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practicing digital vs. practicing acoustic in silent mode (Read 4834 times)

Offline kawai_cs

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practicing digital vs. practicing acoustic in silent mode
« on: November 02, 2015, 09:22:59 PM »
I am wondering if anyone of you practices on an acoustic piano with the silent pedal on?
I currently practice on my digital - bought it several months ago thinking that it was a good instrument (artist series by Kawai) but I am getting more and more frustrated with its somewhat artificial sound, limited dynamics, etc.
When I play a grand (in my lessons) it is such a huge difference to my digital that I started thinking about getting an acoustic piano. The problem is that I can only practice very early in the morning and then in the evening so I cannot really play an acoustic.
While buying my digital I tried several acoustic uprights by Yamaha that had this silent pedal - and it was possible to turn it on so you don't even have to hold it with your foot.
However I am not sure how much more beneficial would it be to practice an acoustic piano almost always in silent mode vs practice a digital (with all its extras like recording, metronome)?
Chopin, 10-8 | Chopin, 25-12 | Haydn, HOB XVI:20

Offline dcstudio

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Re: practicing digital vs. practicing acoustic in silent mode
«Reply #1 on: November 02, 2015, 11:19:54 PM »

Just buying an acoustic won't guarantee that it will sound better... a small upright may sound worse than the digital.   The kawai artist series is actually one of the better ones..

Now of course if you can pick up a nice Kawai studio grand... or the like... well for sure that's the way to go..but  I can't afford one.. :) 

The digital piano is all balanced and the tone is digitally "in tune" 100%--when you play an acoustic often times you need to make adjustments to compensate for it's imperfections.   The sound of a good grand piano really cannot be matched by a digital instrument...they come close but... no cigar.

Now the digital will train your ears to be acutely aware of what is in tune and what is not.  Acoustic piano players have a tendency to just block that out because there's nothing you can do about it.. unless you can tune your own instrument.   I only played acoustic until I was in my mid-thirties--it was a tough crossover to the digital.   They are so convenient though and they can do so much if you know how to use them.  I can create compositions and arrange them completely on the keyboard...  I can make backing tracks, adjust the EQ--or even change the shape of the wave and create a sound that is uniquely my own.  In this respect it's really got the advantage over the acoustic.

So it depends on what purpose you have or your goals musically speaking--as to whether it would be beneficial or not.




Offline kawai_cs

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Re: practicing digital vs. practicing acoustic in silent mode
«Reply #2 on: November 03, 2015, 12:48:44 AM »
Thank you Dcstudio  :) You are making totally valid points in favor of digitals which I was beginning to forget since I set up my mind for getting an acoustic lately. Especially interesting is what you say about awareness what is in tune. That is so true - it works as you say.
Also all of the functions are great to have, too. I am not using any of those that you mention since I play exclusively classical music but recording is very helpful as well as metronome. I also like that there are samples of different pianos (studio grand, mellow, etc) which helps a little when I get annoyed with the digital sound.
I do have some trouble though with sound quality and evenness when I play a grand. It seems it is almost impossible to polish pieces up to performance level practicing on a digital only.
I would not like to spend money on a studio grand right now even if I had it. I think it would be much more satisfying to keep working and reward myself with e.g. a baby grand in a couple of years or so. It is just so nice to think that in a couple of years I will be far better and will buy myself a small grand - I just love that idea and it makes me totally happy :D
Chopin, 10-8 | Chopin, 25-12 | Haydn, HOB XVI:20

Offline dcstudio

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Re: practicing digital vs. practicing acoustic in silent mode
«Reply #3 on: November 03, 2015, 04:11:21 AM »
.  It seems it is almost impossible to polish pieces up to performance level practicing on a digital only.

that is so very true... it's really not possible.  It is best of course to be able to play both a digital and an acoustic.   Sometimes there are acoustic pianos at the library that you can play.. or if you are a church going person.. they almost always have an acoustic laying around--maybe you could sneak a bit of practice now and then.. 

The action on a grand can be so heavy when you are accustomed to a digital or even and upright.  Fatigue sets in quick if you aren't used to it.  The keys on an acoustic are not nearly as springy as on a digital--which can also be very frustrating.

now of course some pianos are so bad--due to poor maintenance I mean--that the digital is really a better choice.

