Ultimate Guide to Digital Pianos

This is our useful guide to help make it as easy as possible for you to find the perfect digital piano for your needs

With so many different types of digital pianos on the market, it can be difficult to know where to start or what to even look at! In this guide, we’re going to break down for you some of the things we find most important when picking a digital piano, what’s great for beginners and experienced players and some of the key differences between makes and models.

Why Choose a Digital Piano?

There has never been a better time to consider buying a digital piano! The sheer convenience of having a piano and being able to plug headphones in and practice at any time of the day or night is just one of a many great reasons to opt for a digital piano. You’ll also avoid the costs of maintenance that come with an owning acoustic piano. While some people will always gravitate toward the sound of an acoustic piano, advancements in technology, greater availability of high-quality samples, modern speakers and computer processing power mean the sound is more authentic than it ever has been, with options for a wide variety of sounds and a realistic feel. Furthermore, features such as sound layering, transposition and all whole range of integrated learning technologies can help make a digital piano a great choice. On top of that, some brands offer stunning designs which match wherever you decide to place your piano.  

What's the difference between the main types of digital pianos?

Digital Home Pianos

A home piano’s design is what fundamentally separates it from its counterparts. They’re easy to spot because they’re freestanding and have a cabinet design to give them the authentic look of an upright piano and house their speaker systems. They usually come in a variety of different finishes and designs, helping them fit into any room.

Home pianos will usually have 88 full-sized keys and a weighted action, meaning the range of notes you can play and the dynamics you can apply to your playing is equivalent to an acoustic piano. Unlike a standard keyboard, their cabinet design means they have more space for components inside, making room for quality speakers. This means that the piano sounds more realistic and feels more authentic to play. On top of this, they’ll feature a headphone port which means you can practise any time without disturbing anyone! 

As home pianos are much larger in size they are obviously not as portable. They’re often more expensive as well, their larger size meaning they can fit more technology and better speakers into their cabinet. This also means that their overall resemblance is to an acoustic piano is not just from an aesthetic perspective but a sonic one as well.

However, if you need to reach a middle ground between design and space some brands will also offer ‘slimline’ versions as well.  They offer an elegant yet more compact cabinet design, preserving the same quality in a small footprint. Their 88 keys maintain the hammer action and a realistic playing experience, thanks to new developments in technology.  This allows you to save on space without sacrificing functionality. 

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Digital Stage Pianos and Portable Pianos

A stage or portable piano have a much slimmer design and weigh a lot less compared to a home piano. This makes them an excellent choice if saving space or portability are important factors for you, as they can be easily tucked away when not being used or can be placed in a bag or case. They also feature a wide array of sounds, so that live pianists can cover many genres at once. The supplied headphone socket means you can play the piano silently without disturbing anyone, but some will include in-built speakers mean you can play out loud if you prefer.

While stage pianos and portable pianos are very similar there are a few key differences that set them apart and can make stage pianos a better choice, particularly when gigging. You will often find that stage pianos offer far more in the way of parameters to adjust, helping you shape the sound of the piano to suit your specific set!  The other differences that you will find are stage pianos often lack internal speakers as they’re often going to be connected to the front of the house and will not interfere with the stage monitoring. Finally, while most portable pianos come within 88 keys, a stage piano will offer different sizes to suit the requirements of the person playing.

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What features impact price, performance and player experience?

The Sound of the Piano

The best sounding pianos on the market will use the best quality samples to create an authentic acoustic-like sound. Digital piano companies work with audio engineers to capture the sounds of some of the world’s finest pianos using the highest quality microphones, allowing the user to experience the most authentic piano sounds available.

Premium manufacturers sample not only all 88 keys of a piano but also different notes at different volumes and dynamics. 
Many of the higher-end models will feature the latest technology, which allow for a wide array of high-quality sound libraries for those who just want to plug in and play. Taking it a step further, some feature advanced customisation tools for those looking to delve into the world of tone sculpting. When considering which model to go for, it’s always worth investing in the features you’re going to get the most use from both now and into the future!

The Feel and Construction of the Piano Keys

If you’re learning to play piano, we typically recommend 88 keys and a fully weighted action. The reason for this being is they feel the most realistic and will help you best to develop your skills and technique, while being suitable for almost any genre you decide to play.

