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Have I outgrown my digital piano? (Read 1030 times)

Offline joe_mama

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Have I outgrown my digital piano?
« on: February 16, 2020, 07:26:12 PM »
So I've been playing for about 3-4 or years, and recently, I've started taking the piano more seriously. I have been playing on a Yamaha P-35 digital piano, and it's served me very well.

But now, I've started playing some harder pieces, the main one of which being the first movement of Beethoven's Pathetique sonata, and I have a lot of trouble playing the tremolos at home. They generally feel slow and heavy. However when I play at my teacher's, or at school, who have an upright piano and a Yamaha grand respectively, I don't feel a problem. Also I feel like in a lot of moments my dynamic control is awkward, again feeling fine on my teacher's or school's piano.

Is this something that I can work through, and if so, do I have to make any technique changes to do this? Or have I just outgrown my piano?

Offline quantum

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Re: Have I outgrown my digital piano?
«Reply #1 on: February 16, 2020, 08:43:53 PM »
Welcome to Pianostreet!

If you are at the level where you are learning Pathetique then you should have regular access to practicing on an acoustic piano.  Digital pianos have their place, even for professional pianists, however at the stage of learning you have described an acoustic will teach you things about touch and tone you can not get from a digital piano. 

Digital pianos are good for silent practice, or as a portable gig instrument, or as a MIDI controller.  However, fundamental piano technique is best learned on an acoustic piano. 

Your teacher would be in a better position to help you with specific difficulties on the tremolos, as they have witnessed your playing in person.  You can also look up the topic here on Pianostreet, as the Pathetique tremolos have been discussed on numerous occasions. 

Looking at the specs for the P-35, it has a max polyphony of just 32 notes.  That's not much as holding down the pedal counts for polyphony.  Long pedals, such as encountered in romantic or impressionist period music, might result in dropped notes. 

An acoustic piano will simply be far more responsive to touch and allow you to more closely relate touch with tone.  The action on an acoustic will give you tactile feedback and a visual reference as to how playing a key relates to hammers striking a string, as well as the connection between the damper pedal and the dampers making contact or lifting off the strings.  Acoustic pianos are almost always more responsive when tackling more technically demanding repertoire, such as the Beethoven Sontata you are studying. 
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Online ranjit

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Re: Have I outgrown my digital piano?
«Reply #2 on: February 16, 2020, 09:50:05 PM »
quantum -- Just how well can a good digital compensate for an acoustic, in your experience? The P35 is an entry model, and you also have Clavinovas and the N2 in the Yamaha series (Kawai etc. have some models as well), which are meant to simulate touch much more accurately. Would they work fine for a while?

To the OP -- I play on a digital as well, and it has been my experience that tremolos and fast repeated notes are difficult to pull off. Fast repeated notes are sometimes impossible on an upright due to the action though -- the grand piano has a double escapement action which allows for it, don't know the details of how it works. Pedalling most definitely works differently on a digital piano as well, as there is no gradation, and far less sustain (you have max polyphony 32 notes, but you can even tell the difference when the polyphony is 128 or even 256 notes.)

Offline quantum

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Re: Have I outgrown my digital piano?
«Reply #3 on: February 16, 2020, 10:54:08 PM »
Digital pianos are getting better all the time, however they are still far from the experience of playing an acoustic.  Even an entry level vertical will give more gradation in tone than the majority of DP's out there.  All acoustic pianos permit the pianist a direct tactile and sensory experience: from the physical action of touching a key, through to the piano action resulting in a sounded pitch.  On an acoustic, one gets a true sense of using the action to propel the hammer towards the string.  On an acoustic, one gets a true sense of damper felts coming into contact with the strings, fostering the understanding the damper pedal is not simply an on/off switch. 

Although the OP may not need a grand at the moment, as ranjit points out, it's action is clearly superior.  On a grand action, one is able to sound a note repeatedly without requiring a key to be fully returned to rest.  This allows faster repetition, aids playing legato in passages with repeated notes, and can even allow you the effect of pedalling repeated notes without using the damper pedal.  As is relevant to the OP, this action allows trills and tremolos to be executed with less movement of the keys and more economy of movement from the pianist. It is easier to play tremolos on a grand!  Grands also offer an una corda (left) pedal offering a change in tonal quality for softer passages, of which digital pianos are not even close to reproducing the possible gradations.

Digital pianos a great, as long as one understands their limitations.  There are situations where DP's are advantageous: such as when requiring a portable gig instrument or when needing MIDI.  However, for a developing pianist the issue is that they have not cultivated their technique to the point where they can determine whether a technical fault is physical or due to the limitations of a digital instrument.  The reduced tactile, visual, and aural feedback from a digital piano can lead to frustrations in solving problems, as the developing pianist can become unsure of why there is little or no response when they try something out. 

When teaching students about things like the piano action and pedalling, I may open up the piano and show them what is happening.  If the pianist is aware of how the instrument works they are better prepared to make full use of the instrument's resources.

On a digital piano, sound is pushed out to you through speakers or headphones.  On an acoustic piano, sound resonates in space.  When you play an acoustic you are immersed in the space in which tone develops, it is an organic and fluid experience.  On an acoustic piano you can learn how to sculpt sound, how the room is part of the instrument, how to become aware of the the waveform changing in space.  An acoustic piano is essential for learning about tone production.

IMO, for the developing pianist, an acoustic piano is the clear choice.  For a pianist getting serious about piano study, regular practice on an acoustic is a necessity. 

Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline quantum

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Re: Have I outgrown my digital piano?
«Reply #4 on: February 16, 2020, 11:09:06 PM »
quantum -- Just how well can a good digital compensate for an acoustic, in your experience? The P35 is an entry model, and you also have Clavinovas and the N2 in the Yamaha series (Kawai etc. have some models as well), which are meant to simulate touch much more accurately. Would they work fine for a while?

I think the OP has reached a point where an acoustic piano is a serious consideration.  An upgrade to a better model digital piano would provide some benifits, but not as many as a move towards an acoustic. 

Also considering monetary cost, an acoustic could be more value for the money vs a high end digital.  If considering the used market, one may even be able to find a decent grand in the same price range as a new high end digital. 

An acoustic plus the currently owned P35 could provide tools from both perspectives to work with.
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline robert.chapmant

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Re: Have I outgrown my digital piano?
«Reply #5 on: April 02, 2020, 01:52:29 PM »
I love to play the piano very much, but unfortunately I haven't bought my own yet. ??? ??? ???