general (financial) advice about musical instruments/lessons

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letsgobobby
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general (financial) advice about musical instruments/lessons

Post by letsgobobby » Sun May 05, 2013 12:55 pm

Trying to get my kids (3 and 6) exposed to some musicianship. My wife and I each played a little piano growing up, and I at least have shown zero musical talent.

Pianos are de rigeur in our Tiger Parent circle but they're expensive. Not out of the question; there was a highly regarded electronic piano available for $500, lavishly praised by semi-pro musicians as being adeqaute as a learning instrument to start; however it is no longer available. Should have jumped on that one. There is a good condition baby grand for $3200 available, but again - major purchase for who knows how much gain?

I'm not sure how to go about getting started without making a major financial commitment up front for kids who may be too young or not interested.

Other instruments that have peaked our interest at one time or another include the harmonica, guitar, banjo.

Any thoughts from the musicians on the board about how to get started? A good way/place to gain initial exposure?

livesoft
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by livesoft » Sun May 05, 2013 1:05 pm

My spouse was music major in college before switching to engineering. We had 2 pianos in the house for years and years. My impression was that pianos were less expensive than a 65" HD 3D LED TV nowadays, so well within the budget of most Bogleheads. Console or upright should be just fine. And you and your spouse may enjoy playing, too.
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YttriumNitrate
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by YttriumNitrate » Sun May 05, 2013 1:23 pm

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fundseeker
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by fundseeker » Sun May 05, 2013 2:58 pm

My suggestion is to buy a new digital keyboard, maybe even a $200 Yamaha or Casio, which is a low cost way for them to see if they will stick with the lessons. This will hold them for a year or two before you invest several grand in a piano. Some will say they do not sound as good as a piano, but believe me, they are close enough for your purposes. And, they play songs and are more fun than a piano that will do nothing but sit there until the student knows what they are doing. We started this way with our two children (one now marching in college and the other a drum major who played trumpet, flute, and then oboe), and after a couple of years, we bought a real piano. Also, if they learn to play the piano (versus other instruments), that knowledge will pay off if they consider playing other instruments in middle and high school and beyond. So, good luck with your decision.

fundseeker
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by fundseeker » Sun May 05, 2013 3:01 pm

Oh, I left out that if you decide to go ahead and get a real piano, but go with a low cost used one, the kids might not want to play it if the keys stick, it sounds bad, etcetera. Again, the keyboard might be a more fun low cost way to go at first.

MN Finance
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by MN Finance » Sun May 05, 2013 3:11 pm

Our kids are between 2 and 7. We opted for a nice Yamaha keyboard about a year ago (my first, and probably only black friday experience). I have no memory what it cost, but a couple hundred bucks max. I would have considered a free-cheap/used/nice upright piano but didn't want one in the house. Keyboard is excellent because it can be moved room to room (important for us with a bunch of kids). And [key] it can be played at varrying volumes or used with headphones. My oldest has been in piano lessons for 2 years and uses this to practice on. It's a also a great "toy" with all the programmed stuff. I have no skill but my wife is muically talented and loves the decision we made. No idea if something else will be needed in the future, but works great now.

Edit: I should add that we had a toy piano before lessons started. It came with a book of easy songs (twinkle. row row) with color coded keys. I taped the letters (C) to the keys and the kids learned how to pluck out the simple songs - something a 5 year old did fine. They enjoyed that so we stepped up to the keyboard and lessons
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tetractys
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by tetractys » Sun May 05, 2013 3:18 pm

Used pianos can be bought or rented very reasonably. Tuning is inexpensive. If you go electric, demand weighted quick and natural action. Most important, find a teacher that makes it fun. Feed little souls comfort food. -- Tet

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momar
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by momar » Sun May 05, 2013 3:23 pm

Make sure your kids want to play it. I did violin in elementary school and piano in middle/high school, but I never wanted to play either so I never put in any work. My dad always told me I would regret not practicing (my idea of practice was 5 minutes), and he was right.
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by Hilda » Sun May 05, 2013 3:40 pm

Because my dear musical mother detected a modicum of talent, I was made to take lessons at a tender age. I was not allowed to quit and today I thank my mother for that a thousand times over-- for several years now I've had a Sunday music job that pays me really well to do something I thoroughly love and enjoy. What luck! Thanks, Mom!

I learned on a very cheap spinet piano because we were poor and couldn't afford better. But it was good enough to learn on and today I have a quality instrument that I cherish.

The payoff for your kids is potentially huge in more ways than just the income potential.

montanagirl
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by montanagirl » Sun May 05, 2013 4:41 pm

tetractys wrote:Used pianos can be bought or rented very reasonably. Tuning is inexpensive. If you go electric, demand weighted quick and natural action. Most important, find a teacher that makes it fun. Feed little souls comfort food. -- Tet
I would add that the cheap keyboards usually have no weighting at all on the keys, so the student is not likely to build much finger strength, and pushing the keys on even a spinet will seem very difficult in comparison. That happened to me after a few years on a low end Roland. Spinets are ridiculously light so I could tell I lost considerable strength on the electric.

