The Ultimate Guide to Buying a Digital Piano

digital piano buying guide

The world of pianos – especially digital pianos – can be very confusing and overwhelming, not only for beginners but also for seasoned musicians!

Today we’re going to answer most (if not all) of the questions that may pop into your head when you’re looking for the “perfect” digital piano.

research the digital piano market

In this guide, we’ll cover all the important things you should know before buying a digital piano or keyboard.

Though I do believe that no digital piano is perfect, this guide will help you to better understand how to pick the instrument that’s right for YOU and to narrow your options to 1-2 models that suit you the best.

People often fail to do proper research, choosing instead to rely on the product with the most Amazon reviews.

While this may work with some products, it doesn’t work with digital pianos.

The reason is that digital pianos are complicated machines, and there are many important factors you need to consider to ensure you’re making the right decision.

What make things even worse is that there are many unreliable online resources (not pointing fingers here) that write about this topic without having any experience with digital or acoustic pianos whatsoever.

unreliable information online

This results in a ton of misleading and straight-up false information that makes me wanna laugh and cry at the same time when I read that.

So, be careful where you get your information from and see if those sites can be trusted BEFORE making any big decisions!

With that out of the way, let’s jump into the good stuff and talk about the magical world of digital pianos.

First, you should know how digital pianos differ from their acoustic counterparts and why you might prefer one over the other, so let’s address this first.

Digital vs Acoustic: The Magic of The Digital World

digital vs acoustic piano

You may wonder: “How do digital pianos work?”

When it comes to digital pianos, the main challenge engineers face is to reproduce two things accurately: the sound and the feel of an acoustic piano.

Both tasks are very difficult because there’s too much going on inside this amazing musical instrument.

acoustic piano hammers

Strings, hammers, and keys are the elements that produce the sound in an acoustic piano.

When you press a key, the attached hammer strikes the corresponding string(s), which vibrates and makes a sound.

Digital pianos don’t have strings and hammers are used only to add weight to the keys and to recreate the mechanical movement found in the traditional instrument.

To reproduce the sound of an acoustic piano and other musical instruments, digital pianos use samples.

What are Samples?

A sample is a small audio recording of a musical instrument’s sound, or of any other sound (ocean waves, sirens, wind, etc.).

Samples can also be excerpts from recorded songs. For example, a five-second bass guitar riff from a funk song can be a sample.

piano samples

In this article, we’ll focus on samples used to reproduce the sound of musical instruments.

Sampling is not limited to acoustic pianos. It is widely used for guitars, strings, organs, electric pianos, drums, flutes, strings, and many other musical instruments.

This article will focus on acoustic piano samples.

Usually, samples are recorded at different velocity levels (multi-samples) to naturally respond to the way you play the keys (from the softest pianissimo to the loudest fortissimo).

The higher the quality of the samples and technologies used to create (or record) them, the more realistic and accurate the sound will be.

In recent years, technology has become so sophisticated that high-end digital pianos provide sound that’s almost indistinguishable from a real piano.

sample digital piano

When it comes to major brands, the recording process usually looks like this…

In a professional recording studio with a perfectly tuned acoustic piano (a grand piano in many cases), manufacturers record each note played at different volumes using multiple high-fidelity microphones.

So if the process is roughly the same for all manufacturers, why don’t all digital pianos sound the same?

Well, there are still a lot of things that manufacturers do differently.

The ultimate sound you get depends on many factors:

recording samples

  • 1) The acoustic piano used to record the sound and the condition of the instrument.
  • 2) The equipment used to capture the sound.
  • 3) The placement of the mic(s) during the recording.
  • 4) The acoustic environment where the sampling process occurred.
  • 5) The post-processing and algorithms used to model complex tonal interactions, like string resonance, damper resonance, cabinet resonance, natural reverberation, etc.
  • 6) The length of the samples and the amount of memory dedicated to them on a digital piano.
  • 7) The number of velocity layers recorded for each note. The more velocity layers, the more natural volume transitions and better expressiveness you get.

Generally, more memory means that longer/higher-quality samples with more velocity layers can be stored on a digital piano.

Cheaper models have less memory, so manufacturers have to take a slightly different approach.

Rather than recording each individual key of an acoustic piano, they record every second or every third note and then stretch the samples using modeling technologies to fill the gaps.

Moreover, to avoid using gigabytes of sampling data, many manufacturers cut off a part of the sample to reduce its size.

For example, when you depress the sustain pedal and play, say, C3 on an acoustic piano, the note will continue to resonate for well over 10 seconds.

Many lower-end digital pianos will only play back the first 3-5 seconds of the real recording, then loop the sample so that the same part is played over and over, but with gradually decreasing volume.

While this helps to create a perception of a longer decay, it’s not the same decay that you hear on an acoustic piano, which is much more complex and dynamic than a simple volume decrease.

real piano recording vs recreated samples

The same applies to velocity layers.

If there’s only one or two layers recorded for each note on a digital piano, it becomes very difficult to reproduce the wide dynamic range of an acoustic piano.

In that case, to recreate the dynamics, the tone generator of the digital piano will just increase/decrease the volume of the same sample rather than using separate layers for different velocities, which is never ideal.

For an acoustic piano, depending on how hard or soft you press the keys, the sound changes not only in volume but also in character.

So it’s not just a matter of simple volume change.

Now, if you’re beginner, you may not even notice these nuances, since manufacturers do try to make those transitions as smooth and realistic as possible.

However, if you have a more trained ear, this could become an annoying thing that bothers you every time you play the instrument, which is never fun.


Physical Modeling

Another interesting technology that has been gaining popularity is called Physical Modelling.

Unlike sampling, which records the sound of an acoustic piano at different velocities, physical modeling basically recreates the piano sound from scratch.

Various modeling techniques and advanced software recreate the physical behavior of the acoustic instrument, in which hundreds of elements interact with each other, making up the ultimate “imperfect” sound that we hear.

While sampling remains the most popular technology in digital pianos today, you’ll hardly find a digital piano that doesn’t use some kind of modelling on top of its samples (e.g., for string resonance, damper resonance, etc.) to further improve the sound and make it sound more natural.

There are also some digital pianos that use purely modeled piano sound with no samples at all.

For example, most Roland high-end digital pianos today feature the SuperNATURAL Piano Modeling sound generator that uses only physical modeling to produce the sound.

piano modelling algorithms

There are also various VST plugins (Virtual Studio Technology) that provide piano modeled sounds and effects.

There’s a lot of debate today over which technology produces a more accurate, natural sound, but let’s leave that for another article.

I’ll only say that both technologies have pros and cons. It’s ultimately a mixture of both that yields the best results.

If you want a quick overview of the primary differences, please refer to the video below and to our table that shows the pros and cons of digital pianos.


