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#1
Old 03-11-2012, 09:53 PM
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Please tell me about digital pianos/keyboards

(Asking for opinions la IMHO, but about musical instruments la Caf Society.)

I'd like to take up piano again, but I don't know anything about these newfangled digital keyboards. I gave up piano in the 1980s and never owned an electrical one, only the traditional acoustic kind. I loved classical piano lessons throughout childhood, but my goal this time around is to learn jazz.

What I need is something affordable, lightweight (easy to transport in my small SUV), and with a headphones option (so I can practice in my apartment without bothering my neighbors). It should have a piano-like touch. Some connectivity with my PC would be nice -- for recording -- but not necessary.

What would you recommend? Or, what qualities should I look for that I'm not considering?

Browsing the local craigslist ads today, I found this offer. Is it a good deal?

Many thanks in advance,
E.

Last edited by E. Thorp; 03-11-2012 at 09:53 PM.
#2
Old 03-11-2012, 10:19 PM
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Looks good to me!

These entry level pianos are decent for getting back into the fray. Obvious benefit is not having to tune them. Provided you stick with, I'd say it would serve you well for AT LEAST five years or so before you craved something with a more delicate touch. My old digital Kawai is still at grandma's, and although I love the color of the acoustic more, it's still a lovely instrument.
#3
Old 03-12-2012, 09:42 AM
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I agree with antonio107; this looks like a good deal. I currently have a weighted-key Yamaha (P-150) that I've owned for years and have always been happy with the feel and sounds - I would pay $500 for it now in its current condition. I've checked out Clavinovas in music stores, and they're all a step or two up from my board in features/looks.

Not the kind of rig to "play out" with, but great to have around the house without committing to the cost of an acoustic piano.

Last edited by Mixolydian; 03-12-2012 at 09:43 AM.
#4
Old 03-12-2012, 09:59 AM
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The Clavinova is a good instrument. I believe the new ones go for (or went for) about $5K. As long as it is in good condition, $500 is a good price.

Our school has 2 of them and they are the workhorses of the music department.
#5
Old 03-12-2012, 10:50 AM
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Yeah, probably pretty good. But, you said you wanted something light with a real piano feel . . . you should go to a good music store and play some. Yamaha makes a good variety of quality stage pianos that have a good piano feel and most of there are lighter than the Clavanova. Also Casio, yes, Casio, makes a well regarded digital piano. You should check those out too.

As far as recording on your computer you're going to need to look into midi/audio interfaces. There are lots of good USB / Firewire midi/audio interfaces in the $100 or so range, that work well.
#6
Old 03-12-2012, 12:08 PM
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Musician's Friend has a Yamaha that fits your requirements for 399.99 today only with free shipping.

http://musiciansfriend.com/keybo...03096000000000

You can get a MIDI to USB interface fairly inexpensively to connect it to a computer.
#7
Old 03-12-2012, 09:52 PM
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The Clavinova looks like an excellent deal, but Clavinovas aren't easily portable (one reason why the seller wants you to come pick it up with another person). The keyboard and stand (that has the pedals attached) are bolted together. Of course you can un-bolt it for moving but that's about as 'portable' as it gets.

If you really want portable you probably want to go with a keyboard and folding stand configuration.

I have a Casio Privia that I like well enough. I'm not a pianist, though.

You'd have to look pretty hard to find a digital piano that doesn't have midi in/out. A usb midi interface and simple midi recording software (most have free demo versions for downloading) will get you hooked up to your computer and depending on how handy you are with computers and digital audio the sky's the limit.
#8
Old 03-12-2012, 10:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by E. Thorp
Or, what qualities should I look for that I'm not considering?
Missed the edit window. One difference you'll notice between digital pianos is the type of display and controls. My Casio Privia has a 3 digit red LED display straight out of 1983, a volume knob, and a couple dozen dual-purpose buttons. Nothing fancy (pitch/mod wheels, joystick, etc.). As opposed to something like This.
#9
Old 03-12-2012, 10:28 PM
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I'll play devil's advocate, just to be nosy:

Electric pianos are versatile, have sounds like organs and trumpets and whatnot, play loud or quiet, etc. They also to me don't sound like a real piano, the keys don't feel like piano keys, the sustain pedal works imperfectly and doesn't sound right, etc. etc. These are real drawbacks if what you're looking for is a piano that sounds and plays like a real piano.

