How to Buy a Digital Piano a Beginners Guide

Starting out in music is the same as starting out in sport, school, and manufacturing, oh wait! it’s actually the same as starting out anything else.

In order to begin any journey, you need equipment’s, directions, tips on what to look for and tips on what to avoid to have a successful start and a long lasting campaign.

This article will guide into the digital piano world, showcasing the diver’s aspects and characteristics of digital pianos through examples and more importantly easy to follow infographics.

When it comes to digital pianos there are a lot of choices,  there are a lot of well know digital piano brands out there that offer excellent musical instruments, but the problem is that they are distinct, similar only outwardly.

Girl vs Digital piano funny infographic
beginners vs digital piano funny but Realistic scenario don’t you agree?

A very funny but realistic info graphic right? it’s easy to get scared by the weird names and numbers, and yes those are real names for digital pianos, with time you will learn to ignore the awkward names.

Digital pianos vs Keyboards, are they the same?

In order to really understand what features are really important in a digital piano as a beginner is it important to understand the difference between a digital piano and a keyboard piano.

There is an 85% chance that as a beginner you do not know the actual difference between the two, nowadays the two terms are used interchangeably, however, there are a couple of differences to really understand.

  • Keys
  1. Digital pianos are made with the idea to mimic a real pianoforte, hence their 88 keys.
  2. Keyboards do not imitate this fundamental characteristic, some keyboards have 61 total notes and other 76.
  • Weight
  1. Digital pianos tend to be heavy (few exception) as they present 88 fully weighted keys.
  2. keyboards are very light in comparison, they are very easy to move around(few exception).
  • Performance
  1. Digital pianos are able to capture the feel and mechanism of real pianos.
  2. keyboards, on the other hand, are a very simplistic representation of a piano.

For an in depth look into the Keyboard vs Digital pianos subject I recommend to check out this reference articles by:

  1. Diana Stone
  2. ThoughtCo.

keyboards are a lot of fun, especially when starting out as they are programmed to perform an outstanding amount of functions. Digital pianos, on the other hand, present fewer functions but they faithfully mimic the operation of a real piano.

*Note that this is a general rule, there are a few exceptions to this.

88 vs 76 vs 61 keys, what is best?

We briefly touched on the fact that keyboards do present a less amount of keys than a digital piano. As stated earlier a real pianoforte has a total of 88 weighted keys, however, nowadays it is possible to purchase very cheap keyboards that will inevitably present 71 or 61 keys.

 the Process of reducing the piano keys from 88 to 61. Same applies to the 71 key keyboard
The  Process of reducing the piano keys from 88 to 61. Same applies to the 71 key keyboards

Should I go with 88 keys then?

This is a very popular doubt among beginner, the best answer to this will be

“Depends on Your intent”.

  • Are You on a very low budget?

Then getting a keyboard with 61 or even 76 keys will be considerably cheaper, as this tends to cost less than an 88 key piano.

  • Do you want to develop the right technique and strength from start?

If so then a digital piano with 88 weighted keys is a most.

I personally recommend getting a digital piano with 88 keys from the get-go, but I do understand that these instruments are expensive.

*Note that in order for the piano key bed to shrink from 88 keys to 76 or 61, the keys at the extreme ends are removed, as shown in the picture above.

Ideal Polyphony

Polyphony is a major game changer when looking to purchase a digital piano if you get one with a low amount you will run the risk of outgrowing that specific piano in one or two years.

What is Polyphony? please refer to this articles for an in-depth explanation regarding this concept:

  1. Pianoandsynth
  2. melaniespanswick

Polyphony is simply defined as the number of notes a digital piano is able to play one after the other while the decay of the first note is still in progress, this is done by holding down the sustain pedal.

As a beginner I can imagine your expression, you are probably thinking” ehhh? and how is that useful?”

As You advance as a piano player, you will require a high amount of polyphony to perform with expression.

digital piano polyphony notes
digital piano polyphony notes

This graph illustrates the number of polyphony and associates it with a rating, for example, the number 75 is discrete. It is important to purchase digital pianos with a polyphony ratio higher than 60, this number leaves enough room expressiveness.

A good Example of a digital piano with a discrete amount of polyphony is the Yamaha p45 with a total number of 64. An excellent example of high polyphony ratio is the Yamaha p255, with a total of 256.

If You purchase keyboards or digital with a lower polyphony ratio than 64 there is a good chance you will outgrow that instrument soon or later, this is why  I recommend digital pianos with a discrete/fair amount of polyphony.