They also allow you to play with expression and dynamics, with some of the higher-end models featuring realistic sensitivity. Some models for example, will go as far as having a graded feel to their keys so it changes as you play up the piano to emulate the different string sizes on their acoustic counterparts.  
In addition to this, the texture of the key itself can also differ quite dramatically, from plastic keys up to a synthetic “ivory finish”, which feels more like a traditional piano.

Last but by no means least is how the keys are balanced. As you go through the different product ranges, you will notice that some will feature authentic hammer and graded piano actions, giving you a far more familiar feel to the piano if you’ve played an acoustic piano. There’s usually something to suit any budget, but generally, the more you spend the more realistic the action feels.

The Built-in Speaker System

The higher quality speakers you have in the piano the better the sound quality will be, creating a more enjoyable and realistic piano-playing experience. What should also be considered is how many speakers are on the piano and where they’re placed. Speakers that are well spaced and balanced will produce a truer projection of the piano sound, creating the feel of hammers striking strings and notes resonating in front of you.

Higher ranges of the piano will have better quality speakers creating a more immersive experience for the player. Not only that but an often overlooked but important feature is you can play at various volumes while still retaining the dynamics of your touch. This means that to get sound of keys being struck hard but at a volume suitable to where you are!

Our Best-Selling Brands

Roland

Since 1973, Roland have designed and manufactured some of the finest electronic digital pianos available. With meticulous research and development, they have pioneered ground-breaking technologies to enhance the piano playing experience. From innovative touch-sensitive keys and weighted keyboard actions, MIDI, sample-based tones and now modelled sounds, they continually strive to improve the digital piano beyond the capability of acoustic instruments. Having recently developed their fourth generation of sound modelling, PureAcoustic Modelling, you really can hear and feel the difference

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YAMAHA

It’s impossible not to think of a piano and associate it with Yamaha. They crafted their first acoustic piano in 1900, and they continue to innovate and develop this instrument. Yamaha then brought the iconic sound of their acoustic pianos into the digital realm. Yamaha offer a piano to suit every need, from slimline versions to acclaimed grand pianos. You can choose from the portable and affordable P-series, the YDP Arius with its sleek cabinet design and grand piano sound, up to the heritage of the Clavinova series, the first digital piano ever invented! What’s more, Yamaha developed their unique GrandTouch technology to further eliminate any boundary between acoustic and digital pianos 

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Casio

Casio are the number one brand for growth on Home and portable Pianos at Andertons over the last three years! They have been making instruments since 1980 and produced the first-ever home keyboard, the Casiotone 201!  Their strong point is crafting high-specification instruments at a price point accessible for all. This is done by employing cutting edge digital technology gained by developing a range of innovative and imaginative products. 

Their home pianos like the flagship Grand Hybrid models are made in partnership with world-renowned piano brand Bechstein. Their CT-S series designed has been designed with beginners in mind. They’ve got a piano for every taste and budget.  Whether you want to replicate the feeling of a real acoustic piano or bring your digital piano wherever you go, Casio has got you covered. 

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KORG

Founded in 1962, Korg has a legacy of innovation and creativity that has helped shape the sound of music in every era. Today, Korg’s innovation and creativity continue with their latest range of digital pianos. Using Graded Hammer action keyboards for a realistic feel and the most up-to-date sampling methods, combined with careful selection of the original instruments from Germany, Austria and Japan, Korg pianos faithfully recreate the dynamic feel and sound of an acoustic grand. Their portable pianos are also a staple for touring musicians thanks to their sturdiness and durability. From world-class to affordable digital pianos, Korg has everything to support you wherever you are in your musical journey.

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The Anatomy of a Digital Piano

The Sound

The technique used to reproduce the sound of an acoustic piano is called sampling. A piano is probably one of the most difficult instruments to reproduce because their sound changes a lot depending on the intensity used to depress the keys. Some manufacturers will sample all 88 notes, including tonal and expressive variations, others will sample all the notes and pitch them down or up according to the needs of each model.

Thanks to the latest technologies, manufacturers can achieve a realistic sound and playing experience even from samples. Yamaha’s Clavinova series features Grand Expression Modelling, an engine that brings sampled sounds to life modelling them on the pianist’s touch and performance intensity. Yamaha use their own acoustic grand pianos to record first-class samples, as well as one from the renowned Bösendorfer pianos. Korg as well have carefully selected from the finest Austrian, German and Japanese pianos and have included all three of the world class pianos in one instrument, the G1B-Air.
Other manufacturers went beyond sampling and give their digital pianos their own sound source. Roland, for example, has introduced physical modelling in their V-Piano series. This technology breaks down the sound of your piano into small digital elements which are then shaped based on a complex series of calculations.

