We (satisficed and) bought a digital piano

We finally got around to signing DC1 up for piano lessons this past fall, about a year after we meant to.

Ze really really likes it.  The first things ze does when ze gets home is hir piano practicing, and sometimes if ze gets up early enough, ze’ll practice piano before going to school.

Unfortunately, the $100 keyboard hir grandparents got hir doesn’t have weighted keys, so you can’t do piano or forte, just one volume.  And there’s no pedals for sustained sound.  Since it seems like DC1 is going to stick with it, we really need to get hir a real piano to practice on.

Well, almost a real piano.

Looking up how to buy a used piano online is terrifying.  Page after page talking about how you need to have a trusted professional with you at point of purchase or you may end up with something that’s only good for hauling to the dump (something you will, of course, have to pay for yourself).  New pianos are confusing as well, though the only terrifying thing about them is the price point.

So… on the advice of one our readers (I think chacha, but maybe it was Ms. PoP), we looked into digital pianos.  They’re new and under warranty.  They don’t have to be tuned every year.  They cost a fraction of what a low grade real piano costs.  And… they don’t sound too bad.

After reading tons of reviews and scouring the piano forum, we decided to get a low-mid-level Casio for $1099. Specifically the Casio PX850 BK 88-Key Touch Sensitive Privia Digital Piano. This piano is on all of the top 10 digital piano lists that I found.  Although it was only #1 on one of those lists, the #1s on the other lists weren’t even listed on many of the lists (if that makes sense).  The only detracting thing on the Amazon reviews is that some people find that after several weeks of intense playing, the keys start to clack a little because the pads wear thin (they should be wool, complains one reviewer), but that seems to be a potential problem across our price range, and probably isn’t one our 7 year old will encounter for a few years.    The piano forums recommend this one as a good learning piano, and while some people have preferred digital pianos, nobody really says anything bad about this piano (while those “preferred” pianos all have detractors).  Everyone seems to agree that this piano is pretty good and is a good value.

We tried to find a place in town that carried it that we could listen and then buy from, but the place in town that said they had it turned out to be out of stock.  They did have the $1699 Yamaha that some people prefer to the Casio (and many people do not), and we weren’t that impressed with it.  We talked about trying to find a place in the city that has a bunch of pianos we could listen to, but it seems like all the shops in the city have a monopoly of one brand– they just carry Yamaha or just Roland etc.  And we didn’t really want to go into the city this weekend anyway.

So we ended up getting it without listening to it from Amazon.  I splurged and got the recommended bench for $44 instead of a slightly less expensive one because someone in the reviews said that one of the settings fit hir 4 year old.

The Casio came in less than a week.  DH spent the evening putting it together, mostly after DC1 slept.  At 10-something, he got DC2 and me to look at and listen to the finished product.  It’s beautiful.  It looks like a real piano, but it’s slimmer.  It feels like a real piano.  It sounds like a real piano.  Plus, unlike that $1700 Yamaha, it didn’t have tons of confusing controls.  Its controls are even more intuitive than the controls on DC1’s old $100 keyboard.  It probably has fewer features, but we don’t need a keyboard that can bark like a dog, we need a keyboard that mimics a regular piano.

We congratulated ourselves on doing a good job picking a piano out (and thanked our lucky stars), even if we weren’t able to check out the piano in person first.  It’s exactly what we need and it’s much nicer than the ones we saw at the local store, even the equally and more expensive ones.  So we’re very happy with our purchase.  DC1 loves it too.  It’s scary spending $1000+ on something you’re not sure about.  Getting it wrong is an expensive and/or annoying proposition (depending on if you return the purchase or not).

So yay for top 10 lists and yay for piano forums and amazon and satisficing.

Have you ever made a big purchase partly-blind like this?  How did it work out?  How do you decide on big purchases?

What’s your theme music?

My sister was recently maid of honor at her best friend’s wedding.

For the reception, they requested that she pick some music to introduce her before her speech or something.

“So, basically, they want you to pick your own theme music?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she replied.

“That seems like a trap!” I said.

“I know!  If it weren’t a wedding, I’d pick Don’t Rain on My Parade, but somehow it doesn’t seem fitting.  Or Loads of Lovely Love from No Strings.”

“You just want money, a nice position, and loads of lovely love?”