Recently I helped sell a piano on craigslist for a friend of mine, and we got only 200 money because there were pianos selling cheap all over the place.

Moving and then tuning an acoustic piano could set you back about 200.

EagertoLearnMore
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by EagertoLearnMore » Sun May 05, 2013 4:57 pm

Having experienced the entire spectrum of musical lessons, competitions, etc. from a parent's prospective, I will say that the piano is a great introduction to music. However, it doesn't work too well with school band, orchestra, and other ensembles. Most pianists play another instrument as well. Formal introduction in the public school system usually begins in third or fourth grade depending on the instrument - strings earlier than woodwinds. Private lessons are expensive and mandatory if your child is to compete in the district, regional and state band competitions. The quality of the musicians is astounding and the best take private lessons. Also, if your child has talent, then you need to progress through private teachers as their capabilities advance. Remember, as a parent, you will be driving to all the lessons as well as the competitions and concerts. Even if your child does not major in music (ours chose not to), the music experience is wonderful for making outstanding friends and learning the discipline to practice and manage time. At the university level, various musical groups are selected by audition only and being a music major is not a requirement. Again, the competition is tough and few non-music majors make the cut. Ours did and we paid for private lessons for a few semesters to make the transition to university competition smoother. Many of the university music majors progress to play in orchestras or military bands for a living. The non-music majors play for enjoyment and stress relief. Good luck to you and it's great that you are starting your children out so young.

stan1
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by stan1 » Sun May 05, 2013 5:25 pm

I learned to read music while playing piano. I'm not sure which came first, but I didn't practice and wasn't very good. Learning to read music, chords, and scales at a young age helps get the foundations in early (although hopefully with a nicer piano teacher than I had -- mine was a strict old biddy).

retiredjg
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by retiredjg » Sun May 05, 2013 5:54 pm

I had to take piano lessons as a kid. I liked some of it, but never showed much talent or skill. I really didn't like practice and finally was allowed to quit after about 7 years.

Even though I was not much of a musician, what I learned about music, math, physics and other stuff was priceless. I strongly encourage you to ignore the cost of a mid-priced or used piano and consider things that are of much more value in the long run.

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by RNJ » Sun May 05, 2013 6:39 pm

tetractys wrote:Used pianos can be bought or rented very reasonably. Tuning is inexpensive. If you go electric, demand weighted quick and natural action. Most important, find a teacher that makes it fun. Feed little souls comfort food. -- Tet
+1

Also, touch sensitive. Minimal effects, as they will be a distraction (I can hear my 7 year old practicing on his drums as I write). I'd also suggest some kind of music-prep class. Not a Music Together or Musis for AArdvarks, but something that will provide a very basic, fun introduction to rhythm and melody.

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by reggiesimpson » Sun May 05, 2013 7:16 pm

My Son started playing the piano at a very young age and with encouragement played a flawless "Flight of the Bumblebee" by Korsakov at age 12 at his 6th grade class concert. He has (at the age of 25) never played so well since then. Why do i bring it up? Because he is incredibly fast on the keyboard and has been accepted for a position with a nationally recognized software computer firm upon college graduation. Hey, you never know?
My advice is to rent at first.

itiswhatitis
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by itiswhatitis » Sun May 05, 2013 9:00 pm

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psteinx
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by psteinx » Mon May 06, 2013 10:03 am

I went through this issue about a year ago (and we're still playing with options.)

Our kids (current ages):
Daughter 13, Son 12, Daughter 7

(Subtract ~1 year for starting ages last year.)

Older kids had done some stuff in school (I think with violin or viola, but it never really clicked.)

Youngest daughter was expressing interest in keyboard. Playing a lot with one or more iPad virtual piano apps.

I was a bit skeptical of sustained interest if we actually bought something, but went ahead and plunked down ~$200 for a new Casio keyboard + stand + bench.

This was an LK model (little lights in the keys that could teach you, in a way, to play one of the many built in songs). Not quite 88 keys (maybe 72?)... Variable volume response (i.e. press a key hard and you get a louder sound than pressing it soft.) This did NOT have weighted keys nor pedals (though there was an input I think for the latter, if purchased separately).

Anyways, the keyboard was a hit with all of my kids initially, and both my daughters showed sustained interest in it to the extent that we signed them up for lessons circa last August. Weekly 30 minute lessons for ~$25 each... Didn't do it during the summer in part because you really want a reasonably consistent schedule for lessons and that wasn't realistic for the summer...

Both girls flourished with the lessons. Surprisingly quick results. The instructor for the older daughter pushed us to move up fairly quickly to a better home keyboard.

Circa last November/December, I bought a much nicer Roland keyboard - I think the price, with negotiated discount, was in the $1400ish range.

