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Silent Systems: The Best of Both Worlds

Updated: Apr 23

By Hannah Beckett


There is no shortage of amazing musicians in the world, and there are limitless ways to watch or hear them perform. The music industry adapts and changes as quickly as it can with technology, and as more people find virtual platforms to display their talent, the music world fills to the brim with virtuosic displays. But as we all know, social media only shows one facet of complex humanity, and particularly in the music world, it’s easy to forget a harsh reality: Behind every talented musician is a longsuffering parent(s) who made sacrifices and compromises to invest in the value of music. 


I’m just going to say it: Surviving the first few years of your child’s piano education can be exhausting. Most parents want their children involved in music for the proven benefits of brain development, discipline, expression, etc. which is all well and good, but the cost of these benefits is undeniable. It’s a financial investment to purchase an instrument and pay for lessons. It’s an investment in time to enforce practice and attend recitals, and it’s an emotional investment to come home from work and listen to a young student plunking away during their designated evening practice time. The music industry generally prefers to overlook the tedious early years of music education while celebrating the latter years of development and success, but every successful musician is a testament to a parent who pushed and plodded their way through the years of listening to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.



For anyone who struggles to listen to a practice session with patience, digital pianos have been an instinctive choice because they typically come with sanity-saving headphones. While the temporary use of digital pianos is appropriate, and sometimes necessary for young students, the absence of an acoustic instrument will become problematic as they move out of the early stages of their education. 


Manufacturers labor over making the digital experience as close to an acoustic experience as possible, and although great progress is evident in both the sound and playing experience, the fact remains that a digital piano will never be the same as an acoustic piano. This is not breaking news; electric guitars have not replaced acoustic guitars. The presence of electronic components simply opens a different world of sound than that available in a purely acoustic instrument. In the same way, an acoustic instrument offers a different experience than what a purely electronic instrument can offer. Parents should keep this information in mind as they shop for their child’s starter instrument. Ultimately, a purchase of a digital piano for a piano student will likely require the additional purchase of an acoustic piano.


In general, digital pianos are considered a placeholder for piano students. Long-term use of digital pianos is most profitable for professional musicians who rely on the additional sounds, recording capability, and other unique features digital pianos offer for their work. Parents considering having their children learn to play the piano should only consider having a digital piano for the first few years of music education. In many cases, instead of considering a digital piano because of the inclusion of a set of headphones, parents should consider an acoustic piano with a silent system.


Silent Systems

A silent system allows a fully acoustic piano to be played with headphones when the system is engaged. A thin rail inside the piano prevents the hammers from striking the strings and producing a sound, and a rail under the keys reads the movement and transmits it to the digital system that plays the corresponding sound through headphones. Silent systems have been available for several decades, but like all things in the piano world, knowledge of their capabilities has yet to become generalized. So here’s the breaking news: Almost any acoustic piano can be equipped with a silent system, which means your child can plug in headphones and practice in their own world without interrupting yours. 


Silent systems have developed over the past several years to include features similar to digital pianos. Most silent systems include a learning feature through a corresponding app, and recording/playback capability, which has a wide range of uses for both students and professionals. While silent systems are an obvious lifesaver for parents, they also have appeal to many other audiences. Anyone who is conscientious about noise bothering their neighbors or housemates should consider adding a silent system to their piano instead of sacrificing the acoustic appeal for a digital piano. Silent systems are also valuable in institutional settings where many pianists need to practice simultaneously. 


While a digital piano can never replace an acoustic piano, an acoustic piano equipped with a silent system can provide many of the same benefits a digital piano affords.

Factory-Installed and Aftermarket Silent Systems

If you’re shopping for a new upright piano, you should know that many brands offer factory-installed silent systems. Some manufacturers have produced their own silent systems using sound samples from their high-end concert pianos. Other manufacturers offer more generic sound systems built into their pianos. The in-house systems are significantly more expensive, but they typically feature much higher-quality sounds and features. 


Below is a chart of the manufacturers who offer factory-installed silent systems and their costs:

Brand

Silent System

Grand Pricing

Upright Pricing

E-volution

~$10,000

~$8,000

Vario

~$11,000

~$6,000

AnyTime Series

See model pricing

See model pricing

Adsilent

Contact dealer

Contact dealer

twintone

~$6,000

~$2,500

Genio, Adsilent

~$5,500

~$2,500

Adsilent

See model pricing

See model pricing

Genio

-

~$2,000

Silent & Disklavier

See model pricing

See model pricing

Genio

~$3,225

~$2,000

If you already have a piano without a silent system, Kioshi Interactive Piano Silent System has you covered. Kioshi is an aftermarket silent system that can be installed in your home by qualified technicians. You’ll need to verify that your piano is capable of supporting the system. Installation fees vary, but in general, you can assume the cost will be similar to some of the generic factory-installed systems listed above. 


Aftermarket player systems often include a silent system. If the system is one of the newer versions, pianos with a PianoDisc, QRS, or PianoForce player system installed will have a silent feature option. 


Whether you’re a parent trying to carve out a little quiet time in your life, or a musician with sensitive neighbors, you don’t have to give up your acoustic piano. Let a silent system give you the best of both worlds so you can play acoustic by day and silent at night.

 

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