GOING DIGITAL – PIANO TEACHER SACRILEGE?
My friend and Piano Technician extraordinaire, Bruce Gibson is not happy with me. Why? – because after many hours of careful deliberation, much research, and considerable soul searching, I made what some, (my friend, Bruce for sure), might consider to be a controversial decision. I am going digital!
I love my trusty Baldwin upright pianos. They have served me well over the years. I feel as if I am almost betraying them by retiring them from my studio.
The closing of Saskatoon Yamaha Piano Center due to the retirement of owners, Roger and Marie Jolly ignited the "spark" of my digital fire. About thirty years ago, Roger and Marie kindly gave me access to their store's main showroom and their selection of amazing pianos for my year-end recitals. This allowed me to involve students in ensemble performances, something not readily available to many other teachers. Not only has this grown into a tradition in my studio, but it has also become a valuable tool in the development of my students.
Losing Yamaha Piano Center as a recital venue started us on a search for a new location. After countless phone calls and hours of searching, we were not able to find a venue with two well-maintained, high quality instruments. The easiest solution would have been to simply eliminate two-piano projects, focusing on solo piano performances and the odd duet. I gave this very serious consideration, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it.
The only logical answer was to go digital. In this way, I could take my pianos the venue of my choice, while keeping ensemble performance possibilities intact. Another huge advantage for my students would be the fact that they would be familiar with the instruments they would be performing on. Adjusting to a new piano in a performance situation is often very intimidating, so knowing the instrument is an advantage.
Ten years ago, I would have never even entertained the possibility of teaching on digital pianos, as at best, they were weak imitations of the real thing. They were unresponsive, sounded like toys, and had floppy, marsh mellow-like actions. Since, there have been huge advances in digital piano design. Today's technology allows them to be modeled after the world's best concert grands, with amazing sound, feel, and responsive actions. Now, the problem is determining what brand and model to select.
After much research, I chose Yamaha P-515's. Manufacturers often bundle far too many gimmicks into their digital keyboards. Yamaha P-515's do not. They are modeled after two main concert grands only, sound amazing and have one of the best actions on the market. The NWX keyboard found in P-515 features white keys made from only the best quality wood and topped with synthetic ivory. The black keys are finished in textured synthetic ebony. Furthermore, this keyboard features the true feel of the escapement mechanism found in a grand piano which the hammers away from the strings quickly after they strike them, in order to prevent any interference with string vibration.
These pianos have been in my studio for the past couple of weeks, allowing me to thoroughly test and assess them. Other than a couple of small complaints, I am very impressed. In my musical life, I have played many fantastic instruments. The P-515's may not look like much, but their sound and feel have made my teaching day a little bit more exciting!