Digital pianos are becoming a more popular option in comparison to traditional pianos thanks to their affordability and high-quality elements of piano sound which make them sound like the real deal.
But if you are making a switch from traditional pianos to digital pianos then you might be wondering just how different they are to play with. For keys, higher-end digital pianos have the standard 88-key digital pianos set up just like an acoustic piano.
To find out more about how the keys work on a digital piano, different key set-ups available, the types of higher-end digital pianos on the market and how they match up to acoustic pianos, we have put together a comprehensive guide below that will tell you all you need to know.
First of all, before we get into more detail about the type of key set-ups you can look for on your digital piano and the different types of keys to choose from out there, it's a good idea to understand how these digital piano type models work and their functions.
Digital pianos are similar to piano keyboard types except they come with weighted keys and an 88-key setup unlike your standard keyboard, behind each key are samples that produce acoustic replica tones, making these pianos nicer to play for an experienced piano player.
The samples on a digital piano are recorded straight from an acoustic piano and make different velocity tones according to the acoustic piano sound key you press, the more expensive your digital pianos, then the better these samples will sound as your piano will likely come with more memory to store different sounds.
We will list the main functions/terms you might encounter when looking at a digital piano for the first time down below.
Not all digital pianos have the 88-key piano set up, you can also buy types of digital pianos that have a 32-key setup, 36 and 37 key setups. These types of electric piano tend to start with a C or F note due to the setup.
Digital pianos can come with longer electronic keyboards too which go from 49, 54 and 61, these types of keyboards start with a C note.
Finally, for the more acoustic-like digital pianos which have a 76 or 88 key setup start with an A note.
Traditionally, pianos are made with 88 keys in total as they are said to give the best sound options and centre the musician so as you can have equal access to all notes on the piano when needed, this allows you to play a bigger variety of music than small key set-ups on pianos.
We have listed the best types of key sets according to your piano playing level below.
As well as digital pianos coming with a wide range of different keyboards, these keys are also different when it comes to their weight, most of the high-quality types of keyboards have a weighted design to make them feel more real like a traditional piano.
We have listed the different types of weighted keys your digital piano might come with below.
These types of digital pianos are often the most affordable and use a spring-loaded mechanism for their keys, the keys have a plastic feel and are not great for replicating how a real piano feels and sounds because of this.
Overall, these types of pianos are entry-level digital pianos that are best for playing a range of music as well as fast note repetitions but are not cut out for people who want to learn to play a real piano.
Semi-weighted keys on digital pianos are closer to acoustic piano keyboard types. These keys have more additional weights than synth keyboards but still, use the same spring-loaded mechanism as above.
For people who want a balance between heavy and lighter keys, a semi-weighted digital piano is your best bet.
Lastly, we have hammer action keyboards, these keys have little hammers underneath to mimic the feel of a real acoustic piano.
Hammer keys are best for practising on if you want a digital piano which can help you play on an acoustic one too as they help you develop finger strength and understanding of notes, make sure you get a model with an 88-key set up to learn on a traditional piano.
Now we know all about how digital pianos work and the different keyboard setups that they come with we can get into the different types of digital pianos which are available on the market.
According to the type of digital piano you get, this will change the number of keys available on the piano.
Console type of digital pianos are popular models if you are after a digital piano that is very similar to an acoustic in terms of looks. These pianos will come with piano pedals and weighted keys which enables you to practice your playing on a more acoustic-like piano.
The disadvantages of console pianos are the console pianos weight which makes them less portable, these kinds of pianos tend to be the most expensive on the market too.
These are similar to a console type of digital pianos and are like acoustic pianos, they are the most expensive and will often feature high-quality multi-sound speakers as well as wooden weighted hammer keys for the most realistic feel.
For people who are after portable digital pianos, slab pianos might be your best choice. These kinds of digital pianos look very much like keyboards except they come with a full 88 key setup and acoustic piano keyboard weighted keys for a more real feel.
Due to them having no stand or base, these slab pianos can be moved around anywhere without issues making them one of the most portable pianos, they are often cheaper than upright or console models too so are perfect for people who want to gets serious about piano playing but are on a budget.
These digital grand pianos are less common due to their high price and size but are worth it if you are after impressive sound quality due to their large speaker systems and high-quality keys. These pianos are typically made by brands such as Yamaha or Kawai.
Digital pianos can come with some impressive weighted key set-ups which make them very acoustic-like and natural to play on, they can also be more affordable than your standard acoustic piano, which begs the question, why would you choose an acoustic piano instead?
We have compared both digital pianos and acoustic pianos below in terms of their feel to play and other features so as you can see which keyboard might suit you for playing on.
First off, let's start with digital pianos, these types of keyboards in terms of design and key set-up come in a wide range more than traditional acoustic pianos do. The sound of digital pianos in comparison to acoustic pianos has even been argued to be better performing as acoustic pianos need a fair amount of maintenance to keep the quality of their tune.
Downfalls of playing a digital piano in comparison to an acoustic one have to be their pedal which does not replicate a real damper sound. When it comes to the keys specifically, although you can buy weighted digital pianos they do not feel the same as the hammer mechanism does on an acoustic piano.
In comparison to digital pianos, acoustic piano types are the best when it comes to key sensitivity thanks to their hammer action behind each one, this makes two notes never the same giving the piano more dynamic range. Due to how acoustic pianos are made they have a more natural sound too.
Negatives of acoustic pianos in comparison to digital models have to be their high maintenance and lack of portability, keys are often harder to fix and they lack electric features which can help your produce unique music.
