"Music for Everyone, All Ages "
1515 WARREN STREET, (NORTHSHORE) PITTSBURGH, PA 15212-3332
(412) 322-0520                                             info@KikuchiMusic.com
                                                                     Founder: Lee W. Kikuchi

NEW STUDENT TUTORIAL
INFO FOR PARENTS

Studying Voice

INSTRUMENTS

GETTING AN INSTRUMENT
Although the actual cost of lessons is often much more than the cost of a musical instrument, it is usually the cost of the instrument that prevents many people from starting music lessons. This is most true for the piano, and often true for stringed instruments. Below is some information and advice about instruments, and the general progress a student makes from beginner inexpensive to very expensive instruments. The student/parents usually have many more affordable options than they realize.

(If you have not chosen an instrument, see CHOOSING AN INSTRUMENT.)

NON-PIANO INSTRUMENT OPTIONS
School Loans: Many public school music programs make loaned instruments available to their students, which at least gets them started. Once interest is proven, the parents and/or student can investigate purchasing an instrument to keep. If your school does not loan instruments, you may need to consider renting or buying.

Renting: Many instruments can be rented for a minimal cost from stores such as Volkwein’s and Music Innovations. Usually, they require either a credit check or deposit and the monthly fees range from $10 to $70, depending on the instrument. Some wind instruments are quite expensive to rent because their inherent cost is high. Stringed instruments are usually inexpensive because the stores only rent very low cost “student” models. (See lists of stores below.)

Student Instrument: Many manufacturers produce lines of instruments called “student models”. They are less expensive due to considerations in materials, design and quality control. Used instruments which have suffered from use are also considered student instruments. Student instruments also often come in different sizes, and as the student grows, the next size must be acquired to match. A student instrument is generally good enough for about 5-7 years of study depending on the student’s progress. After that point, the student’s ability will actually exceed the quality of the instrument and the student will need a better quality instrument in order to sound better and to effect more nuances of sound. In most cases a student instrument costs between $200 and $1000 depending on the instrument.

Pre-Professional Instrument: Once the student shows serious interest in pursuing music as a career, the student should begin pursuit of a pre-professional instrument. This should happen ideally before the student auditions for music school, but can happen sometime in the freshman year of college. Instruments at this level are between $5000 and $30,000 depending on the instrument. Most dealers will accept the student instrument as trade-in toward the cost of a higher grade instrument, but if you order a new instrument directly from a maker, they will not accept trade-ins.

Professional Instrument: When a musician is accepted to a high paying performance group such as a symphony or when the musician has the income to afford it, a professional grade instrument will be needed. Many major symphonies have programs to help their new members acquire high grade instruments (loans, and pay deductions), as they have a desire to ensure the best quality sound on the stage. The concert masters of several major symphonies actually play million-dollar Stradivarius violins that are owned by the symphony.

PIANO OR KEYBOARD?
Every piano and voice student MUST have a keyboard type instrument, and no piano or voice student can begin lessons until she/he has an instrument on which to practice. (The voice student needs it to get pitches, and to learn basic music theory.) The two options available are pianos and keyboards, and both are described in greater detail below. There are many affordable solutions, depending on the goals and needs of the student/family, but careful planning and consideration should be given to issues of upgrading, if the family/student chooses a lesser option based on finances. (Students beginning with an inexpensive keyboard will need to upgrade to something better with two years, and the family will need to plan for that financial necessity.)

PIANO OPTIONS
Ideally every piano (and voice) student should own or have readily accessible a real acoustic piano (whether upright or grand). Unlike an electronic keyboard which may lack important features, a real piano will always have the features/qualities needed to learn how to play properly (unless it has major mechanical problems). In addition, a piano has true furniture value for the home and its presence can often foster a much stronger desire to learn and practice.

Pianos may be purchased or rented, and must be tuned and maintained with regularity. New pianos can be quite expensive starting at $10,000 and topping at over $200,000 for the largest concert grands. However, it is often quite possible to obtain a decent used piano at stores, through the Pennysaver, and at estate sales for a mere fraction of the purchase price.

If the cost or space in the home make the purchase of an acoustic piano prohibitively difficult, an electronic keyboard can easily suffice for quite some time - if carefully selected.

New Pianos: All new pianos are purchased through piano stores that carry specific manufacturer’s piano lines. A buyer may order a piano, especially if it has special features that a floor model does not have, or may purchase a piano off the floor. The advantage to purchasing off the floor is that the buyer can play it to test it for sound and feel. Most higher end pianos such as Steinway are ordered and the floor models are used just for buyers to try. New pianos always come with a warranty against defects, include free delivery and an initial tuning. Dealers will often include a piano bench as incentive if the buyer shows need of salesmanship. A new piano will cost $10,000 to $100,000.

Used Pianos: All piano stores carry both new and used pianos and the used pianos usually carry a store warranty, especially if it has had refurbishing or in-store repairs. Stores will often pay for delivery and initial tuning for used pianos, so be sure to consider that when trying to buy one through an ad or from a friend. A used piano from a store can cost $500 to $50,000, but you should probably avoid any piano that is less than $3000.

