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Pianos in churches


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#1 saxophile

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Posted 26 October 2012 - 20:03

Our church has for many years had a compact upright acoustic piano, which is used

- for choir practice
- to accompany some services (eg. family services with more "modern" songs, for which the organ doesn't sound so well-suited)
- at occasional amateur concerts.

Said piano has recently broken, and since it is old and doesn't (as a compact) really have enough volume for the space anyway (average-sized mediaeval village church), it's looking likely that it is going to be a better long-term investment for it to be replaced rather than repaired.

Does anyone have any thoughts as to whether a digital or a better acoustic (eg. a full-sized upright) would be advantageous in this context? I'm thinking both about the quality and volume of the sound and also the environmental conditions.

On the latter point, the church is not especially damp, but in common with many churches, it is not especially well-heated, either, so it can feel rather clammy in cold weather. When I have played it, the existing piano doesn't seem to show particular signs of suffering as a result of damp, but do digital pianos tolerate damp / humidity without difficulty, or is there a risk of (eg) corrosion on internal components?

On the former point, does the average digital have adequate "on-board" amplification and speakers for a space the size of a church, or would some kind of external amplifier / speaker set-up be needed?

Thoughts welcomed! smile.gif It will be a reasonably significant financial outlay, either way, so it would be important to make the right decision.
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#2 BerkshireMum

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Posted 26 October 2012 - 22:29

We considered these things when replacing our church acoustic piano in 2007. Although I think almost all pianists prefer acoustics, I think these days a digital makes more sense in a church context. Churches tend to be cold for 6 days of the week and then suddenly heated on Sundays, which does not make for stable tuning in an acoustic. As far as I'm aware, there is no deterioration in a digital caused by exposure to damp

We decided to buy a fairly cheap digital piano (a Roland costing about ?1600) and to amplify the output. I reckon that by now, assuming tuning twice a year, we would have spent ?500 on an acoustic. As it is, we have spent nothing at all. We use the piano for exactly the uses you describe, and are able to have different "voices" if we want - e.g. organ, piano, strings. It's also very easy to alter the pitch of the digital to tune it to the organ or any other instrument brought along, another plus point.

You will almost certainly need to amplify the sound from a digital, but most churches have some sort of PA system now which includes an amplifier and speakers. The volume can then be controlled either from the piano itself or from the desk where the PA person sits. If your church doesn't have PA already, perhaps it's small enough for a digital not to need amplification?

A digital was definitely the best solution for us, and I'd recommend it.
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#3 Tenor Viol

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Posted 26 October 2012 - 22:52

The church where my choral society gives most of its concerts is a large medieval church. They have a decent 3 manual organ and a Yamaha U3 upright with the reinforced frames for moving around.

Piano behaves itself quite well. It's used by the DoM for (church) choir practice - he's a very good pianist.

The advantage is that it can be used for concerts (e.g. Christmas). Where the piano is a major part of the concert, e.g. Bernstein Chichester Psalms, piano version of Brahms Requiem etc., we hire in one or two grand pianos wacko.gif

Electronic pianos need high quality amplification and speakers to make a decent sound and the speakers in particular will deteriorate in a church type environment, unless very high quality and made for that environment.

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#4 vectistim

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 20:48

How large a congregation, and how much noise are they making during hymns?

The little speakers in mine are sufficient to accompany a choir that just about gets into double figures. A larger machine would have much more on board, but I would have thought a PA system would be better for a congregation that sings with gusto.

I have sung in concerts where digital pianos are used with orchestra and choir and it seems to work.

What sort of money are you thinking of spending?
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#5 saxophile

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 09:31

QUOTE(vectistim @ Oct 27 2012, 09:48 PM) View Post

How large a congregation, and how much noise are they making during hymns?

The little speakers in mine are sufficient to accompany a choir that just about gets into double figures. A larger machine would have much more on board, but I would have thought a PA system would be better for a congregation that sings with gusto.