Their commitment to delivering an authentic piano sound has resulted in the award-winning LX700 Series, featuring PureAcoustic Piano Modelling. This engine uses two powerful Behavioural modelling Chips to achieve a deep level of communication between the piano and the player, meaning that everything is modelled according to the way you play, from velocity to the amount of pedal used. 
Many manufacturers are keen on preserving the ambience where the piano was sampled, so you will hear different reverbs and noise on different pianos to simulate different rooms; from world class studios to renowned concert halls. 

For instance, Roland’s LX700 Series features Pure Acoustic Ambience, which allows you to control the amount of reverb while playing to recreate the space around the piano. Both on speakers and headphones, it adds incredible realism to your performance. On the other hand, Yamaha uses binaural sampling. This recording technique consists of locating microphones where the pianist’s ears are, using this to capture location information and other nuances perceived by the human ear. 

The Keyboard

One of the most important things to consider when buying a digital piano is the number and type of keys. Most digital pianos have 88-keys like an acoustic piano, but some models can also come as 73-key and even 61-keys versions. Choosing a reduced key-bed will have an impact on the music you can play, so we suggest opting for an 88-key piano which is higher in terms of cost but will allow you to learn and practise all genres. 

Secondly, the key action is essential to develop a good piano technique. Most digital pianos have weighted keys, so you can experience the resistance and the dynamics that happen when you play a note on an acoustic piano. The advantage of this type of key is that you can develop the strength needed to move from one note to the other as you would on an acoustic piano, moreover, you can understand how your touch impacts the sound. 

Fully weighted keys are balanced, meaning they have the same weight from top to bottom, Keys with hammer action are heavier in the low-end notes and lighter in the top notes, just like in an acoustic piano. Some manufacturers also offer graded action keys, that simulate the different response-dependent on how heavy the strings are. 
The weight of the keys also depends on the material they’re made of. Usually, they’re made of plastic, which is less expensive and less prone to damage. Yamaha also developed “Ivorite”, a plastic that feels like ivory, to simulate the feel of an acoustic piano from the past, when ivory was the main material used for keys. This type of finished is used in most premium pianos, as it guarantees a better grip when playing. 

Yamaha developed GrandTouch and GrandTouch-S keyboards, meaning that all white keys are wooden and have incredible touch responsiveness. The length between the key front and the fulcrum has been substantially extended giving the performer more leverage even when playing at the back of the keys. You will experience a finer balance, a more precise rhythm, and a smoother melodic expression. 
Casio did something similar with its GP-Series. These instruments, designed in collaboration with Bechstein, feature wooden keys and moving hammer mechanisms, giving the digital piano amazing quality and authenticity.  

  

The Speaker System

Most home and portable pianos are equipped with an audio system – an amplifier and speakers - that makes the sound audible at various volumes. Stage pianos, generally, are not provided with speakers and will usually have to be connected to a PA (public address) system or external amp. The minimum number of speakers you can get is 2, one left, one right.

The more inexpensive pianos will use a set of “full-range” speakers that can cover between 20Hz and 20kHz. These speakers usually do well in the mid-range but struggle to render highs and lows at high quality, that’s why more upper-end pianos use at least 3 speakers: one optimized for the bass, one for the mid-range and one treble on for the high end. Low frequencies tend to radiate in all directions, while the higher the frequencies the more directional they are, so speaker placement is an essential consideration in design these pianos. Most of the low-end and mid-frequency speakers on digital pianos are located below the keyboard because there’s plenty of room there. The more directional nature of the high frequencies requires pointing the tweeters directly at the player’s head, usually from somewhere on the instrument’s control panel.

As aforementioned, digital pianos generally feature 88 keys, and there are more compact versions as well as cabinet, or home piano, designed to look like an acoustic piano. The advantage of this type of pianos is the quality: being bigger, they have a bigger speaker system resulting in better sound quality. 

Premium digital pianos will feature more speakers to help the piano feel the room just like an acoustic one.

