So I've been playing piano for a while now and I want to move onto buying an acoustic upright (a grand is out of my budget) or a good digital piano (something like a CLP-575) as I currently have a really old keyboard. I've played on quite a few of both, but at this stage I'm really unsure what a good piano should feel like and I ultimately want to buy something based on the quality of sound and correctness of feel (if there is such a thing as 'correct' feel) - I don't care about having all the fancy extra tech and sounds.

A lot of the uprights and digital keyboards I've tried have a sort of light touch and feel and so it's really easy to produce loud notes. Sometimes, they feel like the weighting is a bit too light as my fingers sink into the keys really easily - but I don't really know whether this is how it should or shouldn't be. On the other hand, my piano teacher has an upright piano and the feel is somewhat heavier than other uprights I've played on and so playing louder notes require more effort. My biggest concern is playing on something that doesn't get the feel 'correct', and then being uncomfortable playing on other pianos and not being able to control the dynamics as well.

Any help would be appreciated; I've spent about a month and a half so far trying to find a decent piano but this issue makes me reluctant to buy.

EDIT: So I've spent an incredible amount of time on this topic. What I think I'm ultimately going to do is buy my piano teacher's upright - he wants to scale down and buy a digital keyboard as he doesn't practise and perform much anymore and would like the extra tech. To be honest, it's the best upright I've played on thus far. I've been to view about 8 second hand uprights and didn't really like anything I've played on thus far. Most of them were weighted lightly, but one or two of them were weighted on the heavier side. Also, I generally didn't like the sound. I don't know how to explain it but it was sort of very 'raw'. My piano teacher's upright is weighted somewhere in between light and heavy. It's not as light as most of the uprights I have played on, but also not incredibly heavy - and I think that having some weight is a good thing (moving from a heavily weighted piano to a lightly weighted piano is easier than the converse?). Also, it has a much more mellow tone which I really like. The strings of the piano itself is longer as the piano is much taller than the other uprights I've played - if I didn't know any better I might have said that it almost sounds like a grand. Before I make a decision though, I will visit the local Kawai shop to try out a few of their uprights that are in the same price range (there's unfortunately not that many piano places where I stay). Reason being that I'm accustomed to my piano teacher's upright as I've been playing on it for while and so I can't really be certain that it's a good piano. The reason I went on this quest in the first place was because I thought that most pianos were of the same quality or better than my piano teacher's one, however, it turns out that there are a lot more shittier and poorly maintained pianos than there are good ones. Also, the cost of good digital keyboards are ridiculous. Will update after.

  • If you want to go for a digital I'd recommend trying out the Casio GP 500 or the Kawaii CS11 (depending on whether they're within the budget of course). The CLPs feel like uprights whereas these two have a similar touch to that of a grand (mostly because of the key lengths). The Kawaii feels a bit lighter than the Casio which I personally prefer. – Keiwan Mar 24 '17 at 22:21

It's been a while since I played a real grand but I do remember the hardest thing is to play quietly, so if the touch feels light that's probably on the more accurate side.

Feel is subjective, so you should go to a piano reseller and walk around their showroom playing a whole bunch of grand pianos to set your expectation for how the best pianos feel. Then go select whatever affordable piano (digital, upright, whatever) that has the elements of the real grand feel that you think are most important. You're not going to find anything but a grand that feels just like a grand, so you'll have to decide for yourself which areas you are most willing to compromise.

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    I actually think most uprights will have lighter keys than a grand, grands tend to have pretty heavy keys -- the difficulty in playing lightly comes from the force required to get them moving in the first place! It's hard to learn to back off at the appropriate transition point during the keystroke. In any case, I agree with the advice here -- try out some expensive pianos to see what the feel is like, and try to find something similar. – Matthew Read Mar 24 '17 at 16:30
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    Some of the top-end CLPs are pretty darned close - though they don't have the outright volume if you really go at them hard. – Tetsujin Mar 24 '17 at 16:31
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    Top end grand pianos have always felt heavy to me, although I do not play on them very often. I have never played an upright with an action that was as heavy. I have played on quite a few smaller grands which have been lighter though. You do need some weight in the action or you have nothing to work with for developing your touch and tone. – JimM Mar 24 '17 at 23:26
  • Regarding the lightness or heaviness of actions, I'm really comparing with digital pianos, which I find to usually feel heavier than a grand piano. – Todd Wilcox Mar 24 '17 at 23:34

Paradoxically, it's easier to play softly on a keyboard with some 'weight'. Your fingers have quite enough strength to play such a keyboard loudly as well!

A good piano keyboard should have an even touch so that when you play a scale with equal force each note comes out the same volume. There shouldn't be too much loose movement and clatter, though some is normal. This can be regulated to a degree by a technician - but why HASN'T it been? Buying an unloved piano is risky.

You will be employing a piano tuner. For the price of a tuning session (or less) he will be happy to come with you to check an instrument you're thinking of buying.

It pains me to say so, but a good digital piano is preferable to a ropey upright.

You will need to play the pianos and determine if you even like the sounds of their strings. Coming from an electronic keyboard background, it might seem like kind of a shock to play a real piano. Good pianos are able to adjust to how hard you play the keys. In my opinion, real pianos do this much better than any electronic keyboard I have played.

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