What the Roland keyboard added (vs. the cheaper Casio):

Weighted keys (full 88 keys) that felt very piano-like.
Richer, better sound - both the internal electronics/sampling mechanisms, and, I would say, the speakers themselves.
Pedals.
Nice look.
Weight (It doesn't feel wobbly).

So, was the $200 spent on the Casio a waste? I think not. There seemed a good chance that it would be a short term interest thing, and as things went, they used the Casio for ~6 months while maintaining high interest. The Casio was bought for the younger daughter, but the older daughter really got interested in it too, and it was easier for me to justify the more expensive Roland later with two daughters showing sustained interest. Also, the girls (especially the oldest) were able to provide their input on the pricier purchase, with the benefit of some real experience.

And the Casio was then loaned out to a family at our church whose son was showing some interest in keyboards, but who also had doubts about sustained commitment. Interestingly, our younger daughter showed interest in guitar starting about 4-6 weeks ago, and that other family had an unused, good quality 3/4 sized guitar they'd bought for their son that was sitting unused, so THAT is now on loan to us, and our youngest is doing both piano and guitar for the time being (her private instructor teaches both and is currently splitting her 30 minute weekly lesson into 15 minutes for each instrument).

So, another idea is to see if a friend/relative has a keyboard sitting in a closet that they can loan you for a few months.

At the time of the pricier purchase, I did quite a bit of research, including considering a variety of acoustic piano purchases (new and used.). I won't go into all the pros and cons - you can do some research on your own (there's a lot on the internet) and/or compare them in stores (it's not uncommon for music/piano stores to carry both). I would say though, that living with an inexpensive and/or borrowed keyboard for a few months will likely give you a better feel for the whole experience of having one of these in the house, and may position you better for a pricier purchase later, should you make that decision.

My middle child - 12 year old son - did noodle around with the piano some but didn't really dive into it. But he DID start playing trumpet this school year. He struggled considerably at first. We didn't have him on private (supplemental) lessons initially but added that fairly quickly. At mid-year, on recommendation from teacher, he switched from trumpet to a different brass instrument - euphonium (similar to and almost interchangeable with a baritone), that for some reason seemed a better fit to his mouth, and he has flourished with the latter. I think having his sisters go at the piano/keyboard fairly aggressively has, in turn, helped inspire him with the brass instruments. I hope to see him switch over to trombone at some point (a more widely used instrument than the euphonium/baritone, but sharing essentially the same mouthpiece that he's had some success with).

Basically, our household which had not been very musical before has kinda caught the music bug in the last year, and it's been surprising how well the kids have done in a short time.

Also, in all cases, I think inexpensive weekly one on one lessons have been very helpful vs. pure self-study or in-school study (within a large classroom).
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MathWizard
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by MathWizard » Mon May 06, 2013 10:23 am

Consider renting.

We bought a trumpet and violin after renting for 3-4 years thinking it would be cheaper, and
after one more year, both wanted to quit. Of course, then there was the "but we just bought the instrument battle", and both boys stuck it out for one more year before quitting. I don't know whether buying
the instrument had anything to do with their wanting to quit. Maybe it changed their or our
approach to their music studies.
We sold the trumpet and still have the violin.

Strangely, the instrument that we always rented (french horn) was the one my second son excelled at,
not the violin. We'll be going to his last band concert tonight.

leonard
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by leonard » Mon May 06, 2013 10:46 am

Go with a guitar or something less expensive. Really good examples of electric and acoustic guitars can be had on Craigslist for $300. If the kids don't use them, they will keep their resale. They are portable so the kids can take them to play with others.

I think that beats having a big piano moved in the house - without knowing if it will get used.
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schnoodlemom
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by schnoodlemom » Mon May 06, 2013 11:25 am

What we did with our girls (currently 13 & 16), but not necessarily meant as advice per se:

Both our girls went through an early childhood music program (weekly group lessons) from ages 4-7 where they learned to read music, played music games, got beginning piano instruction etc., then went to private piano lessons in our home. We're lucky in that our instructors come to our home for lessons (~$20 per half hour). First we used an inexpensive small digital keyboard that we inherited from family before purchasing our Kawai digital upright with weighted keys and other features. We like it because of it's versatility, value and compactness. We paid under $2k, just don't remember if >< $1,500, about a decade ago.

Both girls also sang in children's choirs, community and church. In middle school, both girls played flute in their school band. Their piano lessons became alternating piano & flute lessons, because we didn't want to pay for more than one lesson a week. We bought a basic Gemeinhardt flute, with plugs in the open holes for beginners that could be taken out once they become advanced. My eldest is now exclusively taking voice lessons, no more piano & flute. She sings for both church and school, and is a frequent soloist. The flute has been passed down to her younger sister and is still going strong.

I really don't want to total all the costs over the years for their music interests because it is probably too much considering neither are likely to be professional musicians. We have really enjoyed it all such that I don't count it completely wasted.

