Everyone knows that pianos need tuning every so often in order to sound their best, but what’s the story with digital pianos?
If you play an instrument of if you’ve ever taken a music lesson (yes, even in school because you HAD to), you probably know that most instruments require a bit of TLC to keep them sounding just right. Digital pianos go against the grain in that unlike most other instruments, they do not require tuning.
In fact, not only do they not require regular tuning, they never go out of tune and therefore will NEVER require tuning at all. The reason for this is quite simple but first, what is a digital piano?
What Exactly is a Digital Piano?
To anyone that doesn’t know, the term “digital piano” might sound quite sci-fi or futuristic. We’re so used to seeing images and videos of standard upright pianos, fancier grand pianos, and a mixture of variations between that the word “digital” might throw us for a loop.
We hear “piano” and think of Mozart and Bach and Beethoven, none of whom can be easily pictured with any sort of advanced digital instrument! Orchestras and ballets don’t usually use digital pianos either!
But once we get our head around the idea of a digital piano, they’re simpler than they might seem.
Digital pianos are a type of electronic keyboard and are commonly used as an alternative to more traditional acoustic pianos.
Digital Pianos VS Standard Acoustic Pianos
Whilst standard acoustic pianos are generally fairly large, heavy, and not very portable, digital pianos are lighter and less bulky, making them easier to move around and handle. Moving into a fifth storey flat with dodgy accessibility? A digital piano might be a better option than acoustic!
Digital pianos are generally the same length as acoustic pianos, have the same number of keys (88) and subsequently cover the same octave range as an acoustic piano (6 octaves). This makes them very similar and therefore, for all intents and purposes, a great alternative to a standard one.
The most important difference however lies in how the sounds are made.
With an acoustic piano, sound is created by vibrations through the instrument, as the term “acoustic” suggests. As you press a key, the corresponding piano string is struck which causes a vibration that reverberates through the piano, being amplified off something called a soundboard.
Digital pianos do not rely on this kind of vibration, and work simply by recording, storing, and playing back sounds.
Where Do Digital Piano Sounds Come From?
Digital pianos have an internal memory, usually in the form of a memory card or chip, and these can range in capacity from model to model. Each sound that the keys of a digital piano make are actually pre-recorded sounds that are stored in the piano’s memory.
In essence, each key on a digital piano is a button that plays a specific sound.
In terms of amplification, where an acoustic piano uses a soundboard to diffuse the sound and therefore amplify it, digital pianos simply use built-in speakers. Most digital pianos will have a volume knob where the player can adjust how loudly they want to play.
The keys on a digital piano are often connected to very responsive sensors which means it often requires less effort to play a digital piano than it does an acoustic one. You don’t have to work as hard to play an equally rich sound.
For more information on the differences between digital and acoustic piano sounds, check out this link.
Why Do Digital Pianos Never Go Out of Tune?
So, we’ve now covered how digital pianos are able to make all the same sounds as acoustic pianos, and the role of the digital piano’s internal memory. The beauty of digital pianos is that as long as this memory remains unaltered, the sounds of each key stroke will remain as pristine as they did on day one!
Whereas acoustic piano strings will loosen over time, giving way to unsavoury sounds if left un-tuned, digital piano sounds do not rely on any additional components in order to sound good. The only thing that matters is that the memory storing the pre-recorded sounds remains undamaged and intact.
This is another point in favour of the digital piano – there’s no need to shell out on expensive piano tuner fees!
Other Cool Digital Piano Features
So already you might be thinking, “hey, digital pianos seem like the way to go!” but the benefits of having a digital piano don’t end at the lack of tuning. There are also loads of additional extras and modifications you can get to take your digital piano to the next level.
For one, most digital pianos have an in-built MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) output which enables the player to connect the piano to a computer. Why would you want to do this?
Well, for musicians and producers, it’s important to have creative freedom and range. Connecting your digital piano to a computer gives you the power to use different kinds of software to modify the sounds recorded when you play.
In other words:
- You play the digital piano whilst recording what you play.
- You connect your piano to your laptop via MIDI output.
- You access your recorded music from your laptop and use your chosen software to edit the music, change the sounds, add in extra sounds etc.
This opens up a whole new world of musical possibilities and the only limit to what you can produce is your own creativity.
Majority of digital pianos will also have headphone jacks, which means you’ll be able to play at any time of the day or night without disturbing your family, housemates, or neighbours. If you’re just starting out and want to practice in privacy, headphones can also come in handy.
Most digital pianos will come with a music stand so that you can have your sheet music or music theory books right in front of you as you play. If there’s a model without this feature in-built then it’s very easy to get hold of a separate one that can be easily attached.
Style and Design
Digital pianos come in various styles and designs so you can get a custom experience depending on what you like and where you’ll be playing. There are different kinds of digital pianos modelled after popular acoustic piano styles including:
- Closely resembles an acoustic upright piano.
- Commonly used in homes, classrooms, and other small settings.
- Modelled after traditional grand pianos with the added luxury of not requiring tuning.
- Volume can be controlled by a knob, offering range from intimate venue to large concert.
- As the name suggests, these are the common choice for live bands and other kinds of stage performance.
- Resembles a synthesiser set-up rather than a traditional stage piano.
- Can come with many augmentations to enhance sound quality and amplification for live shows.
At the End of the Day
Whether you’re picking up a new hobby, continuing your musical education, or refining your already developed skills, making a decision on what kind of digital piano to get can be a bit daunting, especially considering the sheer range of available options.
Generally speaking, digital pianos tend to be cheaper, more convenient, and less maintenance than their acoustic counterparts, and they host an array of other advantages as described above. When you’re getting the same sound quality as you would from a traditional piano, it’s easy to see why digital pianos have gained such popularity.
It doesn’t have to be too tricky though, and if budget is a consideration, there are plenty of excellent options under £500 to explore. If you fancy more of a splurge, then these contenders might appeal to you!
And if you’re just starting out on your digital piano journey, here are some comparisons that could help you make a decision.
With that said, why not take the plunge and make the investment? Bring a little music into your life!