I have sung in concerts where digital pianos are used with orchestra and choir and it seems to work.

What sort of money are you thinking of spending?


Congregation - maybe 30 on average (including choir)? I haven't really counted. Usual tranche of (deaf) old dears who sit right at the back and then complain that they can't hear.... dry.gif I don't think the congregation makes much noise in hymns, but since I usually give it full welly myself, maybe I just can't hear them!!

Budget - I'm guessing maybe up to 2 / 2.5K, if necessary.

We do have a PA system, but I suspect the logistics of connecting into it would not be entirely straightforward: the amplifier set-up is in the choir vestry, behind a full-height wooden screen, whereas the piano currently sits at the front of one rank of pews in the main aisle.
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#6 StuMac

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 10:06

Old churches often have mice....and mice / digital pianos do not mix!

I had the little sods in my house and they basically destroyed my clavinova. The guy who came to look at it said it was very common................and no, I was not insured for damage caused by vermin as I found out when I read the small print on my household insurance.

A thing to bear in mind.

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#7 violinlove

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 12:53

QUOTE(StuMac @ Oct 28 2012, 12:06 PM) View Post

Old churches often have mice....and mice / digital pianos do not mix!

I had the little sods in my house and they basically destroyed my clavinova. The guy who came to look at it said it was very common................and no, I was not insured for damage caused by vermin as I found out when I read the small print on my household insurance.

A thing to bear in mind.


They'd probably eat a real piano too. I saw one in a sorrowful state, chewed to bits and full of mouse droppings.
Of course the church could get a cat.

I much prefer real pianos. I can't stand playing digital pianos - sorry those who like them, I just can't get used to them - too much time playing acoustic pianos. Also I don't like the way they are tuned - they never seem quite right to my ear. However in certain situations they really are practical - churches being one of the situations. No need for tuning, no worries about constant temperature variation, can be easily amplified, easy to move about etc.
I would only have reservations if the church was also going to be used as a regular concert venue where soloists were going to be playing the piano.
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#8 StuMac

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 16:07

QUOTE(violinlove @ Oct 28 2012, 12:53 PM) View Post
QUOTE(StuMac @ Oct 28 2012, 12:06 PM) View Post

Old churches often have mice....and mice / digital pianos do not mix!

I had the little sods in my house and they basically destroyed my clavinova. The guy who came to look at it said it was very common................and no, I was not insured for damage caused by vermin as I found out when I read the small print on my household insurance.

A thing to bear in mind.


They'd probably eat a real piano too. I saw one in a sorrowful state, chewed to bits and full of mouse droppings.
Of course the church could get a cat.

I much prefer real pianos. I can't stand playing digital pianos - sorry those who like them, I just can't get used to them - too much time playing acoustic pianos. Also I don't like the way they are tuned - they never seem quite right to my ear. However in certain situations they really are practical - churches being one of the situations. No need for tuning, no worries about constant temperature variation, can be easily amplified, easy to move about etc.
I would only have reservations if the church was also going to be used as a regular concert venue where soloists were going to be playing the piano.


They certainly would eat a real piano....but it would take them a while. The problem is that the little sods pee on the printed circuit boards so they can absolutely ruin a digital piano in next to no time.

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#9 saxophile

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 18:26

I have to say I never thought of mice being a problem! ohmy.gif - and yes, we do have mice in the church (despite efforts to prevent this).

It appears we've now been offered an acoustic piano by a parishioner who is no longer able to play it owing to arthritis; so if it turns out to be suitable, we won't have to make the choice after all [a free piano is not something we intend to turn down, even if it does need tuning etc!]. But I will pass on all the various comments, just in case, so many thanks to all who have posted! smile.gif
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#10 BerkshireMum

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 22:28

A free piano sounds a good bet, provided it's in good condition. smile.gif Make sure someone knowledgeable checks it out before you accept the offer, in case it's not a very nice piano. Hope it will be the solution to your difficulties.
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