Show And Tell: The Case For The Really Pretty Electronic Piano (+ What We Think About It A Month In)

When we planned the layout of this house we made a specific space for my family’s heirloom piano – the one that multiple generations, including myself, learned on and I was excited to teach my kids (or have my mom ... The post Show And Tell: The Case For The Really Pretty Electronic Piano (+ What We Think About It A Month In) appeared first on Emily Henderson.

Show And Tell: The Case For The Really Pretty Electronic Piano (+ What We Think About It A Month In)

When we planned the layout of this house we made a specific space for my family’s heirloom piano – the one that multiple generations, including myself, learned on and I was excited to teach my kids (or have my mom teach our kids) on this same beautiful piece in our new home in Portland. It’s a 120-year-old player piano and one of the only heirlooms (besides portraits of ancestors) that I secretly hoped to inherit. It’s been in storage for a long time – at my brother’s house, in different wet garages of different siblings and it needed A LOT of work. But Brian and I really, really wanted it (it’s so pretty) and since no one else did (red flag) we nabbed it. The quote to fix it came to around $8k, but that was NOT including fixing the “player” part of it – just to make it operate as a normal piano. OOF. But it’s an heirloom! We said. It has so much meaning! We made sure that this spot could fit the piano in width and figured it was the perfect way to use this almost dead space as you walk in. Great. We spent another $400 to move it from my brother’s garage into one of our outbuildings (because they were moving) while we awaited the house to be done with construction. I told my parents the plan and they thought I was a bit nuts/naive – not exactly the emotional reaction I had predicted. They said, “It’s so broken, even if you fix it it’s going to have terrible sound – really echo-y and loud because the back of the piano is so cracked that it can’t ever be fixed”. Around that same time, I was at their house for family dinner, my kids banging on the piano in the background, me yelling at them to please stop (my nephew is incredible tbh) and I realized that the charming part of having your house filled with music is largely a fantasy, born out of my own nostalgia when the reality is a lot of less cute on the day to day basis. I was also reminded that I’m extremely extremely extremely sensitive to noises/music or anything that resembles audible chaos in our house (it’s a real thing amongst my friends and I’m often that person in a restaurant or yoga class who asks them to turn down the VERY loud music, which I secretly think everyone is grateful for). Like, I’ve been known to wear the silencing headphones that we bought Charlie for SXSW when he was 2 years old at parties when everyone gets to the shouty point in the night. So no, I don’t think I’m a candidate for a bad-sounding, extra loud echo-y piano in our very open and already echo-y home.

Around that time, but before my full realization, we also booked movers (not piano movers TBH) to move the piano from the garage into the living room. We had to build a ramp on the front in advance. They showed up, tried to move it, and said it was the heaviest piano they have ever moved and that they couldn’t do it. I was obviously very confused, but listen, one guy had a sprained ankle (which was sad on many levels) and I just had to accept that it wasn’t coming in. I told my mom and she said that it was indeed the heaviest piano ever and that she was seriously worried that it would damage our floors permanently if tried to bring it in or ever move it. It seems like all signs were pointing to us not having this heirloom that we were so excited about in our home. I think the loud bad sound was really the clencher for me.

So our options were A. buy a newer piano that had a more pleasant sound, but y’all I don’t love the look of most affordable new pianos and I wouldn’t have the sentimental attachment to it. It just felt like a “meh” decision. or B. buy an electronic piano for them to learn.

Over the holidays we were at our friend’s house who had this electronic piano and we fell in LOVE with it for many reasons that I’ll outline below – so when we got back I found the only one left in Portland, snagged it, and it was delivered 3 days later.

Electric Keyboard

We bought a Roland electronic keyboard that is essentially housed in a wood piano-like frame. It’s about damn time. No weird stand. No light, janky keys. It feels like a real piano. The electronic keyboard industry has finally caught up with modern needs. Do you remember how most houses in the ’80s or ’90s had a piano? And now they don’t? It seemed more like a common childhood thing to take piano lessons back then, no? But real pianos are pretty cumbersome and a real thing to deal with (which is why they are free all over Craigslist and FB Marketplace). Listen, I hear all you piano purists (of which my family was as well) saying that there is nothing like the real thing and I totally agree with you. But sometimes the impracticality of it (sound + size + the constant tuning) makes it a harder purchase to make and we really really want to get our kids going on learning.