“Who doesn’t?” she asked.  “How about Side by Side by Side?”

“Company is so bittersweet.  Really anything Sondheim isn’t wedding appropriate.”

“Nope.  If I can’t think of anything good I’m defaulting to Dancing Queen, or maybe Good Morning Baltimore cause I used to wake [best friend] up to that.  Or maybe Come So Far to Go, but that might be insulting,” and then it was time for her to board the airplane.

So I asked around.  My partner suggested the Knight Rider theme song, or Magnum PI, but I think that we’re of a slightly different generation than she is.  My mom noted she probably shouldn’t do “Baby I Was Born This Way.”  No mom, she probably shouldn’t.

In the end, she went with “Friendship” from Anything Goes.  Which is a nice song (and better for a wedding than Bosom Buddies!), but maybe not so much of a theme song for an individual.

I have to admit, I’d be kind of stumped on this question if I were asked.  Maybe Loads of Lovely Love after all… she’s right– who doesn’t want money, a nice position, and loads of lovely love?

#2 says: I’ve always thought about what should be my theme music, but nothing seems great enough to truly capture me.

What’s your theme song?

If you were stranded on desert island…

And you were allowed the full library of only one band, what would you choose?

Partner and I were discussing this last night…

He asked if instead of a band, it could be a composer, and we decided that yes, that is allowed (though only original arrangements– so you could have the jazz version of Rhapsody in Blue and the classical version of Rhapsody in Blue, but not the Swingle Singers version).

He then pointed out that a classical composer is probably the way to go.  I agreed.  Someone very prolific who has a wide range of style and influence across the genre.  Probably also someone who wrote for piano, orchestra, and voice.  (Maybe someone who does movie soundtracks too?)

But who?

#2 picks J. S. Bach.  I love fugues and counterpoint, and he wrote a lot.  Love it!

So, if you were stranded on a desert island and had the full library of only one band or composer, who would be a good choice and why?

DCs’ favorite music


  • ABC song (especially Daddy’s)
  • Shiny Happy People (REM)
  • Stand (REM)
  • These boots were made for walking (Nancy Sinatra)
  • Love Shack (B52s)
  • Anything by the mamas and the papas


What do your children like to listen to?  What did you like to listen to as a child?

Growing up and discovering I suddenly like Sondheim

Oh, I’d liked the music before.   Who couldn’t love “I’m not getting married today“?  (And I have always loved A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, but that’s an exception.)  But the shows, the shows… so… conflicted.  So depressing.  So unsettling.

In high school the show that spoke most to me, really spoke to my deepest inner adolescent depths was The Fantasticks.  “Without a hurt the heart is hollow.”  The sufferings of teenagehood were buffing up my character, making things more real somehow.  Sondheim also does that trick where everything ends prettily in the first act, only to be broken at the start of the second, but his second act doesn’t end with everybody with more real happiness at the end of the show.  He’s not really big on closure.

Life’s not really big on closure.

Lots of people in high school liked Sondheim.  I’m pretty sure #2 numbers among them.  (True!  #2 has loved Sondheim since the age of like 12, when she was still missing a lot of the lyrical jokes but starting to appreciate how very difficult it was to sing his incredible melodies.  My very favorite is A Little Night Music.  #1 loves this Stephen Colbert cover of Send in the Clowns.  He explains where they are.  See, closure.)

Were they more cynical?  Less cynical?  More mature?  Is my new appreciation for Sondheim showing growth on my part or just an acceptance?

I went to a talk at a conference once where they had a couple of psychologists talking about how our emotions change as we age.  One of the big things is that as we get older each negative event doesn’t affect us as much… we focus more on the positive and don’t let the negative get us down quite so much as before.  Of course, as you get older there’s more negative events… people die off, get divorced etc.

So… I wonder how old I have to be before I like any Wagner other than Die Meistersinger.

How have your tastes matured as you’ve gotten older?  Do you appreciate more or less?

Happy songs!

Need a little pick-me-up? Here are a few songs that might help.

What do you listen to when you’re feeling down?

