web analytics

Forth in Praise

and Downloads




The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

November 8, 2009

Electronic pianos are awful!

evelyn @ 7:33 pm

Last Wednesday I returned to the funeral parlour after several months’ absence. I had been hoping against hope, but in vain. They still have their electronic piano. It struck me yet again how amazing it is that so many churches and undertakers buy one of these things without consulting the organist or organists who are to play it.

Electronic pianos are the most difficult instruments to play in a church or service context. OK, they have their uses. As pianos, they can work well with guitar groups or with children, while their portability means they can be carried into the hall for a knees-up (none of this applies to our undertaker, of course).

But they are pianos, not organs, and for mainstream services, they are hopeless. If you are lucky, you might find two or three separate organ ‘voices’, but usually there is only one, which has to be used for absolutely everything. In the funeral parlour, half an hour of quiet music is expected before the service starts, and the sheer monotony of one organ sound for that length of time has reduced me to using this particular piano as a piano, serenading the mourners with chunks of Classic FM while trying to revitalise my own long-gone piano touch. This just about works in the cosy parlour, but Chopin, Rachmaninov and the Moonlight Sonata definitely do not sound right in church.

If you are accompanying congregational hymns on an electronic piano, you can’t add or remove stops, mixing and matching tones as you can with a real organ, pipe or electronic. You can’t build up hymn sounds verse by verse until you reach that tremendous Songs of Praise-style last verse. The only way you can vary the volume is by taking a hand off to operate the slider control, while the only way you can vary the tone is by using either the built-in touch sensitivity, so ridiculously alien to any organ, or – wait for it! – the sustaining pedal!

These instruments are lethal to congregational singing, and they are not cheap. They frequently incorporate ‘voices’ and gadgets which will never be used. For a thousand pounds less one could probably purchase a small, simple electronic organ that would sound far better and be a lot easier to play. And which would probably have an optional ‘piano’ voice if you wanted one for groups, children or a knees-up.

Suggestions for coping with a church electronic piano (other than taking an axe to it) are planned for a future post. In the meantime if anyone actually gets on with one of these things in church, please comment and tell us your secret.


  1. See also: Getting rid of an old electronic piano

    See also: Getting rid of a new electronic piano

    Pingback by Forth In Praise - Liturgy Commission Music - Organists' Blog — January 5, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

  2. Because of the lack of depth in these electronic piano/organs it is sometimes better to just play them as PIANO. Some congregations seem to prefer this anyway.

    Comment by Elvira — January 10, 2010 @ 6:55 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.