Pros
  • Never needs to be tuned
  • Easier to move around
  • No maintenance costs
  • Indifferent to temperature & humidity fluctuations
  • A variety of built-in sounds (not just piano tones)
  • Play at any time without bothering others (by practicing with headphones and adjusting the volume)
  • Recording features
  • Learning features (metronome, built-in songs, etc.)
  • Connect to other electronic musical instruments & devices
  • Use as MIDI-controllers to create music on your computer
  • Affordability
Cons
  • Can’t beat the sound and touch of the real thing yet
  • Requires a power source to operate
  • Depreciates in value quicker than acoustic pianos (as new models are introduced)
  • Don’t look as grand and beautiful as acoustic pianos (esp. compared to grand pianos)
  • Lacks the “soul” of an acoustic piano

Keyboard vs Digital Piano

keyboard vs digital piano

The difference between a digital piano and a keyboard easily causes confusion.

In fact, people often use these terms interchangeably, not realizing that these are two different instruments designed with different purposes in mind.

While every digital piano can be called a digital keyboard, not every keyboard should be called a digital piano.

The main difference between these instruments lies in their purposes. Depending on your needs and experience, you will likely prefer one over the other.

Digital Pianos

digital piano illustration

Digital pianos come in all shapes, sizes, and forms, but a main goal unites them.

A digital piano aims to mimic the feel and sound of an acoustic piano as closely as possible.

The first thing you’ll notice is that all digital pianos come with a full set of 88 fully-weighted, hammer-action keys.

In fact, this is the most obvious distinction from keyboards, which usually have only 76 or 61 non-weighted or semi-weighted keys.

Another important aspect is the sound.

Digital pianos rarely have more than 20-30 built-in tones, and their main priority is to provide the natural, nuanced sound of an acoustic piano.

This is achieved by using high-quality multi-samples, as well as sophisticated modeling technologies that simulate organic elements of a piano’s sound, such as sympathetic resonance, damper resonance, key-off effect, etc.

Digital pianos are straightforward instruments designed as an alternative to their acoustic counterparts.

Generally, you won’t find hundreds of built-in sounds, songs, accompaniment styles, and interactive features on a digital piano.

However, some digital pianos (e.g. Yamaha’s DGX-660 and Casio’s PX-S3000) share many qualities of arranger keyboards, while still being full-fledged digital pianos.

Here is a quick overview of digital pianos and their main features:

Keyboards

keyboard illustration

Digital (aka electronic) keyboards are a slightly different beast.

Their most obvious difference from digital pianos is that they don’t try to replicate an acoustic piano, or this isn’t their main focus.

As with digital pianos, there are different types of electronic keyboards.

There are portable arranger keyboards, synthesizers, music workstations, MIDI-controllers, etc.

These days, it can be tricky to categorize a particular keyboard since they often share features with other keyboard types.

All these keyboards, except for portable arrangers, are primarily professional instruments that often cost over $1,000 and are designed for live performers, composers, music producers, etc.

Now let’s take a quick look at each keyboard and digital piano type to point out their main differences. We’ll start with digital pianos.

Types of Digital Pianos

As I mentioned before, digital pianos aim to reproduce the feel and sound of an acoustic piano as closely as possible.

Yet not all digital pianos are created equal. There are different types of digital pianos, and depending on your needs and budget, you may prefer one over another.

Let’s go over each type and define their main features and usage scenarios.

Please refer to the Piano Dreamers Reviews Hub to see ALL the instruments we’ve reviewed so far.

If you want to jump to the best of the best, feel free to check out our in-depth Best Digital Pianos 2019 article that covers all the main price points and the best keyboards in each of them.


Portable Type

Portable digital pianos are also known as “slab pianos” and are probably the most popular type of digital piano.

portable digital pianos

The biggest advantage of these instruments is their design.

They don’t come with a base (stand) and like portable keyboards, they can be moved around with ease and stored when not in use.

The main difference from portable keyboards is that portable digital pianos have a full range of 88 hammer-action keys, like an acoustic piano.

This makes them considerably heavier than non-weighted keyboards, though they’re still much lighter than acoustic ones.

The sound quality is also superior due to higher quality samples, a higher polyphony count, and a wider dynamic range.

Price is a big reason why portable pianos are popular.

Generally, a console digital piano with the same characteristics (action, sound engine, and polyphony) will be about 20-40% more expensive than a portable one.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that you’ll probably want to buy a stand for your portable piano, which can cost you an extra $30-$100, depending on the design (see the Accessories section).

Best Sellers:

Beginner-Intermediate

Intermediate-Advanced


Console Type

console digital pianos

Console digital pianos are the second most popular type of digital pianos.

They come closest to an acoustic piano in terms of the main elements such as sound, touch, and look.

Console digital pianos differ from their portable counterparts in that they come with a furniture-style cabinet and 3 pedals that resemble the feel and look of an acoustic piano.

Several things (good and bad) come from the console design.

First and foremost, you get a full-fledged instrument right away that comes with everything you need to experience an authentic playing experience.

You don’t need to buy a stand or pedals separately.digital piano home interior

Thanks to an elegant, acoustic-like design, a console digital piano will be a beautiful addition to your home decor.

Even so, here are the main disadvantages of console pianos: size and weight.

Most console pianos weight from 70 to 150 lbs. and are meant to stay in one place.

Yes, you can move them around easier than traditional pianos, but they simply aren’t designed to be carried around a lot, so keep that in mind.

The prices of console digital pianos differ greatly, ranging from $700 to $5,000.

The price largely depends on how closely the digital piano resembles a real acoustic piano.

As the price goes up, so does the quality of the action, the sound samples, and the speaker system, as well as other elements that make the playing experience more authentic.

Best Sellers:

Beginner-Intermediate

Intermediate-Advanced


Upright Style

upright digital piano

Upright digital pianos are a sub-type of console digital pianos. They feature big, fancy cabinets that are nearly identical to that of an upright piano.

This is the most expensive type of digital piano (not counting digital grands and hybrids).

You get not only the design of an acoustic piano but also a sophisticated hammer action (often with wooden keys), incredibly detailed samples, and a multi-speaker sound system.

Digital Grand Pianos

This is the least common and most expensive type of digital piano.

grand digital piano

Many digital grand pianos from the big brands (e.g. Yamaha, Roland, and Kawai) cost more than a new upright.

Just as with upright-style digital pianos, these offer an uncompromising playing experience, delivering big, powerful sound via their state-of-the-art speaker systems.

The big body of a grand piano helps this instrument produce an impressively deep, resonant sound that resembles the sound of a real grand piano.

Prices start at $1,500 for the inferior ones (from Williams and Suzuki) and go up to a whopping $15,000 for superior brands like Yamaha and Kawai.


