The digital piano is a more affordable, compact and portable alternative to a traditional acoustic piano. The primary function of the a digital piano is to replicate the sound of an acoustic piano through similar key action as an acoustic piano. Thanks to the advancement in technology, you can now enjoy playing the piano without spending a fortune.
There are a lot of advantages of digital pianos, among which the biggest one being affordable prices, followed by the size and portability and also the fact that you can practice at night time or any other time without disturbing neighbors or even other family members.
With so many kinds of digital pianos available on the market, it is a daunting task to pick the right one. Below is some information on how to choose the best digital piano for your particular situation. Let's take a look. Here are some options for beginners.
1. Best Digital Piano for Beginners 2017 Comparison
Number of Polyphony
Number of Voices
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83 lbs 12 oz
83 lbs 12oz
25 lbs 8 oz
25 lbs 5 oz
1) Kawai KDP90 Digital Piano Review
- 88 weighted keys with superb graded hammer action
- Includes digital audio sampled from the company’s excellent acoustic pianos
- 192 polyphony
- Three pedals that are similar to the company's grand piano
- Kawai's Concert Magic and Alfred lessons built in
- 3-song recorder built in
- MIDI jacks and headphone jacks
- 3 years of warranty
- Relatively smaller number of tones, 15
- No USB connection
- Only one color, rosewood
For full review, visit Kawai KDP-90 Digital Piano Review.
2) Casio Privia PX-870 Digital Piano Review
Features of the Casio PX870 BK Privia Digital Piano:
- 88 keys that with ebony and ivory textures
- Tri-Sensor Scaled Hammer Action II
- Casio's AiR (Acoustic and Intelligent Resonator) sound source
- 256 polyphony notes and 18 instrument tones
- Duet and layer modes
- USB to Host, USB to Device
- 20W x 2 amplifiers
- No display
- Not portable
For full review, visit Casio Privia PX-870 Digital Piano Review.
3) Yamaha Arius YDP-43 Digital Piano Review
- You need to assemble by yourself
- No USB flash drive port
- Not for an experienced pianist
For full review, visit Yamaha Arius YDP-143 Digital Piano Review.
4) Korg B1 Digital Piano Review
- Not for advanced pianists
- 1 pedal (sustain) comes with it as a standard; 3 pedals are optional (Depends on a bundle deal or not)
- No USB or MIDI capability
- No recording capability
For full review, visit Korg B1 Digital Piano Review.
5) Casio Privia PX-160 Digital Piano Review
- Casio has a relatively shorter history in digital piano market as well as no acoustic piano presence.
- No USB port for a flash drive
- No half-damper pedal operation with one pedal, but possible with a 3-pedal option
For full review, visit Casio Privia PX-160 Digital Piano Review.
6) Yamaha P45 Digital Piano Review
- Speakers seem slightly less powerful
- Only one pedal (sustain)
- No recording capability
- No MIDI capability
- Not for advanced pianists
For full review, visit Yamaha P-45 Digital Piano Review.
2. How to Choose a Digital Piano
1) Size and Weight
As digital pianos come in a variety of sizes, make sure that the piano you are interested in fits in the space where you intend on putting it. If you have enough space and plan on keeping the piano out all the time, it should fit in the space you set aside for it while if you do not have enough space, you may want a compact kind or even one of the keyboard type pianos that can be put away while not in use. You can find a good quality digital piano that does not need an exclusive stand, in which case, you can simply put on a table that you already have.
Weight needs to be considered, too, if you plan on carrying it for performances. It may be a hassle to carry a piano that weighs 100 lbs. all the time by yourself.
Black color is a typical color when you think of pianos and it is no exception with digital pianos. Since digital pianos look like traditional acoustic pianos, a lot of time, digital pianos have the similar black color and ebony finish as the acoustic kind, however, with digital pianos, you can find brown or even white pianos if you wish. According to the design or the theme of the room where the piano will be placed in, you can go with the traditional black kind or more modern style or with different colors.
A digital piano model with 88 keys is a must if you want to invest in a digital piano. Regardless of your level of piano experience, digital pianos with 88 keys are the best option because you can always play any songs you want without missing any keys and above all, you will not feel any difference if you ever move up to a real acoustic piano in the future.
Since digital pianos mimic acoustic pianos, they should have 88 keys and also the keys must be weighted just like acoustic pianos. Those with keys less than 88 are called keyboards.
The purpose of weighted keys is to give the same impressions as a traditional piano. When you play the traditional piano, you need to hit the keys harder to make louder sound. In fact, you must have a certain level of force in fingers to make an appropriate sound in the traditional piano. The keys have some weight to them. This weight is what makes beautiful dynamics in sound and different nuances that each sound creates. Without weight to the keys, you make sound with same loudness whether you hit hard or soft.
