People ask me all the time about using a keyboard to practice for their piano lessons. I have several thoughts on that subject.
First, a keyboard is better than nothing.
Second, get the best keyboard you can afford, expecting to upgrade later.
Third, have the touch set at the most difficult or the firmest possible. One difficulty children have in using a keyboard is that it may fail to develop the finger strength necessary to play well on another instrument. We work on that in lesson and my exercises are very important. It's alright if the keys seem very hard to press at first. Your child will grow finger strength. You will help the process along if you will check to see if the firmness of the touch can be adjusted to maximum on your keyboard.
Fourth, at least for the first six months, use the organ setting rather than the piano setting for all practice sessions. Children who learn on a keyboard have trouble remembering to pick up their fingers, and will seemingly hold a note indefinitely. On the electronic instrument with piano setting, the sound fades quite quickly and after the fade there are no consequences of holding the key down. On the acoustic piano, the results of holding a key down are quite drastic. Even if the sound has faded to our ear, holding the key down releases the damper for that note and lets it resonate freely when other notes are played. The result is a muddiness of sound, a lack of clarity and beauty, and a growing dislike in your child for piano lessons. You can greatly reduce this difficulty if you will see that the organ setting is activated on your electronic piano. The organ setting lets the key continue to sound electronically until the finger is lifted. This lets your child understand the need to lift the fingers when not needing that note. If your child has already become used to the electronic piano setting, he or she may not like the change to organ because it really doesn't sound good, but if you and your child persist, the sound will clear up and the skills gained will be transferable to any instrument.
Here I have discussed the purchase of electronic versus acoustic piano for the purpose of learning piano/keyboard. Now I wish to discuss the question of electronic or acoustic use in church and other musical venues. In order to do that, I will need to explain a bit about resonance which we just mentioned.
Electronic versus Acoustic Resonances
Music is made by vibrations. What vibrates in a piano? The piano strings vibrate, long thick strings for low sounds and short thin strings for high sounds. What vibrates on a violin? Strings again. So what vibrates in a flute? The air inside the barrel of the flute vibrates, a long closed barrel for low notes, a shorter closed barrel for higher notes.
There are at least three ways a piano string vibrates.
First, when the hammer strikes, the struck string sets up one vibration that should match expectations for the key that was struck. When you let go of the key, the damper shuts down the vibration on that string. You can press the damper pedal to refuse the damper''s return, thus keeping all strings free to vibrate.
Second, each string vibrates with overtones or harmonics. The whole length of the string vibrates, and while that''s happening there''s a secondary vibration that takes up each half length of the string. While those two vibrations are sounding, there's a tertiary vibration that takes up each quarter length of the string. This division of string length and multiplication of sound keeps happening infinitesimally though we can''t hear it all. These extra sounds are called overtones or harmonics and they add richness to the sound.
Third, if not damperd, a string will vibrate in sympathy with another string that has similar or divisible vibration frequency. So when you play a single note with the damper pedal down, there are many other strings sounding along with the one you chose. This sympathetic vibration is called resonance.
Resonance and harmonics bring joy to the musician artist, somewhat the same as when someone's comments "resonate" with you and you feel a sense of connection and being understood. This joy in the resonance and harmonics is important as both goal and reward to musicians.
One set of human vocal cords can produce vibrations which could be called harmonics, and those vibrations setting the air vibrating in the hollow spaces in the mouth and nose is called resonance. We might say such and such a person's voice has great resonance; it is pleasant to listen to.
In a church sanctuary or concert hall, one must consider further resonances and harmonics. The space in the main hall is filled with air like the barrel of a flute. It vibrates in resonance, and with its own harmonics. That is why choirs find joy in singing in the great cathedrals where the rooms are alive with resonance and harmonics.
Now let's think about electronic sound. Most current keyboard manufacturers have gone to great lengths to record the real piano, or violin, or flute sound for each key separately with all its resonances and harmonics. This is a great improvement over the first keyboards.
The first time that electronic sound, no matter how carefully recorded, becomes live with living resonances and harmonics is when it sends its sound into the space of a room, as into the flute barrel. Here the resonances and harmonics can dance together to bring joy to the musicians. Electronic sound can be amplified in volume to the point that it resonates directly with the listener's sternum rather than depending on the resonances of the surrounding space.
These, then, are my concluding observations, given the fact that resonances and harmonics are the goal and reward of musicians and their audiences. 1) Acoustic instruments can gain the goal even without good room space. 2) If electronic instruments don't have good room space, like a large or small barrel in which the sound can resound, the musicians and audience will crave increased volume to gain the goal directly on their bodies.
Therefore, acoustic instruments are better than electronic for small, intimate work outdoors or in large spaces, or in acoustically difficult spaces. Further therefore, large electronic church organs work well because professionals have studied the space and placed the speakers for best resonant use of the space. And a final therefore, portable electronic instruments and amplification systems would do well with professional study and careful consideration of the resonant qualities of their performance space in order to attain the goal they crave.
These are my opinions concluded from study about resonance. I would love to hear your comments, corrections, and expansions.