Weighted Keys Mechanism

if you have ever played a grand piano, you must have noticed that the keys are not easy to push down, in fact, the pressure required to push down a key will vary according to the key specific position along the key bed.

hence the famous term a” digital piano with weighted keys“. This attribute is important as it captures the essence and feel of the traditional piano, this mechanism is what strengthens the fingers of a player, as a beginner it is very important considering a digital piano with this technology.

Just as there are many brands of digital pianos in the market place, there are also different technologies that try to simulate this mechanism such as:

Weighted keys mechanism the different types used by Yamaha, this are just some of the many
Weighted keys mechanism the different types used by Yamaha.

The resources listed below are in-depth articles on the key action:

  1. Yamaha Graded Hammer Action Types full article
  2. www.haydockmusic
  3. Azpiano

 Key action, here are some animations :

  1. Animation1
  2. Animation2

Now that we have determined how important they action is, My recommendation is to always try out a digital piano at a local store if that is possible, as this key actions tend to play quite differently from each other.

Weighted keys are essential for a healthy growth! 

Portable and stationary pianos

The first thing that comes to mind when we think about a piano is its weight, grand pianos are a synonym of weight, right?

Fortunately, digital pianos have been around for over 20 years now, these musical instruments have been able to considerably cut down the weight over the years by adopting micro technologies. It is possible to purchase Portable pianos, which are made to be taking around easily.

A Product like the Yamaha p115 portable is a prime example of this.

 

Item Weight 26 pounds

 

White Yamaha p115

Product Dimensions 59 x 18 x 17 inches

This is a typical portable piano, it does not only mimic the characteristics of a classical piano, it also offers keyboards like functions. This types of pianos are made to be moved with no stress whatsoever.

On the other hand, there are also excellent well performing stationary digital pianos, this, as the name implies, are not as portable as the p115 and others.  These digital pianos weigh more than  90 pounds.

A Product like the Yamaha Clavinova CLP500 is a prime example of this.

Item Weight 176.37 pounds

Ymaha clp 500

Product Dimensions 57 x 39 x 18 inches

This CLP is part of the Yamaha Clavinova series, a top of the range digital piano that weighs quite a lot.

You can clearly see the difference in weight between this two Yamaha digital pianos, be sure to research specific weight of a digital piano before purchasing.

Which to go with? well if you are going to be moving your piano a lot then a portable piano is perfect for you, on the other hand, if you want to the classical home piano, a piano like the CLP is the way to go.

Functions

We have look at the fundamental mechanisms and features of a digital piano, such as the polyphony and key action, in this section, we are going to dive into extra features. Some digital pianos features are set to help you in your beginner journey while other are fancy but useful add ons used for engagement.

  • Recorder

This is a very important feature, not all digital pianos are equipped with an on board recorder. A recorder enables users to record themselves playing, and play it back. This is extremely useful if you have a piano teacher, as he or she can record a specific passage and have you listen to it over and over again.

  • Voices

Voices are instruments sounds, such as pianos, guitars, strings, organs etc. Although is not vital for someone’s growth to have a piano with over 500 voices, it is a lot of fun, is a nice feature that will keep you playing and messing around with your digital piano longer than you expected.

Some digitals offer over 100 voices while others offer 5 to 10, if you are presented with a digital piano with a very low voice selection, it is important to control that the product has at least more than 1 piano sound, strings, and organs.

  • Metronome 

This tool is even more important than the recording feature. A metronome is a device that marks time at a selected rate by giving a regular, tick tack, if a digital piano does not have this basic feature, it is important that you buy a physical metronome.

There are a ton of functions nowadays, such as app integration, transpose, smart chord, voice mixing etc. However this three specific ones we have gone through are the really essential, is best to purchase a digital piano that offers all three of them.

Best digital piano brands

Now that we have a better understanding of what to look for in a digital piano, we need to talk about the major brands.

When it comes to piano brands I believe that is always better to stick with well-established manufacturers. Experimenting with unknown brands is a hustle, however, if there is an actual digital piano that caught your attention, I recommend playing it and see how it feels, make sure the manufacturer has a support team you can call in times of troubles, also look for online reviews about the piano.

Here are the top brands to go with:

YamahaBlack Yamaha piano

Yamaha is the leading manufacturer of digital pianos, this cooperation has been able to establish their brand thanks to the large array of musical instruments they supply such as drums, guitars, brass instruments, strings, pianos and digital pianos.

