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Have the latest digital pianos from the likes of Roland, Yamaha etc at last managed to correctly simulate the weight/feel and touch of acoustic pianos keys? I've been lead to believe from adverts and demo videos that the digital pianos are greatly improved but I'm not convinced. What are your thoughts?

  • You get what you pay for. An entry level "complete piano" plus a selection of other keyboard sounds, from Roland with a price tag of say £250, isn't going to feel or sound the same as a top quality piano-weighted keyboard controller (with no sounds at all!) costing say £1500, plus about £1000 for a top quality computer-based piano synthesizer, plus the cost of the computer to run the synth. – user19146 Jul 3 '17 at 17:02
  • Acoustic piano is no well-defined term either. 2500€ will buy a digital one, where the average player would quite be challenged to recognize it in a blind test. – guidot Jul 3 '17 at 19:03
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It depends on the types of music that you play. Digital piano is great for contemporary/pop music as it offers a great selection of effects and sounds.

Piano is definitely a must if you are playing classical music as the sensitivity to touch, tone and timber is not something that current technology of a digital piano can perfectly emulate.

As a piano teacher, I will advice my Classical students to buy an acoustic from the very beginning or switch to an acoustic piano by the time they get to Grade 3. For the Pop students, they will do just fine with a digital as the Trinity and Rock School Exams require candidates to set up the digital piano during the exam.

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    "Piano is definitely a must if you are playing classical music.." Really? Listen to some of these - all played back entirely digitally from MIDI recordings of live performances: pianoteq.com/listen_ecompetition – user19146 Jul 3 '17 at 17:38
  • @alephzero being able to make a nice rendering from a midi file is impressive but it doesn't demonstrate anything about the pros or cons of learning to play on a digital vs acoustic instrument. – MarkM Jul 3 '17 at 23:11
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    It seems that manufacturers of digital pianos try to get an electric piano feel and sound like an acoustic but they haven't been successful. From what I'm hearing II don't think the digital piano will ever get the 'thumbs up' from the more professional classical pianists although players of more contemporary music seem more prepared to accept the newer technology as it fits in better with their style of music. I guess at the end of the day that the choice of a piano is a very personal one (or a financial/practice one!) and there are no definate right or wrong positions on the subject. – Steve Smith Jul 6 '17 at 4:22
  • To me its all about transferability. If you can play a digital piano well you may be surprised to find that you cannot play a "real" piano well. Simply because there is a lot of technique involved in making the hammer strike the string correctly. That, as far as I can tell, has never been transferred to a digital piano. Its hard to see that it can be. Game over as far as I am concerned. – JimM Jul 12 '17 at 20:41
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The very expensive ones have been using the exact same physical mechanism as a real piano for decades.
The cheaper ones never will.

Modern example - Yamaha AvantGrand N3X. This retails at about £16k... not cheap.
Videos & pretty pictures at Yamaha - AvantGrand

Disclaimer - I used to work for Yamaha in the 90s so I'm slightly biased towards them.

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I play a variety of styles, and for the last few years have been very happy playing a Roland - not too expensive at around £600 ish. The feel is one of the better 'cheap electronic piano' actions, and I'm not looking at changing it any time soon, daily using a nice studio 'proper' piano as well. So, yes, there are pianos out there that do a very realistic job for less than £1000s. It also has the ability to produce loads of other sounds, although playing very realistic Hammond sounds on a piano feel k'bd. is rather weird.

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It’s a very valid question, as both types of piano give you a different feel, and you may also wonder which piano is more suited to your needs - digital or acoustic upright?

An acoustic piano, in general, produces a warm and resonant tone sound through a hammer mechanism, while a digital piano produces its sound through playing pre-recorded audio samples. Some may say the acoustic piano sounds better because of its resonant tone, but that is not always the case. A well-made digital piano with consistent and beautifully-recorded audio samples, can sound better than a mediocre acoustic piano. Nevertheless, based on my experience, I have a better control over articulation and expression of the songs I perform on an acoustic upright piano, than on the digital piano.

In terms of sound maintenance, the acoustic piano requires more maintenance than the digital piano does, therefore, you need to be wary about the future costs of tuning the acoustic piano. The greatest aspect about the digital piano is its versatility, meaning it can produce other instrumental sounds, record your practices, change the volume and it is portable.

In terms of frequent pedal usage, it really depends what kind of music you play. For music in the Romantic period, acoustic upright piano is the way to go. Some acoustic pianos have three kinds - the soft pedal, sostenuto pedal and sustain pedal, but not all do. Similarly, digital pianos of reputable brands like Yamaha have three pedals, but not all have them.

In terms of genres, an acoustic upright piano is preferable if you are playing classical music, while a digital piano is more suitable for those playing pop, rock or funk music.

Hope this helps!

  • There are digital pianos that have 'soft' pedal facilities, but not sure about sostenuto. I'd have thought on expesive ones it would be readily available. – Tim Jul 10 '17 at 8:35
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    Thanks for your feedback which make a lot of sense to me. On the subject of digital pianos and pedals, I've noticed that a lot of the higher end digital pianos also have three pedals and sometimes even the build makes them look like upright acoustic pianos, just to make things even more confusing! – Steve Smith Jul 11 '17 at 3:24
  • Adding to your point about which one suits you most, it's off-topic for the OP's question, but a piano owner needs to think seriously about how much space they've got for it. Even an upright will occupy significant space in a small flat, and many digital pianos don't help themselves on that score either by trying to look look an acoustic piano! If the OP is considering a digital piano then they may want to consider a stage piano if space is an issue. – Graham Mar 20 at 14:24

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