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Best keyboards/pianos for school choral department

Our school corporation may be in the market to grant us some new equipment. I am looking to purchase several new keyboards and a couple upright pianos for the choir. We have very nice facilities at our high school and our keyboards are sad, old, and clunky. I would like to get a keyboard in at least 3 of our practice rooms, 2 more for use elsewhere, and two nice upright pianos for the choir room itself. We already have a nice grand in our auditorium so that doesn't need to be replaced. 
 
I've looked at the Casio Privia PX-350 for our practice keyboards, and various Yamaha Clavinovas for our nicer uprights, but I don't know if that's the best option. I'd like them to be portable within the building so I am steering away from acoustic uprights. I don't know much about different brands or what would work best, or which will have the best sound. I'm not too interested in bells and whistles, but I want something that plays as much like a true piano as possible. 
 
I am interested in our school hosting a Solo and Ensemble event in the future, and would like to have enough decent keyboards/uprights that we could do this. Suggestions and thoughts are welcome. Thank you!
on February 10, 2016 8:45pm
on February 11, 2016 3:25am
I just opened a performing arts school in our community. The piano lab consists of 6 Casio Privia PX-760 digital pianos. They are more expensive than the 350, but less than a Yamaha Clavinova, which is a very similar instrument. I've been very happy with them. As far as upright studio pianos, the Yamaha upright is hard to beat! (They are fairly expensive, however.
 
on February 11, 2016 6:36am
Maybe some would consider this blasphemy, but I would never again purchase an acoustic piano for anything other than the performance stage. No tunings. Portability. Versatility in transposition, MIDI use, headphone use, or amplification. An easy choice.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on February 12, 2016 9:49am
For electronics I would definitely go with the Privia. For acoustic studio pianos I like Kawai; we have two of them that are very good.  I do not like electronics for choral rehearsal. I have found that the groups have far better pitch when singing with an acoustic piano.
 
Dane Moore
5-12 Choral Director
Cattaraugus Little Valley Central school
Cattaraugus, NY
on February 12, 2016 3:53pm
As a pianist, I choose Roland. Roland provides a very accurate sound and a feel that is similar to a piano. Currently, I am a student at Indiana State, in my apartment I have a Roland FP-80 that is a portable keyboard. I love my Roland and would not trade it for anything else, well except a real piano of course. I would move away from a Clavinova due to the fact when you press down on the keys and hold them out, you can hear the pitch loop instead of dying out naturally. For a real (true) piano, I would go for a Boston or an Essex. Both are made by Steinway and provide a similar touch and qualtiy sound as a Steinway without the price. 
 
Hopefully this helps!
on February 13, 2016 6:24am
Hi Leigh,
 
I swear by Yamaha in general. Electronically, I've used only Rolands and Yamaha's over the years and much prefer the Yamaha tone quality, which is sampled from Yamaha's CF111 concert grand piano. My house piano is a classic K. Kawai grand, but I enjoy alternating. My present Yamaha P–105B (full 88 keys) is a gem. It is not expensive, but don't let the price fool you. Just under $600 in Canada, so probably about $10 US. (LOL). This is a portable, of course, but the same piano is available as a 'permanent' stand up piano, though more expensive. The weighted keys – electronically weighted – are excellent, and a great improvement over mechanically weighted keys as there were in earlier Yamahas, as they don't 'dislocate' when the instrument is struck, dropped etc. as invariable happens in institutions.
 
Bottom line though– try out first whatever you are looking at, and maybe take along staff and students that may be using it! 
 
Donald
 
 
on February 13, 2016 8:46am
Hello Leigh:
 
I have owned three Casio Privia keyboards: the PX 330, the PX 3, and the PX 350.  I have loved these keyboards: they are portable (at less than 25 pounds they can be carried under one arm); I think they have a respectable acoustic piano sample;  I enjoy the feel of the instrument (particularly the 350); and the prices are very low.   I have used these Casios over the past 8 years, almost exclusively as a jazz pianist.  The instruments probably get about 25 hours of playing per month.  The acoustic piano sound is cheesy with the on-board speakers, better through headphones.  You would need a external piano amp for using the instrument in a public space and the piano sound will definitely be dependent on the quality of the amp.
 
But....I have had one glaring issue with all of these instruments after a couple of years:  notes that have received particular heavy use begin to lose volume response, specifically playing at maximum volume regardless of how hard they are struck.  (I have seen nothing about this in on-line posts, but the fact that this has occurred with all three keyboards makes me think this is not a unique issue.)  If you have students pounding away on the keyboard for many hours a day, I suspect durability will be an issue.  And the plastic case is easily cracked if the instrument is dropped.
 
The Casio PX 350 may still be a good option for you in terms of cost to maintain:  if you purchase from Sweetwater.com they extend the warranty the instrument for 2 years and you can ship it back to them in the original box, free of charge.  Thereafter repair of the errant notes will cost you.  Where I live (near San Jose, CA) I recently paid $160 to have 5 notes "fixed".  
 
You might want to call Sweetwater to get their opinion about the durability of various keyboards.  I have found their service to be knowledgable and friendly.
 
Bob Applebaum
 
P.S.  I have no stock in Sweetwater.
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