We’re continuing our “Best Digital Pianos” article series, and this time we’re going to discover the best home (console) digital pianos under $1,500.
There have been quite a few interesting releases lately, and several of them made it onto this list.
We’ve already covered the winners in the entry-level sub-$1,000 category, so now it’s time to talk about the intermediate segment of the digital piano market.
Out of all the types of digital pianos, console digital pianos come closest to the real thing in terms of sound, feel and look, but they also tend to be more expensive than their portable counterparts.
1) They’re not very portable as they’re mainly designed for home-based pianists who don’t require a lot of moving around.
2) They have a furniture cabinet that resembles the look of an acoustic piano in one way or another.
3) They come with a full 3-pedal setup, just like an acoustic piano.
4) They have an onboard speaker system (often 2 or more speakers) that deliver an immersive, acoustic-like experience.
5) They come in different color variations to better match your home’s interior.
6) They usually have all the essentials, but you’ll rarely find tons of bells and whistles in these pianos, whether it’s a wide selection of preset sounds, connectivity options, rhythms, powerful recording capabilities, etc.
7) Due to their larger, fancier cabinets, included pedals and powerful speaker systems, they often cost considerably more (up to 2 times more) than their portable counterparts with similar characteristics (same key action and sound engine).
There’s no arguing that the more you spend, the more realistic piano experience you’re going to get. “You get what you pay for” has never been truer.
However, you don’t have to spend multiple grand to buy a quality digital piano.
The digital piano market has been growing steadily for the past several decades, and it’s not surprising considering the many advantages that digital instruments offer compared to the acoustic ones.
Today there are plenty of excellent options in the sub-$1,500 price category that will meet the needs of the most demanding beginner and intermediate players.
If you’re new to this market, it can be daunting to choose from dozens and dozens of different models and makes that all look very similar and have similar characteristics.
To make it easier for you, I’ve tried to provide as much helpful information as possible both in this article and on this blog so that you can save a bunch of time on research while figuring out all the quirks of the digital piano world.
Regardless, I always recommend trying the instruments in person, for it’s the only way to know with 100% certainty whether you like it or if there’s a better alternative for you (things like touch and sound tend to be very personal and subjective factors).
Now, let’s finally dive into the list and talk about each contender in detail.
But first, let’s look at the comparison table below to get familiar with what each instrument is capable of doing.
Comparison table of the 5 best home digital pianos under $1500
- Fully-Weighted Keys
- Simulated Ivory/Ebony
- Touch Sensitivity
- Tone Generator
- Built-in Tones
- Lesson Function
- MIDI Recorder
- Audio Recorder
- Preset Temperaments
- Piano Elements
- USB Type B
- Bluetooth Connectivity
- Yamaha YDP-164
- Graded Hammer 3 (GH3)
- 3 types, Off
- Yamaha CFX
- 192 notes
- 10 (3 pianos)
- Dual, Duo
- 50 songs
- 2-track, 1 song
- (USB Audio Interface)
- Damper/String/Key Off Resonance, Smooth Release
- MIDI and Audio support
- 20W + 20W
- 88.1 lbs (40 kg)
- Roland F-140R
- Progressive Hammer Action (PHA-4 Standard) with Escapement
- (Ivory only)
- 5 types, Off
- SuperNATURAL Piano Sound
- 128 notes
- 316 (11 pianos)
- Dual, Split, Duo
- 189 songs
- 1-track, 1 song
- Damper/String/Key Off Resonance
- Bluetooth 4.0 (MIDI)
- 12W + 12W
- 76 lbs (34.5 kg)
- Kawai KDP110
- Responsive Hammer Compact II (RHCII)
- 3 types, Off
- Multi-dimensional Morphing AiR
- 192 notes
- 15 (4 pianos)
- Dual, Duo
- 5 Song Books (over 200 songs)
- 1-track, 3 songs
- 7 types
- Damper/Key Off Resonance, Hammer Delay, Lid Simulation
- Bluetooth 4.0 (MIDI)
- 20W + 20W
- 86 lbs (39 kg)
- Korg G1 Air
- Real Weighted Hammer Action 3 (RH3)
- 4 types, Off
- Stereo PCM
- 120 notes
- 32 (12 pianos)
- Dual, Split, Duo
- 40 songs
- 2-track, 1 song
- 9 types
- Damper/String/Key Off Resonance
- Bluetooth (Audio)
- 2 x (20W + 20W)
- 90.4 lbs (41 kg)
- Casio AP-470
- Tri-sensor Scaled Hammer Action II
- 3 types, Off
- Multi-dimensional Morphing AiR
- 256 notes
- 22 (9 pianos)
- Dual, Split (Bass only), Duo
- 60 Songs (+ 10 User)
- 2-track, 1 song
- WAV, 16bit, 44.1 kHz, stereo (onto a flash drive)
- 16 types
- Damper/String/Key Off Resonance, Hammer Response, Lid Simulator, Key On/Off Action Noise
- 20W + 20W (4 speakers)
- 95.7 lbs (43.4 kg)
1) Yamaha YDP-164 – A tough guy from a legendary brand
It hasn’t even been 3 years since the previous generation of Arius instruments was introduced.
