Ignorant Piano/Keyboard question.


I am buying a keyboard for someone i know who has always wanted to learn to play. (the kayboard has 61 keys if it helps).

I want to give him some sheet music to go with it. Now I am looking at some online stores to buy sheet music.

My question:

Is there any difference between music arranged for Piano and music arranged for the keyboard. Also what is the difference between Paino Solo and simply Piano.

I know I might sound ignorant to some but please help me in this matter!

Is it okay to but Piano sheet music for a keyboard???

Thanks for the help. Chris.

Um… this is one of those “it depends” answer.

If your friend is a beginner then the best course of action is probably a book for “beginner piano” or “beginnger keyboard”. At that level, the difference between a 61 key keyboard and an 88 key piano is not going to be noticable to the novice.

“Piano solo” means just that - intended for one piano.

“Piano” might be piano solo, or it might be the piano portion of music intended for more than one instrument.

If the person is a complete novice with no experience whatsoever lessons, or contribution towards lessons, might be an even better gift than sheet music.

(Which is not to say you can’t do well through the self-taught method - I certainly had great success with it - but it’s not the easiest route.)

It’s the same, piano and keyboard. The music you buy for one will be the same for the other. The last post was correct in that piano solo music will have a single line, whereas regular music will have the complete sheet music.

Depending on how expensive/elaborate the keyboard is, it may very well not be capable of some of the things called for in music written specifically for the piano: a full 88 keys, different dynamics from how hard/soft you strike the keys, a sustain pedal. (With music written for earlier keyboard instruments, like the harpsichord, this wouldn’t be as much of a problem.) On the other hand, music written/arranged specifically for a keyboard—especially if it’s for that particular model—may take advantage of the keyboard’s special features. I’m not sure how much of this a complete beginner would need to be concerned with, though.

A couple things I have to add as a keyboard/piano player:

If this is for someone who may or may not continue with piano/keyboard playing, then a shorter/cheaper keyboard is fine. This is how I started as my parents did not want to spend a great deal not knowing whether or not I was going to “stick with it”.

The only other thing I wanted to add is that to play piano music like it was meant to be played, at the very least the player should have a sustain pedal (this is the right-most pedal on a piano). Also, weighted keys make a huge difference in playability. Playing on cheap plastic keys with no feeling is not very fun.

I started on a 66 key cheap keyboard and after a year or so of lessons I got a nicer digital piano, that sounds and feels like a real piano. One day I would like to get a baby grand digital piano because of their style.

I agree. A 61 key instrument should be more than sufficient for a newbie. However, I most emphatically endorse the weighted keys feature.

I began learning to play at age 5 on a “real” piano (all there was back then), and whether this recipient wants to take lessons or wants to learn “by ear”, having the “real feel” will be important if he continues. I have a very nice 88 key keyboard (one of the top brands, but the cheapest 88 key model), and even it doesn’t feel exactly like the real thing However, it’s close enough so that when I sit down to a real piano, the differences aren’t sufficient to invalidate the practice I put in at home.

I suggest that you do not buy sheet music for the recipient. Instead enclose a note (I assume this is to be a surprise?) stating that you will buy lesson books or one of those “learn how to play by ear” books, depending on his preferences. Buying sheet music for a person who hasn’t yet learned how to read it (or at least how to translate it from the page to the keyboard) will only result in frustration.

yes he is a “newbie”.

The keyboard comes with a built in tutorial (the Yamaha Y.E.S 2 tutor).

These are all the features of the keyboard I am getting (the YAMAHA PSR170)

[li]Built in Songs - 100[/li][li]Built in Tutor - Y.E.S 2[/li][li]Computer conectivity[/li][li]DJ button[/li][li]Grand Piano sound[/li][li]Headphone socket[/li][li]LCD Displayy[/li][li]Number of keys - 61[/li][li]Polyphony - 16 notes[/li][li]Styles 100 X 2[/li][li]Touch Response[/li][li]Voices - 100[/li][li]size - 11 X 32 X 92 CM[/li][/ul])
Yes he is a complete beginner, i mean from scratch.

