There has been some debate over whether electric keyboards will one day replace pianos. With the rise of electronics and digitally rooted everything, some might assume that the “sound” of a keyboard must be superior to the acoustic stringed piano by now. While keyboards have unquestionably found their place in the world of music, real pianos will likely be around for a long time. Why do I say that?
For one thing, to make a comparison: Has the electric guitar made the acoustic guitar obsolete? No. Ask most guitar players if they would ever give up their acoustic for their electric and the serious player would tell you never. In fact, if made to choose, many would keep their acoustic. Why? There is something very personal and present and real about an instrument that generates its tone directly to the air without the aid of electricity. It is like comparing a recorded music production to a live performance.
Of course most piano players have played with an assortment of keyboard instruments – acoustic and electric. And many make a decent living and create wonderful compositions on any of these. Can we really say that one is superior to the other? It depends on the individual possessing it. What are the musician’s circumstances? Is it economics? Many keyboards out there cost more than a piano. Is it the need for more volume? Are there space constrictions where he or she lives and practices?
In the end, what we must remember is that they are instruments – tools to be used by the player to create and entertain. It is the person, not the instrument that makes the work of art. Acoustic pianos are beautifully crafted ‘paint brushes’ in the hands of a musical artist. I have had students receive honours on their Royal Conservatory of Music Grade 9 piano exams, even though their lessons and practice were done on an electric keyboard. But in my opinion, those same students would have enjoyed those years far more if they had had the opportunity to work out Debussy and Chopin on a fine acoustic piano.