Nevertheless, in the beginning of 2019 Yamaha decided that it was time for a new generation of YDP digital pianos, so they introduced the new YDP-144, YDP-164 and YDP-S54 models, which replaced the YDP-143, YDP-163 and YDP-S52 respectively.
In this article, we’re going to focus on the YDP-164, since I believe it’s a better competitor to the other digital pianos on this list, despite being similar to the YDP-144 in many respects.
The biggest improvement in the YDP-164 (over its predecessor) is the new Yamaha CFX piano tone, which is also found in the premium Clavinova range.
This tone includes organic piano elements such as String Resonance, Damper Resonance, Key Off Simulation and Smooth Release, which weren’t available in the YDP-163.
Still, it’s a somewhat cut-down version compared to the Clavinova instruments that use VRM (Virtual Resonance Modeling), which not only reproduces more nuances of the piano sound but also allows you to adjust each one of them.
In the YDP-164, these elements are built into the tone so that you can’t adjust them.
But it’s still a very important and anticipated improvement, which I think makes the YDP-164 a more competitive product.
It was quite surprising that its predecessor lacked these elements, especially considering the price tag and the fact that most competitors include those sound subtleties in their piano sound.
The piano tone itself is sampled from Yamaha’s flagship CFX Concert Grand, which has quite a unique character and sounds different than a “typical” Yamaha sound (for the better, in my opinion).
Some people describe this tone as a hybrid between Steinway, Bösendorfer and Yamaha grand pianos, with its mid-range leaning more towards the Steinway and the thunderous bass that resembles the Bösendorfer grand.
I would describe this tone as a rich, beautiful tone with an impressive dynamic range, and good responsiveness.
Besides piano tones, there are other musical instrument sounds, including electric pianos, organs and strings. But don’t expect a great deal of options here.
There are only 10 tones to choose from, as first and foremost the YDP-164’s main focus is to deliver a realistic piano experience.
The beautiful sound of the YDP-164 is delivered by two 20W speakers located in both sides of the piano.
They give you more than enough power to comfortably play at your home without needing any external amplification.
Some digital pianos in this price range (like the Casio AP-470 and Korg G1 Air) have 4 speakers, which helps provide a more surround and immersive listening experience.
It would be nice to see something similar in the future YDP-series releases from Yamaha.
Another important characteristic of any digital piano is touch.
The YDP-164 is equipped with Yamaha’s well-known GH3 action, which you may have seen in some of their other mid-range digital pianos.
It’s a fully weighted hammer action with a 3-sensor key detection system (for improved playability and note repetition), and simulated ivory and ebony key surfaces, which improve control and help absorb excessive moisture.
It’s a pretty good action, which feels substantial and high-quality, though some people may find it a bit too stiff. I agree that the GH3 is definitely on the heavy end of the spectrum, being even heavier than some acoustic pianos.
Though this action is a bit heavier physically than Yamaha’s entry-level GHS action (used in their entry-level digital pianos), I find it much easier to control thanks to longer keys and the resulting longer pivot point.
When it comes to features, the YDP-164 is simple and straightforward. It offers all the basics such as metronome, transpose function and a 2-track MIDI recorder.
You can also play back and practice 50 piano masterpieces built into the instrument (each hand part can be practiced separately).
The USB audio interface is a unique feature found on the YDP-164 which is not available on any of its competitors. It allows you to transfer not only MIDI data, but also audio data generated by the instrument via a USB port.
