Acoustic Pianos and Electronic Pianos - Technical performance

For More Pianos, Last Note Is Thud in the Dump

A century after the peak of American piano manufacturing, the dump is increasingly becoming the destination for instruments that are unwanted or too expensive to maintain.

Selected comments from Pianists forum at
Emphasis added.

Digital keyboards, acoustic pianos, they both have their place. I'm both a pianist and a piano technician, and prefer the real thing, but will play a digital if need be. I played with a small orchestra this summer to accompany a local OUTDOOR drama presentation. Over the course of the evening's first act the violins changed by almost a semitone. I had considered bringing one of my acoustic pianos but was very happy that I hadn't. I've played for some dramas in a couple of local concert halls and have had to tweak the tuning before each performance because the piano would go out of tune as I played it due to drastic humidity and temperature changes when we had huge audiences.

Yes, digital keyboards do have their place.

When it comes to synthetic sound wave production versus acoustic sound wave production, acoustic far outperforms synthetic. As a former elementary music teacher, one year I had some real recorder keeners so for that Christmas I did some simple four-part arrangements for recorder - soprano, alto, tenor, and bass recorders - and they played for the Christmas program. They took a lot of personal initiative so didn't need me standing in front of them and conducting, so I stood at the very back of the gym while they played. The bass recorder cannot be played loudly but it came through very clearly as did all the parts. The acoustically produced sound carried all the way to the back effortlessly. My keyboard, on the other hand, needed extra help so that the children at the back of my 150 to 175 voice choir could all hear in order to sing on pitch, and my keyboard has lots of power.

Synthetically produced sound doesn't have the same ability to carry as an acoustically produced sound. 75 decibels put out by a digital piano carries about half the distance as 75 decibels put out by a real piano.

People's musical passion doesn't come through on a digital keyboard as well. I have had people comment that my passion for music is readily heard when I play piano. I never get those comments when I play my digital piano. I used to play in a group where I would play recorder, keyboard, piano, or guitar, whatever we decided the song called for. At one place one of the people in the audience came up to me and complimented me by saying that my passion came through loud and clear when I played my guitar. He said nothing about my passion coming through when I played my keyboard. Passion is life and passion in music needs a "real" or "live" source of sound, not a synthetically produced sound.

But as I stated earlier, digital keyboards have their place and I use mine more and more infrequently, preferring my Petrof grand.

Jason Dyck

If the debate becomes acoustic vs electronic than the point is missed and acoustic pianos are doomed. The reason I say this is this concept entertains the notion that digitals are a replacement for acoustics. I love playing my Steinway Grand but I also have two keyboards in my studio. I have two automobiles but I also have two horses. I would never think of taking the BMW up the dirt road and into the ravines across form my home, yet I do not ride a horse to the grocery store. This is not a black and white issue. Piano professional must have absolute patience in our roles as educators, relentlessly teaching the values of acoustic music. The human body, mind, and soul responds to acoustic music on levels we have not yet comprehended. To get some understand of the validity of this statement think of a passage of music, it could be Bach strings, a Ravel oboe, Debussy piano, or a blue grass mandolin; think of the feeling you get in your chest when you hear that magnificent organic sound that set your own molecules in tune with a higher vibration. Did you ever experience this with digital music? I haven't. Of course we are all different.

On the other hand, it is much easier to interface my midi keyboard to my PC.

Piano teachers must make the effort to teach the value of acoustics, technicians must role up their sleeves and work harder to make that old Acrosonic sound good again without going overboard at the owners expense, and the entire acoustic piano industry must learn how to relate to all people of all classes and generations. Adapting the attitude that acoustic are a thing of the past is unacceptable.

The NYT article did not address well enough the factor that there is an enormous inventory of older pianos in the NE ( a region with decreasing population) that simply have outlived their life span. Let's leave it at that and not accept this as a new trend or way of the future we should all embrace.

Dan Fusco

I agree with Dan and Margot, both digital and acoustic instruments have their place. And finally I think it is an individual choice. As far as maintaining an instrument goes, the acoustic has it's own set of costs, but its not like digital pianos aren't expensive to fix if something goes wrong. I have had to repair my yamaha a couple of times and to replace one single chip is so expensive. Another Yamaha had to junk because apparantly Yamaha has a policy they don't produce parts for a model which is 7 years old. That to me is a scary thing cause every time a model gets old if something goes wrong then it pretty much means the instrument has to be converted into a table or a something. And that is the only place where I feel acoustics score

Nandita Basu

Thank you for your comments Janet, Nandita, and Margot. Nandita ( I like that name) raises another very good point which I'd like to comment on. I've been in the piano industry on many levels since the mid 1970's. In the earlier years acoustics didn't really cost that much and a Fender Rhodes, Moog, and Melotron were about all we had for electronics. Since, the field has changed so much. Digital electronics and the micro chip revolutionized electronic music and foreign competition in the acoustic market has resulted in a radical lowering of standards in the acoustic piano industry. I disagree with anyone who claims that China made pianos have advanced to an acceptable level. When one knows the sound of a good piano they will know what I mean. Anyway, as digitals entered the market both manufactures and retailers stood to benefit from the relative simplicity of building, transporting, and marketing of these new products. First, however, they had to convince the public that they were a better buy. One reason I heard too many times was that "you don't need to tune a digital". I had two arguments for this. 1). A good aural tuner can find many was in which it is fair to say that many digitals are never in tune to begin with, when considering temperament, stretching, and voicing to it's environment. 2). For the amount a digital depreciates the moment it leaves the store an acoustic can be tuned twice each year for ten years (exceeding the life span of most digitals). Okay, how many of you just decided you don't like me? Remember it is not 1 vs the other. They both have their place for sure. In addition, piano technology is a highly developed trade with many skilled and dedicated technicians in every town in every state who are ready to deal with any problem at any time on any instrument of any age. Let's just not forget about the horse when we buy that new car. Let's not loose sight of what a glorious instrument a quality acoustic piano is, and what a musician can do with one.

Dan Fusco

Just a short reply. I think it all boils down to opinions, and aren't there a lot of them? Thank God for that or we would all like the same sounds and would reject all the others. The same holds true for tastes. How boring to like nothing but classical or rock, etc., yet nothing can take the place of studying the classics. Knowledge of the classics can completely enrich all other types of music.

Margot Rising