25 Popular Questions about the Piano

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Are you curious about all the parts and features of pianos? Here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the piano.
questions about the piano

Table of Contents

Introduction

The piano is one of the largest instruments you can play. With all of its moving features, there’s a lot to be intrigued by this instrument. In this article, we target some of the most commonly asked questions about the piano to provide you with some valuable insights as you progress on your musical journey.

25 Questions about the Piano

1. Is the keyboard easier than piano?

In general, keyboards might be easier to learn than pianos because they are more lightweight, and can support several user-friendly features. A keyboard can add a lot of texture  to what you’re actually playing with attributes such as reverb, delay and additional instrumental tones. There’s no reason why a keyboard can’t be played like a regular piano if it is touch-sensitive  and has weighted keys. Some written music can contain notes that go beyond the range of a keyboard, which usually comes with 61 keys compared to a piano which has 88 keys. To solve this problem, some keyboards might allow you to adjust the tones at the upper and lower ends to get the full range of a piano.

2. What is a full-sized keyboard piano?

A full-sized keyboard piano should have 88 keys that come with standard-sized keys. The keys on a keyboard or a non-acoustic piano can be shorter in length or smaller in width than those on an acoustic piano. This makes a significant difference to your practicing and performance. A full-sized keyboard piano should especially be considered if you intend to learn an advanced repertoire someday. On the whole however, it is understood amongst pianists that different pianos and keyboards will have different individual key sizes, so they’re expected to learn their repertoire to a point where it should not affect their performance at all.

3. Why does a piano have 88 keys?

The piano evolved over hundreds of years and developed more and more keys before settling at 85 keys as a standard in the 1800s. It was only towards the end of the nineteenth century that 88 keys became the standard. Adding more piano keys allowed composers to expand the range of their music. 88 keys have been the standard since Steinway started building their pianos in the 1880s. This is why virtually all the classical repertoires only require 85 keys. It was not until the twentieth century that music started to utilize the entire 88-key range.

4. Do I need 88 keys to learn piano?

If you are just learning to play, there’s no need for all 88 keys since a piano has the same pattern of twelve keys repeated over and over across its entire length. Even if you do play a piece that requires those high notes, they don’t last that long anyway – they usually just require a tinkle for a few seconds . You will not really lose the effect of the piece by not having those last few keys, and there are very few pieces that use them anyway. There are a few exceptions to this. If you are a serious concert pianist particularly playing a lot of 20th century music that utilizes those keys, then you may consider getting an 88-key piano.

5. Can I learn piano by myself?

Yes you can, but it is going to be challenging. The first problem you might encounter will be not knowing where to start, in which case it is recommended to begin with simple songs that you like. Theory and technique are important, but they can be developed with practice. The first order of business would just be to play something that sounds decent that you enjoy playing. Learn how to play a few simple chords and then look for chord sheets on the internet to play along with your favourite recordings. You could try to find a self-learning course for beginners online or purchase an industry standard piano book, such as the Trinity College London piano collection for beginners.

6. Is piano hard to learn?

It is relatively simpler to get the hang of a piano compared to other instruments like the violin or the French horn. However, do not keep unrealistic expectations from yourself. Many people try too hard and then get discouraged when they do not sound like a professional musician within a month.  It is important to remember that learning to play an instrument takes several years, and progress will be slow. It may take weeks just to learn a new piece, so take it easy and try not to get frustrated if progress is slow. As long as there is progress, you’re doing it right.

7. How long will it take to learn piano?

You may not like the answer, but learning the piano is going to take a long time. There are no short cuts or quick fixes around it. Someone who has been practicing every day for at least half an hour over a year or two to become fluent, when they can play a complete piece in front of an audience without any mistakes. Developing a strong grasp on the foundational techniques might take a couple years, and even after that the technical learning does not stop – it just gets more complex. A really important aspect of learning how to play piano would be applying consistent, daily effort by handpicking a few songs and figuring them out, which would take at least a year or two.

8. How long does it take to master piano?

From start to finish, it might take you about eight to ten years to be able to play masterpieces if you’re a complete beginner. If you are serious about becoming adept at the piano, expect to spend at least two years learning all the foundations. To effectively measure your skill level in piano, there are institutions like the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) which offers ten distinct grade levels, or ABRSM which has eight. It may typically take about a year to graduate from one level to the next, so from that you can gather that it would take approximately a decade to transition from a beginner level to be able to play highly complicated pieces.