This means you can receive and send the audio signal of the YDP-164 to and from your computer or smart device without the need of an external audio interface avoiding unnecessary digital-analog-digital conversions.
All in in all, the YDP-164 is a solid mid-range digital piano that represents Yamaha’s quality and hundreds of years’ worth of experience.
If, on the other hand, you want an even more acoustic-looking digital piano, check out the Yamaha CLP-625, which is the starter model of the famous Clavinova series.
It’s also very similar to the YDP-164 in terms of features and sounds, though it does offer some minor improvements and, of course, comes in a beautiful cabinet with supporting front legs.
2) Roland F-140R – The best feature set in a compact body
The Roland F-140 is another popular home digital piano that has many fans among beginner and intermediate players.
Introduced at the end of 2015, the F-140R hasn’t lost its appeal, despite the fact that there are some newer models available on the market.
Unlike most digital pianos on this list, the F-140R has a slim, modern-looking design as opposed to the more traditional looking cabinets of the Yamaha and Kawai.
This aspect makes it a perfect choice for those living in a small apartment who want to fit in a home digital piano without cluttering the space.
Not only does the F-140R have a smaller footprint, but it’s also considerably lighter and is easier to assemble and move around.
At the heart of the F-140R you’ll find Roland’s famous SuperNATURAL sound engine, which combines acoustic piano sampling with modeling algorithms to provide realistic sound with long natural decays and resonance.
Speaking of resonance, the F-140R’s piano tones include organic elements such as String Resonance, Damper Resonance and Key Off simulation. These are built into the tone, so unfortunately there’s no option to adjust them.
Roland instruments are known for their rich resonant sound, very good bass response and bright character.
For some people, it’s a bit too bright, but this is hardly a problem since you can adjust the brilliance setting within a range of 0-21, plus there are 9 piano tones to choose from, including some nice mellow ones.
Take a listen to some of the wonderful tones available on the F-140R:
As for touch, the F-140R comes with the Progressive Hammer Action (PHA) 4 Standard with simulated ivory keytops and escapement.
A lot has been said about this action, and as of today it’s one of my favorite key actions under $1,500.
I definitely prefer it over the Yamaha’s GHS action, which to me feels a bit springy and less expressive. I also had some difficulties when playing the GHS further up the keys, which do get considerably heavier (especially the black ones).
The PHA-4 action is also a bit heavier than the GHS action, but is still easier to control, and the mechanical movement you feel when you press on the keys is simulated more accurately in the PHA-4 Standard in my opinion.
Compared to the YDP-164’s GH3 action, the PHA-4 feels a bit lighter and is therefore a bit easier to play for beginners that have untrained fingers.
It seemed to have a slightly shorter pivot point, though playing into the keys requires the same relative amount of force due to the GH3’s heavier nature.
When it comes to features, the F-140R doesn’t disappoint either. It’s actually the most advanced instrument on this list in that respect.
The F-140R has 316 built-in tones, a large number that is rare to find on a digital home piano.
On top of that you get over 150 preset songs, including some classical masterpieces and some pieces from Czerny and Hanon.
The F-140R is the only piano on the list that comes with accompaniment styles (72 styles, 2 variations); these will enrich your performance, making you sound like a full band.
The F-140R also features a small screen, which definitely helps navigating all those included sounds, songs, and rhythms.
The Roland F-140R and Kawai KDP110 are also the only pianos on this list that offer Bluetooth MIDI connectivity.
This is very handy when you want to quickly and easily connect your piano to an iPad or laptop or if you want to control apps like GarageBand, FlowKey or even Roland’s Piano Partner 2, which has the remote controller function.
If you’re looking for a more traditional-looking digital piano, consider the RP-501R model, which is almost identical to the F-140R except for a few added songs and a more acoustic-like cabinet.
3) Kawai KDP-110 – Natural sounding piano, best sound shaping capabilities
The KDP110 is a highly anticipated console digital piano that replaced its predecessor, the KDP90, in the beginning of 2018.
Kawai doesn’t really have a lot of instruments in this price category – the ES110 (portable) and the KDP110 are pretty much the only Kawai digital pianos you can get for under $1,500.
Nevertheless, both of these instruments are very well regarded on the market and offer the exceptional, quality sounds and keyboard action you would expect from a brand such as Kawai.
