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Digitals, Acoustics, the economy, and piano lessons

After I showered myself in digitals these past two days, I pleasantly dried out and came home to my dearly beloved acoustic pianos. (Two Steinways and a Haddorff)

Now nothing is perfect in the world of electronics or acoustics. There are a repository of pitfalls associated with each, and it can be maddening to deal with fine pianos that have regulation and voicing problems which are not easily addressed due to a dearth of qualified piano technicians. The latter is worth a few blogs that may ruffle a few feathers. I’ve kept my folder with related material as Top Secret but soon to be released. Would these be Wiki leak sensitive?

Back to digital/acoustic comparisons, and their respective merits.

I used to be a purist, lecturing parents that they must have an acoustic before starting lessons for children, and then as the years ticked by and I watched the economy crash, people losing homes, moving into tight-fitting spaces, I let my guard down. As long as the digital was not a 61-key bell and whistle job and had the hammer weighted option, I went along for the ride for a reasonable period of time. Sooner or later the family should graduate to the real deal.

On the other side of the coin, it could be argued that so many acoustic pianos on Craig’s List, Oodle and elsewhere were ready for the scrap heap, with notes twanging, sticking, and otherwise going blank. What an awful maiden musical voyage for a beginner guaranteed to send him overboard without a second wind. It would be doomsday before lessons started.

Why not celebrate the spiffy digital with those tantalizing extras, brightening up homes in dire economic times. Didn’t the little spinet piano, a space saver, come into prominence after the Great Depression? The big uprights couldn’t easily fit into the parlor, and who could afford a grand. Times were changin’ and piano manufacturers adjusted to the needs of buyers.

Are there parallels today? Piano stores are closing. Not too many families are gathering in the parlor to sing Home Sweet Home around the tall, stately upright. Their abodes are foreclosing and they can barely squeeze any size musical instrument into the corner.

Piano lessons aren’t a top priority these days, being the first to go with budget trims.

As solace, why not come home to your portable digital, tap a few buttons, and ease into the easy playing mode with a strings split “Harvest Moon.” No hassle or brain drain.

For those parents still determined to take Baby Einstein a step further in his journey, or who believe in the Mozart Effect, I hope they would preserve the acoustic piano culture and save it from imminent extinction.

After all, there are still piano finding expeditions that result in quality acquisitions at reasonable prices: Acrosonics, Knights, a Haddorff, Aeolian Table Style piano, a resonant Yamaha P-22, and more.

These living, BREATHING instruments, not transformer connected, provide years of joyful playing, as long as they’re minimally maintained. No bordering fireplaces, vents, heaters, or humidity showers, please, and tunings are recommended once per year to keep strings toned and conditioned. (Engage an ear tuner, if possible, or one who will not spend 15 minutes programming a machine to perfect octaves and walk out the door leaving the piano in worse shape than it was before. Ask for an intervals check at some point in the visit)

Maybe when the economy is on an even keel, an acoustic piano and a digital might grace every home to round out the musical experience. It won’t be an either or situation, just an expansion of consciousness in more than one tonal universe.

In any case, (pun intended) let piano lessons resume!

RELATED: Is the Acoustic Piano Culture at Risk?

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