Price Shopping: The prices of pianos can vary widely from store to store, even on the exact same make and model. In fact the price is more affected by the store’s location than anything else. A piano in a Pittsburgh store costing $5000, might cost only $4000 in a store in West Virginia or Greensburg. To save the most on pianos be sure to shop around, but be aware that when buying a new instrument the manufacturers place geographical restrictions on the stores so you may not be able to buy a new piano in West Virginia in order to save money.

KEYBOARD OPTIONS
If an acoustic piano is not currently an option, the student should have an adequate electronic keyboard. Selecting the right keyboard is a matter of coordinating what the student needs with the financial resources available. The qualities and features necessary to learn how to play piano are not fulfilled by every kind of keyboard.

Digital piano: The second best choice after a real acoustic piano is a digital piano. The word digital guarantees that the instrument produces sounds as close to an acoustic piano as is currently possible, and the word piano indicates that the instrument explicitly has all the features which can be found in a piano: 1) Full size keys; 2) All 88-keys (many keyboards have as few as 61 keys); 3) Touch sensitivity (hit a key hard-it is loud / hit a key lightly-it is quiet); 4) One or two foot pedals; 5) weighted keys (they feel balanced and not springy); 6) Correct tuning (A=440); and 7) A stable stand that keeps the keyboard at the standard height. Digital pianos typically cost $1000-$5000 new (or less if on sale or used), and the advantages include: no maintenance or tuning, portability, playable with headphones, and lots of neat sounds for experimentation. Disadvantages include: repairs can be difficult with parts hard to find, it will eventually break or develop problems which are not fixable, and it is not an attractive piece of furniture. N.B. Be very careful when buying a used keyboard or digital piano, as often a new piano of the same quality will cost only a little more and comes with a warranty.

Electronic keyboard: The third best choice is an electronic keyboard, which is virtually everything that is not the digital piano from the smallest child’s toy to the expensive synthesizers used by rock bands. Therefore, many electronic keyboards are simply not usable for piano or vocal study. Although the cheapest keyboards will lack one or more of the important piano features listed above, an expensive keyboard does not guarantee them. In fact, some very expensive keyboards can lack many of these piano features because they are meant to provide sound effects and connect to computerized systems which are characteristics a digital piano may or may not have. When purchasing an electronic keyboard the required features are 1) Full size keys; 2) Correct tuning (A=440); and 3) Touch sensitivity. Very important, but not required right away are: 1) All 88-keys, 2) A sustain pedal (may be an accessory ordered separately), and 3) weighted keys. A beginning piano student will not need all 88 keys for about 2 years of study depending on age and rate of progress, and a young student will not need to use pedal for about the same length of time or until he or she is big enough to reach it.

Vocal students may never need these features, as the keyboard will be used primarily to give pitches and pick out melodies. Since certain features are not immediately important, it is quite possible to purchase a keyboard for $200-$500 that can suffice for a couple years, with the intent of upgrading to either a digital or acoustic piano after the student progresses and interest continues.

However, all the features listed above are important and every effort should be made to meet them so that the student develops a feel for the keyboard that is most similar to what she/he will experience in the teaching studio. The simple fact that a student practices on a different instrument from what is used in the lesson is just one more variable that can make the learning experience more difficult. The better the keyboard from the start, the longer the student will likely study.

Choosing a Model: The features above are what are needed, and virtually every manufacturer makes keyboards that have them all, and cheaper models that do not. The prices keep coming down every year, and a full digital piano that cost almost $2000 only a year ago is now less than $1000.
In the Yamaha line of pianos, the Clavinova is considered the industry standard and is used by schools and piano teachers all over the country. The Yamaha digital piano “P” series is good and any model “P-100” or higher is excellent. Casio, Roland and Korg also make fine digital pianos.

LOCAL MUSIC INSTRUMENT REPAIRS:

Kretzmer’s String Shoppe
12 Hawley Ave. Suite 2
Bellevue, PA 15202-1321
(412) 732-9184

Phillip Injeian Violin Shop
905 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222-3801
(412) 562-0600
M-F 10-6; Sa 10:30-3

Musik Innovations
9795 Perry Hwy.
Pittsburgh, PA 15090-9700
(800) 677-TUNE (8863)
(412) 366-3631

Volkwein’s
RIDC Park West
138 Industry Dr.
Pittsburgh, PA 15275-1014
(I-279 Montour Run Exit)
(800) 553-8742
(412) 788-5900

 

LOCAL MUSIC INSTRUMENT DEALERS:

Phillip Injeian Violin Shop
905 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222-3801
(412) 562-0600
M-F 10-6; Sa 10:30-3

Musik Innovations
9795 Perry Hwy.
Pittsburgh, PA 15090-9700
(800) 677-TUNE (8863)
(412) 366-3631

Volkwein’s
RIDC Park West
138 Industry Dr.
Pittsburgh, PA 15275-1014
(I-279 Montour Run Exit)
(800) 553-8742
(412) 788-5900

Brighton Music Center
2110 Babcock Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15209-1358
(412) 821-5908

 

 

 

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