The Harmonic Imaging sound engine is responsible for tone generation in the KDP110.
Although it’s the most affordable sound engine you’ll find in Kawai instruments, it does come with the flagship SK-EX Concert Grand samples, which sound pretty amazing I must say.
In fact, the KDP110 provides arguably the most natural sounding and accurate piano sound, coupled with organic elements like damper resonance, key off resonance, lid simulator and hammer response.
Have a listen for yourself!
It also has a few other adjustable parameters not found in its competitors.
For example, the KDP110 allows you to turn the stretch tuning on and off, as well as adjust decay time, temperament, soft-pedal depth, minimum touch and a few other things.
All of that can be done via the Virtual Technician app that you can easily install on your iPad for free and connect to the KDP110 via Bluetooth.
In total, it allows you to adjust 13 parameters responsible for different areas of the piano sound. The KDP110 is the most advanced piano on this list when it comes to sound shaping and to making it sound “right” to you.
The action of the KDP110 doesn’t disappoint either. The RHCII action used on the KDP110 is an improved version of the RHC key action found in the ES110.
The main difference being the added 3rd sensor that improves playability especially when playing fast trills and passages with fast note repetition involved.
In practice, I noticed a much bigger change than just the 3rd sensor (which isn’t really that noticeable).
When I went to compare both of these actions, I found the RHCII to be much quieter, less bouncy, and a bit heavier than the RHC.
Overall, it’s a really good medium-light action which I would put on the same level with Roland’s PHA-4 Standard and Korg’s RH3 as far as realism and expressiveness are concerned.
These are my 3 favorite actions in this price range at the moment.
The RHII is probably the lightest of the three, so if you like heavier actions, you might not be a big fan of it.
Bear in mind, though, that with its relative lightness (it’s still a fully weighted action, which feels similar to acoustic pianos) also comes less fatigue and better responsiveness.
This action is also quite quick, which makes it a bit more versatile, especially if you like to play some synths, electric pianos and organs (which inherently have light weighted keys).
Another notable thing about the KDP110 is that is comes with 5 preset music books that you can listen to and practice right on the instrument.
The books include some very popular beginner-friendly method books and exercises, including Alfred’s Lesson Book, Beyer 106 and Czerny 30.
Connectivity is another good thing about the Kawai KDP110. Not only does it have two headphone jacks and a USB port, but it also has proper MIDI In/Out ports and Bluetooth 4.0 on top of all of that.
So, you have quite a few options for how to connect your piano to external devices.
4) Korg G1 Air – 3 of the world’s finest grand pianos in one elegant “beast”
I simply couldn’t exclude from this list this beautiful instrument from Korg, even though it slightly exceeds the budget we’ve set.
The G1 Air was introduced in 2017 and has shaken up the market quite a bit. It’s hands-down the best home digital piano Korg has ever created.
Korg’s focus has never been home consumer grade digital pianos. They’ve been designing some really cool synthesizers, stage pianos and music workstations instead that are widely used in studios and during live performances all over the world.
But with the latest release of their top-of-the-range home pianos, the C1 Air and G1 Air, I was quite impressed to be honest, and I definitely recommend adding these pianos to your list of contenders.
So, what makes the G1 Air so unique?
First of all, its design. The G1 is very slim, yet Korg somehow managed to make it look very stylish and different from all other digital pianos at this price point.
The G1 Air has beautiful curves inspired by the looks of a grand piano as well as gorgeous front legs for added support and more exquisite appearance.
When it comes to sound, Korg doesn’t cut corners either.
Since the company doesn’t make acoustic pianos, it doesn’t feel obligated to use any particular brand of grand pianos for sampling, as in the case of Yamaha and Kawai, which tend to use their own grand pianos to record samples.
That’s the main reason why you’ll find three different piano tones sampled from three different grand pianos from different makers on the G1 Air.
Each tone has its unique character, and you’ll likely find one that you’ll love.
These 3 flagship tones are sampled from German, Austrian and Japanese concert grands. Korg doesn’t specify the exact models they used, but I can guess that they were a Steinway, a Bösendorfer and a Yamaha.
Every of these piano tones also has simulated string resonance, damper resonance and key off simulation.