There are so many ways to invest in your children's interests and talents over the years that it's good to choose wisely of your time, money and be flexible as their interests change. If I had to do it all over again, I would claim more unstructured time with my girls so we could do spontaneous fun and enriching stuff. Music lessons, dance, sports, anything scheduled into our week really became burdensome at times, but it's fun to see them grow and take on new things. Best of luck to you!

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by TSR » Mon May 06, 2013 11:47 am

I don't have empirical proof to back this up, but I think it's better to start with a chord-based instrument (piano, guitar, harp) than a melodic instrument (violin, horn, etc.). The piano is probably the most versatile of these, and will open up a lot of other instruments if the kids want that. For reasons I can't fully articulate, I'd recommend just committing to spending at least $1,000 and having a new piece of furniture -- preferably a studio upright. I have one and, while I do play it all the time, I just really like having it in my home. Just a thought. Good luck!

retiredjg
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by retiredjg » Mon May 06, 2013 2:06 pm

TSR wrote:I don't have empirical proof to back this up, but I think it's better to start with a chord-based instrument (piano, guitar, harp) than a melodic instrument (violin, horn, etc.). The piano is probably the most versatile of these, and will open up a lot of other instruments if the kids want that.
I don't know of any proof to this either, but my instinct believes you are correct.

Rupert
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by Rupert » Mon May 06, 2013 2:09 pm

There's a used piano shop in my town. Small, upright pianos start around $350. Many of them are in pristine condition - bought new for a kid who quickly gave up the instrument. I'd buy one of those before I'd buy an electronic keyboard.

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by diasurfer » Mon May 06, 2013 2:33 pm

Thanks for all the posts - I'm not the OP but in a similar situation. Our oldest is 4 and we have been considering an upright piano. My sisters both took lessons as kids but as the boy for some reason I was "spared" much to my relief at the time. Fast forward a few decades and I've long wished that I could play an instrument. Maybe I'll take lessons too.

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by texasdiver » Mon May 06, 2013 2:45 pm

First of all, there is a forum where you will learn more than you could possibly ever want to know about buying pianos:

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/

Second, as a mediocre pianist and parent with 2 kids in piano lessons currently, here is my advice for purchasing a first piano.

1. Be wary of used pianos on Craigslist and the like. There are lots of old worn out pianos out there that are basically junk and will cost more $$$ to bring up to playable than they are worth. Especially old pianos that have been sitting neglected in someone's living room for decades. You can find some good deals but when buying any used acoustic piano you should have a piano technician evaluate it first and then pay to have it moved so that will cost you a couple hundred $$ minimum before you even get it home.

2. There is a difference between digital pianos and keyboards. Digital pianos are instruments designed to simulate an acoustic piano. They have a keyboard designed to provide the same weighted feel as an acoustic piano. And they have recorded sounds that are as close as possible to acoustic piano sounds. What they actually do is record each note from a state of the art grand piano in a perfect acoustic studio and then store those sounds in the digital piano sound bank so the notes you play are actually digital recordings of Steinways or other top pianos. Keyboards range from toys to expensive band instruments but are not necessarily designed to feel or sound like a piano. For music lessons you want a digital piano not some keyboard. Kids can develop bad habits if they learn on an unweighted keyboard that doesn't feel like a piano.

3. For learning piano on a digital piano the only thing you really need to care about is the feel of keys and the piano sound. New ones come with hundreds of buttons and features for all manner of sounds and features like ability to make digital recordings. Basically it is all unnecessary. My kids played with the sounds and other features for a few weeks but after that the piano just says in grand piano mode and they never use any of the other features.

4. You can find some decent deals in used digital pianos, especially in the spring if you live in a college town and students are moving out and need to get rid of their stuff. There are a couple good brands. Yamaha, Kawai, and Roland are the 3 biggest brands. A digital piano is basically a mechanical keyboard attached to a circuit board and loudspeakers. Older ones sound just as good as newer ones, they just don't have as many computerized features which you don't care about anyway.

5. If it were me, I'd look for a used or new digital piano for your first instrument. Much cheaper than the comparable acoustic piano and much easier to move. You can do it yourself without paying for special piano movers. They also don't need the expensive maintenance and tuning of acoustic pianos and have headphone jacks so you or the kids can plug in headphones to practice silently. I love this feature as it allows me to play at night without waking up the house.

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frugaltype
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by frugaltype » Mon May 06, 2013 3:17 pm

momar wrote:Make sure your kids want to play it. I did violin in elementary school and piano in middle/high school, but I never wanted to play either so I never put in any work. My dad always told me I would regret not practicing (my idea of practice was 5 minutes), and he was right.
Yes, I'd try to figure out what instrument the kids might like.

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by lightheir » Mon May 06, 2013 6:08 pm

FWIW, I took tons of very pricey classical music lessons growing up, competed at the highest levels including music observatory training, and because I knew I wasn't going to be a professional in the field (ever), I view it as largely a big waste of money and effort that consumed a disproportionate part of my youth.