9. Do digital pianos sound like real pianos?

Digital pianos are designed to produce a similar feel and sound to that of an acoustic piano, but with a more compact and lightweight design. There are many high quality digital pianos with electronic tones which are very similar to the sound of an acoustic piano, and might even come with added functionalities like Bluetooth connectivity and mobile applications. The Yamaha P515 Digital Piano most closely reproduces the depth and realistic overtones of a piano using Virtual Resonance Modelling, which replicates the interaction between the strings and keys of an acoustic piano.
questions about the piano
Yamaha P515 Digital Piano

10. What is a good piano for beginners?

Any piano that has 88 full-sized keys with weighted hammer action would be ideal for a beginner. You could consider a digital piano that supports a damper pedal with sustained notes and adequately amplified speakers. Digital pianos are generally cheaper and require less maintenance than an acoustic piano, while achieving a similar sound and feel. A good quality digital piano would also come with rhythm variety and additional tones such as a grand piano, electric piano, and various other string, brass and wind instruments. The Yamaha P-45 Digital Piano packs all these features and is one of the most affordable digital pianos available.

11. At what age should a child start piano lessons?

Generally speaking, children between six to nine years of age might be ready for piano lessons, but three or four-year-olds may start to show enthusiasm for the piano as well. Each child is unique, and they might take their own time to develop an interest in the piano. Different children have different levels of maturity, and some may face challenges in sitting at the piano for an hour at a stretch. You can tell a child is ready for lessons when they are going to school, they have learnt to take written direction and how to work independently – and this what is required in piano study as well. You could also work with very young children and expose them to the piano through games or recorded music, or even take them to outdoor concerts. 

12. Can I learn piano at 30?

Yes you can, you are never too old to learn to play the piano. As long as you are able to devote consistent time and effort into your practice lessons, there’s no reason why you would not become proficient over time. Once you build your foundations at the piano, you might be able to jam to the blues with friends or develop your music reading ability and play increasingly complex pieces. The first step would be to get an instrument you enjoy, because if you have an old keyboard or a rickety old piano that doesn’t sound good, you might not stick with it. You could also consider getting a music teacher to save you countless hours in achieving a higher level of performance. 

13. Which is easier to learn, guitar or piano?

Playing chords would be easier on the guitar, while playing melodies is easier on the piano. You could learn basic songs on both instruments quickly, but it would take months to become proficient. When you learn the piano, it is easier to apply the concepts of scales and dynamics to the guitar and having a foundational knowledge of the piano will definitely improve your guitar playing. Similarly, playing the guitar would strengthen your understanding of rhythm and musical progressions, and help you to translate those skills on the piano.

14. What is the best keyboard piano for beginners?

One of the most versatile and cost-effective beginner-friendly keyboards is the Casio CT-X700. You can check out our complete list of the top picks of the best keyboards for beginners hereThis is one of the most important questions about the piano a beginner could ask, and one of the most important things to keep in mind while shopping for keyboards is to find something that has touch-sensitive, weighted keys. That means if you play softly, you hear a soft sound and when you play with a little more pressure, you get a bigger sound. It also means that there is some resistance on the key, which requires some effort to push down and is very important for developing dexterity and strength in your fingers. 

15. Which is better, Casio or Yamaha keyboards?

Most Casio and Yamaha keyboards are similarly priced depending on their features and functionalities, but there a fey differences in the overall sound and feel. The keys on a Yamaha keyboard are typically softer to touch compared to a Casio which has a stiffer, stronger feel to it. The Yamaha keys on beginner models are more durable and less noisy than Casio keys which have a more plastic texture and tend to create a more mechanical sound. The LCD screen on a Yamaha keyboard is usually sleeker and has more of a professional look than that found on a Casio, but these differences could vary across various keyboard versions.

16. What are the black keys on a piano called?

Each black key on the piano is either a sharp, meaning one semitone or pitch higher, or a flat, meaning one semitone or pitch lower. For example in the image below, the black note immediately to the RIGHT of the “D natural” note is called “D#” or “D sharp”. The black note immediately to the LEFT of “D” is called “Db” or “D flat”. The same note is also immediately to the right of “C”, so it can also be called “C sharp”. From this, you can surmise that each black key has two names, derived from the two notes immediately to its right and its left. This question has a deeper technical answer that would be relevant for intermediate to advanced musicians, but the key point to understand is that black keys can have multiple names. 

Black Key Nomenclature

17. How long do digital pianos last?

High quality digital pianos would typically last for about twenty to fifty years. Lower end digital pianos might last for about fifteen years before showing signs of wear and tear. Digital piano manufacturers such as Kawai or Roland offer a warranty of five to ten years for individual parts and labour. To have the longest lifespan for a digital piano, it’s important to know how to maintain it. Most digital pianos are built to be sturdy enough to withstand external force or pressure. If the instrument has been exposed to liquid or stored in an evironment with excess heat and humidity, the keyboard sensors will have a greater chance of wearing out over time.

