This is a reasonable approach if the risk is high that the student’s interest in playing will disappear after awhile. If the risk is very low, you should buy the best piano you can reasonably afford, as the benefits of better performance will be realized for years to come. Also, even if there is a loss of interest, the better-quality piano will likely retain a greater proportion of its value upon resale than will the lower-quality one.
A digital piano is fine for beginners. However, it will only take you so far; after a couple of years of lessons, you will likely need a decent acoustic piano to progress. A digital piano is a reasonable alternative if the risk is high that the player will lose interest, or if you move often. It’s also suitable for apartment and condo dwellers, or for those who want to play late into the evening, since with a digital you can silence the piano and use headphones. Digitals also have a host of features that make them extremely versatile, from the ability to sound like an entire musical ensemble, to recording.
Higher end digital piano or more exact hybrid piano that has very exact hammer actions like acoustic but reproduced digital sound is available also such as Yamaha NU series. Acoustic pianos are recommended by piano teachers because of fingering work.
The most obvious non-technical difference between upright (also known as vertical) pianos and grand pianos is that verticals have a smaller footprint and usually cost less. Grands are more likely to be purchased for their value as room-enhancing furniture, take up more space, and cost more. In fact, many who don’t play or play very little buy a grand as much to make a statement about themselves as for any other reason.
Technically, however, there are very big differences between verticals and grands. The action (key-and-hammer mechanism) of the grand is specifically designed to increase the speed and reliability of repetition (the ability to repeat notes in rapid succession) and the ability to control the volume of sound. Verticals are usually inferior in this regard. The sound of the grand bounces off floor, wall, and other surfaces, and is diffused by them, before reaching the player’s ears, whereas the sound of the vertical tends, literally, to be in the player’s face. The end result of these differences is that grand pianos usually produce a more pleasing sound and can be played with greater expression. That said, there are some phenomenal high-end verticals out there that can run circles around some lesser-quality grands.
All other factors being equal, taller uprights and longer grands sound better, particularly in the bass and mid-range, than smaller or shorter ones. This is due to the physics of piano strings, which dictates that longer strings produce a more harmonious sound. In some cases, the larger pianos may also have better keys and actions. Of course, unless you’re comparing different-size models of the same brand and model line, all other factors are rarely equal, so one should not pursue size to the exclusion of other attributes, but as a general rule of thumb, when it comes to selecting a piano, bigger is better.
Verticals (uprights) and grands come in various sizes that are called by different names. Speaking very generally, most vertical pianos purchased are from 108 to 132 cm tall, though ones both shorter and taller are available, especially among used pianos. Most grands fall in the range of 1.5m to 2m long, though ones as short as 1.4m and as long as 3m are available. The shortest pianos are primarily for very casual and furniture-conscious use, the tallest or longest for professional and concert use.
Tuning is the process of adjusting the tension at which the strings are stretched, using a wrench called a tuning hammer, so that all the strings vibrate in pleasing harmony with one another in accordance with certain acoustical laws and aesthetic and musical customs. Although the tuner may also perform other adjustments to the piano at the same visit, strictly speaking, only the above process constitutes “tuning.”
A piano in good condition goes out of tune primarily because its soundboard and other wooden parts expand and contract with changes in humidity, which changes the tension on the strings. This happens whether or not the piano is played. Also, a piano in poor condition, with the tuning pins loose in the pinblock, can go out of tune because it is unable to hold the string tension constant.
How often your piano should be tuned depends on how sensitive you are to out-of-tuneness, how sensitive your piano is to the humidity changes that cause a piano to go out of tune, the climate you live in, how much you play, and your budget. For most people, one to three times per year is about right. Professional musicians and teachers may require more frequent service. Concert pianos are generally tuned (or the tuning touched up) before every performance.
Actually, all pianos go out of tune continuously. It just may take a while before you notice it. How soon you notice it depends on such factors as the design of the piano (though, interestingly, not necessarily on its quality), the various pressures and tensions being exerted on the soundboard and structural elements, climatic changes, your ear and sensitivity to out-of-tuneness, and on the kind of music you play.
Subtle differences in humidity between the new and old locations cause the piano to go out of tune. Very inexpensive pianos that are structurally inadequate may go out of tune because of the handling of the piano, but this is not a big factor for most instruments. The tuning of vertical pianos may be affected by unevenness in the level of the floor, or differences in the evenness between the old and new locations (grands are usually not affected by these issues).