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Is a Digital Piano the Right Piano for Me?

When considering the puchase of a digital piano, some people often wonder if it will be a wise choice for them. Others may question, “is this a good musical instrument, or some kind of expensive toy?” For many, it may really come down to this – “will I be happy with a digital piano, or should I choose an acoustic piano instead?”

Good question. Here’s the answer.
A simple, direct answer to that question is this. A good digital piano may actually be a better choice than an acoustic piano. This is especially true if you’re comparing the digital to a new or used acoustic piano in a similar price range.

Why is this so? A good digital piano can actually have a better piano tone and touch than a poor quality new acoustic piano, or a used one in poor condition. But note this point – we’re talking about a good digital piano.

A Student Gets Better
This writer first discovered this point many years ago as a jazz piano instructor. A talented 13 year-old was referred to me. His playing was one dimentional and very bombastic. For many lessons we worked on developing his touch, among other things, but to no avail. After questioning his mother about his practice habits I learned that at home he practiced on an old spinet piano that was in poor condition.

We immediately abandoned the development of touch, as this piano was incapable of delivering a good response. (You learn to play on the instrument you practice on, not the one you take the lesson on.)  Several months later, the student’s parents purchased a really good digital piano for him, primarily for connecting to a computer for composition projects.

The interesting thing was that his playing started to get better, and he learned to play with dynamics and sophistication. The digital piano actually had a better tone and touch response than the old spinet piano, and his playing improved because of it.

Icing on the Cake
Assuming you’re considering a good digital piano, what are some of the other reasons in favor or purchasing a digital?
First, digitals usually have other sounds besides piano, many of which are useful and fun. For instance, the composer, J.S. Bach actually wrote many of his pieces for harsichord, not piano. Most digitals have a harpsichord sound, allowing you to hear the music the way the composer heard it.

Next, many digital pianos have built in metronomes.Piano teachers recommend practicing with a metronome in order to develop a steady sense of time. A built-in metronome means one less extra item to purchase.

Also, a digital piano’s built-in recorder is a handy tool for recording your playing for self-evaluation. Also, piano teachers often record exercises in their digital pianos for students to play along with. Some high-end digital pianos offer built in CD recorders or USB memory, greatly expanding recording and playback options.

Privacy, Please
One big attraction to digital pianos is the ability to plug in headphones for privacy. This allows the digital piano player to avoid conflict with others in the area. Players don’t have to be bothered with noises coming from the family room, for instance, and the family doesn’t have to hear that passage Ode to Joy for the 1000th time.

Better digital pianos often offer two headphone jacks, allowing a parent or a teacher to listen in on the student.

Okay, Let’s Admit It
We all like to save money, right? Well, a digital piano doesn’t need tuning. That’s because the digital doesn’t use real strings but digital recordings (samples) to make its sound. So there’s nothing to keep in tune. The cost savings will definitely add up over time.

The Beat Goes On
There are many other good points about digital pianos. They can be as simple, or as full-featured, as you desire. There are small digital pianos suitble for apartments and small rooms. There are portable digitals great for performances or vacation homes. And most digital pianos offer connections to other musical devices and computers, the use of which is too lengthy for this article.

Digital pianos are so diverse that there is literally a digital piano suitable for just about anyone. But remember the key point – buy a good digital piano with a good piano tone and touch. Otherwise, you might end up with an expensive musical toy.

 About the author –
Tom is a former professional musician and jazz piano instructor. He is currently the Senior Manager for Electronics for Kawai America and Kawai Canada. If you have any comments or questions about this article, you can reach Tom at digitalinfo@kawaius.com

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