Another thing that makes the G1 Air stand out from the competition is its powerful multi-channel sound system, which consists of two 12 cm and two 5 cm speakers, giving a total of 80W of output power.
No digital piano in this price range has as powerful speakers as this piano.
But enough about sound. How does the G1 Air feel? There’s nothing to worry about here either.
The piano features Korg’s flagship RH3 keyboard action found in their pro grade stage pianos and music workstations. And I must say, it’s really hard to compete with it at this price point.
While it doesn’t offer simulated ivory or ebony on the keytops, it does feel very responsive and enjoyable to play.
The RH3 is a medium-weight action, which would be a good fit for classically trained pianists, as well as for learners and those who previously played lighter types of key actions (such as organ, synths, etc.).
It’s not as heavy as Yamaha’s GH3 key action, but to me it feels slightly heavier than Kawai’s RHCII action.
I’d say, in terms of weight and feel, it’s somewhere between the Kawai’s RHCII action and Roland’s PHA-4 Standard.
What’s also important is that the RH3 is probably the longest key action on the list and therefore has the longest pivot point, which makes it easier for you to play into the keys.
In other words, you don’t need to apply more power when playing further up the keys, which can be a real problem especially with some lower-end key actions.
The G1 Air is somewhat light on features, yet it does offer all the essentials.
You have 32 sounds to choose from, 9 temperament types, 40 preset songs and a 2-track MIDI recorder.
The G1 Air doesn’t offer a great deal of sound-tweaking options. All you get is brilliance, reverb and chorus, which you can adjust within 3 levels.
You can’t adjust different organic piano parameters such as string resonance, lid position, or hammer response, as you can do with the Casio AP-470 or Kawai KDP110.
On the flipside, the G1 Air offers plenty of connectivity options, including a USB port, MIDI In/Out, two headphone jacks and a line out.
And don’t forget about the “Air” part, which implies that the piano is capable of receiving audio signal via Bluetooth.
This means you can wirelessly stream your favorite songs and backing tracks to the G1’s onboard speakers right from your phone or tablet.
Note that unlike the Kawai KDP110 and Roland F-140R, you won’t be able to exchange MIDI data via Bluetooth (to control music apps like GarageBand), only audio!
5) Casio AP-470 – Acoustic-like design with a unique lid simulator
If you’re familiar with Casio digital pianos you probably know that in the past 10 years, they’ve been slowly but surely moving away from being just a cheap electronic keyboard maker to becoming one of the leaders on the digital piano market.
Casio is known for packing a lot of value into their entry-level and mid-range instruments, which makes it harder for other brands to compete thanks to Casio’s aggressive pricing strategy.
The Casio AP-470 is a good example of that. Being a part of Casio’s Celviano series, which seems to be a direct competitor to Yamaha’s Clavinova digital pianos, the AP-470 is considerably cheaper than the most affordable Clavinova piano (CLP-625).
But cheaper doesn’t mean better, right?
Well, while the AP-470 is inferior to the CLP-625 in some ways, they have a lot of similarities, and there are actually a few things that the Casio does better. Let’s start with similarities.
The AP-470 comes in a beautiful upright style cabinet, with front legs and an openable top lid similar to an acoustic piano.
I really like this design as it comes the closest to the look of an acoustic piano, if we’re talking about instruments under $1,500.
The Multi-dimensional Morphing AiR Sound Source is responsible for sound generation in the AP-470.
While it has the same name as the engine used in the lower-end pianos such as the PX-160, PX-770, PX-870 etc., it offers a more natural refined piano sound.
The highlight of the recent Celviano instruments is the new American piano tone sampled from a Steinway concert grand, which is not found on the Privia instruments.
It’s a very clear and beautiful piano tone and is my favorite sound on the AP-470.
Coupled with 256-note polyphony and powerful 4-speaker (40W) sound system, the AP-470 delivers a very satisfying sound that’s hard to dislike.
Just like the Kawai KDP110, the Casio allows you to change different piano characteristics to adjust the sound to your liking, which is not an available feature in the other pianos on this list.
These parameters include damper noise, string resonance, hammer response, lid simulator and key on/off action noise.
As far as the keyboard is concerned, the AP-470 is not quite up to the level of the other instruments we discussed above.
The action is called Tri-sensor Scaled Hammer Action II, and by no means is it a bad action, but I feel that it’s somewhat inferior to the other key actions we talked about, though I’m sure it will have its fans as well.