Why is it important to have weighted keys? First of all, you cannot create dynamics since all the keys have the same level of loudness regardless of your technique in playing the piano. Your fingers cannot be strengthened, which can be achieved on continuous practice on an acoustic piano or pianos with weighted keys. When you ever switch to an acoustic piano, you would notice that you cannot make appropriate sound because your fingers are not strong enough and you are not used to play on keys with different weight to them. The keys of most of digital pianos are fully weighted, however, some models come with semi-weighted keys. It is recommended that you choose a digital piano with fully weighted keys.
Better digital pianos are those with keys not only weighted but also graded. Graded keys mean that the resistance to your touch increases as notes go down and decreases as notes go up.
It is also worth noting that keys must have about 23 mm width, just the same as traditional pianos. Stay away from those pianos if the keys are narrow and look like toys.
4) Headphone Jacks, Speakers and Amplifiers
Isn't the fact that you can play the piano even at night without disturbing others an important factor in considering a digital piano? With traditional acoustic pianos, you can play softly, but still, it can disturb other members of the family or neighbors if you live in an apartment. Being able to listen to yourself and practice any time of the day and place is a very attractive advantage of digital pianos over acoustic pianos. For that purpose, all digital pianos have headphone jacks. Check the position of the jack to see if it is easy to use.
Most of digital pianos are equipped with onboard speakers, which project sound when you do not use headphones. Those speakers are silenced, obviously, when headphones are in use.
Check the size and the capacity of onboard speakers and amplifiers as they vary depending on the model. If your digital piano is just for practicing, powerful speakers may not be necessary, but if you intend on performing for audience, you probably want a certain level of capacity or may need an Aux output capability to connect to external speakers and amplifiers.
5) Voices (Tones) and Effects
One of the fun functions of digital pianos that acoustic pianos do not have is to play your piano with different instruments and add effects. The words "voices," "tones" and "effects" that you see in specifications of digital pianos are what indicate the sounds of different musical instruments and vocal sounds and various effects such as jazz, concert hall, rock and so on that the digital piano has.
Each model comes with different voices. Of course, grand piano sound is the basic voice equipped with digital pianos. Even with piano sounds, some models have multiple piano sounds from different pianos. Typically included voices are sounds from electric piano, guitar, string instruments, wind instruments, organ, harpsichord, percussion, and ensemble, for example, of string and brass instruments.
Most of the time, however, people are interested in piano sound, not a guitar sound when they purchase a digital piano, and you would think extra sounds are unnecessary. However, as you play the piano and experiment with playing with different instruments, you will find it fascinating to create your own music with orchestra, for example.
The same goes with effects. You would think you do not need any effects as you only want to practice the piano, however, it is nice to have different effects such as jazz, reverberation, rock, chorus, etc.
If you intend on using a lot of different voices and effects, make sure that those sounds you are interested in are included.
6) Split / Duo / Duet, Dual / Layer Modes
These are the modes to let you split the 88-key keyboard into two or play two different sounds at the same time.
Usually, "Split," "Duo," or "Duet" modes mean that you can split the 88 keys into half and you play the left side while your teacher (or somebody else) plays the right side. Or, of course, it is useful for duet where two pianists play together.
"Dual" or "Layer" mode is to play different instruments over the other. For example, you play the piano while violin sound can be put on top of your piano sound.
Depending on how you want to use your piano, desired functions vary.
7) Piano Sound and Polyphony
Obviously, digital pianos have grand piano sound available as one of the tones described above. Why is it called a digital piano? Because the sound of each note is digitized and stored in the memory of the digital piano, which are played accordingly when the corresponding keys are pressed. The sound is usually generated through the process called sampling in most cases.
Each manufacture has its own method to sample piano sounds. Generally speaking, it takes more time and effort to re-create more complex sounds that come out from a great grand piano, which most likely takes up more storage in memory, resulting in higher prices.
Another term you encounter in digital piano specifications is "polyphony" related to the sound. It is used to measure the quality of digital pianos. What it means is that the number represents how many sounds can be made simultaneously. For example, think about an acoustic piano. You play with two hands with 10 fingers. How many sounds can you make at one time? 10! However, it is more complex. For example, you can use the sustain pedal, which prolongs the sound you played. While 10 keys are pressed with the sustain pedal is stepped on and you play another 10 different keys. Then, now 20 sounds are played. With different instrument tones available with various effects, you can guess the number of sounds add up very quickly.
There is no set number of polyphony you need to have, however, generally speaking, 64 polyphony is said to be enough for most beginner to intermediate pianists. An advanced pianist or someone interested in playing ensemble with orchestra or percussion instruments would probably need higher number of polyphony.
