Electronic Keyboards

Technology has seen a huge progress over the last few decades, and the music department wasn’t an exception. Even though we are now seeing a rise in computer-produced music, like dubstep or house, the classical is still looking strong and should not become a niche anytime soon. As a result of the progression, huge pianos turned into small, electronic keyboards, which main advantage is being compact, small, and most importantly, portable, so you can take it with you and play music at, for example, your grandma’s house. I for sure appreciate that valor, but we will get to that later.

                As in for pros and cons of an electronic keyboard, I’ll go over them, as I believe this is an important things when deciding between a grand or upright piano and an electronic keyboard. As I stated earlier, the obvious advantage of the former is the portability, which plays a huge factor for most people. There’s also the price factor, which could be the last nail in the coffin of the classical version of our loved instrument. Acoustic pianos go for at least a couple thousand dollars, while you can grab a digital one for anything between 300 to 1000 USD. The next thing that could make you favor an electronic keyboard is the fact that you can learn multiple musical styles on it, when it isn’t achievable on an acoustic one without quality recording equipment and a mixing software. Nevertheless, it has some disadvantages too. Electronic keyboard will never be able to reproduce the sound on level that acoustic piano can, and it is simply because of the way both of them work.

                Modern electronic keyboard consists of a few things, and I’ll list you the five major of them. First comes the musical keyboard, usually white and black piano-style keys that trigger the sound when pressed. After that there’s the user interface software, which plays a huge role in the play itself. It handles user interaction and allows the player to select tones, effects and other features. Third comes the rhythm and chord generator, software which, as you may expect from the name, produces rhythms and chords by the MIDI commands. Then we have the heart of the keyboard – the sound chip, which is an electronic sound module, which accepts the MIDI commands and produces sound, and lastly, amplifier and speaker, so that you can listen to stuff you play – how else would you know what you’re playing?

                Most of the manufacturers categorize electronic keyboards into four categories, based on what’s the primary use of one. We have digital piano – designed to sound and feel like an acoustic piano, stage piano – digital piano designed for live band and stage use, synthesizer –uses various sound synthesis to produce desired variety of music, and finally, the arranger – keyboards that produce large range of sounds, as well as backing accompaniments for the performer. The last one is mostly played by left hand, and that’s why it’s players are often called one-man bands. You can shop for keyboards in many places, for example at Amazon – link.

                I, myself, have got a digital piano, as I simply couldn’t justify paying so much for the acoustic version, and when I was buying it, I had yet to specify my music style that I wanted to play. I take it around when I travel and I often play at family gatherings. I hope this post provided you with some insight on the topic of electronic keyboards - below you can find an example picture of my model.

Grand Piano and Upright Piano – The Difference

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                Many people who share a small interest in music in general often confuse Grand Piano and an Upright Piano, and that may be caused because many people will call both of those instruments just “piano”. As a piano fan, this hurts my heart every time I hear someone close to me mistake grand piano for an upright one, or the other way around. I hope this article will help you make this mistake no more. Enjoy your read.

                Grand pianos and upright pianos are the two modern piano configurations, each one having more subcategories, but I won’t be getting into that yet. The main difference is form, size, function and even the sound they make. These four factors all come together and are used to determinate the piano’s category. To clarify, I’m talking about classical pianos. I’ll cover electronic keyboards on a later date – if you’re going to expect that, stay tuned.

                Let’s start with Grand Pianos – the main difference is that the frame and strings are horizontal, extending from the keyboard. There are many sizes of them, but the overall accepted generalization consists of the concert grand (2.2 to 3 meters), boudir grand (1.7 to 2.2 meters long) and baby grand (around 1.5 meters and lower). The longer the piano, the richer sounds and lower inharmonicity of the strings. In case if you’re wondering what inharmonicity is, I’ll refer to Wikipedia definition -  degree to which the frequencies of overtones (known as partials or harmonics) sound sharp relative to whole multiples of the fundamental frequency. That results in concert grand having a brilliant, singing tone quality – main reason they’re called “concert”. The smaller grand pianos will suit a home use, or if you want to save as much space as possible.

                Upright pianos, on the other hand, have, as you may have already predicted, vertical frames and strings, for which reason they may sometimes be also called vertical pianos. If the piano is tall enough, it may be even called upright grand piano. We also have a general classification here – studio pianos are around 42 to 45 inches tall, console pianos are few inches shorter, spinet’s model cabinet barely rises above the keyboard, and anything taller than the studio piano is called an upright. The mechanic rules stay roughly the same, but due to the different position of the hammers, the string might be a subject to degradation.

                I hope that you will not make an easy mistake of confusing a grand piano with an upright piano and the other way around after reading this article, as it is easily avoidable with an easy principle – if the strings are vertical, it’s grand, if horizontal, it’s upright. You can read more about Pianos in general here. Stay tuned for more piano content!