First Time Piano Buyers Guide: Digital Vs Acoustic Pianos

Buying your first piano can be a little overwhelming! More often than not, the first question that every aspiring pianist (or parent) faces is: "Should I pick a digital or an acoustic for my first piano?"

Today we’ll be breaking down the real differences between the two, the pros, the cons and the top things to look out for to help give you a fully comprehensive guide to starting your musical journey. If you would like any further information on our full range of pianos, our expert team are here to help. You can book a demonstration or get in touch with us today!


Before looking at the current world of pianos, it’s a good idea to take a step back and see how far we have come. Long gone are the days of terribly constructed digital synthesisers with it’s clunky 1980s melodica sounds and for the most part, digital pianos are now far more sophisticated, offering a level of touch sensitivity and weighted keys to replicate that of an acoustic...

However this is also their biggest downfall, emphasis on the word 'replicate'. Ultimately a digtial piano will never match the acoustic properties or touch response of a real acoustic instrument, however close they may come (and there are some fantastic examples of digital piano innovation out there!)

or many, the reason they get started with piano is to one day own a real acoustic, be it a grand or upright. Many however often feel they have to opt for digital pianos over acoustic pianos due to convenience such as noise restrictions or space, and whilst there are new and improved options to help overcome these concerns - See silent pianos, for some, digtial pianos are a great option.

One of the other main reasons that many are concerned about purchasing an acoustic piano over a digital, particularly for parents, is the idea that their child may give up later down the line, this is where options such as piano rental can be a fantastic choice. 

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Finding The Right Piano For Your Needs

A great place to start when trying to pick your first piano is simply to ask the question, what do you want to achieve from it.

It’s easy to say ‘I want to learn piano’, but what do you really mean by this? Do you want to play in a concert hall in front of the masses? Just learn some of your favourite songs for fun in your bedroom? Or even just use it to record some songs at home?

This is where conversations around actions and touch response will begin to come into play, whilst this generally won't affect the beginner pianist, for those looking to advance their skills, at a certain level (around grade 3-4+), you may begin to notice that a basic piano action found on entry level digtial instruments cannot keep up with your playing. 

This is where your piano may begin showing signs of holding you back, placing you in an interesting dilemma of either having to put up with the inferior instrument, or invest in a new piano. This is why we often recommend people to think to the future when purchasing a piano and finding an insturment that is going to help support their future learning instead of hindering it.

The opposite side of this is also functionality of the instrument in your home. If you’re looking to store your piano in a tight space, a grand piano probably isn’t appropriate...We have written extensively about this in our guide to positioning your piano and our guides to finding the right sized piano for your home.

It is also worth noting that because pianos are such large pieces of furniture as well as being fantastic musical instruments, you'll want them to fit with the theme of your home...don't worry, we've got a guide for that too!


Touch & Tone

When purchasing your first piano, it’s important that it feels comfortable to you when you use it. Whilst this may be a little confusing for a new player, there are certain pieces of subjectivity that come into selecting a piano, mostly in touch and tone, that is the way the piano feels and also how it sounds.

These are less important points for the beginner player, however will come up relatively quickly if you are looking to progress your playing, and ultimately add a great deal to your enjoyment of the instrument. If you are finding that a piano does not feel or sound right, then it's not the one for you! Learn more about different tonal design characteristics here.

That’s why at Millers we offer every customer the opportunity to experience our showrooms in our personalised demonstration process to help feel and hear each instrument they are interested in.

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Whilst the acoustic piano uses a physical action to create its sound, digital pianos attempt to replicate the sound of a hammer striking a piano string at various speeds and strengths. This is done in varying levels of success and particularly at higher levels of play, many pianists will find the difference in touch between a digtial and an acoustic piano incredibly large.

In short, the better the piano, the more accurately it translates the player's intent. On a really well-built piano, there are literally thousands of tiny nuances that the player is able to draw out of the instrument simply by how they’re touching the keys. Obviously a digital pianos find it a little harder to replicate this, but it’s certainly not impossible.

Things To Watch Out For

When finding their first piano, many opt for budget over quality. Whilst this is reasonable, it is something to think strongly about, especially when looking at either secondhand pianos or free pianos found online.

In our personal opinion, don’t opt for a piano with less than 88 keys. This is the staple, but more often than not, we see a lot of people buying compact keyboards (which are entirely different from pianos) with perhaps 44 or 61 keys. It may sound more suitable for children, but trust us, it usually isn’t. Pretty soon you’ll see that those low and high keys pop up more often than you might think!

Ultimately, buying your first piano is an incredibly personal experience and it would be impossible to cover all needs and intents in one article as every requirement is different. That is why we would highly encourage booking a demonstration with our experts who will be able to help quality your requirement and find the perfect piano to support your learning whilst also finding a piano that fits with your home, budget and requirements.

So hopefully that has offered some brief insight into the fantastic musical world of the piano, what you can expect and some of the things to look out for when first getting started. If you would like further help or more information, explore our other blog posts here. Likewise, if you would like expert in person advice, our showroom team would love to help you!

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