Offline outin

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Re: practicing digital vs. practicing acoustic in silent mode
«Reply #4 on: November 03, 2015, 04:47:03 AM »
I am wondering if anyone of you practices on an acoustic piano with the silent pedal on?
I currently practice on my digital - bought it several months ago thinking that it was a good instrument (artist series by Kawai) but I am getting more and more frustrated with its somewhat artificial sound, limited dynamics, etc.
When I play a grand (in my lessons) it is such a huge difference to my digital that I started thinking about getting an acoustic piano. The problem is that I can only practice very early in the morning and then in the evening so I cannot really play an acoustic.
While buying my digital I tried several acoustic uprights by Yamaha that had this silent pedal - and it was possible to turn it on so you don't even have to hold it with your foot.
However I am not sure how much more beneficial would it be to practice an acoustic piano almost always in silent mode vs practice a digital (with all its extras like recording, metronome)?

I practice with both the silent mode and a digital. I live in a flat and my morning practice is very important for me, so I have to. During the summer months the digital is at the cabin so I use the silent only. During the winter I also practice with the digital.

I think what my practice lacks most now is the absence of a grand. I notice the difference every week at my lessons where I can play with a grand. I have an U1 upright, which seems very lacking compared to any grand I have played. I also find the touch is affected by the silent system, it never feels "normal" to play compared to other uprights I have tried. And it feels different to play in the silent mode than the acoustic mode. From what I read the touch is not a problem with grands with silent action, only uprights. The silent bar forces them to set the hammers further from the keys and that affects the touch. So before buying a silent upright, I would try them out thorougly to see if this bothers you. I know not everyone finds the touch of the silents a problem at all, but for me it has been a source of tension that had been really hard to get rid of. And it doesn't help that the plastic keys are extremely slippery... The sound in the silent mode is not bad (and when the piano gets out of tune, it's good to have the option), but of course it is not "real", so I can never be sure if I really play something better or if it's just make believe from the high quality sampling :)

The touch of my digital (Roland) is a bit more more grand like, but the keys feel too light and I have trouble adjusting to it after playing my acoustic. The digital adjustment of the touch only affects the sound, not the actual feel of the keys. But when I practice with the digital for an extensive period, I find my playing gets less tense and I find it easier to adjust to my teacher's grand. So go figure...

I also worry about playing extensively with headphones, it cannot be good for one's hearing. The digital has speakers, so there is an option to just lower the volume at night. But that sort of practice soon messes up one's playing also, because acoustics are so much louder.

So there's no perfect solution (except getting a detached house and a nice grand). I would now buy a grand with a silent system, not an upright. Or just a normal acoustic and a digital to supplement. But if you really never can practice an acoustic (not even weekends?), then I would invest in a very good digital with the most grand like action you can find and tweak the sound as well as possible to be more pleasing to the ears.

Offline bronnestam

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Re: practicing digital vs. practicing acoustic in silent mode
«Reply #5 on: November 04, 2015, 09:19:25 PM »
When I participated in a small recital held by my teacher this spring, we had access to a real lovely grand (a Shigeru Kawai) at the venue, a real pleasure to play. My teacher was a bit astonished how good I played  ;D on this grand, much better than she had heard me doing before. I explained that it was because this wonderful grand was far more alike my digital at home (a digital Yamaha baby grand) than her big old upright, which I always have struggled with.

Anyway, since last summer I have played on more acoustic pianos in all kinds of shapes than I bother to count. At first encounter, it took me a while before I could adapt to the acoustic pianos. After a while I was able to shift from one piano to the other without even thinking about it. You get less sensitive to the difference in piano models when you have tried many ... just like learning to drive.

My digital here at home is a very good one and I play with headphones most of the time. No, this is not dangerous for my ears, on the contrary - I can turn the volume down quite a lot sometimes, just to spare my ears. Good when you practice more boring things or are in the beginning of learning something new ... I like the sound and the touch and feel. What I miss, compared to acoustics, especially the best grands, is the vibrating, physical feeling from wood and steel. Not just a big sound in my head, but also a feeling in my whole body. I also think there is a lighter action in acoustic keys, especially in the higher register, which makes trilling easier. I often also experience more physical depth then I press the keys on an acoustic grand.

Of course I would love to have an acoustic grand here in my home BUT ... I know I would not get many chances to play it. My house is small and we are 4 persons living here right now, plus two dogs ... I would get nervous and disturbed if I worked with something, er, less beautiful, like tedious exercises, and difficult pieces where I have to disassemble the piece in small, small fragments while I learn them. Must be terrible to listen to. No, that would not work. And I also hate when pianos are out of tune or when the pedals get noisy and squeaky.