If you are like, “wait, you had such a beautiful mid-century piano in your old living room – just find another one like that?” I hear you. But the joke was on me because the sound on that piano was not good (famously bad actually, which is why they are so “rare,” and they stopped making them very quickly!!). So to get a great soft sounding piano you’d need to spend a lot of money or get something that looks generic which is fine, but kinda a bummer to me since it’s so prominent in our living room (full disclosure, I’m being a snob and I haven’t done more than a few hours of research).

Why Do You Like It So Much?

Let me count the ways why so far we LOVE it:

  1. It sounds and feels like a real piano enough. Yes, the keys are weighted and it felt very very natural to play.
  2. You can control the volume – this is CLUTCH. I love it when our kids bang/play or practice (starting lessons next week). I also love this for me because I love to play but don’t want everyone in the house to hear my mistakes (which are painful to make when I used to be pretty darn good).
  3. You can plug in headphones – So if they DO want to use all the extra features (which admittedly can be annoying) they can do it with headphones so no one has to hear. You can even hook up two headphones so they can both hear.
  4. The kids love the extra “features” – This is basically where you play the keys and it sounds like drums, acapella singers, and even gun bullets (not a fan). These are annoying, but obviously very fun for the kids to play. Headphones are key.
  5. It’s not a “player” piano per se, but there are a lot of songs pre-loaded that you can hit play on. The keys don’t go up and down but it does sound really nice. Would a Spotify playlist sound as good? Maybe. But it’s a fun feature, regardless.
  6. You can record your own playing and playback, set tempo, and of course, change the type of piano sound (ballad versus concert piano, etc). I don’t really use those yet, but in the future will be fun to play with.

You can see all the bells and whistles below (but they are super subtle and you can even bring the top over them so you can’t see them should you want to see the keys without the buttons).

The biggest, yet not so shocking surprise here, is that I have enjoyed playing again SO MUCH. It definitely took a couple of hours to get my fingers less rusty and I’m certainly not saying I’m good, but it’s been really really lovely to play again. I’m of course embarrassed at how less good I am compared to when I was 18, but if you haven’t done something in 24 years you can’t expect to be good. So that’s why I love having the volume control or headphones so only I hear the painful easy mistakes I’m making as I re-learn how to play.

Plus It’s Pretty And Simple… Design-Wise

We’ve only had it for less than a month so I can’t talk about its longevity or anything like that. But what I can say is that it’s visually very simple and of nice quality, without being super heavy. I’m sure it’s a veneer, not solid white oak, but as you can see it is indeed handsome. I don’t LOVE the bench and will likely find something with more personality as I think that the bench cheapens the whole thing aesthetically. I think what really makes it is the wood back on it so you can’t see all the way through. Does it fool anyone at the beginning? Yes at first! But no, it’s not going to fool anyone who plays the piano. It is electronic, full stop.

We hired a hand model to show you how we can turn up and down the volume (lord those knuckles) so you can see the interface better. Also, the pedals (which you can see below) are great and feel just like a normal piano IMHO.

Electric Keyboard

Price wise we bought ours for $2,599 which included delivery, set up, and box removal (no tax in Oregon). It’s not nothing but we felt like it was a great investment to get our kids going on lessons which is really the main goal. Am I sad to not have the heirloom? In theory yes, but honestly I’m so happy that we get so much more use out of this. I liken it to a wood fireplace versus a gas – one is better in so many ways, there is no denying that, but the latter is what you use and enjoy so much more often. It’s totally a personal preference, but our family thus far is so happy with it. And it’s so lightweight that you can easily put it in a bedroom or in a hallway – we can have total flexibility to put it upstairs and then if it doesn’t work, bring it back down whereas with a traditional piano, you can’t as easily.

I feel like there are a lot of examples of this conundrum – the real thing that is laborious and cumbersome but infinitely better in some ways, versus the “fake” version that is more convenient, less expensive, and doesn’t have the innate integrity of the original. But it’s my perspective that when the aesthetics, cost, and technology start to be pretty darn great, that’s when it’s ok to make the switch and prioritize use, function, and practicality over the real thing. We want our kids to learn piano and this is making that actually happen, with less stress, without spending close to $10k on refurbishing and having future flexibility. But don’t worry, we will be putting the heirloom in the older house on the property in the rec room when we are done with it (ha) – technically you can still play it and it’s so pretty so it will land somewhere, someday.

*Photos by Kaitlin Green

The post Show And Tell: The Case For The Really Pretty Electronic Piano (+ What We Think About It A Month In) appeared first on Emily Henderson.