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I am currently trying to find a good entry level keyboard for getting back to learning to play after 20 years. I had a few years of grade school classes playing a brass instrument and some self taught time with a keyboard when I was an adolescent.

A lot of the entry level keyboards have a 'notation' section (as they call it) on the digital display which I worry might actually be a bit of a crutch to learning to mentally transpose sheet music to finger placement. I was pretty reliant on this feature when I was teaching myself 20 years ago, so I am naturally looking for a keyboard which has it now too.

However, the keyboard I am wanting to get (for other reasons) does not have this notation section which has me reflecting if I really should even allow myself to have something that may actually be a crutch to learning. Though with so many entry level keyboards having it, I am also wondering if it's a good thing to have available and if relying on it is just fine.

In a formal education setting, would an instructor generally shun reliance on the digital notation display? Or is it a good learning tool? Bit of both?

Image below shows an example of what this notation looks like on the display (left side): See here on the left side for an example

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    Please do not... this would apply to any entry level keyboard which does not have this type of digital display. The primarily question is about whether such a display is somewhat harmful to learning to play. The Yamaha motivations are clearly not a focus of the broader question being asked. I have not found any practice related questions that discuss the benefit / harm of a digital staff. – Wisteso Dec 1 '20 at 18:41
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    @Wisteso I recommend you rewrite the question to focus on that aspect. Your core concern is perfectly stated in your comment, but does not come across clearly in the question itself. – Aaron Dec 1 '20 at 18:51
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    Can the displays handle sharps vs flats correctly? I think they can't do that really. I've seen some kids rely on speech recognition on smartphones. Terrible. I mean, very nifty, because you don't have to know how to write. It was always too complicated anyway - good riddance! ;) – piiperi Reinstate Monica Dec 1 '20 at 18:57
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    @piiperiReinstateMonica Hmm I suspect it would not handle them correctly, which is to say I won't know if the music specified C♯ or D♭. That is a good point. – Wisteso Dec 1 '20 at 19:21
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    @Wisteso I've retracted my close vote. – Aaron Dec 1 '20 at 19:25
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You are not doing anything fundamentally wrong but relying on something like this for more than a short period of time can be detrimental to the development of your playing and reading skills. First, I would assume a display like that pays no mind to keys so accidentals may not be interpreted correctly. Secondly, you are turning a 2 step process of looking at a note on a chart and playing it to a 3 step process, adding the step of looking at the display to see if the note you played matches the note on the paper. In the long run you will be better off working on making the connection directly from paper to fingers and focusing on the sound to tell you if something is right or wrong.

Remember, music has been around for thousands of years but none of this technology existed 50 or 60 years ago. Musicians managed to get by before the advent of electronics. Let’s use technology to our benefit but not as a crutch. Let’s make sure we are the ones doing the actual learning and playing.

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  • Thank you for the response. I did edit the original question per Aaron's comments, but your response precisely addresses my broader question. – Wisteso Dec 1 '20 at 19:18
  • @Wisteso My pleasure, I think my answer still fits your edited question. Welcome to MPT and ask away about anything relevant to this site and what you’re trying to learn and accomplish, there are a lot of very knowledgeable people here to help. – John Belzaguy Dec 1 '20 at 20:57
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There's nothing WRONG about consulting that sort of display. But - like an earlier generation's sticky labels 'naming' the notes of a piano keyboard - it's a stage you need to get past pretty quickly. The music you'll want to play is distributed as notation. Deal with it!

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  • I suspected this might be the case. Downside of being self taught is not having an instructor to push away from developing reliance on crutches. – Wisteso Dec 1 '20 at 18:51
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It's not particularly difficult to learn to read music. One starts with somewhat simple stuff and then adds stuff as needed. Ordinary music notation is quite flexible and quick to read with a bit of practice. Teoria has lots of good stuff as do other sites. https://www.teoria.com/

Reading music allows one access to a vast amount of stuff. Also one can share music with people across language borders (and apparently across time as we still perform music from the 1300s and before.)

The most important thing to remember is that (with the usual staff notation) pitch is represented vertically and time goes horizontally.

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