Arranger Type

arranger digital pianos

Formally, this is not a type of digital piano, but I have chosen to treat it as one.

To put it simply, an arranger digital piano is a digital piano (portable OR console) with features commonly found in arranger keyboards.

What makes them different is that in addition to all those extra features, they still have detailed piano samples and 88 hammer action keys.

Unlike classic digital pianos, these instruments come with a whole world of built-in sounds, rhythms, songs, effects, and recording features.

As a result, their control panels are often cluttered with buttons and dials, and also with displays to improve the user experience.

All these extra features make these digital pianos an attractive option for non-professional music production, composing, and exploring a wide range of musical instruments and music styles.

Best Sellers:

Casio and Yamaha dominate this segment of the market.

Popular models include the Yamaha DGX-660, Casio PX-S3000, Casio PX-780, and the Yamaha CSP-series.

In many cases, there is a stripped-down version of an “arranger” model that provides a very similar piano experience but lacks many of the extra features (e.g. Yamaha DGX-660 – P-125; Casio PX-S3000 – PX-S1000; Casio PX-780 – PX-770; Yamaha CSP-series – CLP-series).


Stage Pianos

stage pianos

Stage pianos are designed with live performances in mind.

Rather than try looking like an acoustic piano, they aim to be a compact, gig-friendly alternative for use on stage or in studio.

Like digital pianos, stage pianos focus on acoustic piano sounds and realistic touch response.

That said, you’ll commonly find a good selection of electric piano tones, organs, and a simple synth section.

The front panel is also a lot more streamlined, focusing on hands-on control, which allows you to make quick changes on the fly.

Speaking of controls, stage pianos are more adept at sound shaping, providing various sound effects and parameters that you can adjust to get the “right” sound.

The most obvious difference from classic digital pianos is that stage pianos don’t normally have built-in speakers.

This is because they are designed for use with an external amplifier or PA system.

Best Sellers:


To learn more about digital piano and keyboard types and their unique features, please refer to our in-depth Digital Piano vs Keyboard vs Synthesizer guide.

[Comparison Table of Digital Piano Types]

Types of Keyboards

Now that the digital pianos types are out of the way, let’s quickly go over the main keyboard types.

Portable Arranger Keyboards

Portable keyboards (a.k.a. portable arrangers) are what many people confuse with digital pianos.

A portable keyboard is usually the first thing beginners consider as their first instrument for learning the piano. The main reason for this is the affordability of portable keyboards.

portable keyboards

For a beginner who is not 100% committed to mastering the piano, it’s an appealing option since it doesn’t risk overspending before a person knows whether they’ll stick with piano or not.

spring loaded action

The trade-off is that you won’t be able to fully understand or experience what it’s like to play a real piano because portable keyboards hardly provide a comparable level of realism in terms of sound, but especially touch.

A typical portable keyboard cost anywhere from $100 to $300 and comes with 76, 73, or 61 semi-weighted or non-weighted keys.

Unlike the fully-weighted action on digital pianos, semi-weighted action doesn’t use hammers to recreate the feel of an acoustic piano.

It uses a spring-loaded mechanism instead, adding resistance to the keys, but still feeling light, unrealistic, and in no way comparable to the real thing.

piano keyboard for kids

There are a few other advantages of portable keyboards, aside from price.

First of all, as you can tell from their name that they’re portable.

Most of these keyboards are only 10-15 lbs., so you can drag them around with ease. You can put them on a table and stow them away when not in use.

Another advantage of portable keyboards is all the extra features and functions they provide.

Most portable keyboards are loaded with hundreds of sounds, songs, rhythms, and other so-called bells and whistles.

While I prefer quality over quantity, and many of the built-in tones sound plasticky and unrealistic, these features are definitely a plus for those who want to explore various instruments and styles and to have fun with interactive features.

That’s why portable keyboards are a popular choice for kids and people beginning their musical journey.

As I said before, it all comes down to your personal needs and the goal you hope to achieve.

If your goal is to play the piano and learn proper technique, I don’t recommend portable keyboards, but with two exceptions:

1) If you have a very limited budget and can’t afford a digital piano ($350+), even the most basic one. In this case, practicing on a keyboard is better than not practicing at all!

2) If you’re in the early stages of learning and are unwilling to invest this kind of money in something you’re not sure you’ll stick with.

In this case, once you become committed to learning the piano, I recommend upgrading to a digital piano as soon as possible.

The comparison table below sums up the main differences between digital pianos and portable keyboards.


Synthesizers

synthesizer

A synthesizer is an electronic keyboard that generates or copies a wide variety of sounds and is commonly used in music production.

Synths allow you to create virtually any kind of sound you can imagine, including sounds of musical instruments, voices, the wind, a burst, a siren, a car, and the list can go on forever.

How is this possible?

Well, synthesizers come with a set of basic waveforms and pre-recorded sounds, which you can mix together, as well as alter the sound’s attack, sustain, decay, and release time, add filters and effects to get the exact sound you need.


Arranger Keyboards / Workstations

arranger keyboards

Arrangers are designed primarily for professional musicians and a wide variety of backing tracks (chord and rhythm patterns) that will match the style, rhythm, and tempo of whatever you’re playing.

This allows composers and songwriters to create an accompaniment for a song quickly and easily without calling in musicians to play all instruments live.

Lower-end arrangers are often called “portable arrangers,” or simply “portable keyboards”, which we already talked about earlier.


Music Workstations

keyboard workstation

A keyboard workstation is like a computer built into a keyboard.

Workstations combine a wide range of tools and allow users to perform a wide variety of tasks, including sound synthesis, sequencing, audio recording, working with sound effects/filters, etc.

They usually come with hundreds if not thousands of top-notch sound samples, which can be customized with knobs and sliders that allow you to control various sound parameters on the fly.

Watch the video below to better understand the difference between keyboard workstations and professional arrangers:


MIDI Controllers

A MIDI controller (aka MIDI keyboard) is a device that generates and transmits MIDI data to other electronic devices that can interpret the data and can trigger sounds or control sound parameters accordingly.

A typical MIDI controller is a piano-style keyboard, which connects to a computer and sends MIDI data to it via USB or MIDI ports.

midi-controller

MIDI controllers can’t produce any sounds on their own (there’s no sound engine inside).

They only track your key presses (velocity, length, pressure) and various control elements (knobs, sliders, pads, etc.).

They then send all that MIDI data your computer or another musical keyboard that generates the actual sound.

Most MIDI-controllers have non-weighted keys and are not designed to mimic the feel of an acoustic piano. The non-weighted action facilitates non-piano sounds, like synths, organs, electric pianos, etc.

