Author Topic: [Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!  (Read 935 times)

[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« on: March 08, 2006, 06:54:34 PM »
I want to learn to play either the keyboard or guitar, but I have some restrictions:

* I need to be able to play the instrument in silence (i.e. using standard headphones), lest I cause the ire of my housemates/neighbours
* The equipment must be cheap (but not crappy), and good for a beginner
* The instrument mustn't be a 'toy'/gimmick that doesn't allow a learner to really transfer their skills to a 'proper' set-up
* Ideally, the instrument should be as portable as possible (up to and including being foldable/dismantle-able) [space is critical as my room is tiny]

I kindly call on your wisdom to suggest either a keyboard or guitar setup that fits the above criteria! I'm pretty hazy on things like acoustic vs. electric beginner suitability, weighted vs. non-weighted action et cetera, so the more detail the better. Thanks in advance. Any takers?

Marty McFly

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[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2006, 07:34:20 PM »
pretty much any 'practice' guitar amplifier has a headphone socket on it, if that's of any help.

how much are you looking to spend? there's a really nice little vox practice amp you can get  for about £100, it's got loads of built in effects and amp models.

http://www.imuso.co.uk/ProductDetail.asp?StockCode=EG01018

weekender

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[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2006, 08:11:36 PM »
I'd like to echo the 'how much do you have to spend?' question.

Piano-wise I can sympathise - I've practically got the offer of a free proper upright piano over the coming months, but can't have it because of the noise restrictions.  

Therefore, my alternative as a semi-serious piano player is a digital piano, as I can use headphones, so I've been looking into this.

Advice-wise, as someone who was trained on a grand piano and practised on an upright, I'd say that if you're looking to play seriously, your must have a full-size keyboard.  I cannot stress how detrimental it could be to play on a smaller keyboard and try and progress to a larger keyboard later on.

Here's a picture of a digital piano from an Ebay auction.  I'm not hosting the auction, not linking to it directly, I'm only linking to the picture to give you an idea of the size:



Now, that's a good few feet across.  If you haven't got the width, unfortunately you can forget about a piano now.  You can, however, get digital pianos on stands, so you could technically pack up the stand and put the piano itself lengthways.  This would probably cause a bit of damage in the long-run, and I wouldn't recommend it.

Incidentally, whilst the weighting of keys on digital pianos is not ideal, they probably *are* pretty good for learning on.  I'd say if you can afford and house a full-size digital piano, then it's a decent compromise.

In summary: I don't wish to put you off piano-playing by any means - I love it and truly hope that others get the same enjoyment from it that I do.  Practically though, if you want to learn an instrument seriously, unless you get more space then a guitar is maybe what you should be looking for.

Oh yeah, price-wise.  A *good* digital piano would cost you the best part of a grand, a cheap one you could probably pick up for £200-£300 quid.  Again, maybe a guitar would be better for you at the moment?

If it's any consolation, I wish I could play the guitar.

[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2006, 08:39:57 PM »
As far as guitars go, you could get something like a Korg Pandora which has got some effects and later models have a basic drum machine for practice.

[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2006, 09:41:38 PM »
What kind of stuff do you play Weekender, out of interest?

weekender

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[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« Reply #5 on: March 08, 2006, 10:49:14 PM »
Sadly I don't play much anymore, I'm very rusty since I went all independent and got a life of my own which is unfortunately piano-less.  I might hate my parents, but at least they had a piano.

I was classically trained to grade 4, had at least the ability of grade 6 (according to my music teacher, who bemoaned my lack of willpower to improve), but generally preferred playing stuff I liked.  My favourite classical pieces were Bach's 'Prelude in C' and Beethoven's 'Fur Elise'.  I got far more enjoyment from playing stuff like 'People Are Strange' though, picking up things by ear etc.

[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2006, 11:09:51 PM »
Ah, pity you don't play anymore, I wish I'd stuck with it. I had the same 'wanting to play stuff I like' problem as you though, one of the reasons I liked my old guitar teacher so much is that he could teach you absolutely anything wanted, from bluegrass to Black Flag. Piano always seemed a lot less casual. But I've derailed the thread enough already, carry on folks.