So my own personal solution, for now, is to rely on my digital here at home, and then take the chance to try other pianos out whenever I get the chance.
I also conclude that the quality of the digital is essential. I would not stand a cheap, plastic digital in long terms, but the one I have does have real good action and weight. Would be even nicer with wooden keys, though ...

Offline kawai_cs

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Re: practicing digital vs. practicing acoustic in silent mode
«Reply #6 on: December 24, 2015, 10:53:25 PM »
Thank you for your comments guys. They are full of valid points that I need to consider. I have just read them once again, since I am again in "the phase" of thinking I need an acoustic.
I am working on some Mozart and one lyrical piece and I am just not able to polish those on the digital since the touch and the resulting sound are so distant to that of an acoustic instrument. The stuff sounds "fine" when I play at home - it sounds uneven, some keys are not sounding when I play an acoustic in my lessons.
@outin, that is really bad news to me that the silent mode feels so different from acoustic mode. That means I would have the same problem as I have now with my digital.
I am just wondering how about practicing acoustic piano with mute pedal?
I have just read some posts about soundproofing practice room - but then I though I would not like to practice in an isolated room with heavy curtains all over the place, no view and no fresh air from the window ::) What to do... I don't know.
Chopin, 10-8 | Chopin, 25-12 | Haydn, HOB XVI:20

Offline indianajo

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Re: practicing digital vs. practicing acoustic in silent mode
«Reply #7 on: December 25, 2015, 12:15:06 PM »
I bought the detached house, before I bought a piano.  Before I had the house, I had given up practice for 16 years to pursue education and financial stability.
That is easier to do in this country than some, where whole towns become obsolete with all their housing, as a result of economic shifts or work rules changes.  I found employment in a field that allowed me to work in unfashionable locations, while still allowing a decent house and nutrition. I don't participate in many fashionable entertainment venues or hobbies such as watching team sports or skiing, but then music is my main hobby.   In these locations I've paid much lower taxes than people in fashionable states, and am able to live now quite well at just above the official "poverty" level.  Piano is a cheap hobby.
I own only an acoustic piano. There is no "silent" function.   My practice room has no air flow or view, as I've blocked off the window with a wardrobe, but the neighbors report they can't hear me when I play at 3 AM.  I've picked a house where my music room is 10 m from the nearest house.  It is an obsolete "shotgun" house, which allows a living room of 4 m x 3.5 m x 11 m, which allows pleasant reverberations to enhance listening to  my hifi equipment. 

Offline kawai_cs

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Re: practicing digital vs. practicing acoustic in silent mode
«Reply #8 on: December 25, 2015, 01:31:26 PM »
@indianajo, that sounds very good to me,too :) I also do not care much for fashionable living area and fancy entertainment. I do care for a decent house and nutrition as well and luckily I was able to achieve that, too. I live in a nice, quiet area which actually has all you need. If I fancy to have some more sophisticated entertainment I do not find in my area I drive 2 hours to the nearest center.
I guess you live by yourself if you can practice at 3 am ;) This is the primary concern I have with an acoustic for I am seldom alone in my house.  
Chopin, 10-8 | Chopin, 25-12 | Haydn, HOB XVI:20

Offline outin

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Re: practicing digital vs. practicing acoustic in silent mode
«Reply #9 on: December 25, 2015, 03:11:26 PM »

@outin, that is really bad news to me that the silent mode feels so different from acoustic mode. That means I would have the same problem as I have now with my digital.


I suggest you try to find one in a piano shop and just try them out. It may not bother you at all, I seem to be a bit over sensitive to such issues.

Offline irrational

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Re: practicing digital vs. practicing acoustic in silent mode
«Reply #10 on: December 28, 2015, 08:45:44 AM »
My Bosey 130 came with a silent pedal that drops felt behind the hammers.
I don't like it, but when I need to practice quietly is certainly helps.
The action stays the same of course, but the notes don't sound particularly clear except the high trebles.
The bass still resonates nicely though and playing fortissimo is not all that quiet. It takes some getting used to, but I think a silent system in a piano, which I have never tried, is probably well worth it to a serious piano student.

I have played on several digitals to see what they are like. Once on a Yamaha display in a mall I tried the range from $2000-odd(DGX-something) up to $8000-odd (CVP-609). I hated them all. The action and touch is just simply terrible to me and the sound is off too. They are just not pianos.