Some MIDI controllers target piano players such as the M-Audio Hammer 88 or the more premium  Kawai VPC1, which features the incredibly realistic RM3II keyboard, which is ideal for playing piano sounds.

Refer to our MIDI Connection Guide to learn more about how to use your keyboard as a MIDI controller and about what you can do when connected.

Any digital piano with a USB type B port or some MIDI In/Out ports can function as a MIDI controller.

Best Digital Piano Brands

When it comes to digital pianos I recommend sticking with the following brands:

These are giants in the world of digital musical instruments. They are proven, reliable brands that provide the best technology in the industry that other brands can’t offer right now.

digital piano brands

Buying a digital piano from one these 7 brands will save you the time and headache of dealing with lesser-known brands that deliver poor build quality and provide an unrealistic sound and feel.

While this may not always be the case, do you really want to take that chance?

Brands to Avoid

  • Williams
  • Suzuki
  • Artesia

There are many more I could mention, but these are the most popular ones.

Digital pianos from these manufacturers usually look good and are very affordable, but their sound realism and key action leaves a lot to be desired.

Note: Please read our full Digital Piano Brands Guide to learn more about the brands we do and don’t recommend, along with their product lines and popular models.

Types of Keyboard Actions

There are 3 main types of keyboard actions you’ll likely encounter:

  • 1) Non-weighted
  • 2) Semi-weighted
  • 3) Fully weighted (Hammer Action)

The difference between these actions comes from the type of mechanisms they use.

This, in turn, determines how much force is needed to press a key and how realistic the action will be compared to the feel of an acoustic piano keyboard.

Depending on your needs and playing style, you may prefer one type more than the others.


Non-Weighted (Synth)

non-weighted keyboard

This is the most lightweight action and is found commonly in organs, synthesizers, entry-level keyboards, and many other keyboard-based instruments that don’t aim to mimic the feel of an acoustic piano.

The synth action uses a basic spring-loaded mechanism. The keys are usually thin and small with a light plastic feel.

The action will likely feel uncomfortable to piano players as it’s just too quick, lacks resistance, and feels springy.

At the same time, for some types of music (other than the piano) synth action is preferred for its playability and light feel, which is perfect for playing synth leads, organ tunes, etc.

Pros
  • Great for playing music other than piano
  • Allows for fast note repetitions
  • Most non-weighted keyboards are very portable
Cons
  • Doesn’t feel like an acoustic piano keyboard (at all)
  • Not the best choice for piano players
  • May be hard to transition to an acoustic piano after practicing on this type of action

Semi-Weighted

A semi-weighted action feels similar to the synth action, yet it offers slightly more resistance and better control.

It uses the same spring-loaded mechanism, but compared to synth action, the keys feel heavier thanks to either stiffer springs or additional weights.

As a result, the keys return to their “up” position a bit more slowly. Even so, the action is far from what you get on an acoustic piano and is not recommended if you want to focus on piano playing.

It’s a basically a middle ground between synth action and fully weighted action, making it perfect for those who don’t want the heavier feel of hammer action or those who constantly switch between piano and non-piano sounds.

Non-weighted action commonly appears in music/synth workstations, arranger keyboards, and some stage pianos (usually versions with less than 88 keys)

 

blocked-end semi-weighted keys

Many semi-weighted keyboards have blocked-end keys that look like regular piano keys and can be confused easily with hammer action keyboards.

Pros
  • Feels closer to an acoustic piano than a non-weighted action
  • Great for playing organ and electric piano sounds
  • Relatively light and portable
Cons
  • Still lacks realism and piano-like feedback, despite being heavier than synth action
  • Not the best choice for piano players
  • May be hard to transition to an acoustic piano after practicing on this type of action

Fully Weighted (Hammer Action)

A hammer action keyboard is designed to replicate the touch and feel of an acoustic piano.

To achieve this goal, manufacturers have added little hammers under (or behind) each key to recreate mechanical movement similar to a real piano.

hammer action keyboard

However, not all hammer action keyboards are created equal.

A $500 entry-level piano and a $5,000 high-end piano can both have hammer action keys, but each will be completely different actions with different feels and levels of realism.

As a general rule, the higher the price of the instrument, the more sophisticated the hammer system it uses.

piano action mechanism

High-end models often have real wooden keys with an escapement mechanism that recreate every nuance of an acoustic piano action, including the design of the hammers themselves.

Also, the total length of each key (including the part behind the fallboard that you don’t see) is usually much longer compared to that of entry-level digital pianos.

This becomes more important as you develop your playing skills. The longer the length of the keys, the further back you can have the pivot point, which makes it much easier to play further up the keys.

If your goal is to learn to play the piano, I can’t stress enough how important it is to practice on a fully-weighted keyboard as opposed to a semi-weighted or non-weighted one.

This is the only type of key action that facilitates developing proper finger strength and technique. Moreover, it will make it much easier to transition to an acoustic piano further down the line (if you decide to do so).

Pros
  • The most realistic type of keyboard actions
  • Helps develop proper finger strength and technique
  • The best choice for piano players
Cons
  • Relatively heavy and not as portable
  • More expensive than non-weighted and semi-weighted actions
  • Not as versatile due to its heavier feel

Popular Features of Hammer Action Keyboards

88 KeysGraded Hammer EffectIvory & EbonyTouch Sensitivity 3-Sensor SystemKey Noise

Modern acoustic pianos have 88 keys. Most keyboards have 88, 76, 73, or 61 . In reality, 73 keys are enough to play most modern pieces. Some advanced pieces require a full set of 88 keys.

Most digital pianos have 88 full-sized keys, which means the size and the number of keys are the same as an acoustic piano.

key size

Graded key actions often have the word “graded” or “progressive” in their name, which implies that the keys feel slightly heavier in lower registers and become progressively lighter as you move up the keyboard, which is what an actual acoustic piano feels like.

graded hamemr action

Instead of smooth plastic keys, higher-end digital pianos often have textured keys that simulate an Ivory and/or Ebony feel.

This gives the keys a nicer, less slippery feel, enhances control, and helps absorb moisture when playing in high humid conditions.

ivory ebony simulated keys

All digital pianos have a touch-sensitive keyboard, which means the volume changes depending on how hard or soft you play the keys.

Digital pianos usually have adjustable touch sensitivity, which allows you to tweak the sensitivity of the keys. In other words, you can choose how much force you need to apply to produce the loudest sound.

Entry-level keyboards cheaper than $150 usually don’t respond to the force (velocity) of your key presses and produce the same amount of volume regardless of how you play.

Sensors are used to detect the depth and velocity at which the keys are played. Most entry-level digital pianos (under $1,000) use a 2-sensor detection system.

