Has it ever occurred to you whether you should buy a digital piano or acoustic piano for yourself or your child who is just starting to learn to play the piano? If so, this is the article for you! Here, we are going to compare the two types of pianos, weigh the pros and cons, and share with you our favourite piano models.
Digital Pianos: The Pros
Getting a digital piano has several advantages. For one, it doesn't incur the recurring maintenance fees that an acoustic piano would require, such as tuning, replacing worn out parts such as heaters, rusty strings, etc. Moreover, when comparing digital pianos to acoustic pianos of the same tier (e.g: entry-level to entry-level, mid-tier to mid-tier), digital pianos are usually cheaper. If costs and budget are high on your concerns, this is something that you might want to take into consideration. A digital piano would also give you the advantage of practicing silently. This might come in handy for folks who might not want to cause disturbances to other members of the household, such as a sleeping child. If you want to practice at night without disturbing your neighbors, the digital piano might just be the choice for you.
Digital pianos also provide a greater variety of sounds than acoustic pianos. Many entry-level to mid-tier digital pianos comes with other sounds such as electric pianos (rhodes, wurlitzer, DX pianos), keyboard percussions instruments (xylophone, marimba), harpsichord, organ (classical, pipe, hammond), strings, choirs, synthesizer pads, etc. However, it should be noted that in terms of variety and quality, the range of non-piano sounds offered by digital pianos usually do not come close in comparison with other types of keyboards such as arranger keyboards, stage keyboards/pianos, workstation keyboards, and synthesizers. Nevertheless, compared to acoustic pianos, a greater variety of sounds other than just the piano might be more inspiring especially to the young learner.
While the non-piano sounds on a digital piano usually pale in comparison to other classes of keyboards, the piano sounds on many digital pianos are derived from samples of high end piano models, and therefore sound better than many entry-level or mid-tier acoustic pianos, or acoustic pianos in the same price range.
Digital Piano: The Cons
Having samples of high end piano models can make a digital piano sound better than many acoustic pianos of the same price range, but it is also a double-edged sword. A long-time learner on a digital piano might be so used to the polished sounds of a digital piano, that he or she never learns to develop good tone on a real acoustic piano, is unable to adapt to playing one. For students intending to take up graded exams (eg. ABRSM, Trinity), or who intend to pursue any form of art music at a higher level, this might be a deal breaker.
Digital pianos are also unable to capture all the nuances of playing on a real piano, such as the resonance of the sustain pedal, the dynamic and tonal range of an acoustic piano. Moreover, the key actions and response of real pianos cannot be fully emulated by digital pianos.
Acoustic Pianos: The Pros
Having said that, nothing quite beats playing the real instrument. Learning to play on an acoustic piano helps to better develop good tone control and technique, as compared to a digital piano. Learning how a real piano responds to one's playing is vital to serious piano students. A long-time learner on an acoustic piano would be in a better position to adapt to playing different pianos (including digital) pianos, as compared to a long-time learner on a digital piano.
Acoustic Piano: The Cons
As mentioned earlier, acoustic pianos tend to be more expensive than digital pianos when comparing to their counterparts of similar tier (eg. an entry level piano would cost more than a digital piano of the same level). A decent exam model would set you back $4000 to $6000 at the time of this writing, whereas you could get very decent digital pianos of a similar tier at $1000 to $3000. Acoustic pianos also come with recurring maintenance costs such as tuning, which can range from $70 to $120 per tuning. Other costs include replacing of worn out parts such as heaters, rusty strings, damaged keys, etc.
For digital pianos, we absolutely love the Roland FP30 digital piano. At the time of this writing, the Roland FP30 can be bought from Luther Music at $999. The Roland FP30 uses the SuperNATURAL Piano sound generator - the same sound generator that Roland uses on their highest range of keyboards. Hence, despite the FP30's entry level price point, you are not shortchanged on the quality of the samples. Roland also did an excellent job with the key action on the FP30 and the dynamic range of the samples on the FP30 is staggering. We definitely enjoyed the touch response on the FP30 much more than any other competing keyboards at the same price range.
For acoustic pianos, we prefer the Yamaha U1 for starters. While a bit on the pricey side (~$8900 at the time of this writing), the U1 is an examination model that can last learners for a long time. As far a musical instruments goes, Yamaha also has had a reputation in their quality control.
Disclaimer: This article is made available for the purposes of giving you general information and general understanding of the subject of discussion and the above mentioned instruments/products, not to provide specific purchase advice or recommendation. PianoAtHomeSG disclaims any responsibility or liability relating to the purchase of the above mentioned instruments/products and shall under no circumstances whatsoever, be liable for any special, incidental or consequential damages or loss which may arise from such purchases.