Good luck with whatever instrument you choose.
#10
Old 03-12-2012, 11:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by squeegee View Post
Electric pianos are versatile, have sounds like organs and trumpets and whatnot, play loud or quiet, etc. They also to me don't sound like a real piano, the keys don't feel like piano keys, the sustain pedal works imperfectly and doesn't sound right, etc. etc. These are real drawbacks if what you're looking for is a piano that sounds and plays like a real piano.
The good ones are amazingly close to an acoustic piano, both in sound and touch. Some allow you to control the amount of weighting and are velocity sensitive. Since they use actual samples of actual pianos, not synthesized equivalents, they can sound like an acoustic piano because they are reproducing an acoustic piano.

Plus you get all the other sounds as a bonus.
#11
Old 03-12-2012, 11:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Musicat View Post
The good ones are amazingly close to an acoustic piano, both in sound and touch. Some allow you to control the amount of weighting and are velocity sensitive. Since they use actual samples of actual pianos, not synthesized equivalents, they can sound like an acoustic piano because they are reproducing an acoustic piano.
I'm aware of how the sampling works; they've been doing something like that for years and years. The digitals I've heard sounded pretty okay when I played them, but it just didn't have the whole vibe and didn't suck me in like a real one would. And maybe that's just me.

I am curious though: would you say the OP's CLP-820 falls into the category of a "good one"? My impression is that it's quite midrange, but they don't make that model any longer and I can't find a reference to the original MSRP. And I know that digital pianos can cost up to multiple thousands of dollars. The only digitals I ever touched probably sold for less than $1000, so maybe I didn't get the full digital treatment that a higher-end model gives you.

Quote:
Plus you get all the other sounds as a bonus.
Yeah, that is pretty fun. Playing a Bach invention on harpsichord or Tocatta & Fugue in Dm on a "huge" pipe organ is way cool.
#12
Old 03-13-2012, 12:19 AM
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A little more info on the CLP-820 that I google-fu'd:

this page from Yamaha states that it was introduced in 1998 for whatever that is worth.

Here's a thread much like this one asking about a used 820 as a purchase. There's some good back and forth in there, plus a comment that the 820 was sold from '98 through 2004, so apparently it was liked and sold well.

Here's the 820 product manual.

To the OP: I think the $500 price may be high, but I can't seem to dig up a good a reference that says so. Go play it, listen to it for honest tone that you really enjoy, check that you like the key feel. Then bargain the seller down $100. I don't know what the seller paid, but it's at least 8 years old, minimum, and maybe up to 14 yo, so I don't think he's expecting a premium. Also, check every key, every button that it works as expected. If the keys are weighted, that's a mechanical thing that can break; and it's electronic so those electronic buttons inside the keys or inside the front panel can get dirty or break. Give it a proper workover.

Last edited by squeegee; 03-13-2012 at 12:22 AM.
#13
Old 03-13-2012, 12:29 AM
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Yamaha CLP marketing video. It does sounds pretty nice there.
#14
Old 03-13-2012, 12:39 AM
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Missed the edit: I think the EP being demo'd in that video is much newer than that 820, so bring a couple grains of salt re features and tone.
#15
Old 03-13-2012, 08:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by squeegee View Post
I'm aware of how the sampling works; they've been doing something like that for years and years. The digitals I've heard sounded pretty okay when I played them, but it just didn't have the whole vibe and didn't suck me in like a real one would. And maybe that's just me.
There could be a number of reasons, one of them psychological. Perhaps you are subject to the same personal bias as those who insist that "no CD sounds as good as vinyl".

Digital pianos usually have more than one setting for "acoustic piano" like grand small grand, big grand, upright, spinet, grand in small room, grand in big room, etc. and settings like decay, reverb, etc. will color your perception.

And the amps and speakers that come with some models like the Clavinova aren't up to my standards for HiFi, either. Just like a portable MP3 player with cheap earphones, plug the line output into a decent sound system and you might like the instrument a lot better.
#16
Old 03-13-2012, 04:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by squeegee View Post
I'm aware of how the sampling works; they've been doing something like that for years and years. The digitals I've heard sounded pretty okay when I played them, but it just didn't have the whole vibe and didn't suck me in like a real one would. And maybe that's just me.
Have you heard/played a Yamaha digital lately (in the last one or two years)? I've been pretty impressed by the recent ones. It is still possible to tell that it isn't a real piano, but damn if it wasn't a more pleasant experience, and closer to playing a fine Yamaha grand, than playing many of the real pianos I've played in my life.

