-playing skills if you follow my advice.

Use a metronome

This is related to the previous point, but you need to use a metronome when you start practicing scales because it will train your internal ability to keep time. There’s no room for rubato in scales; they’re a technical exercise and should be treated as such. That means you should play them exactly in time, every time, unless you’re playing them as part of a piece.


Set the metronome to a slow speed, and run through one scale. When you’re happy that the cross-overs are smooth, there’s no unevenness and the fingerings are solid, you can bump up the tempo a few beats and try again. Keep doing this until you can reach your desired tempo. This is how you learn how to play scales super-fast.

How long should you practice piano scales?

There’s no one general rule that applies to everyone. I encourage my students to dedicate about 25% of their practice time to scales and arpeggios, as well as other technical work. For example if a student practices an hour a day, I’d expect them to spend 15 minutes on their scales.

This isn’t a lot, but it’s predicated on them being proficient with their scales, able to play them at a decent enough tempo and not needing to spend time learning new scales. If you’re a beginner to practicing your scales, you’ll need to spend a bit longer practicing them; maybe around 40% or 50% of your daily practice regime. Get comfortable with playing scales and then drop it down to 25%. Your other practice will go much smoother and more quickly as you’ll have the technical facility to play almost anything when you can play your scales.

I truly believe scales are much more beneficial to your technique than anything else. You can plough through Chopin and Liszt etudes all you like, but if you haven’t got the basics down in the form of a flawless scale technique, they won’t help you. Learn to play your scales!

What else should I be practicing to improve my piano technique?

Your scales are a key part of a foundational piano technique, but they’re certainly not the only part. You should also be practicing your arpeggios and broken chords, as well as your sight reading. If there’s one thing I wish I’d done more of when I was at university and practicing the piano regularly, it’s sight reading. Scales and arpeggios will help sight-reading technique hugely, but it’s also something you need to practice on its own.

The easiest way to do this is to buy a book of songs. It doesn’t matter what it is; Strauss or Schubert Lieder, a Schumann or Brahms song cycle; anything. However, I’d stay away from pop music as this tends to be too simplistic and you’ll probably become bored after a while. Open the book, and just play through it. Don’t worry about wrong notes; they simply don’t matter. The key things are rhythm and continuity. Do not stop playing, even if you get lost; make something up. This is most student’s biggest issue with sight reading; they stop even if they make one minor mistake.

Think about it. If you’re playing with a singer to a room of 1000 people, what do you think the singer or the audience cares about more; one silly little wrong note, or the fact that you stopped the music to start over again? The singer will never want to work with you again.

If you’re a proficient sight reader, and you know your scales and arpeggios well, look at practicing some studies as part of your technical routine. Czerny is a good place to start, as well as some of the Bach inventions and sinfonias. Over time you can move onto Chopin studies and Bach Preludes and Fugues. Experiment with the music you like; just remember to keep practicing those scales!

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