Just as prestigious in the world of music as boxing is in the sporting world, the piano is the preferred instrument for musicians and composers around the world.
It’s the 2nd most popular instrument in France - just after the guitar, and far ahead of the violin and saxophone - and also boasts the largest number of players of any instrument, when you combine together everyone playing acoustic uprights, keyboards, electric, and digital pianos.
Piano music also seems to have a much longer shelf life than the average pop song - Beethoven was the most played artist in the world in 2016. To general surprise, it also turns out that Vladimir Putin is a pianist and can bust out some old Soviet songs when sat on a piano bench.
While we’re still finding hidden treasures in old acoustic pianos across the pond, it’s generally electric pianos on which piano students are discovering chords and octaves for the first time today.
In this article we’ll walk you through what you need to do to learn to play an electric piano, list the best electric pianos to buy now, and talk about the future of this popular (and fairly high tech!) instrument.
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Different learning methods for the electric piano
There are many ways to learn to play the piano - you can find free online classes, sign up for evening lessons, or enroll in a summer program.
The traditional way to learn
Learning the traditional way often includes learning some music theory, and a bit about the history of the piano. This is a common curriculum for those learning how to play the piano, and is generally the way courses at music schools and conservatories are taught. Music teachers at these schools generally have a degree in music.
Alternative ways to learn
Alternative learning methods usually still include a mix of theory and practical exercises, but the teaching is more hands on during piano lessons, with the goal of progressing the student quickly.
When you're beginning piano, you can find paid and free online piano lessons for the budding musician that focus on:
- the keys and learning the notes by name
- simple pieces of music to learn and breaking down piano scales and chords one key at a time
- the correct posture and hand position to adopt when facing a piano
- The height of the keyboard - learning to position yourself properly and find the right keys - and work on your fingering
- Learning your first chords and how to play multiple notes at one time, especially using your left hand
- An introduction to piano history - from the first acoustic pianos, right up to today’s digital pianos
- Learning how to use the piano pedals, especially the the soft pedal (or una corda), the sostenuto pedal, and the sustaining pedal (or damper pedal)
- Learn the different variations on the notes including sharps and flats, how to recognize a wrong note, and learning to play by ear.
A method based on inspiration
In contrast to all the other ways to learn the piano this method is often used to free its players of stress and depression via music or piano therapy.
It allows the player to express their feelings through music, and to share what's on their mind (and in their hearts) without first taking a class in music theory.
This method can be summarized in 3 words:
- And play again
This innovative method places the creativity of the student as paramount and helps them compose their own pieces of music. Without any constraints, the players are freed to let their imagination and hands run free on the keys and work on their improvisation.
However, its worth noting that this method would not be appropriate for anyone who’s hoping to become a virtuoso or study classical music. You won't really be learning about reading music, major scale progressions, notation or octaves, so it’s more a way to learn piano for people open to any style of music.
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What’s the best electric piano for performing?
Once you’ve been introduced to the electric piano, your level of playing can quickly progress from beginner to professional, and you'll usually start to want to share your music with others, now that you're a proper piano player.
It’s worth keeping these future performances, concerts, or even jam sessions in mind when you’re considering what kind of piano to buy.
Just like with acoustic pianos, there are good and bad electric pianos. Some are perfectly good for playing the piano and practicing in the house, but play poorly in large spaces when their acoustics are complicated by the noise of an audience.
Besides the sound, it’s worth considering how easy an electric piano will be to move and cart around to live performances.
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The electric piano Clavia Nord Stage 2 EX
Considered one of the best portable digital pianos for performances, the Nord Stage 2 EX is made by the Clavia brand. And it takes up much less space than a grand piano.
This model includes a range of different piano recordings, as well as an additional gigabyte of storage. The factory bank includes:
- 5 grand pianos
- 7 upright pianos
- 11 electric pianos
- and a bank of recordings including choral, folk, and string instruments.
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Looking forward: learning to play the electric piano
Whether it’s sports, administration, or journalism, computers have changed and continue to change the way people communicate and work, and improve productivity.
Music, and more specifically, pianos, have also been touched by this sea of change, and whether you’re taking music classes at a music school, conservatory, or with a private teacher you’re sure to run into some of the new technology as you begin to learn to play piano.
Like any form of teaching and learning, music and piano are now in version 2.0, with some traditional methods being tossed aside for the new and exciting. Before you get too excited though, it's worth pointing out that no new technology can eliminate the need for regular practicing until you can play with your left hand and right hand seamlessly in tune, running across the white and black keys.
These technologies include:
- More interactive - with all the new touch screens now filling our bags, it’s easy to download a piano app for your tablet or cell phone.
- More analysis - thanks to all the data that’s been accumulated by digital instruments and digitized music.
- More freedom - which makes it easier to teach yourself. Thanks to online classes, it’s much easier today than it used to be to teach yourself how to play piano.
- More immersive - all these new technologies help you immerse yourself in the music, whether it’s artificial intelligence, augmented reality, or virtual reality.
In order to really understand the sea change that’s taken place, check out some of the new innovations and apps that are reinventing the way we approach music and the electric piano.
Would you like to learn how to play the digital piano?
Speechi makes those giant interactive learning screens you often see in classrooms, similar to Smart Boards, and they’ve made helping to teach music one of their key goals. Using their tools a musician can learn:
- how to read notes
- work on their ear for music
- learn about the keybed and keys of a piano.
By using their One Smart Piano, which is a physical ‘smart’ piano, learning to play the piano becomes fun, easy, and interactive. One of the One Smart Piano's novel points is that you can connect it to an app on your smart phone or tablet to access even more features while you play, and help you really learn all about octaves, basic chords, and identifying middle C.
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Teomirn - when augmented reality can immerse you in learning the electric piano.
It’s still in the development phase, but the Teomirn project has the possibility of changing everything about the way we learn and play the electric piano today…
It’s the kind of thing that would make Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin turn in their graves!
It’s also probably not something for technophobes, as it’s the first project which has ever used augmented reality to teach music.
It’s being made by a Japanese team, and the electric piano and its associated app offers two different ways to layer 3D elements over your piano keyboard.
- A ‘watch’ mode, where you can learn how to play the piano through observation. You watch a short piece that you’ve chosen be played by a pianist, and the different keys on the piano are highlighted using different colors
- A dynamic mode, in which a virtual keyboard and pair of hands appear on the screen. The Teomirn technology, helps you shadow the hands of the professional, and work through the notes of the piece of music you’ve chosen.
It’s important to keep in mind that while Teomirn is focused on making it easier to learn instruments, and specifically how to play the piano, the team behind the app doesn’t have any plan to also include the traditional theoretical part that normally accompanies the practical study of piano, so piano players will still need to learn how to read sheet music and sight reading on their own.
This method may please beginning pianists, but it does fly in the face of the traditional emphasis placed on music theory by music teachers.
This project has received considerable attention from budding pianists of any age - adult or child, as well as music fans and technology enthusiasts. It was recently demoed in a YouTube video - learn to play the piano - using Microsoft Hololens.
However, the project isn’t yet commercialized and the head of the project Ayato Fujii, is currently searching for investors and partners. So for most of us, it’ll be months and probably even years before we can start learning to play the piano through augmented reality, so it might be a good idea to find a piano teacher in the meantime.
Now find out which model piano you should buy for your youngest players...
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