What are the differences? How do I choose?
What is the difference between an acoustic piano and a digital piano?
An acoustic piano is a 100% mechanical instrument that has hammers and keys that strike strings to produce sound.
A digital piano is an electronic instrument that imitates the sound and feel of an acoustic piano through digital technology. Many digital pianos feel and sound very similar to acoustic pianos and there are advantages and disadvantages to owning both types of instruments.
Is there a difference between a digital piano and an electronic keyboard?
Digital pianos and electronic keyboards are two different types of instruments. Digital pianos are full size instruments with 88 keys and a built-in pedal mechanism. While digital pianos are an electronic reproduction of a piano, they have weighted keys that are touch sensitive and are carefully designed to feel and respond to the player as an acoustic piano does. Most piano teachers still prefer an acoustic piano to a digital piano. However, there are situations that call for a digital piano and every year manufacturers continue to improve the sound quality and realistic touch of digital pianos.
Electronic keyboards are not full size. Some have 4 octaves, while others have 5 or 6 octaves. Electronic keyboards do not have weighted keys or a pedal. Most keyboards have a pedal jack on the back which can be used with a pedal attachment. Many keyboards do not have touch sensitive keys which means that the player must manually adjust the volume setting to achieve changes in dynamics. In addition, electronic keyboards have an “auto-chord” feature and “auto-harmony” feature which allow the student to play harmony and chords without knowing what the chords are. This can discourage thorough understanding of chords and impedes music reading skills. Because of these differences, a piano student will be limited by their instrument if it is an inexpensive electronic keyboard.
What are the advantages and disadvantages to owning an acoustic piano versus a digital piano?
Owning a quality instrument is very important because it sets up the student for success. Both acoustic and digital pianos are appropriate depending upon the situation. See your instructor for more specifics about purchasing a quality instrument and how to decide which kind to get. Below is a table listing the advantages and disadvantages for both types of pianos.
An electric keyboard can work as a practice instrument for about one year of study provided it has the necessary “piano” features on it. Those are: touch sensitive keys, five or more octaves, a pedal attachment, a stand and seat that allow the player to maintain proper playing posture and hand position. After 1-2 years of study, piano and electric keyboard become two different instruments. A piano has much heavier keys which require more strength and dexterity than a keyboard. Pedaling on a piano and a keyboard are also quite different because an electric keyboard creates the pedal effect digitally rather than mechanically as in a piano. Both instruments require different pedal techniques to create the same sound effect. Frankly, most keyboards limit the range of expression and control that the player can produce. Therefore, acoustic pianos or digital pianos are preferred over electric keyboards.
Allow maximum control of musical expression.
The student learns the fine points of playing technique from the beginning of study.
Appreciate in value over time. The longer you own an acoustic instrument the more it will be worth.
Add beauty and elegance to any home.
Can be an heirloom.
Require a lot of space in a person’s home.
Need regular tuning and maintenance.
Can be difficult and expensive to move.
Have a streamlined design and require less space in a person’s home than an acoustic piano.
Do not require regular tuning and maintenance.
Allow the player to utilize digital sound effects and transpose music at the push of a button.
Are lighter than acoustic pianos and easy to move.
Can sound like an “imitation” of an acoustic piano.
Do not have the same feel and response as an acoustic piano which can limit the player’s technique and expression.
Depreciate in value over time because they are a piece of technology and there are new, better models put out every year.
Do not have the elegance or presence in the home as a piece of furniture or an heirloom.