More expensive models add one additional sensor and use 3-sensor systems, allowing for quicker note repetition by tracing the key presses, even if the key hasn’t fully returned to its resting position.

triple sensor system

In my opinion, the notion of sensors is overhyped, as there are more important elements that add to the realism of a keyboard’s action.

In fact, I played many keyboards with 2-sensor systems that felt more realistic and responsive than those with 3-sensor systems.

That said, it’s still a nice feature to have in a keyboard, especially if you’re an experienced piano player.

The keys on both acoustic and digital pianos inevitably produce some amount of noise when you play them. This isn’t anything to worry about as long as it doesn’t affect your playing experience.

key noise

On acoustic pianos, the noise is usually inaudible due to high volume levels of that the instrument.

On digital pianos at low to medium volume levels, you might hear the keys hitting the bottom of the keybed or a slight clicking/thumbing noise, which is also not a problem.

Some keyboard actions tend to be less noisy than others, but it all comes down to a particular keyboard. More expensive models usually have very quiet keyboard actions.

The thing to remember is that all the keys should produce roughly the same amount of noise.

If one or two keys are significantly louder than the others, it’s better to contact the manufacturer or the service center, especially if the noise bothers you.

The Definitive Glossary

There are many new terms and names of technologies that you will encounter when looking for a digital keyboard.

Here are some of the most common and important ones that you should know and understand to make an informed buying decision.


Functions and Features

Not only do digital pianos provide versatility and convenience not available with acoustic pianos, but they also come with a bunch of extra features that make playing and learning more enjoyable and fun.

MetronomePolyphonyModesPreset TemperamentsLesson FunctionMIDI RecordingAudio RecordingAccompaniment Transpose, Fine Tuning

A useful tool for practice that will help develop your rhythmic and timekeeping skills by providing a steady beat to play along with.

Some digital pianos allow you to change the conventional clicking sound of the metronome to various drum rhythms.

You can also adjust the number of beats per measure, the tempo, and the volume of the metronome.

Polyphony is the number of notes a digital piano can produce at the same time.

Most contemporary 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 you will never play them all at once.

First of all, many of today’s digital pianos use stereo samples, which may require two or more notes for each key played.

Furthermore, using the sustain pedal, sound effects (Reverb, Chorus), dual-mode (layering), and even the metronome ticking sound takes 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, so 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.

When you reach the polyphony cap, the piano starts to drop the earliest played notes to free up memory for new notes, which in turn affects the quality and fullness of the sound.

You’ll rarely need all 192 or 256 voices of polyphony at once, but there are cases when you can reach 64 or even 128 note limits, especially if you like to layer several sounds and create multi-track recordings.

It’s desirable to have at least 64 notes of polyphony.

Along with the “standard” keyboard mode, digital pianos usually offer other modes for using two instrument sounds at the same time or for playing with four hands.

Here are the most popular modes that digital pianos may offer:

1) Split Mode – divides the keyboard into two parts, allowing you to play a different instrument sound in each part. For example, you can play guitar with your left hand and piano with your right, both at the same time.


2) Dual Mode (a.k.a Layer Mode)  – 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, intriguing sounds.


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 sit together and play the same notes at the same time.

Duet Play is particularly useful when you use it with your teacher or tutor so they can play some tunes on one side of the keyboard while you follow along on the other side, playing the exact same notes.


Some digital pianos come with preset temperaments, which means you can change the standard Equal Temperament tuning to tuning systems that are better suited for playing certain styles of music (Indian, Arabian, classical, etc.)

lesson function

Some digital pianos allow you to turn off the left- or right-hand part (track) of a song (built-in or downloaded from the internet) and practice it while listening 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 right onboard needing additional software or hardware.

A multi-track recorder (2 or more tracks) allows you to record several musical parts on separate tracks and to play them back as a single song.

You’ll also be able to experiment with your recording by turning your recorded tracks on and off.

A MIDI recording is not the recording of the actual instrument sound. Here, we’re recording the MIDI data (a sequence of notes, their length, velocity, and other parameters).

For more information about MIDI and what it allows you to do, refer to our MIDI Connection Guide.

audio wav recording

A built-in audio recorder will allow you to record the audio output of your piano and to save it to a flash drive, usually in WAV or MP3 format (Linear PCM, 16bit, 44.1 kHz, Stereo).

You can then share your recording on social media, upload it to SoundCloud, burn it to a CD, etc.

An audio recording is far more universal than a MIDI recording, as it doesn’t require you to use any sample libraries or special software to play it back on an external device.

Instead, you get a CD-quality audio recording of your performance that you can easily play back on most modern devices.

The auto-accompaniment function can enrich your performance by adding a full backing band (rhythm, bass, and harmony) that will follow your playing and turn it into a full-fledged song.

The accompaniment will change according to the notes you play with your left hand (chords or even single notes if you don’t know full cords).

In other words, you manage the “band” with your left hand (by specifying chords) and play the main melody with your right.

Some instruments offer alternative methods of chord specifying, for example, using the full range of the keyboard.

1) The transpose function allows you to shift the overall pitch of the keyboard in semitone steps.

The function is especially useful when you 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 and play the song in C major without actually learning it in a new key.

You can also transpose a song written in a difficult key (e.g., many black keys) into an “easier” key, then play it in the new key while still hearing it in the original key.

2) The tuning function allows you to shift the pitch from the standard A440 tuning, usually in 0.1Hz, 0.2Hz, or 0.5Hz steps.

You can use this function to match the piano’s pitch to that of other instruments or music (like an old piano or cassette tape).


Sound Simulation

piano sound elements

The tone of an acoustic piano is quite complex and consists of many different elements.

Depending on the model, digital pianos reproduce various nuances of an acoustic piano sound to get even closer to the sound of a real acoustic piano.

Some digital pianos also allow you to adjust these parameters to better suit your preferences (more resonance, less hammer noise, etc.)

Damper ResonanceString ResonanceKey-Off EffectLid Simulator

damper resonance

When you depress the damper (aka sustain) pedal on an acoustic piano and start playing, you can hear the notes continuing to sound after you release the keys.

This happens because when you press the damper pedal, the dampers lift from the strings, allowing them to resonate freely until you release the pedal.

Some digital pianos also have a “half-pedal” feature that allows you to control the amount of sustain more precisely and be more expressive while playing.

What’s interesting is that the strings of the keys you play cause all the other strings to resonate too, creating a faint ringing known as “damper resonance.”

Digital pianos don’t have strings, but they recreate this effect digitally instead.

When you play an acoustic piano, the sound it produces is not only associated with the played keys and their corresponding strings.

The other strings with closely related frequencies also resonate sympathetically, making the sound richer and fuller, which is known as string resonance or sympathetic string resonance.

