So you’re looking to jump into the world of pianos? Fantastic! We know that sometimes things can be a little overwhelming when first trying to decide on the types of piano out there and how to know what might be the best instrument for you!
Today we wanted to help break down those barriers and help find the right instrument for you and discuss the main things to consider when considering buying a digital piano. So without further ado, let’s dive in!
We recently wrote about the differences between a keyboard and a digital piano, so for the purposes of this article, if you’re unsure on which is which, you may want to read that first as here we are specifically speaking about digital pianos, be that portable digital pianos, home digital pianos, or even hybrid digital pianos.
In order to begin breaking down the concepts of what makes up a digital piano, it’s firstly important to understand how they interact with each other. Ultimately, most digital pianos can be boiled down to 4 main parts.
- The Keyboard
- The Action
- The Processor
- The Sound System
All of these components work together in some way or another in order to create the sound and touch sensation that you are looking for when playing your piano. If one of them doesn’t quite meet the expectation that you are looking for, then it’s not going to be the right piano for you! For example, your piano may have the best action imaginable, but if the sound system isn’t quite right, you won’t enjoy playing it as much! Or if the speakers are amazing, but the piano’s processor isn’t able to keep up with your play, again you’ll lose the enjoyment from your playing experience.
We won’t spend much time on the keyboard as generally speaking, the keyboards don’t differ an enormous amount between models. The best way to think of the keyboard is similar to the tyres of a car, it acts as the one interface between you, the player, and the piano.
Most lower end digital pianos use plastic keys in order to keep costs down, however many have created synthetic textures in order to attempt to replicate the wooden feel of a real acoustic piano.
On higher end models however, to give a far more authentic playing experience, most manufacturers use either a wooden key or a mix between plastic and wood to try to replicate that of the acoustic piano that little bit further. These models also typically have a much longer keystick length than the lower end in order to allow for more pivot, control and thus more expression within your playing.
The action is the part of the piano that many associate with expression. The action is what helps draw out the nuances and subtleties within your play and thus determines how the piano keys hit the sensors when pressed.
The action also determine how the key responds to being touched and how fast it is able to return. This means it can become a highly limiting factor when it comes to progressing your playing. For example, particularly as you begin reaching the more advanced levels of playing, if your keys are not returning fast enough, then you will be unable to play certain pieces.
Ultimately the action is all to do with how the key responds to your input. In the early stages of learning, the pieces you will play are relatively simple melodies and chord shapes, so the responsiveness of the action is less of a problem, however as you develop, the pieces become more complicated, the speeds, dynamics and repetition will become more important.
When we speak about the processor, we’re effectively speaking about the computer or the ‘brain’ of the digital piano. This is all to do with how the computer interprets how each key is pressed and which sounds it needs to output into the speakers.
Much like when you are running too many softwares on a basic laptop it becomes slow, a piano computer is the same. If there are too many notes being played for it to handle, then you’ll lose some of them whilst it tries to catch up.
Piano processors are truly incredible as they are able to distinguish tiny changes in your play in order to generate the correct sample based on how hard the key is being pressed. This is also highly linked to the piano’s polyphony and how many notes can be played at once.This is one of the biggest differences between digital and acoustic instruments as acoustic instruments technically have unlimited polyphony.
Sound recording sampling has become so advanced now that it’s not uncommon for 10-100 different samples to have been recorded for every key based on how hard it was pressed or what other effects are in motion. Other manufacturers such as Roland have also taken sound creation to unique levels through their SuperNATURAL sound generation and are able to use their digital piano processors to ‘create’ the sound based on how hard the key is pressed.
Processors vary based on the quality of the piano, for example most low end pianos have far more basic processing capacity than the higher end market. Exactly the same as a low end laptop will be far slower than a shiny state of the art gaming laptop!
The Sound System
Finally, but certainly not least, let’s talk about the sound system, or speaker system. Digital piano speakers work exactly the same as any other speaker you might come across, such as the speakers on your phone, in your car or on your home devices.
Essentially, the data from the processor is passed through to the speakers and projected out into the air. The speaker system is essentially what gives the piano its voice and how it’s sound meets the ear when played acoustically.
The size, shape and how many speakers the piano has will also determine things like how loud the piano can be played, how the sound meets the ear and spreads out into the room. Generally speaking, for those on the lower end, you’ll typically have two smaller speakers that carry less wattage and a smaller amplifier or speaker cones than that of a higher end piano, however other factors such as the portability of the piano may also determine this.
Which Piano Is Right For Me?
Generally speaking, as we head through the ranges, at least one of the above factors will change and set that piano at a different price point.
For example, it’s not uncommon to see the same action used throughout a piano range, however as the price increased, the speaker system or processor may become more advanced. This all depends on the manufacturer as each one places emphasis on different parts of their pianos.
The important thing to note here however is that all of them should meet your expectation before selecting your piano, for example if your piano does have a fantastic action but sounds terrible, you won’t enjoy playing it, but likewise if you piano has amazing speakers but a terrible action, you won’t be able to express yourself as intended.
There are a few other, secondary factors that you might want to consider before purchasing your piano, for example colour and the style of cabinet. Most home digital pianos typically come in Satin Black, Satin White and Satin Rosewood. However others can come in a selection of colours or finishes, for example the PXS-1000 has a red option or the Roland F701 has a light oak finish.
In terms of cabinet style, this is also where we can begin discussing:
Do you need your piano to be portable or easily stored away? If you are planning on moving your piano around every week then you may want to consider a portable instrument, however if the piano is generally being kept in the same place, a home digital piano will be a far better choice.
Home pianos (and selected portables) do come in a cabinet that is based on either a traditional upright piano footprint, or a more modern, legless design. Ultimately this has no effect on the piano’s playability, however as these pianos are also large pieces of furniture, it is worth considering what you would like to look at the most!
Does It Need To Be Digital?
A lot of people often would love to be able to play on an acoustic instrument, but opt for digital pianos because they either a) Believe they are more affordable than acoustic instruments or b) Need the piano to be able to play silently. However what many people are often unaware of is that almost any acoustic piano can be fitted with a silent system and that acoustic pianos can also be rented too.
Obviously for those who perhaps live in flats or small apartments on high floors, digital is likely the best option, however for those who have the space and are learning with a teacher or are interested in seriously developing their playing technique as no digital will ever be able to truly replicate the feel of a real acoustic.
One thing to consider for high standard players, is that higher end digitals such as hybrid pianos may be an option to consider due to an upright acoustic actions being less responsive than grand piano actions.
So there you have it! A rough guide to buying a digital pianos, we hope you enjoyed and now have a little more understanding into what goes into these incredible instruments! To learn more, or speak to our experts, contact us today!