They offer electronic piano such as digital pianos / Keyboards/synthesizers, here is the Yamaha musical site 

Kawai

Kawai has not been in the digital piano production business for that long, nevertheless,  they have been able to establish themselves as one of the top tiers digital piano manufacturers.

They offer top tier Beautifull home digital pianos, here is the Kawai musical site 

Casiocasio piano

Casio is another good digital pianos manufacturer, it is, however, less popular than the well known Yamaha and Korg when it comes to digital pianos, their pianos are primarily targeting beginners and kids.

Casio deserves more credit than they currently do as they are improving their sampling and mechanism technologies, here is the Casio musical site.

Korg

Their instruments are designed with professionals in mind, many of their models are highly affordable for the quality of the instrument, and there is a model to fit nearly any budget without sacrificing quality.

Is a very famous brand among youngsters thanks to the vast array of functionalizes their digital pianos present, here is the Korg musical site.

Roland piano

Roland

Roland is outstanding for the high level of polished methodology that goes into outlining and creating their instruments.

Roland’s engineers and planners are a portion of the best on the planet, here is the Roland site.

Best 88 key digital pianos for beginners in 2017

This list features some of the best digital piano currently available in the market in no particular order.

These products are considered low / mid-budget digital pianos.

Yamaha P45 Approximately $449.99
Yamaha P115 Approximately $629. 99
Casio px 160 Approximately $623. 00
Kawai ES110 Approximately $729. 00
Williams Legato Approximately $200. 00

I believe this is a fair list, there are thousands of digital pianos in the market some are bad, some are mid-range and some are superb, this list of pianos are a perfect match for a complete beginner, thanks to their features, mechanisms, and price.

I do understand however that for some people will find these pianos expensive even though this is cheap digital pianos, is understandable in this time of economic crisis, if these digital pianos are out of your range I recommend purchasing a keyboard with 71 or 61 keys, this instruments can be easily found under $100.

Here is a comprehensive list of keyboards by Diana Stone.

What do digital pianos come with?

When purchasing a digital piano there is a set of equipment that is included with your purchase:

  • Sustain pedal

digital piano sustain pedal

This is a vital piece of equipment, this is the component of a piano that allows players to use the polyphony feature, it acts like a switch when the pedal is on the notes begin the stacking process.

  • Manual

digital piano manual

The user manual is usually the last thing people are going to read, it is fundamental when it comes to a certain digital piano to have a step by step manual, as certain digital pianos present a very weird and not intuitive control panel.

  • Piano Stand and Piano restdigital piano stand

Not all digital piano comes with this important equipment, usually, the less expensive digitals do not provide users with a stand, a classical looking piano stand is usually is usually included when purchasing piano over the $800 range.A piano rest allows players to rest books, papers, pens etc.

 

USB port

One of the ports that digital pianos are equipped with is the USB port. This port is designed for digital pianos to have interaction with computers, all that is needed to connect the two is an AB USB cable.

The importance and utility of the USB port

Connecting a digital piano to a computer is the equivalent of having a digital piano on steroids, thanks to VST software it possible to virtually increase the polyphony, alter the tone, conduct advanced layering and much more.

Here is the catch, let’s say you have a digital piano that does not have an LCD screen, by simply connecting a piano to a pc you will be able to display the chords you are playing in real time through a software.

*This is just one of the benefits of having a digital piano with a USB port, the video below is a prime example of a USB performance.

Musical keyboard tips for beginnersConclusion

In this How to Buy a Digital Piano for Beginners Guide, we have gone through the most important features to detect the right piano as a beginner, we have talked about the keys, the polyphony, the hammer action, and brands. Keep in mind this are general guidelines, the best way to know if a digital piano is good for you is actually by playing it, unfortunately, this is not always possible.

When is not possible to play one yourself,  look for reviews, Our Pianokeysolution website is one of the many sources where anyone can check out digital pianos reviews.

I hope you have this article helpful, if so please comment and share it with your friends on social media.

 

 

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1 thought on “How to Buy a Digital Piano a Beginners Guide

  1. I like that you provided some tips on how to buy a digital piano such as understanding first the main difference between one and a keyboard. It is important to consider the main differences between the two to make sure that you are able to properly learn the keys and adjust appropriately to the instrument. Plus, you wouldn’t have a hard time carrying this instrument if you get used to its weight which is heavier than a keyboard. If I were to purchase a pre-owned piano, I would definitely take this into consideration. Thanks.

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