Recently I stayed with some friends who have a silent piano- an acoustic piano with a built in electric piano (read more about different types of pianos here and here) and had the opportunity to try it out over a few days.
My first reaction was – this is so fantastic! I can play at any time without worrying it will wake someone up or be an inconvenience. I played classical pieces, improvised, could do whatever I wanted, and no one had the slightest clue what I was playing.
After a while it started feeling a bit strange: No one had a clue what I was playing. Sometimes I was happy with how I was sounding but there was no way to share this. People didn’t hum along when they heard the same passage being practiced for the umpteenth time. No one asked me to play a certain song or piece, no one got annoyed and said they needed some peace and quiet… it was an isolated experience between me and myself.
Another observation I had while playing with the headphones for longer periods was the different way I was experiencing the music. Instead of feeling the music vibrations with my whole body the sound went straight into my ears, narrowing the experience down significantly.
Since the combination of an acoustic and electric piano in one instrument is rather costly, many people feel they need to choose between one or the other. Some decide to get an electric piano, picturing the possibility of playing with headphones and thus reducing clashes of interests in the family life.
However, when young kids put on their head phones and disappear into their own piano bubble it could get problematic. I have heard of kids who get so absorbed in this that they won’t ever play without the headphones, and feel terribly embarrassed and insecure if their playing can be heard. They want it to be perfect before they “present” their playing and of course they never think it is good enough.
Younger students need the rest of the housed to be involved- actively and passively- in their playing. They need the parents to hear what they are practicing and interact with them. The parents can comment, encourage and ask questions if they hear what is being played and worked on. If someone at home is disturbed by the playing it would be better to close the door and turn down the volume a bit rather than use the headphones as a constant solution.
Music is something to be shared with others. It brings life and beauty into the home and has a social aspect that is tremendously important. (Read about the social aspects of piano playing here)
So of course, use the headphones here and there and enjoy the obvious and many advantages they bring, but don’t get used to playing with the headphones on a regular basis. Let your music making spiral up and out!
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- Choosing the Right Piano
- Acoustic? Electric? What is this?
- Piano is a Social Instrument!