Keyboard or Piano? A Teacher’s Perspective.

As a teacher, I experience inner conflict or dissonance, if you will, when an enthusiastic bright-eyed learner begins lessons with a keyboard as the home instrument. I thrive on bringing music into the life of this person, developing the ability to play, no matter the type of instrument. Yet, so often just around the corner, there arises a reluctance to practise followed by teacher and/or parental pressure to “nag” about this much-needed practice. The student’s initial enthusiasm wanes. Could a key motivator for the learner be the quality of sound produced by the instrument?

Let me explore this with my teaching hat on. At the piano I develop the ability in my student to descend in to the key, as if the finger was a brave parachutist falling securely on to a moss-covered trampoline, releasing the upper arm muscles simultaneously. The resulting sound can be rich and full with a singing resonance. String a few of these tones together, perhaps with a touch of pedal, and it can be likened to a thread of jewels gliding over an ocean. Compare this same movement with the keyboard key. One may liken it to an abrupt landing on a rocky surface. Ouch! Because of the different mechanism, the resulting sound may be harsh and edgy just like the landing. Indeed, pain and tension in the fingers, wrist and forearm may develop over time. I ask myself, would I delight in practising after this experience? Or say I am too busy to find the time…

While portability and lower cost can be attractive features of the keyboard, one must be made aware that keyboard and piano technique differ greatly. The movements learned at the keyboard can be difficult to unlearn if the real desire of the student is to play the piano. After experiencing the vibrant colours able to be drawn from this great instrument, there will be no going back. The piano may just have you hooked… line and sinker.

Teresa de Vries
A Teacher’s Perspective