There are three pedals available on a traditional acoustic piano: soft, sostenuto and sustain. A sustain pedal, which sometimes is called a damper pedal, is the one that is used the most. It is the one that sustains the sound of the keys while stepped.
Pedals with a digital piano usually come separately from the piano itself and they are attached on the furniture or sometimes just placed on the floor. Those plastic-made light-weight pedals that are placed on the floor tend to slip while being used. In that case, a model that has a stand where pedals can be fixed is better.
With an acoustic piano, a technique called half-pedal operation is often used by advanced pianists. What it means is that you step on the sustain pedal half way to produce a desired effect. This operation is possible on the acoustic piano because it is mechanical. With "digital" pianos where a function is either "on" or "off," it is not possible to achieve this effect with one sustain pedal, but some models have this function available through a half-pedal button. If you are an experienced pianist, you may want to find out if the model has a half-pedal capability.
9) MIDI Capability and USB Port Availability
MIDI, the acronym of Music Instrument Digital Interface, is a language for music communication among digital equipment including computers.
MIDI may be important to you if the digital piano is used for composing music pieces on the computer, requiring MIDI, or used with synthesizers. If the intended use of the digital piano is simply as a replacement of an acoustic piano, the MIDI capability may not be so important.
Most digital pianos have USB ports available to connect the piano to the computer. This capability may be referred to "USB to Host" in digital piano specifications. When a digital piano is connected to the computer, various tasks can be performed such as editing, notation or recording the performance played on your digital piano.
You may see "USB to Device" in specifications and that is where you use a USB flash device as an external storage to keep your performance. Recordings of performance can be saved in .wav format or sometimes in MP3 format.
Other than storing performance on the digital piano on a flash drive, the same flash drive can be used to add voices and rhythms that were downloaded from the Internet for use on the digital piano.
The needs of these capabilities largely depend on how you intend on using your digital piano. If this is important to you, make sure that the format of recording is a desired one or if USB connections are with the computer or with a flash drive.
10) Educational Support
With your digital piano being connected to the computer, there are many applications available for you to learn how to play the piano. Educational programs may be built in some models. While it is best if you can afford to take lessons from qualified professional teachers, sometimes, it is not possible because of time constraint or financial reasons. Lessons built in some digital pianos are worth trying if you are novice and want to learn how to play the piano.
11) Other Features (Recording, Microphone, etc.)
There are many other functions available on different digital pianos other than those mentioned above, one of which is recording.
A recording function is very useful as you can listen to how you played. Listening to your own performance while playing versus listening to the recording of your performance are very different, just like you feel your voice is a lot different when you hear you talking in videos. You can objectively assess your performance. It is also fun to record your performance and later use it to play a duet. It can be used to share your performance with friends, too.
Capacity of recording varies depending on models. It is mentioned how many tracks can be recorded.
You may want to have a microphone connected to the digital piano for singing while playing. Some models can add effects to your voice, which can be very fun.
A metronome is a feature almost all digital pianos have. It is a necessary tool to play your tunes at the correct beat or for finger exercises. The range of speed may be different from a model to model.
As with any electronics, technology advances day by day. Some digital piano nowadays have Bluetooth capability to connect your digital piano to the Internet. As technology advances, more and more software and applications become available online, which enables digital pianos to perform many tasks that were not possible in the past.
1) What is the difference between a keyboard and a digital piano? Digital piano vs. Keyboard
A digital piano is, as the name suggests, a piano that generates sounds similar to an acoustic piano, using digital technology. It imitates a real acoustic piano in terms of appearance and feel and touch of acoustic piano keys. Digital pianos should have 88 keys in the same size as an acoustic piano and also be weighted.
A keyboard may sound like an acoustic piano, but it is not necessarily trying to sound like an acoustic piano. The number of keys may be 76 or 61 and most likely, keys are not weighted and the size of a key may be smaller or narrower and made of plastic. It is lighter and easy to carry around and typically have more features. If you are looking for authentic acoustic piano sound, however, a high quality digital piano is the choice.
You can read more about the difference here.
2) Does a digital piano need turning?
No, unlike an acoustic piano, a digital piano does not need any tuning since sounds are recorded in its memory and when keys are pressed, corresponding sounds are heard.
Since digital pianos do not require regular tuning, maintenance cost is significantly lower than acoustic pianos; however, digital pianos do not last for decades like acoustic pianos do.
3) Is an electric piano the same as a digital piano?
No, they are different musical instruments. An electric piano uses mechanical hammers to strike metal strings or wires and the resulted vibration is converted into electrical signals which in turn is picked up and amplified to be heard. It was first introduced to the world in the 30s and became popular, however as time passes, digital technology advanced and today, there is no new electric pianos produced.
Most digital pianos have electric piano sounds in their voices.