My more specific question. I am buying the keyboard and setting him a challenge to be able to play a certain piece of music in six months to a year (Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata). I can only see the sheet music for this arranged for Piano. If i buy this will it still ‘work’ being played on a sixty one key keyboard?

Like already mentioned I have bought a fairly low tech keyboard to start off with incase he doesn’t stick with it.

Much obliged. Chris.

Dissenting opinion. A keyboard with less than the 88 keys it’s supposed to have is as useful as a computer keyboard with only the top two rows of letter keys.

I doubt that you can play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on a 61 key keyboard, unless you can cope with just ignoring the notes it calls for that you ain’t got.

Yes, as a matter of fact that IS how you play a tune on a keyboard with keys you don’t got - ignore 'em. Actually, you can also transpose them an octave if you need to.

Myself, I started on acoustic piano and never could adjust to the touch of most keyboards and also the lack of keys. But then, I play music that really uses all 88 keys (I once got into an argument with a salesman about this - he steadfastly maintained “no one” uses all 88 keys. I proceeded to sit down and demonstrate my need for 88). I now have a nice digital piano, 88 keys, sustain pedal, and proper dynamics.

But, as said, a beginner isn’t likely to need/notice those things.

I’d say - be sure to get a keyboard with full size keys. This will enable your friend to “move up” or “move over” to another standard instrument.

There are two approaches to Moonlight Sonata - learn to read music, or the Suzuki method (play by ear and practice just that until you get it right). Actually, you can use a combination. Get a good recording of the sonata so your friend can hear how it’s supposed to sound.

I’m not sure of the range required for it, but at least the first movement should be no problem on 61 keys. It’s actually a fairly common “beginner” piece. Subsequent movements get a little more challenging.

In this case, yes, piano music for Moonlight Sonata should work for the keyboard. If you buy a copy from a brick-and-mortar store and IF they have a salesperson who actually knows something about pianos (not always the case, sadly…) you can ask them for advice and assistance.

[QUOTE=BroomstickI’m not sure of the range required for it, but at least the first movement should be no problem on 61 keys. It’s actually a fairly common “beginner” piece. Subsequent movements get a little more challenging.

I, too, hope you’re only talking about the first movement. Things get really fun by the third movement (my favorite.) :slight_smile:

And the range is beyond that of a 61-key keyboard. The bass constantly goes below the lowest C on that keyboard. Even if you transpose the keyboard an octave down, then there’s a high d-sharp in the piece which is going to be out of range.

Personally, I wouldn’t call it beginner’s piece. It looks deceptively easy, but it requires a decent degree of skill to pull off effectively. (Most importanly, you need a carefully controlled touch, which takes several years to develop. Sure, most people can clunk their way through the piece, but that’s not music.) But, depending on the student’s age and natural understanding of music, it’s not necessarily an impossible goal. Third movement, though, takes some dexterity.

By the way, public domain editions of sheet music can be found at:

It’s a great resource. They now limit you to two downloads per day, but you can find most of the classics there, including good ol’ Opus 27 No. 2.

Lessons. Lessons. Lessons. Lessons. Lessons. Lessons.

Once more, with feeling. Lessons.

It’s hard to learn to play an instrument. It’s harder to learn to read music and play an instrument at the same time.

I picked up the basics of the right hand on a piano in a few weeks when I was five… with lessons.

I have to emphasize weighted keys, too. If they don’t feel like real piano keys, the muscles don’t develop as well, and moving on to a ‘real’ piano will be really difficult.

      • By the by, a semi-related question: on a piano (and typical electronic keyboards) the black keys alternate in groups of two and three, with one key “missing” in between–but there are a few upper-end studio-level keyboards that have black keys “all the way up”, between every white key. What are these types of keyboards called?