I would not recommend this route except to kids who are extremely drawn to the field, but it's also hard to predict this, as if you don't start children before they can even commit this deeply (like age 4), their odds of becoming top-level drop substantially.

My biggest complaint was the amount of self-isolation involved in music. Top level players routinely require 2-4 hours of solo practice, every day, for most of their life, when you should be forming social bonds and experiencing other parts of life. Then again, no sacrifice, no glory - same for most high level performance by kids whatever the field.

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by michaelsieg » Mon May 06, 2013 8:51 pm

letsgobobby
Sorry if this is maybe a bit long, but this is something that is really important to us.
I agree with Tet - the teacher is really important and it has to be someone who loves to teach and loves music, make sure you find someone like this.
My two older ones (almost 7 and almost 9) are taking piano lessons - my 8 year-old girl was "ready" for the piano at 5, we went to our local piano teacher who lives 5 houses down. She is awesome, is going towards 80 and she really loves what she does - I think she truly has the perfect "retirement". She checked my daughter out, felt she was ready, and we started lessons, and even though my girl is not super-talented, she is doing really well. My son, who is now going towards 7, was no where close from being ready when he was 5, but at 6 he came to us and really wanted to play and he also is doing great.
After picking up my daughter from piano lessons for about a year, I dediced to start taking lessons again (I quit when I was 14) and it was probably the best decision I have made in a long time. I play an hour every night after I put the kids to bed instead of watching tv or reading this forum and it really helps to de-stress after long work days and I have somehow become more resistant to some of the bs that we all seem to have to put up in healthcare. Just learned some Scott Joplin pieces - I am sorry if I am digressing, but I thought this might interest you regarding one of your previous posts.
In terms of the piano, I personally think a nice used upright is a good way to start - what matters less than the price is that you like the tone and that it works well - otherwise the kids will not like to play on it - we went to a local family business that restores used pianos and also sells new ones - we got a used one- if you don't find one that you really like, then renting is for sure another good option.
If you decide to go with an electric one, make sure it has natural action and weighted keys - so they develop the finger strenght to play a piano.
Playing an instrument is one of the most intensive tasks the human brain performs - there are some interesting MRI studies about this and it is astounding to see how your kids learn to sit down and focus on a single task - I don't think parents should be ambitious about what level the children will reach on an instrument- but I think it is a great way for them to be creative, learn discipline to focus on a single complex -at the same time musical and motor- task and have fun - I think it is amazing to see how they learn to totally concentrate on one task and how after a year or two they really start to make music - I would definitely recommend to get at least your older one started.

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by leo383 » Mon May 06, 2013 9:50 pm

I highly suggest buying a used or new electronic keyboard. For $500-1500, you can get a weighted key keyboard that is very very convincing in sound and feel to a regular piano, doesn't need tuning, and can be turned down or used with headphones.

We bought a weighted key Casio, about $600 and have no regrets. I play it in the evenings with headphones after the kids have gone to bed.

Upright or grand acoustic pianos, unless you know that it will be a permanent part of your lives aren't, imo, worth the hassle now that very good electronic options are out there.

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by rjbraun » Mon May 06, 2013 10:16 pm

texasdiver wrote:First of all, there is a forum where you will learn more than you could possibly ever want to know about buying pianos:

http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/
+1. Fwiw, I took piano lessons as a kid, played eh, and restarted after as an adult after a multi-decades hiatus. I took a leap of faith and got my dream small grand piano. It was a great decision and music is an integral and very wonderful aspect of my life now. I am so grateful to my parents for having given me piano (and violin) lessons when I was young. We didn't have lots of disposable income so I assume it was a sacrifice on some level.

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by bigmantenor » Tue May 07, 2013 12:36 am

I don't have children, but myself and all my siblings are all musical (I played saxophone from middle school through college, as well as guitar), so I have a bit of insight on the matter.

With regard to learning the piano, I will echo some of the other posters and say that a good option is buying a nice electric keyboard and paying for private lessons. The piano has a number of good things gong for it, not the least of which is that it can be used in almost every form of music (much like percussion). A downside to piano is that many middle school/high school bands do not have a spot for piano players (with the exception of jazz band, and even then there are usually a maximum of two), so if having your children play in band is important to you just keep that in mind. They will have a leg-up knowing ANY instrument when beginning middle school, so that is not to say that piano is wasted at all.

My personal leanings would be toward buying them a guitar to play with. The guitar is typically seen as a "cooler" instrument (not my personal feeling, but a common one), and thus may interest your children more. This is especially true if they enjoy rock/pop music, as the guitar is still the centerpiece for much of that. Learning the guitar is also a great boon if your children decide that they like to sing AND play, though you can do this with piano as well. Takamine sells some good beginner's guitars, or if you're looking to spend a bit more for something that they can grow in to you can do that (my brother recently ordered this Seagull from Amazon, and it sounds remarkably like my $3000 Taylor: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001G7 ... UTF8&psc=1).

