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In the following two sections, I help you get started with a small list of pros and cons for both acoustic and electric keyboards. But please personalize the lists, adding your own perceptions, factors, and concerns. Itís your keyboard. Base your buying or renting decision on the pros and cons that you come up with.
Pianos, harpsichords, and pipe organs are acoustic keyboards. (See Chapter 1 for more information on the differences between acoustic and electric keyboards.)
Psalteries, virginals, clavichords, and harmoniums are also acoustic keyboards. However, you donít need a list of pros and cons for buying one of these very rare instruments. If you find one and canít live without it, terrific! Go ahead and purchase it.
Knowing the right time to buy
Before stepping inside a store, answer the following questions as truthfully as possible:
1. How much can you spend?
b) Less than $1,000
c) $1,000 to $5,000
d) More than $10,000
2. Where do you live?
a) At home with parents
b) College dorm or small apartment
3. How much space do you have?
b) Space for one small beanbag chair
c) Space for an extra couch
d) Space for the Chicago Bulls to camp out
4. How long have you been playing piano?
a) One day
b) Less than a year
c) 1 to 5 years
d) More than 5 years
If you answered mostly a's and b's, consider saving your money for a while and keep playing Gramma's upright. Or ask your local music stores about the possibility of renting a keyboard. If you answered mostly cís and d's,then grab your checkbook or credit card and start looking for your dream instrument.
Chapter 16: Finding the Perfect Keyboard
I consider the following characteristics to be real selling points for an acoustic keyboard:
J1 Sound quality: No matter how good a synthesizer is, it just canít exactly match the sound of a grand piano (or even your standard upright piano).
J1 Value: Believe it or not, some acoustic keyboards actually appreciate in value over the years if kept in good condition. So, think of your purchase as an investment.
J1 Aesthetics: Thereís nothing like sitting at and playing an acoustic keyboard. It feels real, it looks great, and you can imagine that youíre sitting on a concert stage in front of thousands.
I would be remiss not to point out the following, which I consider to be detractions in the case for buying or renting an acoustic piano:
J' Cost: Plain and simple, new acoustic keyboards are more expensive than new electric ones.
J' Size: Just think how that pipe organ would look next to the living room fireplace. And if you relocate, guess what? You have to pay movers to move the piano, harpsichord, or organ for you.
J' Maintenance: Annual or semi-annual tuning at a cost of around $50 to $75 per hour ainít cheap, but itís essential. (Chapter 17 tells you more about maintaining your acoustic keyboard.)
You can rent some electric keyboards, but not all. Synthesizers and samplers are mostly for sale only, although you may find some used ones in good condition. On the other hand, plenty of stores offer a rental option on the larger electric pianos or electronic organs.
I came up with a pretty balanced list of reasons why buying a synthesizer, sampler, electric piano, or electronic organ can be a good and a bad choice.
Electric keyboards have the following positive points going for them:
SJ' Cost: Unless youíre talking about the very high-end models of synthesizers and electric pianos, most electric keyboards are affordable and much less expensive than acoustic keyboards.
Part VI: So Many Toys, So Little Time
Jí Size: Wherever you live, I bet you can find a spot for your electric keyboard. Plus, you can move it yourself should the need arise ó for example, if you go on tour with your band, The Dummies.
J' Versatility: Most electric keyboards come loaded with different sounds, so you can be a one-person band (The Dummy) or play a pipe organ without buying the enormous acoustic version.
Jí Maintenance: Electric keyboards require no tuning and no tweaking ó you just plug and play. You need to keep your keyboard dusted monthly, but that wonít cost you anything. (Check out more of my tips for maintaining your electric keyboard in Chapter 17.)
J' Headphones: If you have grouchy neighbors or sleepy baby siblings, the option of headphones is an important one. You can turn off the sound to the outside world and still hear yourself practicing long into the wee night hours.
Yes, even electric keyboards have a few negative characteristics, like the following, which you should consider before purchasing one:
J' Complexity: Knobs and levers can break, circuitry can go haywire, and any number of other things can go wrong over the years. Because of the sophisticated gadgetry in most electric keyboards, they tend to run amuck more often than your average acoustic keyboard.
J' Power: You must have electricity, or at least a whole bunch of D-size batteries, in order to play your electric keyboard.