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Should I choose a practice piano with a heavier action?


Jason Stanfield

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I'm getting a new stage piano soon, and as far as sound and action, I have it narrowed down to the Nord Stage 2 and (more likely) the Roland RD-800. Both of them feel fantastic to me, and are very responsive to the way I play.

 

Since I'm tired of hauling gear in and out of the house almost daily (burning off energy I could be spending on personal practice) I'm also looking for something I can keep at home as a practice instrument.

 

I'm wondering if choosing a stage piano that's a challenge for me to play well (the Yamaha CP-4, for instance) is a good idea. To my hands, the CP-4 keys feel bigger, deeper, and more difficult for me in terms of speed, aim, and endurance.

 

My hypothesis is: if I spend enough time on something that's hard for me to play, then get good on it, I'll be even better on a lighter weighted action ... sort of like how baseball players use weights on their warm-up bats prior to stepping up to the plate.

 

Is this advisable? Is there any benefit to playing different piano actions in order to combat repetitive stress (I have a touch of tendinitis)? Am I risking (further) injury?

 

Or is there just no advantage or disadvantage to this, and I should save money and buy, say, a P-255 or Roland FP-80 for practice instead?

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I don't know. I believe in a firmer piano action because of the added control. (4 on a scale of 1 to 10 is what I gravitate towards.

 

I believe in performing on such pianos. But I am also in the camp of thinking you should practice on what you will perform on. I don't think of a firm action as weight training. I think it is a characteristic of an good acoustic piano. If you do find a dp with a firmer action don't get something sluggish. A firm action does not have to be slow. A CP4 is not slow. I think I would only suggest this if you want to play ballades with more expression and develop as a pianist. I wouldn't do as a DP speed training device. A CP4 is certainly a fine slab. I think getting something like that would be great but I rationalize the decision differently.

 

When I used my S90XS as a stage piano moving to that light action was tough to stay under control and not spew too much. It was easy to lose good taste. You get developed for playing on a firm board you may start to like the RD less.

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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I have found you get used to the action you play the most. If you are going to be performing with action "x", then practice with that action. As CEB said, it is harder to maintain control. Your timing can get thrown off due to the lighter action. It is all muscle memory.
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I'll agree with the above. Do most of your practice on the action you will play the most. I'll also say, try to get some practice in on other actions. You never know when an opportunity comes along that requires to you to play a different action.

 

I've never been of the school that heaver action translates to more control. I do very well playing piano parts on a synth action keyboard, but I have been doing it for years. It is much easier for me to play piano on my Jupiter 80 than to play organ parts on my Motif XS8.

This post edited for speling.
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It's all about different opinions, isn't it?

 

I use a somewhat-light Nord Piano 2 to rehearse and perform. However, most of the time it sits in its case, so I tend to practice on either a Brodmann 187 grand piano or a Yamaha N3.

 

Both have relatively firm and stiff actions, and force me to work a bit harder than usual, especially on the faster parts or when I want something to sound smooth. No sloppy pedaling allowed either.

 

The result is that when I sit down to perform/rehearse, my hands literally fly over the keyboards. Yes, it takes a minute or two to recalibrate, but that's about it.

 

If it were me, I'd go for a stiff acoustic piano action -- upright or grand.

 

Life is too short to be playing bad music.

 

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CEB is correct: it's easy to 'spew' on a lighter action; the S90XS is great for cutting loose, when that's needed. When I played on a grand four times a week, then played an S90XS for weekend gigs, it was like riding on greased lightning. The weighted, practice bat idea fits in that instance. I gig with a CP4 now. It has a hefty action that's still very smooth. That's fine live - especially since I'm able to practice on my upright at home. Though being able to warm up on the performance instrument, on the day of the gig, is ideal.

 

I feel that a CP4 would be a good, home choice; it possesses a little more 'gravity' than the RD-800 or Stage 2 - without being sluggish. The weighted actions I avoid are ones that either bottom-out too quickly (the older RD's), or have a sluggish return. The classic example of that is an M-Audio controller I owned very briefly in 2005; it was a week of marshmallows and molasses for my hands.

'Someday, we'll look back on these days and laugh; likely a maniacal laugh from our padded cells, but a laugh nonetheless' - Mr. Boffo.

 

We need a barfing cat emoticon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I'm mention that on DIGITALS, or some combination of controller/sample player, it is important to learn the sample switching and response curve of the instrument. If you practice on a different digital at home, or even on an acoustic, you are not getting that one on one time with your instrument where you can learn the nuances without a full band blaring in your ears.
This post edited for speling.
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My hypothesis is: if I spend enough time on something that's hard for me to play, then get good on it, I'll be even better on a lighter weighted action ...

 

If this were true then most piano players could totally rip it up on a synth action. That's not the case and can actually be quite the opposite.

 

My advice is practice on something similar to what you'll perform on.

Kurzweil Forte, Yamaha Motif ES7, Muse Receptor 2 Pro Max, Neo Ventilator
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Hey, no one ever said that good piano technique could ever translate to organ, synths, and other unweighted keyboards. A completely different ballgame, based on my own experience :(

 

But if you're into weighted, piano-like keybeds, a workout on a real stiff physical acoustic piano (or something similar) is like going to the gym.

Life is too short to be playing bad music.

 

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having the CP4,the RD800...and the the kawai MP11...

I must say the best î this range for beeing better seems to me by far the kawai.

I Already know i have to practise more the kawai,and i will be better on others.

 

That's how i feel..

Nord stage 2 EX88,Nord electro 5D,roland RD800,Roland FA08,Korg kingkorg,Korg PA4x,Yamaha PSR s970

Native instrument maschine studio et komplete 10.

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I tell my students that they *MUST* have a weighted keyboard at home on which to practice. "Weighted" is an arbitrary term, of course, but it's somewhere between "plastic" and "way too stiff."

Muzikteechur is Lonnie, in Kittery, Maine.

 

HS music teacher: Concert Band, Marching Band, Jazz Band, Chorus, Music Theory, AP Music Theory, History of Rock, Musical Theatre, Piano, Guitar, Drama.

 

 

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i think it's more complex than heavy vs. light. I think an action that provides support and resistance is more conducive to "healthy playing." a light action that's too light has your fingers banging on the hard surface of the bottom of the keybed without cushioning them with resistance, so that can hurt them even more.

 

for me, the RD 800 has the best action so that's what I bought. :idk

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I practice on a pretty heavy RD700 (with the first keybed it had) but perform on a Semi weighted nord mostly. In 10-20 years I may not be performing on a semi weighted board at all, so I'd rather build the finger strength now.

 

Funny talking about uprights - my century old mini upright back home has what now feels like a synth action compared to most DPs I've played.

Nord E4 SW73

Yamaha MODX7

Mainstage 3

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As a piano teacher with 30 years teaching experience , currently 30 students, I would recommend the CP4 action over the RD800. I teach every day on 2 different Yamaha C6 grand pianos, a Baldwin 6', a Steinway Model B 6' and a bunch of Yamaha U3 and U2 and a Mason and Hamlin upright. The most responsive actions of the lot are the Yamaha C6 : fast and light (recommended). These fast light actions enable you to do more but you have to have a high level of controlled technique to manage them well. I feel that people who say they like a heavier action have not developed their technique to a degree where they can play lightly with tremendous control.

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." Harry spends his time teaching jazz piano online and playing solo piano gigs.

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