In the end, you can either make a move now or simply wait until they are old enough to join band in middle school. It will not necessarily be detrimental to them to wait; I didn't start until I was around 13, and was first chair most of my way through high school/college (I was not a music major, either). If your children have interest and/or aptitude, they will be successful either way you choose to go. :beer

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by Qtman » Tue May 07, 2013 4:56 am

Our two sons wanted to learn guitar in pre-teen years. Decent guitars are available for little money, to see if they will stick with it. Both did, as their skill increased we got them better instruments. Piano was not an option due to space. You don't have to start them at 3-4 years old, give them time to be kids.

Both had bands in high school and still enjoy playing today, many years later.
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by Jazztonight » Wed May 08, 2013 12:30 am

Wow, the the responses to the OP's question are all over the place! I'm exhausted just reading them!

My 2 cents:

There is the story and the back-story, the stated question and the implied question, and issues of money and motivation. Also, we are talking here about kids, who are as unpredictable as the stock market.

Disclaimer: I am a professional musician (amongst other things). The definition of a professional musician is that you get PAID to perform. :wink: I have a BA degree in music, have played guitar, piano, and saxophone, and am a composer and arranger.

If you're asking about which type of piano to buy or rent, just get something good! Don't buy a piece of junk. Either rent a real piano, buy a good new or used one, or invest in a decent Yamaha or Roland keyboard with weighted keys. If a real piano, get it tuned. Yamaha is a good brand, and many schools,churches, and synagogues own Yamaha studio upright pianos--they're considered work horses.
https://www.google.com/search?q=yamaha+ ... 68&bih=901

That's what I have, along with a heavy Roland stage piano (which I do not recommend) and a lighter Yamaha 155 that you can get for $1000 as a bundle:
http://www.kraftmusic.com/yamaha-p-155- ... undle.html

But more than just getting a piano or keyboard, please be aware that a piano is not necessarily the instrument that will make a child's heart soar. I believe that each child will be attracted to the instrument that is right for him or her, and given time and opportunity, will discover that instrument. Also, the child may be multi-instrumental, or wind up being a composer, conductor, or singer. You just don't know.

(My son thought he was a guitarist until he got his hands on an old electric bass, and thus found his "voice.")

My personal advice is to indulge your kids as much as you can afford to, buy or rent the piano or keyboard, and encourage each child to play a band or orchestra instrument as well as the piano. Playing in the school ensembles is an excellent socialization experience, and is positive on so many levels. Private lessons, if you can afford them, are a must. Don't be afraid to change teachers if you sense this is necessary. And don't force the child to practice--just monitor the progress, and if you sense progress, continue.

It's all about enrichment. At 66, after a career as a health professional, I continue to perform, play, write, arrange, and most of all ENJOY music. The people I play with are like-minded.

And I owe all of this to my mother, who died last year, and never forced me to play, encouraged me, took me to lessons for years, and took great pride in all my accomplishments, musical or not.

That's about it. Good luck to all of you who offer your children the gift of music!
"What does not destroy me, makes me stronger." Nietzsche

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by letsgobobby » Wed May 08, 2013 1:19 am

What ages do we start? And at what age do we go from "pound the keys if you like" to "here's how to play a C chord?"

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by michaelsieg » Wed May 08, 2013 6:21 am

letsgobobby wrote
What ages do we start? And at what age do we go from "pound the keys if you like" to "here's how to play a C chord?"
An experienced teacher should look at your child, sit down at the piano with him/her, and they will be able to tell if your child is ready to start lessons. For piano, it probably does not make sense to start before 5 or 6, but kids are different. Many "tiger moms" in our area start their children at 4, but our teacher does not usually take them that early, she feels there is no benefit if they are that young. But I am sure, you will get many different opinions about when to start.

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by HardKnocker » Wed May 08, 2013 6:57 am

It's never too young to make your child miserable by forcing them to practice an instrument.
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by HogsAndApples » Wed May 08, 2013 11:13 am

I've been wanting to try the cello recently, but I've been thinking it might be too costly to try at the moment. Any ideas about finding an inexpensive cello?

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by HardKnocker » Wed May 08, 2013 1:46 pm

HogsAndApples wrote:I've been wanting to try the cello recently, but I've been thinking it might be too costly to try at the moment. Any ideas about finding an inexpensive cello?
A violin is just like a cello, only smaller. You can buy inexpensive violins for $100. I suggest giving a violin a try.
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by TSR » Wed May 08, 2013 1:57 pm

HogsAndApples wrote:I've been wanting to try the cello recently, but I've been thinking it might be too costly to try at the moment. Any ideas about finding an inexpensive cello?
I've known a lot of people who have been attracted to learning the cello as an adult because of it's tonal beauty. Unfortunately, it's a beast to play, especially for hands that are not already accustomed to a violin. If you're set on it, start by renting to see if you hold up to a couple months of lessons. If you just want to learn an instrument, I strongly recommend guitar (take lessons -- don't teach yourself at first). Good luck!