For instance, Roland’s top range pianos have the Acoustic Projection System with each of the two speakers split into pairs and optimised for superior sound reproduction across the dynamic range. Korg have also partnered with the Italian speaker company K-Array for the speakers in their instruments a warm and natural sound with fantastic sonic projection.
Yamaha offers spruce speaker cones in the top range model of its Clavinova series. In case you didn’t know, the soundboard on an acoustic piano is traditionally also made from spruce. Yahama digital and acoustic pianos share the pulp from the same spruce wood. This detail makes the digital piano playing experience closer to the acoustic one.

Finishes

Cabinet pianos are available in different finishes to fit into any room. For instance, Yamaha Clavinova and Roland HP and LA series are available both in traditional black and in several wood shades. You can also open the lid to recreate an acoustic piano’s overtones. Speakers are placed intelligently to make sure you get the most clarity in each situation. 

Connectivity and Tuition Software

One of the great advantages of a digital piano is that you can easily connect it to your favourite devices (laptop, tablet, smartphone…) opening an entire world of learning, composition, and performance. Let’s explore some of the most common connectivity options you can find on a digital piano:


Analog

Headphone socket: all digital pianos are provided with it, so you can practise and perform anytime without worrying about noise and loudness. 
Line Output: this is used to connect your piano to external sound equipment such as amplifiers, PA, mixers for live performances and audio interfaces for recording

Digital

USB Cable: is the most popular type of connection and lets you connect your piano to your PC to exchange files/songs and to send MIDI data. This is useful to create music on DAWs like Ableton, Reason, Cubase and more. . 
MIDI Port: They’re 5-pin legacy ports used to transfer MIDI data. They’re common in older keyboards and are more and more replaced by USB type B ports. The cable you will need will be MIDI to USB. 

Wireless

Next-generation digital pianos now feature Bluetooth connection. This takes away a lot of cables hassle and allows you to connect your piano to smart devices such as smartphones and tablets and control specific apps. . 

Apps

Most manufacturers now host their own learning software to accompany you in your learning journey. Some of the most famous are:

  • Yamaha’s flowkey (desktop and smartphone app, both for iOS and Android)
  • Roland’s Piano Partner 2 & Piano Every Day (both for iOS and Android)
  • Casio Music Academy, that offers free online lessons for Casio piano owners
  • Skoove offers online lessons and is also available in-app format
  • SimplyPiano that offers gamified lessons for piano learners

Accessories

Headphones

All digital pianos are provided with a headphone output, so you can play any time of the day, be it day or night. Whether it’s you or a loved one who’s learning to play the piano, using headphones can be invaluable in helping you feel less self-conscious. 

Your choice of headphones is equally as important. It’s critical that they match the piano you’re getting. A set of well-balanced headphones mean’s that you’re going to get the most out of the sound of the piano you’re purchasing. Also picking a set that’s going to be comfortable for you to wear for longer periods of time is essential, as a set of over-ear headphones.

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Stand (for portable and stage pianos)

Stands are designed to support portable and stage pianos. They’re very handy as they can be adjusted at several heights to guarantee a comfortable position, they’re also light and foldable so they can be tucked away when you don’t need them. You can find different types of stands, here are the most popular ones:

  • X-style: is the most common type of stand. They support many types of keyboards, which makes them very ubiquitous and also usually have 5 levels of height adjustments. 
  • Mixer style: they resemble a table and are designed for heavy duty keyboards and pianos. They’re more expensive, but they give you maximum support in terms of weight.
  • Z-style:has two legs with a Z shape and allows you to play on both sides. Their height is adjustable and they also guarantee maximum stability.
  • Wooden Frame: If you’ve bought a portable digital piano but have put down some roots or fancy the best of both worlds, some brands also offer wooden frames that you can place your portable piano onto. 

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Bundles

Although there’s a huge variety of pianos and accessories to choose from, we’ve put together a whole host of bundles to suit whatever you need and get you playing as soon as possible! 
Or if you’ve picked your perfect piano but the bundles are not exactly what you’re after…that’s no problem either! Just get in touch with us via email or over the phone and we would be happy to craft a special bundle just for you!

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Stool

Piano stools are designed to help position yourself correctly and help with your posture when playing. Piano benches come in different sizes, some even accommodating two people. They will also be made from different materials and fabrics, from leather to velvet. They also come in many different finishes to make sure you’re able to match your piano. Finally, if space is a concern, much like the stand, they’re often foldable, meaning you can tuck them away if need be.

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