At the end of last year we started to think about buying a piano for the family. My daughter, aged 8, had been having lessons for a while and her dad, a complete beginner decided that he would like to have a go too. We realised that the keyboard that we had been making do with would need replacing at some point and so we started to look at pianos, with a view to buying something that would last a few years and fit into our home. It soon became clear that a digital piano would suit our needs best, as opposed to the traditional acoustic sort - they don't need expensive tuning, are generally more compact, and everyone we spoke to, from the piano teacher to an expert on this very site (thank you Nar), said that they had come on leaps and bounds. Digital pianos electronically recreate the sound that an acoustic piano produces from hammers hitting strings.
Buying this item was no impulse purchase - you can spend from £400 to thousands for a digital piano, the YPD being mid range in terms of what Yamaha offer - we didn't want to buy a more expensive Clavinova in case the piano was a passing fad, and decided quite early on that a branded piano would be a prudent purchase in case we wanted to sell it on. You can buy hybrid pianos that offer the best of both worlds, but whatever you choose you need to know what you are buying - difficult when you don't really know very much about pianos as there is a bewildering range out there. We wanted to buy the right piano for us.
Endless reading of reviews and a visit to our local music shop followed in the search began for what, in the end was to be a very simple purchase -this one just happened to be a Boxing Day Lightning Deal at 20% off (ie £634.99) at Amazon and seemed "meant to be". It's something that I am really glad we bought and not just as we got a bit of a deal. This piano is simply wonderful and perfect for our family, as I hope I shall explain.
Reasons for Purchase:
When you start looking at digital pianos with a view to using one for home use for learning how to play the piano properly, "everyone" says you need 88 keys, pedals and graded hammer keys - which is the case here, you can find the full specs on the Yamaha website, link at the end of this review. To someone like myself, what might be called a rusty musician - I last had lessons some 30 years ago when stylophones were the height of modern - all this means very little on paper. What was clear as soon as I went into showroom and tried out a few pianos was that where this piano shone was that to all intents and purposes it looks and feels like a proper acoustic piano, to the novice at least. Even in the showroom it seemed better made than the Casios I compared it with, as well as sounding far better than anything else I heard. Though at the time I thought I would have to settle with the 141 model (slightly less features, less powerful speakers and a couple of hundred pounds less than the 161), this was the model we really wanted as soon as we saw and heard it, and ownership and daily use of this piano since the start of the year has only confirmed this initial feeling.
Out of the Box:
The Yamaha YPD is available in a number of finishes from pale to rosewood and an ebony veneer. The piano we bought on offer happened to have a black finish, which actually would have been our preference. When the extremely heavy box (81kg) arrived from Amazon, we had to assemble it ourselves. This involved putting together pieces of wood to form the plinth flat-pack stylee and then adding the keyboard on to the top to make the finished piano - Width 1,357mm,Height 815mm, Depth 422mm. This was definitely a job for two adults but the instructions, once we had found them - cunningly printed on the coffin-sized packaging, were simple but straightforward, really a matter of just connecting up the power and adding the jack for the headphones, you can connect two pairs. As this is a digital piano you can practise without disturbing others. The piano was extremely well packaged with huge amounts of protection for every piece and I should think virtually no chance of anything getting damaged in transit. Once assembled the piano needed to be plugged into the mains and switched on and was good to go.
This piano has a number of features some of which you may never use if you are not an experienced musician, and most of which you can ignore if you are just wanting to dabble. In day to day use we literally turn on the piano and, after about 30 seconds it is warmed up ready for use. The default setting is a piano sound - sampled from Yamaha's full concert grand piano apparently. This can be changed easily to any of ten "voices" including church organ, harpsichord and strings should you wish, by an easy combination of keys. In reality most of the time we have it set to piano, though the organ does sound rather impressive I have to say and all the different effects sound authentic and not tacky in a synthesiser circa 1980 fashion .
Though our use of many of the features is limited we do make some use of the record facility - you can press a button and play back what you have played - not always a good thing when my daughter catches me out, and there is also a metronome which through not having a visual display is a useful feature for beginners. I'm not at the stage of playing yet where I need to use the damper or sustain pedals - though my daughter is using them already, but I do play this piano regularly and it's just a joy.
It's a shame there isn't a better stand for the music, the one there is sort of works but I always feel I have to bend my shiny new books quite far open for them to stay in place. The cover for the keys is a useful feature as it keeps everything dust free, and this seems well designed, it glides into place with ease. Most importantly given this is a piano, when I am actually playing I do feel like the amount of pressure I put on the keys changes the volume just the right amount, just like a real piano would do - it's very easy to forget this isn't a traditional piano, it just feels "right". The two 20 watt speakers seem to be powerful enough, and the sound level is easily adjusted, and the piano sounds good whatever level of noise you set it to with no distortion of sound at all. As the brass pedals are set into the cabinet back it just feels like sitting at a proper piano, leagues away from the keyboard we had before. To sum up - it just feels like a piano and if you didn't know better you would swear those keys were hitting real strings.
The piano comes with a 50 song music book - much of it beyond my capabilities I have to admit though I can make my way through Fur Elise fairly convincingly. It took me a while to work out that the music in the book corresponded to the 50 songs on demo on the piano. I've yet to try and play along but I could, it would also be possible to record one hand and then play with another or set two voices at once as it has two track recording. It also has a MIDI in/out feature (Musical Instrumental Digitial Interface) which, again, isn't something that I personally have used but for those wanting to record their compositions onto computer or download those of others this could be useful. Those at that level of expertise might also like to know that everything pretty well is configurable, the piano can be fine tuned and the level of reverb changed and that it's "128 polyphonic" - this I take to mean that you can play more keys at once than I could need, to test it fully in this house you need my Grade 8 Piano friend to come round for coffee - she thinks the piano is fantastic too by the way and has put it through its paces, depressing me somewhat at the level of my ineptitude. Whilst I aim to get better and master the piano and all the features, handily there's a quick guide sheet for anything you may wish to do to go with the comprehensive manual, this piano can really be as simple as turn on and play whilst catering to the more experienced player, and it's certainly going to be sufficient for our use for many years to come I would think.
It's good to know that the instrument has a 2 year guarantee - you can register on line, and also it seems built to last, the keys are well made and finished and it all just seems solid once put together, though the one thing I would disagree with is the "portable" in the product title on Amazon! I could move this piano if necessary but really given that it's really quite heavy I'm happy for it to remain in place providing the accompaniment to our daily life as strains of ever improving piano drift from the room upstairs on a regular basis - this piano is used daily and much loved already.
If you haven't guessed already I would thoroughly recommend this piano. Yes, it's an investment but it's a joy to own, and well worth it, particularly at the price I paid. My daughter's playing has come on leaps and bounds since practising on this - it's just so much more of an authentic experience than playing on a keyboard, and we all have a new found love of the piano. I'm glad we bought something a little bit better than an entry level piano and in my experience Yamaha pianos are just as good as I'd heard they were. I'm glad I was able to see one in a shop before purchase, but actually the videos you can see on the amazon description or at the link below do represent the sound pretty faithfully. Sometimes you can spend ages looking into buying something, as I did here, and end up being disappointed, but in this case that's not true at all. This piano is everything we as a family need, and much more. If you are looking for a piano for similar use to us then have a look, like us you might just fall in love and it could be the start of your musical journey, I'm pretty sure it's the beginning of ours.