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by epilnk » Wed May 08, 2013 4:40 pm

retiredjg wrote:
TSR wrote:I don't have empirical proof to back this up, but I think it's better to start with a chord-based instrument (piano, guitar, harp) than a melodic instrument (violin, horn, etc.). The piano is probably the most versatile of these, and will open up a lot of other instruments if the kids want that.
I don't know of any proof to this either, but my instinct believes you are correct.
The two classic instruments to begin a child on (especially in a tiger parent environment) are piano and violin. Each has it's own advantages, with violin having the advantage in developing pitch and tone. Violin is suitable for very young children and can also be continued in elementary school, which is good for sustaining interest if your child turns out to be a team player who is happier in groups than alone. So the other route the OP might consider is starting with the cheaper and more portable violin, and adding piano later if the child shows interest and/or aptitude.

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by enderland » Wed May 08, 2013 5:07 pm

lightheir wrote:My biggest complaint was the amount of self-isolation involved in music. Top level players routinely require 2-4 hours of solo practice, every day, for most of their life, when you should be forming social bonds and experiencing other parts of life. Then again, no sacrifice, no glory - same for most high level performance by kids whatever the field.
I would say nearly any 6th or 7th grader who actually practices 30 minutes a day will be pretty close to "top level" in high school at the very least. Note actually practicing is considerably different than simply playing.

If you want to go pro? Sure, you need to spend a looot of time. But if you are diligent in practicing you can become quite good without that time being spent.

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by BGJ » Wed May 08, 2013 5:14 pm

I have played cello, saxophone, guitar, and piano. They are all great instruments, but I only still play piano and guitar. I don't know any adult who still plays the violin, cello, or viola, unless they are a pretty serious musician, but lots of regular folks still play piano and guitar. If you had to pick only one instrument I would without a doubt say piano. It allows you to musically develop and play more types of music than any other instrument. It's a true one man band with music theory laid out in black and white (literally). That said, ANY instrument is better than no instrument for a young person.

For kids and pianos, at least get a decent used acoustic upright if possible. You should pay probably $1200 for a decent used one, less expensive ones may not be worth it even for free. Go to Pianoworld.com for more info about this. Have a piano technician (http://www.ptg.org) evaluate any piano that you are concerned about for quality or price.

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by Fallible » Wed May 08, 2013 5:54 pm

michaelsieg wrote:
letsgobobby wrote
What ages do we start? And at what age do we go from "pound the keys if you like" to "here's how to play a C chord?"
An experienced teacher should look at your child, sit down at the piano with him/her, and they will be able to tell if your child is ready to start lessons. For piano, it probably does not make sense to start before 5 or 6, but kids are different....
I agree with this as it's what I experienced growing up and also what I've seen throughout my life. I would hope that a good teacher also could know if the child has natural talent. This often is shown when kids play on their own; even if it's just chopsticks, they'll want to know all versions of it and they'll usually pick it up quickly because they have a "good ear" for music.
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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by lightheir » Wed May 08, 2013 6:51 pm

enderland wrote:
lightheir wrote:My biggest complaint was the amount of self-isolation involved in music. Top level players routinely require 2-4 hours of solo practice, every day, for most of their life, when you should be forming social bonds and experiencing other parts of life. Then again, no sacrifice, no glory - same for most high level performance by kids whatever the field.
I would say nearly any 6th or 7th grader who actually practices 30 minutes a day will be pretty close to "top level" in high school at the very least. Note actually practicing is considerably different than simply playing.

If you want to go pro? Sure, you need to spend a looot of time. But if you are diligent in practicing you can become quite good without that time being spent.
Top level in high school means nothing - it's literally competing against maybe the 2-5 other people who took up the instrument on a whim.

But to be good enough that music teachers and professionals sit up and take notice - even when you're not an outright prodigy, means years of dedicated practice, often well more than 30mins per day, not even including all the lesson time.

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by letsgobobby » Fri Sep 06, 2013 11:33 pm

bump

I have been reading about electric pianos. There was a recent NYTimes article discussing some of the higher end instruments. Apparently even the mid-range ones are pretty good, and low-end ones can be a reasonable starter instrument. Note: my understanding is these are far different from electronic keyboards; they have weighted keys, which makes all the difference.

What say the piano players? Remember, looking for a starter instrument, I do not anticipate serious musicianship out of my kids but you never know. The electronic piano attracts because I can avoid having to tune it, it can be played with headphones at night, and it will take up less room than a larger piano. Also, it looks like you can get a decent used one for $500-$1500.