I am told that as long as you get weighted keys, that's fine for a beginning piano student. Casio makes a weighted-key keyboard that at least one of my friends bought for her son's piano lessons, is fairly portable, and I Best Buy says it's $550; Amazon has it for $500. I'd definitely check that out and compare it to the one you have found on Craigslist.

Yamaha keyboards tend to sound slightly better and also tend to be slightly more expensive. For a beginning student I would say the difference in quality doesn't necessarily matter, but when I was looking at keyboards (I have quite a lot of classical music training) I could tell the difference. For a portable keyboard, I highly recommend the Yamaha P series. The P95 was the top of the line five years ago and is available for $550 from amazon. We got the P155 which is the current P-series top-of-the-line (I think there is an even-more top-of-the-line digital piano, but we wanted a portable keyboard just in case we had to carry it anywhere) and cost us about $1500 (two years ago; amazon seems to have it for $1000 these days) and which feels noticeably better (to my fingers; most people I know can't tell) than the P95. (this is why I ask squeegee if he's played one in the last couple of years, as the P85 did not convince me, but I do find the P155 convincing.)

ETA: I would be really surprised if something that came out in 1998 sounded and felt really convincing. They've made great strides in the last fourteen years in the sound and feel of digital pianos. For that price, too, I'd totally recommend getting a newer model.

Last edited by raspberry hunter; 03-13-2012 at 04:29 PM.
#17
Old 03-13-2012, 04:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by squeegee View Post
the sustain pedal works imperfectly and doesn't sound right, etc. etc.
After my paean to digital pianos in the last post, I have to agree with this part, actually. There's something about the mechanical working of the sustain pedal on a piano that I think will never quite carry over. Something about the way it reverbs physically, I suspect. But again, for anyone but the really finicky I'm not sure it's all that noticeable -- it's good enough for practice.

Oh, other things I love about having a digital keyboard rather than a real piano: a) I can turn the volume down when people are sleeping, and b) it has an organ sound as well, so I can "practice organ" when I have to play it for church. (I put it in scare quotes because I can't actually do foot pedaling at all, so what I do is really quasi-piano playing rather than true organ playing.)
#18
Old 03-13-2012, 04:39 PM
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Originally Posted by raspberry hunter View Post
ETA: I would be really surprised if something that came out in 1998 sounded and felt really convincing.
I bought my Kurzweil PC88 in 1998, and it still sounds/feels pretty convincing. I tried a Yamaha Clavinova in a showroom a couple of weeks ago, and it didn't blow my PC88 away like I thought it would. Neither of them is the same as playing an acoustic (which I also have), but don't automatically discount digital keyboards just 'cause they're old.
#19
Old 03-13-2012, 04:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raspberry hunter View Post
ETA: I would be really surprised if something that came out in 1998 sounded and felt really convincing. They've made great strides in the last fourteen years in the sound and feel of digital pianos. For that price, too, I'd totally recommend getting a newer model.
Huh. I'll have to go out and check some new models out. I remember being very impressed with the Yamahas and even Rolands circa 1995. If the models today are that much better, I might just have to trash my dumpy spinet.
#20
Old 03-13-2012, 04:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Misnomer View Post
I bought my Kurzweil PC88 in 1998, and it still sounds/feels pretty convincing. I tried a Yamaha Clavinova in a showroom a couple of weeks ago, and it didn't blow my PC88 away like I thought it would. Neither of them is the same as playing an acoustic (which I also have), but don't automatically discount digital keyboards just 'cause they're old.
Quote:
Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
Huh. I'll have to go out and check some new models out. I remember being very impressed with the Yamahas and even Rolands circa 1995. If the models today are that much better, I might just have to trash my dumpy spinet.
Okay! 'm interested that you didn't think the Clavinova wasn't all that, because the one I tried out sounded pretty nice, to me. But it's very possible I'm dissing old keyboards unfairly -- before we bought this keyboard, I think the last time I checked on keyboards was, in fact, the early 90's, and we lived in a small enough place that, now that you mention it, I'm pretty sure we weren't getting the nice models. So I guess I was easily impressed
#21
Old 03-13-2012, 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by raspberry hunter View Post
Okay! 'm interested that you didn't think the Clavinova wasn't all that, because the one I tried out sounded pretty nice, to me.
That's my point: not that the Clavinova didn't sound/feel great, but that it didn't blow my PC88 away.
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