This keyboard uses a 3-sensor key detection system that facilitates playing trills and fast passages.
It also has simulated ivory and ebony keys, making them very nice to the touch, though some people might prefer less pronounced texture or regular smooth keys.
There’s really nothing wrong with this keyboard if you’re on the market for an entry-level digital piano, but since the AP-470 is in a slightly different category, I’d expect some kind of improvement over its lower-end counterparts.
Compared to the competitors’ key actions, the AP-470’s is slightly nosier and feels a bit hard at the bottom (well, at least, I had that impression).
The keys are also a bit shorter (the invisible part), hence the pivot point is shorter as well (probably the shortest on the list), so it’s slightly more difficult to control, especially when playing into the keys.
Overall, this is a good action, but as I said I expected more from Casio at this price range.
What’s interesting is that despite all that, Casio managed to make the AP-470 a worthwhile instrument by adding tons of features that you won’t find on other digital pianos in this price range.
An onboard audio recorder is one of them. This feature allows you to record your performances in WAV format and save them right onto a flash drive, which means you don’t need to buy an audio interface to make a high-quality audio recording of your performance.
You also get the Casio Chordana app, which allows you not only to control all features and functions of the AP-470, but also to view sheet music (for the built-in songs) and to play and practice MIDI files, which will be displayed in the piano roll window.
You can also adjust tempo and practice each hand’s part separately.
Unfortunately, there’s no Bluetooth onboard, so you’ll have to use a wired connection to hook it up to your smart device and use the app.
Things you MUST KNOW before choosing your Home Digital Piano
There you have, folks! Note that this list is based on what we believe are the best home digital pianos under $1500 on the market today.
In case you haven’t found the instrument that suits your needs in this article, I’d like to provide some extra information that will hopefully help you find the right instrument.
Here are some of the main terms and aspects of the digital piano world that you’ll most likely run into when doing your research.
Modern acoustic pianos have 88 keys. Most keyboards and digital pianos have 88, 76, 73 or 61 keys.
73 keys are enough to play most (99%) modern pieces. Some advanced (classical) pieces require a full set of 88 keys.
There are 3 most common types of actions:
1) Non-weighted – most organs, synths and entry-level keyboards are not weighted.
2) Semi-weighted – common action for budget portable keyboards (usually cost <300$). Spring-loaded mechanism adds more resistance to the keys compared to the non-weighted action.
3) Fully weighted (hammer action) is designed to replicate the action of a real piano. It uses small hammers (rather than springs) attached to each key to recreate the mechanical movements found inside a real piano.
If your main goal is to play piano that you’ll definitely want a keyboard with hammer action keys.
It’s the key action that feels close to the real piano keys and will help you build proper finger strength and technique, making it much easier to transition to an acoustic in the future (if you decide to).
Touch sensitivity (a.k.a velocity sensitivity or touch response) is a very important feature of any keyboard or digital piano, which ensures that the volume produced by the instrument will change depending on how hard or soft you play the keys.
It’s not a big deal nowadays as almost any $150+ keyboard have touch-sensitive keys regardless of its action type.
Much more important is whether the keyboard is weighted or not. Keyboards with fully weighted action often have adjustable touch-sensitivity so you can adjust it to your playing style.
Polyphony is the number of notes a digital piano can produce at the same time.
These days, most digital pianos are equipped with 64, 128, 192 or 256-note polyphony.
You may wonder how it is possible to have 32, 64, or even 128 notes playing at the same time, if there are only 88 keys and we never play them all together.
First of all, many of today’s digital pianos use stereo samples, which sometimes require two notes for each key played.
Another thing is that the use of the sustain pedal, sound effects (Reverb, Chorus), Dual mode (layering) and even the metronome tick sound take up additional notes of polyphony.
For example, when you depress the sustain pedal, the earliest played notes continue to sound while you’re adding new ones and the piano needs more memory to keep all the notes sounding.
Another example of polyphony consumption is when you’re playing along with a song playback (can also be your own recorded performance) or auto-accompaniment.
In this case, the piano will need polyphony not only for the notes you’re playing but also for the backing track.
You’ll hardly ever need all the 192 or 256 voices of polyphony at a time, but there are cases when you can reach 64 or even 128 note limit, especially if you like to layer several sounds and create multi-track recordings.
