When it comes to purchasing any product, information can be limited. Because of this, you might purchase the wrong item. You might even purchase what you initially wanted but soon become unsatisfied with it. It’s just hard for people to buy something when they don’t have all the necessary information.
So, one day, I decided that I just wanted to help people like Superman except not really. I’ve just been in the piano business for a long time so I can give some basic tips when it comes to purchasing a digital piano. There are literally hundreds of models for digital pianos now so I can understand why some people don’t even know where to start.
I’m sure you’ve searched “digital piano” on Google only to find over 5 million results. You might have even resorted to going to a local store only to find dozens of models. Hey, it’s an improvement but when they have names like P95 or MP6, you’re still as confused as ever. Finally, you probably asked a salesman for advice before you quickly noticed that he’s trying to sell something rather than help you.
Now, with the help of this guide, you’ll know where to start and what you want.
Step One: The Who
Before you purchase anything, you have to first decide who this is for. Is it for yourself? Is it for your wife, who loves pianos? Is it for a 7-year-old child? All these decisions matter when it comes to choosing a digital piano. Before you do anything, take this into consideration. You might even have multiple users for this piano. In that case, you would want to meet the expectations of the most advanced player. For example, with an entry-level digital piano, a beginner won’t mind but an advanced player will. With a higher-end digital piano, both the beginner and the expert will be satisfied. Therefore, it’s important to meet the expectations of the most advanced player.
Everything else will revolve around this first step.
Step Two: The Feel
In my opinion, after deciding who this will be for, the feel of the piano is the next most important part when it comes to purchasing a piano. To clarify, play a note on one end of the acoustic piano. Now play another note on the opposite end. What you’ll notice is that the lower note is a bit heavier than the higher note. What happens is that when you press a key on a piano, you are actually lifting a hammer to hit the string, causing it to vibrate. This makes sound (source: my awesome physics knowledge). The hammers for the lower notes are a bit heavier than the hammers for the higher notes, which explains why those keys feel heavier. In addition, when you press the key too slowly (or lightly), the hammer never reaches the string so you never hear a sound.
With that said, digital pianos emulate this weighted feeling. There are many variations, and the best ones feel like a real acoustic piano while the cheap ones simply don’t. For example, the Yamaha brands have the GHS (Graded Hammer Standard) and the GH/GHE (Graded Hammer Effect). The GHS is typically in the entry-level digital pianos. It feels lighter than the GH. Most beginners don’t notice, but the more advanced players tend to prefer the GH action keyboards.
I believe this step to be the most important step in choosing your piano. If you don’t like the feel of it, then you will be continuously bothered by your own digital piano. Sometimes, the keys feel too plastic. You wouldn’t want that now, would you? Some people argue that the sound is more important than the feel. Regardless, everyone will agree that these two aspects are crucial to buying a digital piano. This brings us to our next step…
Step Three: The Sound
The sound of the music is potentially just as important as the feel of the keyboard. It’s important for the digital piano to feel like an actual piano. That should be a given.
All piano companies strive to duplicate the grand piano sound. For example, when you play a key, it will sound different depending on how hard you press it. The most basic digital pianos do not have this feature. These pianos are not velocity-sensitive. The more expensive pianos are velocity sensitive, and it differs from piano to piano. Some digital pianos may only have one velocity layer. Some may have 10 velocity layers. Of course, more layers generally mean more expressivity in your performances. You can truly bring your composition to life because these digital pianos notice all the nuances and subtleties in your performance.
You must make sure that the piano sounds the way you want. Sometimes, you can listen to them online or watch YouTube videos. I recommend going to an actual shop with headphones.
Unlike acoustic pianos, digital pianos can also sound like any other instrument possible! Yes, it’s that awesome. Some digital pianos have 535 instruments! Others might only have 10. Generally, you are purchasing the digital piano for its actual piano sounds so these other instruments may not matter too much.
Another thing to note is that some people might complain about how the piano sounds when it actually isn’t bad. A common mistake is confusing the sound of the piano and the speakers. Some pianos play great, but their speakers are bad. In this case, simply using headphones or external speakers will improve the sound quality greatly. On the other hand, some pianos are just bad. No matter what type of tool you use to listen to the music, it won’t sound like a genuine piano. That’s why I recommend taking headphones to a store to listen to the piano.
Overall, both the feel of the keys and the sound of the pianos are vital aspects when choosing a digital piano for that special person or those special people.
Step Four: The Features
“Voices”, “tones”, and “sounds” are just another way of saying instruments. With a digital piano, you are able to play the guitar, drums, or any other instrument possible. It enables even beginners to create beautiful-sounding music with basic piano knowledge.
Generally, entry-level digital pianos will only have a few voices. It still gives you a variety of instruments though. If you’re into other instruments (and I know many of you are), you’ll want to know exactly which sounds it includes and how they sound.
“Polyphony” represents how many notes can be played simultaneously. For example, the Casio PX-130 has a 128-polyphony. That means it can play up to 128 different notes at the same time. If you exceed that number, the first note you played disappears. Therefore, higher is generally better.
A 128-note polyphony is more than enough for most. For beginners, a 32-note polyphony should be enough. Even though higher is better, having a lower polyphony does not mean that the piano is bad. After all, it’s just an overload of features if you aren’t going to use it. Beginners most likely won’t need that much so take this into consideration if you are a beginner.
“Reverb” is a feature that can give off the vibe that you are in a concert hall. For example, if you tried playing a digital piano with external speakers in your room, the sound will bounce off the walls and sort of give a natural reverb. The reverb feature creates that effect without having external speakers or being in a concert hall.
“Chorus” is almost self-explanatory. This feature gives off the vibe that the note is being played as a group. If you use this effect, then it’s more like 20 pianos are playing at the same time.
As you can see, digital pianos have a lot of other features. I only mentioned a very small percentage of features. Some digital pianos can be split into two. Others let you customize your own sound. The features can be endless. Take into consideration what features you would want before purchasing a digital piano.
Step Five: Portability
I like portable digital pianos because I travel a lot. By “travel”, I don’t mean across countries. I’m just usually not home because I just can’t stay in one place. I have to be moving. Wouldn’t a portable digital piano like the Yamaha NP30 be nice? I know many people who have two digital pianos. They keep one at home, generally the more expensive digital piano. Then they have a second, lighter digital piano that they use when they travel.
Also, even if you don’t care about portability, you might care about the weight. Some digital pianos can be very heavy so if you’re a petite girl, you might need some help assembling and carrying the piano to the spot you want.
Step Six: Durability
You should also think about how long you plan on having this piano. For example, lets say you are still a beginner but you’re approaching the intermediate level. It’s better to buy something like the Roland FP7 or Yamaha YPG635 than the Yamaha NP30.
In addition, there’s no definite way to determine durability, but you can read reviews online. Some companies like the Yamaha are known to make durable pianos.
Step Seven: The Cost
Hey, now. Music is good for the soul. When it comes to purifying your soul and getting the digital piano of your dreams, the cost should be the last thing on your mind. Alright. That was a joke. I’m just assuming anybody who is thinking of purchasing anything already takes the cost into consideration.
Now, go buy that digital piano!
There you have it! This is my very simple guide on purchasing the correct digital piano. Using these 7 steps, you should be able to find any digital pianos that you may want.