This function removes the sense of notes being dry and separated from each other. Many digital piano today simulate this phenomenon quite accurately.

key of simulation

The sound of the dampers falling back onto the strings varies, depending on the speed at which the fingers leave the keys.

Key-off simulators adjust the length of these sounds according to the key’s release speed.

Some digital pianos have the Lid Simulation feature, which mimics the sound of a grand piano with the lid raised or lowered.

lid simulation

Other elements of piano sound reproduced in some digital pianos (typically higher-end models) include:

piano organic elements

  • Hammer Noise
  • Key On/Off Noise
  • Damper Noise
  • Cabinet Resonance
  • Aliquot Resonance
  • Undamped String Resonance

While some of these elements are subtle and obscure, they add to the overall realism and produce a more organic sound.


Connectors

The ability to connect to other music gear and smart devices is another important advantage of digital pianos and keyboards.

By connecting your instrument to external devices you can open up a world of possibilities when it comes to learning, music creation, and performing.

USB type A USB type B Headphone JackSustain JackLine OutLine InAudio InBluetooth MIDI / AudioMIDI In/OutMic In

usb type A to device

Also known as a USB to Device port or USB flash drive port. The port can be used to plug a flash drive into the piano to exchange files quickly and easily.

For example, many digital pianos with this port will let you load MIDI files into the piano’s internal memory for playback or rehearsal.

Alternately, depending on the model, you might be able to play back WAV and MIDI files directly from the flash drive.

This port is often used to save your audio files, recorded with the instrument, to the flash drive.

Finally, this is the port you’ll use to install firmware updates, though some manufacturers allow you to do it via the USB type B port as well.

usb type B to HOST

This port is often called a USB to Host terminal or USB to Computer port.

This port connects your digital piano to a computer or smart device (using a special adapter) to exchange songs/files, and MIDI data.

This port allows you to use the piano as a MIDI controller to control various music apps, such as GarageBandFlowKeyPlayground Sessions, etc.

There are 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 the settings and functions of the instrument, via an intuitive graphical interface.

headphone jack

You probably won’t find a digital piano or keyboard without a headphone jack.

The jack allows you to plug in a pair of headphones and practice at any time without bothering the people around you.

A sustain jack (a.k.a. damper jack) can be used to connect a sustain pedal to your instrument and use it the same way you use the sustain pedal on an acoustic piano.

line out jacks

Line Out (a.k.a. Aux Out) jacks connect your digital piano to external sound equipment such as amplifiers, PA systems, mixers, etc.

Line In (R, L/Mono) jacks functoin like Line Out jacks, but in reverse.

They can be used to input the audio signal of an external device to your digital piano/keyboard.

Line In jacks aren’t commonly found in digital pianos, but many professional keyboards have them.

An Audio In jack works the same way as Line In jacks, but instead of two 1/4″ standard jacks (R, L/Mono) you usually get one 1/8” stereo jack.

Audio In jacks are found more commonly in digital pianos and entry-level keyboards.

They allow you to connect your smart devices (smartphones, laptops, tablets) to your instrument with ease, using a 1/8” Male to Male cable and listening to them via your piano’s built-in speakers.

One end of the cable goes to the headphone jack of your device and the other to the Audio In of your piano.

audio in jack

bluetooth midi

Bluetooth MIDI allows you to connect your piano to a smart device wirelessly to exchange MIDI data with various music apps (e.g. GarageBand, Flowkey, Simply Piano, etc.).

You can use this feature as a wireless alternative to a USB MIDI connection.

Note that some pianos can only transfer audio data via Bluetooth, while others can only transfer MIDI. Some pianos support both MIDI and Audio data via Bluetooth.

MIDI In/Out are 5-pin legacy ports used to transfer MIDI data. These days, MIDI ports are being replaced increasingly by USB type B terminals.

keyboard midi ports

Some people still prefer MIDI ports, mainly because they are compatible with older keyboards and synths from past decades.

There is not much difference when you use these ports for computer connections, except the fact that the USB A to B cable you’d use for USB connections is cheaper and more common than MIDI to USB adapters.

Most professional keyboards come with both USB and MIDI ports to be compatible with legacy gear (yes, you can send MIDI data not only to a computer but also to other musical instruments).

mic in jack

A Mic In jack can be used to plug a microphone into the keyboard directly and sing along with your performance or song playback.

The keyboard will mix and output your vocals via the main audio channel so you can listen to it as you sing via headphones or onboard speakers.

Some digital pianos will also allow you to add basic effects and adjust parameters.

Generally speaking, a Mic In jack is rare to find on a digital piano.

How Long Do Digital Pianos Last?

digital piano lifespan

While digital pianos can serve you for a long time (sometimes 10 or more years), their lifespan tends to be shorter than acoustic pianos, and this is not necessarily due to wear and tear (though this also can be the case)

The digital piano market today is very active and is still in its development stage.

New models (with new features and technologies) come out every year, bringing even more realistic piano playing experiences.

This situation is similar to the electronics market in general (smartphones, laptops, etc. )

Consequently, a digital piano you bought, say, 10 years ago, will have a hard time competing with models introduced only a few years ago. That’s why you’ll likely find very few people using a 20-year-old digital piano today.

digital piano obsolescence

The technology available back then is much inferior to what you can get today for the same (or less) money.

And since digital pianos haven’t been around for that long, it’s kind of hard to predict the future direction of the industry and if such trends will continue.

That being said, for just $1,000 today you can buy a decent digital piano that sounds and feels close to an upright piano, and which won’t lose its actuality in the future.

Does this mean you can buy a digital piano and use it for 30, 40, or 50 years? Perhaps, but it’s quite unlikely.

One reason is the obsolescence we just talked about, and another reason one is wear and tear.

While digital pianos are electric instruments with fewer elements that can break or wear out, compared to acoustic pianos, there will still be some mechanical wear and tear, and your digital piano may need a repair eventually. This is especially true for the key action.

Over time, it can develop more noise (the felt under the keys wear out, the keys become clunkier and looser, etc.), which can make the playing experience much less enjoyable.

How fast will that happen? It depends.

First, it will come down to the key action itself.

It should come as no surprise that higher-end digital pianos with higher-quality, more sophisticated action mechanics will serve for more years than an inferior $300 keyboard.

Another important thing is how often you use your digital piano.

digital piano repair

Perhaps you’ll play it for an hour or two several times a week, or perhaps you’ll have a big family and all your kiddos will play the piano daily for hours.

Either way, by the time that happens, there will probably be newer, better models available on the market, and the question is, “Will you be willing to invest money into repair?”

In some cases, repairs can be half as expensive as the piano itself, or in other cases, it is easier to get a new model instead.

Getting parts can also be difficult, especially if your digital piano is more than 10 years old.