A Chat with My Musical Sister

In the vein of “everyone is entitled to my opinion“:

me: holy jeez. I’d rather [do something else] than listen to a Liszt concerto, but that’s why you’re you and I’m me.

sister: well, [husband] and I are also pretty music nerdy

me: also I am only MEH on Stravinksy
sis: how can you be MEH on Stravinsky! Firebird, come on!
whatevs, dude
me: It seems that the romantic period is not a kind of music I generally love.
sis: well, that’s some silliness
me: I’m so old school. I prefer baroque.
all those complicated thingies and fugues and whatnot, I like them.
counterpoint, ya know.
sis: I enjoy Baroque, and seeing mad Baroque styling skillz in action is pretty cool, but give me an expressive art song, some impressionistic piano, and a flexible tempo any day
I actually prefer Renaissance counterpoint (so, super-early counterpoint)
the ducking and diving of madrigal singers, for instance
me: fabulous of course.
I like renaissance too. I don’t like impressionistic piano at all.
sis: don’t tell [husband], his heart is with the Romantics
me: shhhh.
sis: and Debussy is a big thing for him
me: He can have Debussy. Handel can be mine, all mine.
sis: although Debussy never used nor liked the term “impressionism”
me: fair enough
I think baroque people didn’t call themselves that, either.
but it’s easier than saying “music with fancy bits put on”
sis: well, he’d tell you to keep your damn Bach
me: good, I shall!
to the romantics, I say: fugue you.
sis: when it comes to piano, Bach is the enemy of human hands
me: yes, I can see how Bach would be monstrous to try to play.
Much like Sondheim is a bitch-and-a-half to sing, but so very shiny.
sis: the Romantics are a bitch to play as well, but they were actually written for the piano (as opposed to harpsichord or organ), and they, you know, have something to say in their music as opposed to being a mere exercise in form.
That’s a roast, folks
me: yeah, but I find what they have to say whiny.
and I like harpsichord or organ music.
sis: hey, that’s cool if you’re an expert in that action, the problem is that people expect this music to be played on the piano too, and it’s just not supposed to be done that way.
me: well now, I agree there.  it’s not for the piano.
sis: indeed
Bach never had to contend with the weighting/action and dynamics of the piano.  You can only hit a key on a harpsichord a few ways
me: also I think some performances I hear get bogged down in all the detail and it can sound muddy, instead of light, which I prefer.
sis: indeed, should be light, crisp, the melodies should play with each other, not overshadow each other
me: yes, for reals.
sis: and excellent Baroque performers should, of course, be considering expression in their ornamentation and not doing it at inexplicable times just because they can
me: worst example EVAR, who should be stuck in a sack and kicked: the Mormon Tabernacle Choir trying to do The Messiah. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. Stuck in treacle!
sis: well, that’s unfortunate
me: it IS.
Best recorded Messiah: Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, with Samuel Ramey, Florence Quivar, some tenor, and Kathleen Battle.
Very light.
sis: hmm…
but Kathy B is such a DIVA
me: sure, sure,
I don’t dispute that.
I wouldn’t necessarily want to work with her.
I like Ramey’s work on the Jello Aria. [and I will shaaaaaaaaaake…]
sis: I haven’t heard the recording
will add to amazon list forthwith
me: the Jello one is another place where people get really bogged down, and he doesn’t.
sis: dude, the Toronto recording is all out of print and stuff
I can download it, but I don’t want to, bitches
me: yeah, bitches! wait, why not?
hm, the editorial review on amazon thinks nobody is “involved” with the music on that recording, but all the listener reviews are very high.  The people reviewing it who say they are conductors or musicians love it.
But anyway, I do so hate it when things I like go out of print.
ew, even the abridged version is out of print
sis: like I said, lamesauce
me: yes. wynton marsalis: I like his baroque
tum-tiddly-tum-te-tum and whatnot
sis: I do like Wynton Marsalis
me: though I suppose I should clarify: although I do like me some baroqueness, Pachelbel’s canon in D can go hang.
sis: ok, I’ll give you that one

#2 says:  I like Romantic composers with names I can’t spell.  Like Puccini and Rimsky-Korsakov.  So fugue me, I guess.  Pachelbel’s canon makes me fall asleep because in high school we had this yoga class where they played it while we were supposed to be relaxing, but I would always fall asleep instead.

Discussion question:  How come they make you take naps in kindergarten when you don’t want them and don’t let you take them when you’re all grown up and need them?

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