18. Which Yamaha keyboard is best for beginners?

The Yamaha PSR-E373 keyboard is the answer to all your questions about the piano as a beginner. With 61 full-sized touch sensitive keys and highly sophisticated piano tones. In addition to the highly detailed, rich grand piano voice, the Yamaha PSR_E373 keyboard also contains more than 620 voices ranging from acoustic to electronic instruments such as electric pianos, guitars, organs, strings, saxophones, flutes, synths, various drumkits and sound effect voices. You can also add more than 50 different reverb and chorus effects to these voices. 

19. Why are there white and black keys on a piano?

The white keys on a piano are used to decipher the natural musical tones and the black keys denote the half step intervals, or semitones between those musical tones. The black keys help pianists distinguish between the natural pitches and the semitone pitches. If a piano only had white keys like in the picture below, it would be very confusing to identify each individual note:

The black keys separate the white keys from each other in a sequential pattern, to make a repeated set of twelve keys (seven white keys and five black keys) across the keyboard. Traditionally, piano keys were manufactured using ebony for the black keys and ivory for the white keys. Although those materials are no longer in use, the colour scheme has stuck because the distance and positioning of the keys is much easier to see.

20. How much does tuning a piano cost?

If a piano is tuned once every six months and stored in a stable environment, one tuning session would cost about INR 5,000 for an upright acoustic piano and INR 10,000 for a concert grand piano. The tuning cost would vary depending on how well-maintained the piano is, so the more frequently it is tuned the cheaper the tuning cost. If a piano has been exposed to heat and humidity or it has not been tuned in over a year, the tuner would charge significantly more because two complete tunings would need to be conducted in a row; first to conduct a pitch raise and the second to stabilize the tuning.

21. How much does a beginner piano cost?

The price of an entry level piano can vary depending on the branding, raw materials, labour and the current market. An upright grand piano may cost about INR 2-5 lakhs on average. Some pianos cost considerably more because of the intricate woodwork, carvings and fine tunings. High-end upright pianos from Steinway, Kawai or Yamaha may cost about INR 15-20 lakhs while their grand pianos are priced around INR 50 lakhs. Check out the piano price chart below to get a cost estimate for different pianos.

22. What skills does playing the piano give you?

The most obvious skill you get by playing the piano is developing strong hand-eye coordination, but beyond that it can also improve your creativity and cognitive abilities. A major aspect of playing piano is learning to identify patterns, which can improve your mathematical and analytical skills. Getting better at the piano requires a lot of concentration and discipline, which can teach you about organization and time management skills. According to a study conducted at Brown University, playing the piano can also enhance language skills and reading comprehension.

23. How many hours a day should I practice piano?

The number of practice hours you spend on the piano should be based on what your end goal is. It could vary between twenty minutes a day to an hour or more depending on how fast you want to progress, and whether you intend to pursue it as a hobby or a profession. Consistency is very important when it comes to improving in your piano learning, so try spreading your practice over the week rather than trying to cram in several hours of practice in a single day. When you try to practice for several hours at a stretch, nothing really gets in after a while. Instead, if you sleep on your practice session, your learnings will transfer to your hands a lot quicker and you will be able to see actual progress in your playing. 

24. Do pianists memorize music?

Professional pianists typically don’t memorize individual notes, but they are more likely to memorize a piece in sections or movements as identified by the composer. While learning a new piece, pianists may spend some time going over the individual notes but once they grow accustomed to it, they may want to focus more on delivering the emotion and dynamics of the song rather than the sheet music. Jazz pianists can improvise an entire performance purely based on their understanding of jazz theory and its musical patterns, without memorization of actual music. 

25. What is the difference between a keyboard and a piano?

You can check out our complete article on the difference between a keyboard and a piano here. A keyboard or a digital piano is an electronic version of an acoustic piano. Keyboards and digital pianos are generally more compact, portable and affordable than an acoustic piano. Keyboards incur lower maintenance costs compared to a piano, which may need to be tuned a few times a year. Keyboards tend to have more recording and instrumental features, and often come with pre-packed lessons for beginners. With an acoustic piano, you get a more authentic sound, feel and tone production and is usually preferred for examinations or performances. 

Ananya Roy
Ananya Roy
Music junkie with an engineering degree from Manipal Institute of Technology currently living in Pune, India. Enjoys playing the piano, petting dogs and eating sushi.

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