[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2006, 11:12:42 PM »
If you're after the keys, you can get a nice quality keyboard for a lot less than a digital piano. The bounce on the keys is a lot different, but, it depends what you wanna do with it. Lots of fun still. Just trying to get a proper "Piano" sound out of a keyboard does mean you have to shell out, if you're not bothered about that you can pick up something, full-sized keys and all, pretty cheap.

[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2006, 10:47:26 AM »
Quote from: "Marty McFly"
pretty much any 'practice' guitar amplifier has a headphone socket on it, if that's of any help.

how much are you looking to spend? there's a really nice little vox practice amp you can get  for about £100, it's got loads of built in effects and amp models.

http://www.imuso.co.uk/ProductDetail.asp?StockCode=EG01018


"The Headphone/Line output mutes the 6.5" 8 ohm speaker for headphone practicing or for direct connection into a mixer or recorder."

That is crucial to what I'm after. That's a useful link, cheers.

As to what I'm willing to spend, I'm really not sure (since I don't really know all the kit that is required for a 'basic-but-true' setup). In guitar terms, I had something strange in mind like a "synthesized" acoustic guitar, due to A) hearing from some people that learning acoustic is more difficult but a greater, more useful skill, and B) I need some way to keep the noise to myself. I've not come across such a 'digital' acoustic-emulating guitar, so I think that might be out of the question, unfortunately. Roughly, overall a max of 200 squid is what I'm thinking.

In keyboard/piano terms, I guess I'm not looking to jump into any professional standard of keys, so expensive digital pianos is out of the question. On the flipside, I don't want a tiny and tinny featherlight touch 37 key casio either. I've read from some sources that even for a beginner, nothing less than 76 keys is a must, as a learner would soon outgrow a more limited-ranged keyboard. So, maybe something with decent quality keys (semi-weighted) under 200 quid (and possibly a USB/Flash memory stick connection to interface with my computer). Even a stand is 'extravagant' given my serious lack of space (I think my knees will have to suffice as resting points - to hell with posture and chronic back ache!).

[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2006, 10:48:18 AM »
Quote from: "weekender"

you must have a full-size keyboard.  I cannot stress how detrimental it could be to play on a smaller keyboard and try and progress to a larger keyboard later on.

Now, that's a good few feet across.  If you haven't got the width, unfortunately you can forget about a piano now.  You can, however, get digital pianos on stands, so you could technically pack up the stand and put the piano itself lengthways.  This would probably cause a bit of damage in the long-run, and I wouldn't recommend it.

Incidentally, whilst the weighting of keys on digital pianos is not ideal, they probably *are* pretty good for learning on.  I'd say if you can afford and house a full-size digital piano, then it's a decent compromise.

In summary: I don't wish to put you off piano-playing by any means - I love it and truly hope that others get the same enjoyment from it that I do.  Practically though, if you want to learn an instrument seriously, unless you get more space then a guitar is maybe what you should be looking for.

Oh yeah, price-wise.  A *good* digital piano would cost you the best part of a grand, a cheap one you could probably pick up for £200-£300 quid.  Again, maybe a guitar would be better for you at the moment?

That's all excellent advice. Are 76 keys really that much of a detriment compared to a full 88? As to the length/stand issue (not to mention price), yeah, space is at a premium, so I'm kind of swayed by your post to consider a geetar more strongly.

[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« Reply #10 on: March 09, 2006, 10:55:21 AM »
Quote from: "mayer"
If you're after the keys, you can get a nice quality keyboard for a lot less than a digital piano. The bounce on the keys is a lot different, but, it depends what you wanna do with it. Lots of fun still. Just trying to get a proper "Piano" sound out of a keyboard does mean you have to shell out, if you're not bothered about that you can pick up something, full-sized keys and all, pretty cheap.

Pretty cheap? 100? 200 maybe? I suppose essentially what I want to do is not to necessarily "play music" a la a proms soloist, but to make and recreate my own amateur noodlings.

