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Anyone looking to invest in a piano has two options available to them – a traditional acoustic piano or the modern digital piano. Each has their own benefits for a budding pianist, although there are aspects that will dictate your decision, most notably your budget.
There are plenty of reasons why you may consider either option of course, with one being a timeless instrument that is nothing short of a work of art and highly desired by most, while the other is a multifunctioning instrument that is ideal for most musicians looking to record or play live music.
Let’s look at each type of piano to see which one may be the best option for you!
There’s several noteworthy aspects of a digital piano when comparing it to its acoustic cousin, and perhaps the first worth mentioning is price, because let’s face it you can only buy the piano that’s within your price range.
Digital pianos are a much more affordable option than acoustics, making them a fine option for many musicians. Prices can start as low as a few hundred pounds, with some of the high-end products only reaching several hundred to a few thousand pounds.
Compared to most acoustic pianos, such as a professional grand piano, a digital piano is going to cost a fraction of the price yet still offer many benefits.
This is because the best digital pianos aren’t too different from acoustics. They work in the same fashion, with players pressing the keys to get the note, and with some digital models the pressure with which you play the note will affect the note produced, ranging from quiet to loud. Many people suggest it easier to learn to play the keyboard of a digital piano compared to an acoustic.
For a digital piano to closer match the sound of an acoustic, including playing keys at various velocities to produce different notes, you will likely need a more reputable make and model.
Performance and Features
Thankfully, digital pianos are becoming better and better at reproducing the sound of an acoustic, almost to the point of it almost sounding as good. In fact, the tones produced on a digital piano are recordings of a high quality acoustic pianos.
This is done through a process known as sampling, which involves playing a real piano at a variety of tones, velocities and other variables to help replicate the sound on digital format. Higher quality models use more advanced technology when implementing this process, so can therefore produce a more genuine sound than cheaper options.
For example, a cheaper digital keyboard tends to have one or two velocity options, while high-end equivalents produce more detailed sounds and nuances, such as key release. Of course there are also some less expensive options like the Casio CDP-130 model which try to cater for both beginners and the more experienced at a budget.
Furthermore, a digital piano is known for its versatility, with many capable of producing a variety of functions such as sample sounds and effects, as well as various synthesised instruments.
This makes them a fine option for recording musicians as well as live performers looking a reliable sound and plenty of additional features.
There’s no shortage of digital piano models out there, with various price ranges available. However, the model of the piano will also impact how you use, with some models looking to replicate the look and feel of an acoustic while others are designed with portability in mind. The Yamaha YPT-240 is a model which is basically an entry level keyboard while the Roland FP-30 is a full 88 key model with plenty of bells and whistles.
Digital pianos that closely resemble acoustic types tend to have a more authentic feel to the keys and over all sound produced. These will usually be on the higher end of the price range but offer a closer match to the real thing, making them suitable for people looking for an acoustic piano but lacking space or funds to purchase one.
Portable keyboards are some of the cheapest digital piano models on the market. They can be relatively inexpensive and compact, so a great for musicians that frequently gig. However, their cheaper price means that can often produce a lower quality sound, which is something to keep in mind.
They can also be developed towards recording artists as well, especially those with additional features such as synthesisers, sound effects etc.
As you can see, digital pianos tend to be developed for either home use, recording in a studio, or to be used while on the move.
Regardless of what you may need a digital piano for, they will always be a more affordable option than acoustics, and the fact they can be made for transportation in mind and offer plenty of additional functions, they are a worthwhile investment for most. Read our post on the best ways to learn to play the piano here.
As previously mentioned, the price of an acoustic piano almost always outweighs that of a digital piano, which is a given considering they are a much more complicated instrument to construct.
With 88 keys and approximately 230 strings that require felt-covered hammers to produce the sound, these are not simple to manufacture and the price reflects this. However, in paying more you are guaranteeing an incredible sound and beautiful instrument.
Prices can range for acoustics too, with the top line grand pianos costing upwards of ten thousand pounds. The sound produced by these are almost unmatched however, making the price a fair reflection of the overall quality.
More affordable models are certainly available too, starting as low as a few hundred pounds, although the sound produced may be less authentic. Prices in the mid-range start at around a few thousand pounds, and offer a nice middle ground between grand pianos and cheaper acoustics.
While digital pianos have plenty of great benefits, including portability, additional features, and an affordable price, the simple fact is the sound they produce is incomparable to an acoustic piano.
Any musician looking to play or perfect classical music on piano, or genuinely hone their craft as a professional pianist, then an acoustic piano is a must. There is simple too many minor nuances in an acoustic that are so hard to replicate digitally, which is why it’s so difficult to have a digital piano that sounds exactly like an acoustic.
If you are student planning on studying piano then you really will want to invest in this kind of piano. Thankfully they can easily be rented too, which is well worth consideration even if just to get a feel for the real deal.
An acoustic does require more maintenance than a digital mind you, with an annual tuning usually needed to keep the sound quality on top. They may be more prone to the odd breakage too, but most are easily repaired.
Acoustic pianos have fewer options available. They are mostly categorised by their size and weight, as well as how the strings are set. For example, upright, console, studio and spinet pianos are developed to house strings vertically, while a grand piano does so horizontally (hence their larger size.)
This results in varying weights for each model. Acoustic pianos are massive in comparison to the nimbler digital piano, which is why so many people avoid them as they simply do not have the room to fit them.