For an intermediate player it’s desirable to have 128 notes of polyphony or more.
Along with the standard “Single” keyboard mode, digital pianos often offer additional modes that allow you to use two instrument sounds at the same time or playing four hands.
Here are the most popular modes that digital pianos have:
1) Split Mode – divides the keyboard into two parts, allowing you to play a different instrument sound in each of them. For example, you can play guitar with your left hand and piano with your right hand at the same time.
2) Dual Mode (Layering) – allows you to layer two different sounds so that they sound simultaneously whenever you press a key. For example, you can layer strings with the piano sound or combine whatever sounds you like to get some new interesting combinations.
3) Duo Mode (a.k.a. Duet Play, Partner Mode, Twin Piano) – divides the keyboard into two halves with identical pitch ranges (two middle Cs) allowing two people to play the same notes at the same time.
Duet Play is particularly useful when you use it with your teacher or tutor who will play you some tunes on one side of the keyboard, and you’ll be able to follow along on the other side, playing the exact same notes at the same time.
Some digital pianos allows you to turn off the left- or right-hand part (track) of a song (preset or downloaded from the Internet) and practice it, playing along to the playback of the other part.
Pianos that have this function usually have a multi-track MIDI recorder.
A MIDI recorder allows you to record and play back your own performances without using any additional equipment.
Multi-track recording (2 and more tracks) allows you to record several musical parts onto separate tracks and play them back as a single song. You can also experiment with your recording by turning off some of the recorded tracks.
For example, you can record the right-hand part of the song on track 1, and the left-hand part on track two (while listening to the playback of the first track).
You can also create complex, multi-instrument recordings by recording several instrument parts onto separate tracks and playing them back together afterwards.
MIDI-recording is not the recording of the actual sound of the instrument. Here, we’re recording the MIDI data (a sequence of notes, their length, velocity and other parameters).
A built-in audio recorder will allow you to record the actual sound of the instrument (native samples) and save it to a flash drive usually in WAV format (Linear PCM, 16bit, 44.1 kHz, Stereo).
You can then share your recording on social media, upload it to SoundCloud, burn to CD, etc.
Audio recordings are more universal than MIDI ones because they provide you with a CD-quality audio file playable on most modern devices, and don’t require any additional software, and sample libraries (VSTs) to render a MIDI recording to audio.
Accompaniment function will enrich your performance, providing full backing accompaniment (rhythm, bass, harmony) that will follow your playing and make you sound like full band.
The accompaniment changes depending to what notes you play with you left hand (chords or even single notes if you don’t know full cords).
In other words, you manage your “band” with your left hand (by specifying chords) and play the main melody with your right hand.
Some instruments offer several accompaniment modes, and allow you specify chords using the full range of the keyboard.
1) Transpose function allows you to shift the overall pitch of the keyboard in semitone steps. The function is particularly useful when want to play a song in a different key but don’t want to change your fingering and learn it in a new key.
So, for example, if you know how to play a song in F major, you can transpose the pitch and play it in C major without actually learning it in the new key.
You can also transpose a song written in a difficult key (e.g., many black keys) into a different key with easier chords, but still hear it as if you were playing in the original key.
2) Tuning function allows you to shift the pitch from the standard A440 tuning in 0.1Hz or 0.2Hz steps.
You can use this function to match the piano’s pitch finely to that of another instrument or music (old piano, recording).
This port is also known as USB to Device port or USB drive port. The port can be used for connecting a flash drive to the piano to exchange files quickly and easily.
For example, you can load MIDI songs into the piano’s internal memory for playback or rehearsal (if the piano offers this option).
Alternatively, you can play back WAV and MIDI files (depends on the piano model) directly from the flash drive without loading them into the piano’s internal memory.
And finally, you can save your own performances recorded with the instrument to the flash drive as well as load them back onto the instrument when needed.
This port is often referred to as USB to Host terminal or USB to Computer port. This port is used to connect your digital piano to a computer or a smart device (using a special adapter) to exchange songs/files, and MIDI data.
There are actually tons of other apps that can expand the functionality of your digital piano in terms of learning, composing, recording, editing music.
Some brands offer their own free apps designed for certain piano models. Such apps usually enable you to control all the settings and functions of the instrument using an intuitive graphical interface.
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