Monday, 3 October 2011

10 reasons to choose a Digital or Acoustic Piano - a guide to selecting

An acoustic piano is basically a traditional piano made out of wood, steel strings, with a wooden soundboard. It requires tuning of a minimum twice a year. Digital pianos as the name suggest are electronic pianos with touch response. A digital piano can be either a hybrid - combination of acoustic and digital, which are usually at the higher end range.

Roland Fp-7f Digital Piano, one of the state of the art digital pianos

Characteristics of Digital Pianos
  1. Digital pianos don't require tuning - tuning in the UK (London) can cost up to £55 ($85 usd) a piano.
  2. Depending on the model, can be very portable (especially the stage or performance models) and can be moved to different rooms, upstairs and downstairs of the house with ease. An acoustic piano would be very heavy indeed and would require a professional piano mover to do so to move up and down floors. 
  3. Are regulated evenly - so the touch response is even throughout the entire piano guaranteeing a consistent even touch. You can even vary the touch responsiveness of the keys too.
  4. The digital piano can be sampled on a more expensive and superior grand acoustic piano, so in effect you are gaining the recreated sound of a much more expensive piano at a cheaper price. 
  5. Can be used with headphones, so perfect for flats or apartments with thin walls.
  6. Additional sounds - you could have anything from a vibraphone, harpsichord or strings, and sound effects.
  7. Recording ability - play back your playing with a recording feature (not available on all models) 
  8. Midi - (not available on all models) capture your playing for computer studio recording and mixing 
  9. Some models have built-in metronomes and rhythm drum accompaniments (which is great for jazz and pop playing)
  10. Affordable with a range of prices to suit every budget.

Murray McLachlan, Chair of the European Piano Teachers Association, demonstrates the versatility the Yamaha Avant Grand N1 Digital Piano

Characteristics of Acoustic Pianos
  1. Harmonics - basically the strings of a piano will vibrate sympathetically with each other, the whole piano through it's wood will resonate, which in turn with the proper technique can produce a Singing quality.
  2. Double escapement - means you can play rapidly repeating notes, some digital pianos have started to introduce this, such as the Roland range.
  3. More nuance - to test this, hold down a key very gently to produce a small sound, the mid range digital pianos will have this feature.
  4. An acoustic piano is the minimum requirement to practice for serious concert performing, and a must if you are in the higher grades of piano 6-8 (ABRSM)
  5. Most piano exams are held on acoustic pianos, therefore, you'd have a distinct advantage in controlling the dynamics.
  6. They require tuning up to twice a year, which adds to the yearly cost.  Tuning in the UK (London) can cost up to £55 ($85 usd) a piano, so that's up to £110 ($160) a year in tuning possibly.
  7. Are not so portable, due to the weight of the steel strings and metal frame, you'll need a specialist mover to move an upright piano up a flight of steps.
  8. Performance of the piano is affected by  and can be damaged by atmospheric conditions - such as central heating (remember heat expands the components) or dampness (if stored in a garage - a no no - which can cause the soundboard to shrink)
  9. If buying used and privately, you'll need a piano technician to inspect the piano to make sure you're not getting a  lemon!
  10. Vary tremendously from one instrument to another in terms of the tone, touch (evenness) the pedaling (how far and how rigid you have to depress to get sustain)
How to Choose the Perfect (acoustic) Piano for you and your family (ABC 4 - Utah)

Acoustic Piano: The story of Estonia Pianos - hand crafted pianos from Estonia - virtuoso pianist Marc Andre Hamelin owns one!

Further Reading


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