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Back To School!

Choosing the best keyboard for your kids.

As the sounds and fun of summer fade into memories, we parents start focusing on getting our kids ready for school. New clothes, school supplies and thoughts of activities to sign them up for are all part of the mix. As you make these preparations, don’t forget to think about getting your children involved, or re-committed, to studying music and playing an instrument.

Research shows that playing an instrument has many benefits for your child, from good posture and eye-to-hand coordination to better cognition. Students that take an interest in music also do better at reading, spelling, math and science — they even develop improved language skills. The bottom line: Playing an instrument helps to develop a well-rounded kid.

The question is: Which instrument? A keyboard — especially a digital one — is an excellent choice, for several reasons:

1. It’s easy to get a good sound right away.

2. Being able to play keyboard can easily lead to getting involved in extracurricular activities at school, church and other social gatherings.

3. It delivers the sound of an expensive acoustic piano at a fraction of the cost.

4. It never needs tuning.

5. In addition to acoustic piano, it offers additional sounds (such as electric piano, pipe organ, harpsichord — even the sound of a full string orchestra) to keep your child’s interest.

6. It provides speakers but also provides a headphone connection so your child can play without disturbing others — something that also enables them to not feel self-conscious when first working on their lessons.

Let’s take a look at three Yamaha digital keyboards you might consider for your child as they get ready for the school year.

A Very Good Place to Start

You might want to begin by taking a close look at the Yamaha P-45 digital piano. Though entry-level (and priced that way too), this instrument offers 88 weighted action keys that provide the touch and response of a real piano — a crucial feature for developing technique. The keys on the P-45 even go from heavier on the lower notes to lighter as you play higher, just like those on an acoustic piano. It also sounds very much like a piano costing tens of thousands of dollars, with a built-in reverb effect that simulates four different ambient spaces, from a small room up to a large concert hall.

The P-45 has ten sounds in all, any two of which can be layered together at a time; there’s also a useful learning feature called Duo Mode, which splits the keyboard into two equal zones of acoustic piano, so a teacher and student can sit side-by-side and share instruction and performance as if they were sitting at two adjacent pianos.

The P-45 can also be connected to a computer so your child can benefit from the many educational and edutainment music software products out there. This connection also allows students to record their performances and then listen back to further hone their skills. There are a number of included accessories, too, such as a sustain switch that acts like the damper (right-hand) pedal of a piano, and a music stand to hold your child’s songbooks and lesson materials. Last but not least, the P-45 weighs in at only 25 pounds, making it portable and easily transportable.

An electronic keyboard with 88 keys.

The Yamaha P-45.

Moving on Up

If you’re looking for a more sophisticated digital keyboard for your child, you might consider the intermediate-level Yamaha Arius YDP-144 — an instrument that looks a bit more like a piano but is much more affordable than a real acoustic piano.

The YPD-144 comes with a built-in stand, accompanying bench, and an integrated music rest. It offers the same keyboard action as the P-45, but has an improved sound: that of the top-of-the-line Yamaha CFX 9-foot concert grand piano. It also has three times the polyphony of the P-45 (that is, the number of notes that can sound at one time), so it provides a much more realistic playing experience.

Speaking of realism, the YPD-144 has all three traditional pedals that are found on a real piano, with a unique feature called Damper Resonance. This recreates the sound of all the strings vibrating slightly when the damper pedal is pressed down, making the sound fuller and more alive. The onboard speakers are also larger than the ones in the P-45, with more power as well.

Your child can record their playing directly on the YPD-144 without the need for an external computer, and 50 classical songs are built-in for study and enjoyment, along with an accompanying book of the scores. The YPD-144 also works with an amazing app called Smart Pianist, available for Android™ and iOS, which can listen to the songs stored on a smart device and analyze and teach your child the chords to allow them to play along. (Click here for more information about how this works.)

Electronic upright piano.

The Yamaha YDP-114.

When Only the Best Will Do

When you look at your child, do you see a budding concert pianist? You can encourage their development by investing in a Yamaha Clavinova model such as the flagship CLP-685. This no-compromise instrument showcases all of the company’s digital expertise and tradition in acoustic pianos, in a stunning upright piano design brimming with features and quality.

For one thing, the CLP-685 boasts a Grand Touch keyboard action that closely reproduces the mechanism of an acoustic piano for incredibly realistic dynamic and expressive performance, with synthetic ebony and ivory key surfaces that feel like the real thing. (There are even wooden white keys!). The sound of the previously mentioned CFX concert grand piano is here, along with a digital sample of a Bösendorfer Imperial concert grand, one of the most coveted pianos in the world. But the CLP-685 isn’t just about piano — there are a total of 49 instrument sounds onboard, along with 14 drum kits for play-along rhythm, as well as a full 480-voice sound set that allows your child to play back music files purchased or downloaded from the internet. There are numerous effects such as reverb and chorus — some of them binaural for enhanced headphone listening — and there are 3-way speakers and a whopping 300 watts of power for a truly inspiring sound.

Like the YDP-144, there’s compatibility with the Smart Pianist app as well as onboard recording, but here there are 16 tracks available so your child can create full-fledged masterpieces without the need for an external computer or software. In addition to the supplied 50 piano songs, the CLP-685 has a whopping 303 lesson songs to aid in your child’s study and practice. They can even play along to songs stored in their smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth®.

Modern upright piano.

The Yamaha CLP-685.

Whichever of these three instruments you choose, you will be helping your child in their studies in school while at the same time preparing them for a lifetime of musical appreciation and music-making.

 

Click here for more information about the Yamaha P-45.

Click here for more information about the Yamaha Arius YDP-144.

Click here for more information about the CLP-685 Clavinova.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jerry Kovarsky
Jerry Kovarsky is a music industry veteran who has worked as a product/brand manager, marketing director, product developer and demonstrator for numerous keyboard manufacturers over a 30-plus year career. An accomplished keyboardist/synthesist, Jerry has been a passionate advocate for making music with keyboards and likes to live at the intersection of technology and art. Author of the popular book "Keyboard For Dummies," he graduated with a BA in Jazz Studies from William Paterson College (after time also spent at the University of Miami), when his musical aspirations were sidetracked by an opportunity to demonstrate early portable keyboards. These days, he’s returned to his musical roots, performing, recording and teaching on the island of Maui, Hawaii.

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