I’m curious, too. I’ve never seen such a thing. I’m pretty familiar with the range of professional keyboards, both performance and studio, but I haven’t seen anything quite like what you’re describing.

I began my piano-playing days by learning on a 3-octave (37 note) keyboard. I have now been playing for almost 20 years.

Some modern keyboard/organ music takes advantage of pre-programmed accompaniment and will show only a single staff, the treble clef, to be played in the right hand. The left hand is represented by a named chord (C, Gm, Bb, F#dim, or whatever) that is written above the staff. Sometimes this is big-note music for beginners; sometimes it is printed small in a “fake book.”

Unless one aspires to play music no more complex than this, I recommend you get piano sheet music. You can identify it because it will have the grand staff (the treble clef and bass clef linked together). If it is also arranged for guitar, as is much pop music, it may have a chord written above the staff. (With the chord name it may also have a little boxy-looking grid with dots to show the guitarist where to stick his fingers.)

Keyboard music doesn’t teach a player very much about music theory—that is, which notes go to make up a chord—and they don’t require the player to develop the discipline to play accurately and on-tempo with his left hand. The slack-lipped clerk at the music store should be able to bestir himself long enough to assist you in detecting the difference, if my description is insufficient.

Apart from that, I will concur with what many others are saying here. Full-sized keys are the most important thing to consider, because just as one learns to find one’s way to the bathroom in the dark, with sufficient practice one learns the precise distance between keys. I have stopped looking at the keyboard when I play because I know it so well—until, that is, I am on an unfamiliar instrument with nonstandard keys.

My parents waited to see if I would stick with lessons before buying a piano. I agree with this philosophy and it worked for me. Even a digital piano would be an acceptable improvement. (As long as it has weighted, full-sized keys. Most digitals have a volume knob and a headphone jack so a student can practice in private.)

I’m looking around for a keyboard like you describe, DougC, but I’m having no luck. Do you have any other information about it? Was it a synthesizer or an acoustic instrument, or what?

My guess is that these are modified or custom-built microtonal instruments, capable of creating more than twelve intervals per octave - such as here: http://www.microtonal.co.uk/instrum.htm

Just noticed this, and here is the answer: Marrissa Picard plays the paino. Every other 88-key instrumentalist prefers the piano.

Yes, I was referring to the first movement. Frankly, I have no qualms with a beginner learning to “clunk out” the first movement - they’ll be able to hear the gap between where they are and where the music should be just because the piece is famillar. It’s simple enough to get something recognizable out (small rewards are important) but it will continue to be a challenge for some time.

Not even all pop music would qualify as beginner music - I say let the student tackle what they can. If they can only play the first movement of a classical piece, so what? As long as they’re getting some enjoyment out of it. If they enjoying playing they’ll practice, and if they practice they’ll improve, and if they improve eventually they’ll get that third movement.

>sigh< Yes, but really, is it ever too early to start learning these things? Someone taking formal lessons will be taught this sort of thing. Someone learning on their own… well I dunno. As I said, I’m self-taught (both for piano and reading music) and I figured it out on my own. Then again, I suspect I’m somewhat unusual in teaching myself to do both at the same time when I was about 5 or 6. No, I’m not a great talent, just very stubborn. Progress was slow for the first few years.

As I said (I did say this earlier, didn’t I?) lessons are a good idea. Even if I didn’t have 'em myself. Progress will be MUCH faster and you’re less likely to develop bad habits.

I don’t think anybody’s taking issue with only playing one movement of a classical piece. I certainly am not. How often do you hear the second movement of Moonlight Sonata, anyway? It’s almost always the first or the third.

I was just stating that the song is outside the range of a 61-note keyboard. The workaround is simple enough, though: Leave out the bottom note of the bass octaves, and you’re fine.

But, yeah, lessons would certainly be helpful.


Oh, absolutely. I play by ear (and eventually by finger-memory), can’t read music although I can decipher it (at a rate of about one individual staffnote per second or less).

