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I have a Yamaha P-115. Earlier I had a tutor coming home and he used to keep the volume 2-3 notches below the max. Now, I am in a different city, and go to a tutor in a music school, where I play a Casio Celviano (much inferior sound, I must say). But here the tutor keeps the volume at max. I am getting a bit confused about the dynamics and the strength of playing.

Any idea how are the volumes of digital piano calibrated vis-a-vis the acoustic pianos they emulate?

Or to put it in another way, at what volume should I practice so that my finger pressure on the keys are as if I am playing an acoustic one?

  • Not all acoustic pianos have equal or even similar volumes. Does it sound distorted if you produce a loud tone on maximum volume setting? – guidot May 3 '18 at 9:30
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Difficult to say, as acoustic pianos vary quite a lot in volume - and it depends a lot where in which room they are, and whether it's the sound out of the front or the back, and also whether the top's open! That's a lot of parameters before we start!

A bit of a guide, assuming it's not going through an amp., where there's another dimension involved, is that when played mp, normal conversation levels should be enough to hear each other talk. Ff will mean you'll have to shout. Of course this doesn't take into consideration that the tutor may not have as good hearing as you: the older one gets, the more hearing loss becomes prevalent. Also bear in mind that unless it's a pretty expensive non-acoustic piano, the action won't be anything like as good as an acoustic, so the dynamics will be vague at best. It's a fair question to ask your tutor, after all, it's you and your touch that's in question, and he should have plausible reasons for what he's doing, but also should be able to justify just about anything he does in the lessons. Ask.

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The general rule for amplification of any sort is 'input low, output high'. Don't overload the input, keep the main amp full up. That rule obviously needs to be modified when the main amplification is of a size and power un-matched to the room. You CAN practice at home on the PA system you also use for performances in large halls, but you'll want to turn the main volume down!

How does that apply to your digital piano? Well, for a start, there's no 'calibration'. Your piano imitates a real one in many respects, but not to that degree of detail. There isn't a magic volume slider setting that will equate it to a Steinway D or a Kawai upright (to go from the sublime to the, well, less sublime...) And the same setting will sound louder in a minimalist wood-floored room than in one with carpets and soft furnishings.

Set the volume level full. If it's painful (for you or the neighbours) when you play loud, bring it down a bit. But not so much that you find yourself 'hammering' the keys to get a ff.

It is harder to play softly than to play loud. It is also harder to play softly and evenly on a piano that needs regulating (so that every key responds the same). A real piano CAN be regulated. A digital mostly can't, you just have to live with it.

One practical point. Many electric keyboards use rubber strip contacts under the keys. They wear out. Keyboards with weighted keys (as anything pretending to be a 'piano' will have) tend to wear these out quicker than those with unweighted keys. Probably because pianists hit them harder to get 'more tone'. Well, you won't get more tone, just more volume. But if you turn the volume slider fully up, you'll HAVE to hit the keys more gently or risk deafening yourself. So it will be longer before the expense of a keybed overhaul.

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Dynamics in music is always relative. It is never meant absolutely (At least I don't know an example where an absolute loudness is demanded).

In some (actually most) cases it is even not meant relative in a sense of dB, but in a sense of musical intensity. Which means (in a very extreme case), a forte could be more silent (measured in dB) then a piano. Think about a situation in live, when you were feeling very bad. If you started yelling around: "I feel miserable! Come, look at me how bad I am feeling!" - then, most likely, not many will listen to you. But if you whisper to somebody: "I am feeling not good.", then this person will for sure see that you are in a bad situation and need help. The same applies for music. Sometimes a very silently played voice can gather all the concentration of the listeners.

What I want to express is: the loudness one keeps a piano at, is indepently of the music one plays. Maybe the first teacher likes the sound of your e-piano more, when it is not at the outmost level.

  • 1
    Please explain how forte can be more silent (quieter, I guess) than piano - in the sane piece. In another piece, it almost makes sense. For now - -1. – Tim May 7 '18 at 19:19

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