When it comes to acoustic pianos, the situation is different because they tend to cost considerably more than digital pianos and “obsolescence” is not really a thing for them.

So it makes much more sense to repair an acoustic piano than to repair a digital one.

But it all depends on your situation of course, and if you’re a happy owner of the Kawai Novus NV10 (~ $10,000) or the Yamaha AvantGrand NU1X (~ $6,000), it will probably make more sense to repair your instrument than to get a new one. But that’s a different story…

Accessories

digital piano accessories

There are a number of accessories you may want purchase in addition to a digital piano.

What accessories you choose depends on what you get with your digital piano out of the box and also on your personal needs.

Nearly all console digital pianos come with an integral stand (cabinet) and 3 pedals, so you don’t need to spend extra money on that.

Most portable pianos don’t come with a stand of any kind and only include a small plastic sustain pedal (footswitch). So with portable models, you’ll likely to spend more money on additional accessories than with console ones.

Personally, when it comes to digital piano accessories, I don’t recommend buying the all-in-one bundles available on Amazon, as the accessories you’ll get are usually very cheap and not of good quality, especially the headphones.


Stand

keyboard stand

When it comes to stands, you basically have two options.

The first is to buy a portable Z- or X-type stand that is portable and easy to stow when not in use. Such stands are usually collapsible and adjustable, making them even more versatile.

The second option is to buy a furniture-style stand that manufacturers often offer for their portable digital pianos. Such stands are sturdier than X-type stands and best suited for home use.

They’re easy to move around, but you probably wouldn’t use them for gigs as they’re not as portable as X-style stands.

The price of furniture-style stands can be as much as $100-$150.


Pedals

When it comes to piano pedals, there are three options to consider.

The first one, is to use the sustain pedal that comes with your instrument.

Most entry-level digital pianos come with a flimsy, plastic footswitch that feels nothing like an acoustic piano pedal. But it still does its job, and for a beginner, it would be a satisfactory solution.

sustain footswitch

On the other hand, if you’re a more experienced player and want a more substantial and realistic sustain pedal, you may want to consider a piano-style chrome pedal that feels and looks like a real piano pedal.

Luckily they aren’t very expensive, and I always recommend the M-Audio SP-2, which has proven to be a reliable, high-quality sustain pedal that will work with any digital piano or keyboard with a sustain jack (most of them have one).

sustain pedal

Those who don’t just need a sustain pedal (the most used piano pedal), but need all three pedals found on an acoustic piano (sustain, soft, and sostenuto), should consider buying a 3-pedal unit that manufacturers offer for their digital pianos.

3-pedal unit

Usually, those 3-pedal units are designed to be fastened to a furniture-style stand (both should be compatible with your specific piano model).


Headphones

headphones for digital piano

Choosing a good pair of headphones for your digital pianos is probably as important as choosing a digital piano itself, especially if you’re going to spend a lot of time using them.

It’s your headphones that deliver the sound, so if they are one of those subpar, generic $15 ones, you won’t experience a full and rich depth of sound or enjoy your playing as much as you could.

A good pair of headphones, on the other hand, will provide a clear and detailed sound that onboard speakers can’t offer.

Check out our guide to learn how to choose the best-sounding headphones for your digital piano.


Bench

piano bench

Alright, you’ve bought a digital piano, but you need to sit on something, right?

Luckily, this isn’t a huge problem. You can find a good bench for your digital piano.

There are a variety of options on the market, so it’s relatively easy to find the one that catches your eye and fits your budget.

There are basically two types of benches:

  • 1) Adjustable X-style benches (perfect for gigs)
  • 2) Classic wooden benches (perfect for home)

The price of a bench varies from about $20 to $60+ depending on type, brand name, and materials.


Amplifier

keyboard amp

A keyboard amp usually consists of a powered amp and a speaker, which are designed to provide a more powerful, higher-quality sound, with a better bass response compared to onboard speakers.

Amps are quite versatile and can be used in a variety of situations, starting from a small band rehearsal and ending with big performances and live events.

There are a few factors you need to consider before buying a keyboard amplifier, including portability, watts, channels, extra features, inputs & outputs, etc.

For more detailed information, check out this guide.

Below I’ve listed the three keyboard amplifiers I’ve heard good things about and can recommend:


Bag/Case

If your home isn’t the only place where you’ll use your piano, you should definitely consider buying a keyboard bag to protect your instrument during transport and to make it easier to carry around.

Some manufacturers offer their own branded keyboard bags, while others don’t. Regardless, you have many options from other trusted brands like Gator, Kaces, etc.

Here are my two favorite protective cases for long-distance travel:

For light travel, you don’t need those heavy-duty plastic cases, which are quite expensive.

However, if you’re traveling by plane or train, one of those cases is a must if you want to keep your instrument safe.

For car travel, you’ll be better off with something lightweight and less expensive.

Here are the three keyboard bags I recommend for light travel:

keyboard bag

Buying a Digital Piano: My Recommendations

buy digital piano

When it comes to buying a digital piano, there are two ways you can go – order online or buy in a physical store. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

While I always recommend playing a digital piano in-person to ensure that YOU like how it sounds and feels, this may not always be possible.

Let’s look at each option in detail so you can decide which one is best for you.


Offline

Despite strong competition from online retailers, brick and mortar stores are a popular place to buy musical instruments and digital pianos in particular.

Pros:

buy digital piano

  • 1) You can try out the instrument in person to find out what you like or don’t like about it.
  • 2) It’s much easier to make a decision and be confident about it when you have actually played the piano yourself.
  • 3) You receive personalized attention from the sales staff. You can get a recommendation from a sale’s person for your particular situation (needs and experience), as well as a demonstration of how the instrument sounds from a listener’s perspective.
  • 4) You can pick up your piano immediately, without having to wait for delivery (in most cases).

Cons:

  • 1) A sale’s person influences your decision and can talk you into buying a piano you’re hesitant about or not in love with.
  • 2) Prices in physical stores tend to be higher than online, especially in small local ones.
  • 3) You’re usually stuck with a very limited selection of models (usually the ones that make the retailer the most money).

Online

Online sales for musical instruments are growing each year, and people are definitely growing in confidence about buying a digital piano online today over, say, 5 years ago.

This is actually not surprising considering the many advantages of buying online.

Pros:

digital piano online

  • 1) Save time and effort (saving on gas, no parking hassles, no need to wait for a sale’s person, etc.)
  • 2) Enjoy the convenience of shopping at home, 24/7.
  • 3) A wide range of models is available. Almost any digital piano or keyboard can be purchased online.
  • 4) Benefit from consumer & expert reviews, forum discussions, and video demonstrations, which are more trustworthy sources of information than the opinion of a salesperson.
  • 5) There’s no pressure. You can take your time and weigh all the pros and cons to make a thought-out decision, avoiding the salesperson influence.
  • 7) The “price + shipping (usually free)” price is usually lower compared to brick-and-mortar stores.
  • 8) If you have some issues with the piano and it’s still under warranty, you don’t need to bring it back to the store you bought it from. In most cases, an online retailer will collect, repair, and return the piano free of charge.