Picking out Mvmt 1 of Moonlight Sonata is significantly easier than picking out Up Up and Away (My Beautiful Balloon), and I suspect that’s probably true of sightreading for these two pieces as well. (That damn balloon floats through an astonishing number of key transitions and doesn’t take very long doing it).

Other nice early pieces to check out are Ase’s Death from Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite and Beethoven’s Für Elise.

W/regards to the 88 versus 72 versus 61 key thingie, I’m imposing my own attitudes, I know, but I think if you learn on a keyboard that doesn’t have the full range you’re never going to learn to use those keys. I’ve love to have a piano with an additional bass octave tacked on the bottom. Which would, interestingly enough, give me a keyboard with the nice round number of 100 keys on it. I don’t use the very topmost keys so often.

<sharp crack of laughter> Oh, indeed! I’ve never tried to play it, but any real musician recognizes a challenging piece.

I know that not everyone is that fond of Grieg, but I’ve liked Peer Gynt Suite since I was introduced to it in elementary school music appreciation (which really dates me, as so much has been cut from school curricula). And Ase’s Death always puts a lump in my throat. Not so much because of Peer, but because I find the music itself wonderfully evocative. Fur Elise is beautiful, but a newby player nearly always has trouble with tempi. Ase’s Death is slow enough that even a person with a far better ear than fingers can learn it without quite so much frustration.

I’ll stop before one of the mods decides this belongs in Cafe Society. :slight_smile:

I’ve never tried to really play on a smaller keyboard, other than fiddling around in a store, so I will readily concede to those who are more knowledgeable on that subject. I will say that the person who bought me my keyboard consulted me first, and I knew there was no way I could use a smaller keyboard, as I use bass all the way to the bottom; I’d wind up just looking at the thing and wanting to cuss, rather than playing it. If they’d just center the #$%^&* KB, instead of cutting off the bass, I suspect they’d have more buyers of those intro instruments. Instead some of that market goes to buying old uprights and spinets, even when the buyers are aware they’ll have to get them tuned periodically.

Even though this is an adult, I am seriously opposed to the sort of challenge the OP is planning. Non-musicians have NO CLUE about what’s involved with learning some classical piece, and so they pick something that sounds pretty. I concede that the first movement of Moonlight Sonata isn’t mind-numbingly hard for a beginner, but that’s not the point. That ain’t where ya start if ya want them to be still playing in 5 or 10 years, fershure.

If you (OP) want to issue a challenge, talk to a really good local music teacher. And think about including six months of lessons, from someone who is able to adjust the pace of their teaching according to the student’s ability to absorb.

My parents bought my first piano and arranged for lessons because I had picked out a chord (E major, if it matters; haven’t the foggiest why I found that one first, instead of C, F, or G) on an antique pump organ my father had bought and temporarily moved into the house. Unfortunately, when I went back for my second lesson, the teacher threw a fit because I had gone on to the second and third pieces in the “beginners” book. I refused to go back to her any more. For the next four years I learned what I could on my own, including beginning serious “by ear” playing. I tried again with a teacher when I was 9, but this time it was a teenager who couldn’t really take control of the situation. So I never got very far with playing someone’s arrangements, or classical music.

I love classical music (actually, mostly baroque + Mozart), but I don’t try to play it. OTOH, I’m a competent by ear musician. In my late teens I began to get informal instruction from a former jazz musician. John did a lot to shape my playing style, and although I’m still (IMO) much better on an organ than anything else, I can get as many complements for my piano work from other musicians as any other able musician.

I said all that to say this: If the intended recipient is musical (i.e., sings without needing a “tune bucket,” at very least), a challenge is about the worst way to get him started, unless you’re prepared to give a really long lead-time (i.e., at least a year). Instead, help him find a teacher who is both competent and sympathetic, and step back. If he enjoys what he’s doing, he will keep doing it for the rest of his life. If he is pushing himself to learn a given piece of music by a given date, he is very likely to stop playing when he’s accomplished it.