NYTimes article here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/05/techn ... wanted=all

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by northernisland » Sat Sep 07, 2013 3:42 am

We bought an electric piano (Casio, ~$500). Pros are: weighted keys, doesn't need to be tuned, takes up reasonable amount of space and is not unattractive, durable. Cons: piano teachers all prefer a real piano, some are kind of ugly, may just acquire dust. I would not buy a keyboard, because they have a million little buttons and all kids want to do is punch buttons. They also don't have weighted keys. It is a dilemma of how to do lessons. Here they have suzuki, yamaha, etc. Good luck!

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by madbrain » Sat Sep 07, 2013 5:00 am

If you care about your children actually enjoying practicing and playing the piano, buy a good instrument. IMO, it is really important to practice on something with a good action. If you learn on a good instrument, you can adapt and play on any other lesser instrument. But it's just not so the other way around.

I abandoned the piano as a teenager after 9 months for several reasons, but the main one was that the used upright my parents bought was so awful. It was kind of random when the keys would actually sound or not. That bad. The other thing was that it was very loud, located in a room with a high ceiling, in a townhouse with a common wall with the neighbors, and my father wouldn't let me practice after dinner time which was at 8pm. That left only the period of time after school between 6-8pm to practice, during which I usually felt like doing something more passive. The practice hour issue would have been solved with an electronic instrument with weighted keys, I don't think those were really available back then. The electronic keyboards of the late 80s mostly had unweighted keys and poorly imitated piano sounds.

I ended up taking the piano again as an adult . I started with a Roland FP-3 digital piano with weighted keys for the first year. Then I bought a baby grand.
I sold the baby grand last year and now have a full size Schimmel concert grand in my living room since last year. I wish I could play it a lot better than I do.
I also sold the digital piano a few months ago as there was no point in having it anymore. It's 3am and I think I am going to hit the keys on the grand now.

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by lightheir » Sat Sep 07, 2013 8:01 am

letsgobobby wrote:bump

I have been reading about electric pianos. There was a recent NYTimes article discussing some of the higher end instruments. Apparently even the mid-range ones are pretty good, and low-end ones can be a reasonable starter instrument. Note: my understanding is these are far different from electronic keyboards; they have weighted keys, which makes all the difference.

What say the piano players? Remember, looking for a starter instrument, I do not anticipate serious musicianship out of my kids but you never know. The electronic piano attracts because I can avoid having to tune it, it can be played with headphones at night, and it will take up less room than a larger piano. Also, it looks like you can get a decent used one for $500-$1500.

NYTimes article here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/05/techn ... wanted=all
The AvantGrande's are the top of the line for digital pianos and make minimal sacrifices, and are more than adequate for all but top players.

You can definitely learn piano at a fairly high level even on something as inexpensive as a Casio Privia or a Yamaha Arius (I have an Arius). Unless you're very good, you probably won't be limited by the piano.

I'm probably good enough now to actually get the nuances of that NU1 in that NYT articles, but I'm not getting it any time soon - I still have a ways to go before I'm even near maxxing the potential on my Arius.

These entry level digital pianos are so inexpensive and light as well that you can easily sell them on Craigslist or ebay - buyers are much more willing to drive and pick up a DP that they can stick into a compact car (both the ones I mentioned do with minimal disassembly) that they are a 700lb beast. As well, if your kids really do get that good that they are requiring a top -end instrument, they're small and space-saving enough that they could even double as a teaching piano if you have a teacher come to your house - teacher could demonstrate on the Casio during the lesson.

You can't go wrong as a beginning piano player with one of the Privia or Arius - action is weighted hammer style, and is essentially a 'real' piano for beginners and intermediate players.

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by letsgobobby » Sat Sep 07, 2013 11:18 pm

A new casio previa with synthetic ivory keys is about $1000. It's certainly a lot less than a good analog upright new. I found an article by a digital piano 'expert' who makes the point that the technology in these instruments has advanced rapidly so that even 5 year old used digital pianos are quite inferior to a new model. He doesn't really encourage buying used.

Of course, he also sells new digital pianos. :mrgreen:

http://azpianonews.blogspot.com/p/buy-p ... i-buy.html

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Re: general (financial) advice about musical instruments/les

Post by madbrain » Sat Sep 07, 2013 11:26 pm

letsgobobby wrote:A new casio previa with synthetic ivory keys is about $1000. It's certainly a lot less than a good analog upright new. I found an article by a digital piano 'expert' who makes the point that the technology in these instruments has advanced rapidly so that even 5 year old used digital pianos are quite inferior to a new model. He doesn't really encourage buying used.
I don't think that's really true for most models, unless you are buying the top of the line digital pianos like the AvantGrand or Roland V-piano.
But I have seen many less expensive digital pianos in stores from Casio and Yamaha that look a lot flimsier than the Roland FP-3 I bought in 2001.
Back then you had to pay over $1000 for weighted keys. This is no longer the case now, but there are compromises being made.
So, I think buying a used digital piano is fine. But I would still recommend an acoustic.

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