Overall, in terms of keys and how they feel, we would have to say a traditional acoustic piano is your best option as these types of pianos have a weighted hammer mechanism and excellent touch sensitivity which makes playing a better experience.
If your after a more customised key set-up and don't want the extra weight then you might opt for a digital piano in this case.
Now we have compared the keys and general specs of a digital and acoustic piano, we should also take time to note the differences between a keyboard and digital piano since they are so closely related.
Digital pianos will always have the upper hand over a keyboard when it comes to how they feel to play, this is because these pianos typically have weighted keys and 88-key set-ups which makes them more like an acoustic piano.
These types of pianos have better additions such as pedals and sample sound quality too which makes them even more enjoyable to play.
Some drawbacks of playing with digital pianos in comparison to keyboards have to be their heavier weight which makes them less portable and higher price due to their better feel and sound.
Professional keyboards on the other hand rarely come with weighted keys and have synth technology instead which make them less acoustic-like to play with. They usually only come with a limited 66-key instrument or 72-key instrument set-ups too, not the full 88.
Keyboards do have the advantages of being lightweight however and great for beginners who are getting to grips with piano playing on a budget. For sound effects and sound customisation, you may find these devices are better too.
Overall, a digital piano is hands down the best option if you are looking for the best piano to play with in comparison to a keyboard because of its better-weighted keys and full acoustic piano keyboard set-up.
We would only suggest choosing a keyboard instead of a digital piano for playing if you are on a budget or you are interested in more sound effects than actual instrument sound.
Along the line after you invest in your best digital piano you might run into problems such as broken keys, luckily, fixing broken keys on a digital piano is not as hard as fixing them on an acoustic upright piano.
We have listed out two ways to fix broken and stuck keys on both a digital grand piano and standard upright model down below.
If you find that your electric instruments keys are completely dead or unresponsive then you might need to switch them out for brand new ones to solve the problem.
We have listed how to do this step by step below.
One of the most attractive options and features about digital pianos in comparison to an acoustic instruments has to be their electronic functions. Many of these pianos have easy to use set-ups but this doesn't mean they aren't difficult to play.
We have listed our best tips for playing your digital piano as a beginner down below.
What is a workstation keyboard?
Workstation keyboards are one of the more expensive models of musical instruments as they come with essential computer-based music systems included for editing music, these are a great choice for piano players who want a more professional contemporary piano too as they have weighted keys.
How do I identify keys on a piano?
One of the greatest ways to identify the different keys on your piano is by noticing the pattern between the white piano keys and black piano keys.
These are generally spread out in repeating patterns of two and three black keys, the C note is the outside left to the group of two black keys on your piano, you then follow the musical alphabet up the keys again till you meet C which will be one octave higher.
You can always write these down on your piano keys with a marker for reference.
What are some tips for learning notes on a piano?
The best way to learn notes on the piano in terms of beginners is with practice as well as your ears and hands which will get used to learning notes over time, once you recognise the black and white pattern on your keys learning will be much easier.
Is there a difference between black and white piano keys?
The black keys on a piano in terms of looks act as a visual cue for dividing the white notes upon a piano, there also help for the C major scale in a single song.
What are samples?
Samples are what provides the electric piano tones when each key is pressed during playing the instrument, these are an electronic recording of the acoustic piano action.
Are there portable digital pianos?
Yes, the best type of portable digital piano for adults is a slab piano as these types of pianos have no base or stand needed to be played with, reducing their weight and size, expensive models will still have an 88-key set and weighted keys for professional use.
What are piano pedals for?
Acoustic piano pedal types can be used to change how a single song sounds in three different ways through pressing each pedal, most stage pianos will have a damper resonance pedal, soft pedal and sostenuto pedal which is in the middle.
How many keys does a classical piano have?
A contemporary piano comes with 88-keys as most traditional models do making them the best choice for professional piano players.
Do digital pianos have built-in speakers?
Yes, nearly every digital piano has built-in speakers and can be used with external speakers too once linked, you get the sound option with most digital pianos to use the musical instrument with a pair of headphones too.
What is the escapement mechanism on a digital piano?
The escapement mechanism was developed on a digital piano to mirror how an acoustic piano for adults sounds by escaping the connection when the key, this produces a sustained note similar to an acoustic model when the key is pressed and your hand moves away.
Do digital pianos have recording features?
Many digital pianos will have recording features through their MIDI connection which allows you to pair the digital piano up with a USB to a computer.
What is a Bluetooth MIDI function?
Instead of using a cable, digital pianos with a Bluetooth MIDI connection allows you to send an audio signal to a compatible Bluetooth device without the need for MIDI ports.
Are there any must-have digital piano accessories?
Like all musical instruments when you buy your digital piano you will likely need to buy some accessories for it too. Some essential accessories to get with your piano are a dust cover, stand/bench, music light and damper resonance pedal to produce better sound effects.
Do digital pianos have built-in songs?
You might find a few basic effects and interactive features on your digital piano but they will not have as your standard keyboard does due to their focus on replicating acoustic pianos rather than built-in songs.
What is a damper resonance pedal?
A damper resonance pedal sustains a music note once keys are pressed down on an acoustic piano, this creates a resonance as the note is prolonged.
To conclude, on a digital piano, popular modes will typically come with the appealing option of an 88-key set just like acoustic pianos have to give you the best-advanced play options in terms of music. You can get digital pianos with weighted keys too and small key options if you are a beginner or want a more affordable piano.