Digital Pianos: How are they different and how do you choose one?
25th May 2021
Digital vs. Acoustic
A digital piano is a type of electronic keyboard that is more advanced and designed as an alternative to the original traditional acoustic piano. Digital pianos use recorded samples of an acoustic piano, which are then amplified through an internal speaker of the piano. They also include weighted keys which recreate the feel of an acoustic piano.
The main difference between the digital and acoustic piano is the mechanism that produces the sound. The acoustic piano produces sound by channelling the power of the fingers pressing the keys into the hammers which then strike the strings and produce sound. On the other hand, digital pianos do not have strings, sounds are recorded for them and each key is a switch to produce a specific sound. Some digital pianos have hammers but they are not for striking strings but to capture the dynamics with which the key is played.
Even though digital pianos are not as excellent as acoustic pianos in terms of sound and feel, they also have their good part. For starters, digital pianos are smaller and potable meaning you are able to carry them with you whenever necessary, they are not expensive when compared to the traditional acoustic pianos and they can be connected to other musical instruments to produce louder music.
Things to consider when choosing a Digital Piano
Before you buy a digital piano, it’s important to keep in mind what exactly you’re looking for in terms of your needs and experience. Do you need a big, heavy piano for stationary use or a portable piano you can travel with from show to show? Do you need hundreds of instrument sounds, or will you use piano tones 99% of the time? These are some of the questions that will help you make the right decision when choosing the right piano that best suits your needs.
The factors you need to consider when deciding which piano to buy include budget, sound quality, number of keys, keyboard action, and touch response, number of sound and tines, speakers and amplifiers, polyphony, tools for learning, and portability. Let's take a look at these in detail below:
The first thing you need to consider when buying a digital piano is how much money you’re willing to spend on the instrument. If you are ready to spend more, then you will definitely find the best piano available in the market. Digital pianos that cost more have more features and are as well of high-quality. If you want to spend less, there’s also a lot of options you can choose from that will best suit your budget but keep in mind that the sound will not be as great and the quality too will not be that impressive. On the other hand, pricier pianos are similar to the traditional acoustic piano meaning you will have the best sound from them.
Sound Quality of the Digital Piano
This is the second most important factor you need to consider. There are many things you need to put into consideration when it comes to sound, including the speakers and the internal sound library. Speakers are the main sound output for a digital piano, you rely on the speakers to produce sound as you play. Therefore, they need to be of high quality and loud as you want them to be. The ideal digital piano must as well have internal or external speakers especially if you need it to play for an audience or your friends and family. The ideal digital piano must as well come with several sounds including electric pianos, organs, strings, clarinets, and harpsichords. These sounds are a great way of spicing up your performance and will help your music sound excellent.
Number of Keys
A digital piano usually has 88 full-size keys. You can play anything from these pianos with 88-keys, but then the keyboard is about 5 feet long and it may be very awkward to carry them around, and if the keys are fully weighted, the piano will be heavy weighing about 675lbs. These types are usually best for stationary use and not for carrying from one place to another. If you need a portable keyboard for travelling, you should consider the 61-key keyboard, these are lightweight and can be used anywhere i.e. on a table, on a bed, etc. 76-key keyboards are also available but are, they offer only 15 more keys than a 61-key piano, not much of a difference.
Keyboard Action and Touch Response
The keyboard plays a crucial role on the digital piano and therefore it should be a high-quality build and feel realistic when you touch just like the acoustic traditional piano. The keyboard action depends on several factors including the key mechanism use in the digital piano. The ideal digital piano must have a fully-weighted hammer-action keyboard that is similar to the feel of the acoustic piano. The lower resister keys should have weight and then get lighter when you play the upper keys. Cheaper digital pianos will have about 88 keys that are semi-weighted and will feel different from the acoustic piano. Therefore, if you want to learn the piano and produce the best sound, weighted keys are a must on a digital piano. So when going to a piano store, make sure you try out several pianos to know how the keyboard action and touch respond.
Number of Sound and Tones
Digital pianos offer a variety of different sounds, they offer an acoustic piano sound suitable for classic music, jazz, and pop. Some digital pianos use sound samples taken from acoustic pianos that have a very bright sound while others use a sample from acoustic pianos that have a mellow or warm sound. Digital pianos also sample 88 notes of the acoustic piano at different levels and volumes. These notes are softer in tone when played quietly and much brighter and harder when played with force. This is called velocity.
Speakers and Amplifiers
Digital pianos have built-in amplifiers and speakers. But if you need the piano for performing to an audience, these will not be adequate for your performance. So you will need to connect your piano to external speakers and amplifiers for your sound to be high.
Polyphony may sound like an unusual when, but you will come across it when choosing a digital piano. The term mentions the number of notes you can play at the exact time without notes being cut off early. When playing the piano, you need to explore and express yourself at the same time, so the limitations of certain keys shouldn't stand in your way. Therefore, you need to make sure the piano you buy has enough polyphony, 64 notes of polyphony are ideal for any piece you may perform.
Tools for Learning
If you’re a beginner, then your digital piano needs to come with learning tools. Digital pianos come with extra features that will enhance learning and make playing fun.
Before you buy the digital piano, you need to keep in mind what exactly you need it for. If you want a digital piano that you can carry and travel around with from show to show, then you need to consider its portability. Buy the one which is lightweight and easy to carry. If you buy the heavier type, then you will have a hard time moving it from one place to another.