Cons:

  • 1) You can’t personally try out the instrument and may potentially buy one you don’t love (though you can still visit a showroom before ordering online).
  • 2) You don’t get your piano immediately (usually takes 2-5 days), and in some cases, delivery can be delayed.
  • 3) There is a security risk (payment fraud, personal information). That’s why I recommend only using well-known, reliable online retailers.

 


List of Retailers

Here are the most popular, trusted online retailers I recommend:

USA:

Amazon

This giant needs no introduction.

As one of the largest online retailers in the world, Amazon provides a wide selection of keyboards and digital pianos, with special discounts and bundle deals (more discounts and next-day delivery is available for Prime Members).

  • Reliable and trusted
  • Tons of verified customer reviews
  • Secured payments
  • Sales and special offerings
  • Fast and cheap shipping (often free)

Guitar Center / Woodwind and Brasswind / Musician’s Friend

These 3 online retailers are owned by one company and offer similar if not identical products and prices. Even their websites seem to operate on the same (slightly modified) platform.

It’s the largest, most well-known chain of musical instrument retailers in the world.

  • Free Shipping applies to most orders shipped within the 48 contiguous U.S. states & D.C.
  • Price Match. See a better price? They’ll match any verified price from any authorized U.S. dealer for the identical new item up to 45 days after purchase.
  • 45-day return policy. If you’re not 100% happy with your purchase, send it back. You’ve got up to 45 days. No hassles.
  • The largest selection of music gear in the world. Over 1,700,000 items in stock and ready to ship.

zZounds

  • Online since 1996
  • Lowest Price Guarantee
  • Super Low Shipping Costs (90% of orders are shipped with FREE 2-day shipping)
  • No Sales Tax Collected (except for New Jersey)
  • 45-day Hassle-Free Return Policy
  • Excellent Customer Service

UK & Europe:

There are two online retailers that I absolutely recommend for those who live in the UK and Europe:

Thomann

  • Online since 1996
  • The largest online retailer of musical instruments in Europe (based in Germany)
  • Purchases at Thomann are backed up by their 3-year warranty, i.e. they extend the manufacturer’s warranty period (usually 12 months) to a full 36 months – at their own cost
  • Free shipping from €398 euros (Worldwide)
  • Europe’s largest warehouse = best possible prices

Gear4music

  • Online since 2003
  • One of the largest retailers of musical instruments and equipment in the UK & Europe
  • Local websites in 19 countries
  • Delivery to 196 countries worldwide
  • 30-day money back guarantee on everything, with FREE returns (can be expanded to up to 120 days)

FAQ

Do I absolutely need 88 keys?

I’d say yes, unless you’re a gigging musician and portability matters a lot to you.

Even so, 73 or 76 keys are enough to play most musical pieces, but as you progress you’ll probably want to have all 88 keys, especially if you’re going to play a lot of classical pieces.

Most digital pianos have 88 keys.

Do I need all 3 piano pedals?

The sustain pedal is the most used pedal on a piano and is a must for everyone, including beginners.

The other two pedals (soft and sostenuto) are used much more rarely and are not essential. If you’re a beginner to intermediate player, you probably won’t use them anyway.

Still, these pedals are occasionally required in some classical pieces, though usually for more advanced repertoire. So if you’re an experienced player, you probably already know if you need them or not.

Does my digital piano need to be tuned?

Digital pianos never need to be tuned because they only playback recorded sounds (samples) of a perfectly tuned acoustic piano.

Acoustic pianos should be tuned at least once a year, which will cost you about $80 – $100.

Can I adjust the volume of my digital piano?

Yes, all digital pianos and keyboards allow you to adjust the volume, which is very convenient.

Can I connect headphones and practice in silence?

Yes, absolutely, and it’s one of the main advantages of digital musical instruments.

You can hook up some headphones to your digital piano and play at any time without bothering anyone else.

You probably won’t be able to find a digital piano or keyboard that doesn’t have a headphone jack these days.

Can I record and play back my playing?

Yes, most $500+ digital pianos have a built-in MIDI-sequencer that allows you to record your performance and play it back.

Some digital pianos have a multi-track recorder, so you can record several parts independently, then play them back as a single song.

How much polyphony do I need?

I recommend having at least 64 notes of polyphony for playing piano and 128 notes if you’re going to layer multiple sounds and use multiple backing tracks in your performances.

How much speaker wattage do I need?

While more powerful speakers allow for a fuller and bolder sound, I wouldn’t get too carried away with this feature.

More output power doesn’t necessarily mean better sound, but it does increase the capacity of the speakers.

When it comes to speakers, there are more important aspects that enhance the ultimate sound you hear, including the quality of the speakers themselves, how many of speakers there are, where they’re placed, your acoustic environment, etc.

Do wooden keys make a difference?

You’ll find that more expensive digital pianos ($2000+) often have wooden keys.

Some claim they feel more realistic than plastic keys but as long as the weight of the key action provides the same resistance as that of an acoustic piano it actually shouldn’t matter too much what the keys are made of.

However, the physical qualities of wood do differ from plastic material, so you get an additional layer of realism with wooden keys, at least aesthetically.

What are the basic things I should look for in a digital piano?

If you’re a beginner, you want look at pianos that have:

  • 88 hammer action keys
  • At least 64 notes of polyphony
  • High-quality acoustic piano samples with a wide dynamic range (from the softest to the loudest sound)
  • Metronome and Transpose functions

Depending on your needs, you may also want USB-MIDI connectivity, an onboard MIDI-recorder, built-in songs, and other extra features.

How do digital pianos differ from one manufacturer to another?

You may wonder why there are so many manufacturers and models of digital pianos.

Well, not all digital pianos are created equal. Though they all aim to mimic a real piano, this is easier said than done.

As a general rule, the more money you spend, the more realistic the sound and feel will be.

Manufacturers develop their own technologies, which they use in the process of sound recording/modeling, as well as when they design the keyboard actions, speaker systems, and all the features that come with their pianos.

That’s why the sound and feel of digital pianos differ significantly from one brand to another.


You might also like:

The Worst | Best Digital Piano & Keyboard Brands (Guide 2019)

Best Digital Piano Brands

Best Digital Pianos for Beginners (Under $500)

Best Weighted Keyboards Under $700 (for Intermediate Players)

Best Digital Pianos Under $1000 for Home Use

best-digital-pianos-under-1000

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