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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 you’re 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
J’ 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 — 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.
J’ Maintenance: Electric keyboards require no tuning and no tweaking — you just plug and play. You need to keep your keyboard dusted monthly, but that won’t 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.
J1 Sound quality: Some sounds are out-of-this-world fantastic. But some sound exactly like an electric keyboard trying to mimic an acoustic instrument.
Volume variation: Many electric keyboards are not touch-sensitive. That is, whether you play the key hard or soft, you hear the same volume. Only the volume knob can control the volume on some models.
J1 Obsolescence: Like most electronic devices and computers, today’s keyboards probably won’t be tomorrow’s desire. You, too, will want to upgrade to the latest and greatest. And, no, very few synths retain their value.
Addiction: If you buy one, pretty soon you’ll want another, and another, and another. The common mantra among electric keyboard players is “I need more gear!”
_____________________________Chapter 16: Finding the Perfect Keyboard
Picking the Perfect Piano
If you decide that an acoustic piano suits your needs best, use this section to help you select the right model piano for you. I even list a few of my own personal favorites; any of these pianos are good for the beginning player.
Taking location into account
Most older pianos were produced with a particular climate in mind. The
wood used to make them was weathered for the finished product’s climate. Japan, for example, has a wetter climate than many locations in the United States. Therefore, the wood in many pianos manufactured for use in Japan has been dried out more than the wood used to make pianos for use in the United States. If you live in the United States and you buy a piano made for use in Japan, you may face some serious problems with the wood parts of your piano drying out.
Why does dryness matter? Perhaps the most important element of a piano is its soundboard, which is the very thick and very heavy piece of wood that you find under the strings. If the soundboard ever cracks or breaks ... well, want to play guitar?
For example, if you purchase an older piano that was made for use in Japan, chances are that prior to manufacture, the wood was dried out too much to survive a hot, dry summer, say in Mississippi. Maybe not this year or next, but one of these days: crack! There goes the soundboard; there goes your investment.
If it’s a brand-spanking-new piano you want, this issue of locale doesn’t matter much. New pianos are made with a more global philosophy. But it doesn’t hurt to discuss this with your sales representatives, anyway, just to show them that you’ve really taken the time to get to know the issues.
Getting all the pedals gou deserve
Some underhanded dealers claim that they can save you money by offering you a piano with no middle pedal. (For more on piano pedals, see Chapter 3.) Baloney! Hey, you may never use the middle pedal, but just in case Evgeny Kissin comes over for lunch, you need to have one. (Chapter 18 tells you more about Evgeny Kissin.)