A comprehensive guide to buy piano; acoustic piano, digital piano

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Acoustic piano vs digital piano

There is always debate among piano players about acoustic and digital piano. Moreover, for starters there is the big question mark, which one to buy as a beginner, acoustic or digital piano. Then there is some jargon of weighted keys, hammer action, etc, plus different models that add to the confusion. The price tag is also an important element, raising the question if the more expensive piano is the better one and more importantly which one provides the best value for money. I will try to provide some useful information about pianos and then focus on factors need to consider when purchasing a piano. I will try to present these factors as a flow-chart where you can eliminate many confusing parameters and would be able to make a decision based on your own circumstances. Yes, there is no right or wrong in this debate and you should make the right selection based on your own requirements. For example, a piano which is suitable for a 6 years old child might be totally a waste for a 40 years adult. They might both intend to start playing piano as a beginner but they would have totally different requirements.

what is an acoustic piano?

An acoustic piano is a traditional piano most of the time you see as a piece of furniture in the rich people’s houses. Their body is made of timber and the sound is made mechanically. Now a bit of background history on piano.

when the piano was invented?

The piano was invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori invented the piano in 17-th century. Back then the harpsichord was the common instrument but musicians had no control on the volume of sound created. Bartolomeo is believed to add the hammer mechanism which is the creation of modern acoustic piano.

Not the best use of the piano, huh?

how does the piano work?

 Anyway, when you hit a key on an acoustic piano, a hammer is lifted and hits the relevant metal string and the sound is generated. Because of this mechanical system, if you hit the key harder, the hammer hits the string hard and it generates louder sound. This is one of the very important features in acoustic piano and gives the piano touch a unique character and is used for the creation of emotion. They try to make a similar type of touch in digital piano and they have improved a lot over the years. This feature is called “hammer action” in digital pianos and its quality is one of the determinants in the price of a digital piano. It is important to keep in mind that the touch also differs among the acoustic pianos as well and they need testing before purchase.

Also when you move to lower keys the metal strings become thicker and the hammer becomes heavier to hit. This is another key feature they try to mimic in digital pianos and is called weighted key.  We will focus more when we talk about digital pianos. How many piano keys does a piano have? The standard piano has 88 keys, including the black ones.

What is a digital piano?

Digital piano is an electronic device that is basically designed to mimic an acoustic piano both mechanically and sound generation. Digital piano is quite different from keyboards. Keyboards have soft keys, generally with no hammer action and have 4-5 octaves (pianos have 7 octaves and 88 keys). However, it is common that digital pianos might have both capabilities. This means they have features of an acoustic piano plus features of a modern keyboard, including mixing layers of sound, auto-accompaniment, different orchestral sounds, midi, etc. 

Acoustic piano vs digital piano

For me, the most appealing feature of a digital piano was the possibility of connecting a headphone and practicing the piano anywhere at any time. Just imagine you want to practice the piano at 10 pm. If you live in an apartment, most likely you wouldn’t test the patience of your neighbors. So it looks like that based on this one feature, a digital piano will become the favorite option. Wrong! The producers of acoustic pianos introduced the concept of the silent piano where a device was connected to new acoustic pianos which would make them midi capable and it was possible to connect headphones to the piano and play it silently. Did this put older acoustic pianos in a disadvantaged situation? Not at all. Nowadays a silencer device is available in the market which could be connected to any acoustic piano and convert it to silent piano. 

How to choose the right piano?

The majority of advisors recommend set a budget you want to spend on the piano and then buy the most expensive piano you can afford. In this approach, the most important factor is your budget. In my recommendation, the most important factor is the age of the person who intends to start learning to play the piano. if the piano is purchased for a child and we are not certain how far he/she is going to progress, I would suggest an acoustic piano in a lower price range. It is utterly important for a kid to start the learning process with the right foundation provided. The development of the correct piano technique could only be achieved on an acoustic  piano. The best way would be to search for second-hand acoustic piano on eBay where most of the time the owner just needs someone to remove the piano. You might need the help of a piano technician to check the quality of the piano and the possible cost of minor repairs.

However, if the learner is an adult, the development of the best piano technique is not vital and the extra capability of the piano (such as combining layers of sounds, auto-accompaniment, etc) becomes more important. In other words, the entertainment factor is the most important parameter.

I hope this guide provides useful information for you to kick-start your piano learning journey.

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