Quote from: "Gazeuse"
As far as guitars go, you could get something like a Korg Pandora which has got some effects and later models have a basic drum machine for practice.

Thanks. (I'm definitely out of my league here.) Think I need to read up a lot more on guitar terminology before I can decipher some of the lingo on review sites of that thing!

[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« Reply #11 on: March 09, 2006, 10:59:01 AM »
Here's another general question for all:

Can a person learn much from just dabbling with a guitar/keyboard, or it a monumental waste of time compared to 'proper' evening classes which do it faster and to a better degree?

micanio

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[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« Reply #12 on: March 09, 2006, 11:02:58 AM »
If you want a good keyboard to start with either go with the Yamaha EZ-303 (normally retails at £140 ish ) or the Yamaha PSR 295 (retails at about £189).

Both are midi compatible and both have an Education Suite which will teach you the basics of keyboard playing.....

[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« Reply #13 on: March 09, 2006, 11:34:53 AM »
If you only have £200 to spend I would go for one of the starter guitar packs. Something like this or one of the alternatives.

To be honest you're not going to be able to afford much else on £200. I know some guitar heads will strongly disagree with buying this kind of guitar, but when I wanted to learn guitar I had the same kind of budget. I brought a similar guitar pack and haven't regretted it for a second.

Re Learning: Most guitarists are self taught. But I would recommend getting some learning material. The Fender DVD was an excellent help to me especially in the beginning stages. Maybe if the budget is really tight you could scab some of the guitar software from "the usual places".

I wouldn't even think about FX boxes or fancy amps until you've been playing for a while. If you want to hear what FX are like you can always plug the guitar into the 'line in' on your computer then run some FX box software.

[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« Reply #14 on: March 09, 2006, 11:47:32 AM »
Quote from: "BagJob"
If you only have £200 to spend I would go for one of the starter guitar packs. Something like this or one of the alternatives


That Squire starter pack looks pretty good to me. When I started out I had an Encore lefty and a little 10 watt Squire amp. It didn't sound great, but then I was useless at guitar anyway so it didn't matter too much.

Marty McFly

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[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« Reply #15 on: March 09, 2006, 02:34:17 PM »
sadly,  you'll never have a 'silent' guitar. electric guitars played without an amp are very quiet, certainly quieter than an acoustic,  but there will still be some noise. nothing for your neighbours to worry about, though.

people tend to slate squier guitars.. i really have no idea why though, all the examples i've come across have been nice to play. of course, it helps if you can go to a guitar shop and take a guitar-minded friend with you.

here's a couple of nice-but-cheap guitars..

squier 51 - http://www.imuso.co.uk/ProductDetail.asp?StockCode=EG00727
squier bullet  (basically a slightly slimmer strat with a hardtail bridge) - http://www.imuso.co.uk/ProductDetail.asp?StockCode=EG00711

if you've got a cash converters or equivalent shop in your town, have a look in there, sometimes you can find a bargain.

[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« Reply #16 on: March 09, 2006, 02:48:25 PM »
Quote from: "BagJob"

To be honest you're not going to be able to afford much else on £200. I know some guitar heads will strongly disagree with buying this kind of guitar, but when I wanted to learn guitar I had the same kind of budget. I brought a similar guitar pack and haven't regretted it for a second.

.


I agree. You don't need a great guitar to learn how to play at all. I've played the cheapest guitars around and also the most expensive and I honestly haven't found any of them more "appropriate", it all depends what suits you best. For a beginner, squire's are ideal (I would recommend a squire telecaster as they're good for both rhythm and lead whereas the strats are more for lead work)

I wouldn't even be bothered about getting an amp at first. The only time I've ever used an amplifier is for recording, band rehearsals and gigs, for learning I never bothered with one.

