When you decide that you want to purchase a digital piano and start looking for one, you will soon be overwhelmed by the number of digital pianos available in the market these days and do not know what to look for.
You can read this article that lists main features in digital pianos to see which features you cannot compromise or which can be overlooked to narrow down the models that suit your needs.
What you need in your digital piano varies depending on what level you are in terms of learning stages of piano-playing as well as what your plans are for the future. What someone who is a complete beginner in any keyboard instrument wants is totally different from someone who has some experience and wants to have a digital piano for practice at home without disturbing neighborhood, or already a pianist looking for a digital one so that he/she can practice in a hotel room during traveling.
This article explains most of the terminology you encounter in specifications of digital pianos for you to understand better.
The number of sounds that can be heard at the same time. You can read more about polyphony in this article.
Acoustic piano keys have some weight to them when you press to sound the notes. To imitate the feel of such keys in acoustic pianos, digital pianos keys have some weight. It is better to have fully weighted keys to get used to a traditional piano key feel.
When you press keys harder, the resulting sound is louder. Similarly, if you press keys softer, the sound is smaller. This is also to mimic the realism of a traditional acoustic piano.
Graded hammer action keys
Keys with higher notes are lighter in touch while bass notes are heavier in touch, just like in an acoustic piano where hammers strike strings to make sounds. Some digital pianos imitate the feel.
Also called a damper pedal, this pedal prolongs the notes played while being held down. This is the right pedal of the three pedals found on a traditional acoustic piano, and is used the most. This will be the one if one pedal is provided in a digital piano.
The other two pedals found in an acoustic pedals are sostenuto (middle one) and una corda (soft) pedals.
To step on the damper pedal halfway. You can easily hold the sustain pedal halfway in an acoustic piano, but in digital pianos, sustain pedal effect is usually on or off because it is "digital," however in higher models, digital pianos offer half-damper capability so that the pianist can create the effect of the technique.
Change the key (chord) of a song. For example, you transpose C major song to G major.
Different sounds available on digital pianos. Most digital pianos have a few acoustic grand piano sounds together with string instruments, electric pianos, organs, etc.
Split / Duo
The ability to split the keyboard in half so that, for example, a piano sound is played on the right side while a string is played on the left side. Could use the function to split the keyboard into equal range for a teacher and a student to play along.
Dual / Layer
The ability to layer two different instrument sounds over each other.
USB to Host
USB port to connect to the computer.
USB to Device
USB port to connect to an external storage device. This is different from above USB connection. Ensure that which USB is available if the spec. says "USB."
Acronym of Musical Instrument Digital Interface. A standard music protocol to facilitate the communication among different instruments and computers
Standard MIDI Format.
A music format. Some digital pianos allow music pieces to be stored in .wav format, instead of MIDI described above. Sometimes mp3 format is available, too.
A digital piano allows recording of n tracks. If the spec. says 2 tracks, it means that you can record 2 tracks.
Sometimes called Line In/Out, the port is used to connect to an external speaker, mixer, etc.
If you are planning on performing complex tasks, using your digital piano, it is recommended that you study the specifications in details to see if what you intend on doing can be accomplished. Check out some of the well-reviewed digital pianos on Amazon: Yamaha P115 Digital Piano or Casio Privia 160 Digital Piano are good beginner digital pianos.