Good idea to get a chord book to start learning too. And don't worry about your fingers hurting, you'll develop calluses soon enough
http://www.guitartips.addr.com/tip67.html

[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« Reply #17 on: March 09, 2006, 02:57:46 PM »
For your price range, I strongly recommend you go for something along the lines of Yamaha:

http://www.guitarampkeyboard.com/options.php?id=10383

or Ibanez:

http://www.piedog.com/musical_instruments/guitar/electric_guitars/ibanez-gsa60_jb.htm

For two reasons - they tend to be easier to play then the other kinds of cheap guitars, and they are also well made. The Ibanez particularly would survive longer in one working, nice-sounding piece than something like a squire or  a cheap no-name guitar from cash convertors.

You can get such a thing as a silent acoustic guitar:

http://www.piedog.com/musical_instruments/guitar/acoustic_guitars/yamaha-slg100s.htm

I've never played one so can't comment on how well it plays, but it looks to be over your budget.

Here's the roland amp someone mentioned earlier:

http://www.piedog.com/musical_instruments/guitar/guitar_amps/roland-micro_cube.htm

The added effects make it good value, but you can find amps without the effects for a smaller cost. One of those and one of the cheaper Ibanez guitars would be ideal.

[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« Reply #18 on: March 09, 2006, 03:05:44 PM »
Nice one. All these posts are great food for thought.

Quote from: "Gazeuse"
As far as guitars go, you could get something like a Korg Pandora which has got some effects and later models have a basic drum machine for practice.

Ah. So this gizmo is an 'effects box' and 'headphone amp' in one? (The latter is a term I must remember when googling for silent practice gear.)

Marty McFly

  • no, I said steamed HAMS
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[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« Reply #19 on: March 09, 2006, 03:20:14 PM »
Quote from: "The Unicorn"
I agree. You don't need a great guitar to learn how to play at all. I've played the cheapest guitars around and also the most expensive and I honestly haven't found any of them more "appropriate", it all depends what suits you best. For a beginner, squire's are ideal (I would recommend a squire telecaster as they're good for both rhythm and lead whereas the strats are more for lead work)


i agree, within reason.. but then i have the opinion that squiers are 'great', and others don't hold that view ;)

the main thing to look for on an electric is the action - if it is too high then make sure you can adjust it at the bridge. if the bridge saddles are flat on the bridgeplate and your action is still way too high, then there's not much point in bothering, really. also be aware of fret buzz - not exactly a barrier to playing, but it can get pretty annoying. tuning stability is another thing to watch out for, there's nothing more frustrating than having to retune every five minutes after some vigorous strumming. ooh-er.

for what it's worth, the stock tuners on my 8-year-old affinity strat (£130) are still superb, i can pick the instrument up after not playing it for weeks and it only needs a few minor tweaks  to get it back in perfect pitch.

[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« Reply #20 on: March 09, 2006, 03:41:01 PM »
That's another thing, it's well worth getting hold of an electric guitar tuner. They're cheap, and they make tuning pretty effortless.

[Muso] I want to learn to play... BUT in silence!
« Reply #21 on: March 12, 2006, 02:34:15 PM »
Some interesting points here.

Like Weekender, I'm a classically trained pianist to Grade 8.  However, I never get the chance to play really since I came to uni (25 now, nearly 26, so some time ago).  I started to pick up the guitar in my teens when I had an awful piano teacher who didn't inspire me at all.

I'm lucky enough to have perfect pitch (i.e. I can play by ear, in the right key), so I've never had guitar lessons.  I look at the odd tab site, or chord book for some ideas, but I find generally that my own arrangements are better than people who slavishly follow what whoever was in one band might have played once.  With the guitar, once you work out a few standard chord progressions, work out the basic solo riffs etc and work out where everything is on the neck it's pretty easy.

With the piano, it's perhaps more important to get some proper lessons.  Once you get to grade 5-6 it's pretty easy to teach yourself further - which was effectively what I did as my piano teacher was so bad she couldn't even hear when I was making mistakes.  Just be sure if you do get a teacher to get someone you engage with.

Not sure whether that was any help at all... to summarise, the guitar is probably easier to pick up (learning wise, and physically!!!) and more convenient, but I think there's more scope for taking the piano further and playing a wider variety of music.  IMHO.