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FREE 75 page digital piano buyer's guide, by Graham Howard…

   The Digital Piano BibleGraham Howard, Piano Advisor
 "There's no hobby more satisfying than playing the piano… Buying the
 correct one will make all the difference to your success and enjoyment!

 If you’ve just started out looking for a digital piano, or you’ve been researching
 for a while and can’t make that important final decision then you'll find the
 information in my piano buyer's guide invaluable…
It'll help you make the right
decision and stop you from making any expensive mistakes
", Graham Howard, Piano Adviser for UK Pianos


Part 1

1) How To Understand Confusing Terminology
('Piano Geek Speak')

Find out what the following terms mean:

(a) Weighted keys – [page 4]
(b) Touch sensitive keys – [page 7]
(c) Graded hammer action – [page 10]
(d) Mechanism with escapement -[page 11]
(e) Key weight control – [page 12]
(f) GHS/GH/GH3 key touch – [page 12]
(g) Keyboard split – [page 13]
(h) Polyphony – [page 13]
(i) Midi IN/OUT (USB) – [page 14]
(j) Aux IN/OUT – [page 14]
(k) Record facility – [page 14]
(l) Built-in metronome – [page 15]
(m) Speaker wattage – [page 15]
(n) Transpose – [page 16]
(o) Reverb – [page 16]
(p) Dual voice – [page 16]
(q) String resonance – [page 17]
(r) Key off samples – [page 17]
(s) Brilliance – [page 18]
(t) Scale tuning – [page 18]
(u) Display screen – [page 18]

2) Common Digital Piano Questions

(a) Are wooden keys better than plastic keys? – [page 20]
(b) Which polyphony do I need: 32, 64, 96 or 128? – [page 21]
(c) How much speaker wattage do I need? – [page 22]
(d) What's the difference between digital and
stage pianos? – [page 22]
(e) Where's the best and worst places in my
home to put a digital piano? – [page 24]
(f) How do I protect my piano from drink
spills, dust, and cup stains? – [page 25]
(g) Are wooden mechanisms in digital pianos a good
thing, or could they be a risky purchase? – [page 27]
(h) Are warranties transferable on digital pianos? – [page 27]
(i) What's the average lifer of a digital piano? – [page 28)

3) The Disadvantages Of Buying A Second hand
Digital Piano Versus A New One

Discusses repairs, warranty, returns, technology,
improvements, designs – [page 29-31]
Where to buy second hand digital pianos – [page 31]

Part 2

4) 6 Simple Tests You Can Do In A Piano Store
Before Making Your Decision.
IMPORTANT: Don't Buy If The Digital Piano
Doesn't Pass All 6 !

a) This test should be done when you listen to the sound – [page 32]
b) How to test if the key mechanism is poor, acceptable, or top quality…
I can't stress enough the importance of this! – [page 32]
c) Test the sideways movement of the keys… find out what is correct – [page 32]
d) Test the touch sensitivity… this is crucial – [page 33]
e) Do the keys have the correct resistance? – [page 34]
f) Make sure the sustain is long enough, or it could be a disaster! – [page 35]

5) The Top Digital Piano Brands. Scored On:

(a) Selection (top 5 brands) – [page 38]
(b) Reliability (top 10 brands) – [page 42]
(c) Long term popularity (top 5 brands) – [page 47]
(d) Recent popularity (top 5 brands) – [page 49]
(e) Overall result (top 15 brands) – [page 49]

6) Which Are The Best Digital Pianos?

(a) See the top 10 list. Rated on: touch, sound,
design, build quality, reliability, resale value,
popularity, and value for money – [page 50]

(b) The top 10 list in three categories: the best
under £500; the best from £500 to £1000;
and the best over £1,000 – [page 58]

7) Should You Buy Online Or In A Physical Store?

(a) The advantages and disadvantages of both – [page 65]
(b) A list of trusted online, and offline stores -
(website and contact details included) – [page 66]
(c) 2 simple ways to find out if a store is
legitimate – [page 73]
(d) How to GUARANTEE your money is safe when
you buy online – even if the store goes bust! – [page 74]

The Digital Piano Bible

Part 1

1) How to Understand Confusing Terminology
('Piano Geek Speak')

Are you confused about all the different
terminology that's being used?

If you are, then I'm not surprised!

Here’s a typical scenario…

You walk into a piano shop and you're greeted
with a warm “hello, how can I help you?”

You explain that you want to buy a piano for
your son or daughter, and you need some advice.

Should be simple, right?

Well…

The salesperson starts to ramble on about GHE
and GH mechanisms, polyphony, graded
hammer action, touch sensitivity, escapement,
dual voice, split keyboard, etc.

This is something you probably didn't expect.

After all, how can buying a piano be so complicated?

So you walk out of the shop completely confused.

You then go online to do some research.

This is when it gets even worse…

The same terminology you heard in the piano
shop starts appearing in the descriptions
of the pianos on websites.

What does it all mean?

There are many, many different terms used to
describe the different parts and functions of
the piano. Manufacturers also use their own
wording as well.

Now I'm going to explain the most common terms.
So the next time you're confronted with
'Piano Geek Speak', you'll nod your head in
complete understanding.

Here we go…

(a) Weighted keys

Most digital pianos have different key weighting.

You'll likely come across terminology such as

  • Light-weighted
  • Semi-weighted
  • Weighted
  • Medium-weighted
  • Fully-weighted

The difference between the above key weights
is only slight.

Ideally you should aim to get a piano that has
a fully weighted touch. These pianos are usually
more expensive though…

So, settling for a medium-weighted key touch is
the next best option.

Please note: Manufacturers usually write their
own piano descriptions. So THEY choose the
terminology to describe their key touch.

This can often be very misleading…

I've seen pianos described as having fully-
weighted keys, when they really only have
medium-weighted keys.

On the other end of the scale I've seen pianos
described as fully-weighted keys – but their
touch is WAY too heavy, and has so much
resistance that a master rock climber would
get finger ache playing them!

It’s not good to learn on such a piano…

If you spend too much time pressing down on
hard or stiff, heavily resistant keys, you’ll end
up with a very poor technique…

And you’ll find it extremely difficult to control
the key touch on an upright or grand piano.

I’ve seen it happen so many times.

These pianos are misleadingly advertised as
'weighted', and, really, should be renamed
'super heavy-weighted' (like the big boxers)…

Tip/

Pianos that have a ‘super heavy-weighted’
key touch are usually easy to spot.

Here are some give-away signs to look out for:

(i) They usually sell between £299 and £400.

But I’ve seen some selling at higher prices

(ii) Sometimes they’re marked down from an
extremely inflated ‘retail’ price that gives
the appearance of a ‘real bargain’

(iii) They’re not one of the well-known brand
names. And they certainly don’t appear in the
top 10 or top 20 lists you’ll see later in this book.

If you’ve seen a brand new piano for sale in the
£299 to £400 price range that didn’t make my
top 10 under £500 list, be very cautious!

If you have any doubts at all just send me
an email: grahamhoward@ukpianos.co.uk

The list below describes the 'actual' key
weight of the most popular makes and models.

I put together this list over a 6 month period
by playing, feeling and testing the weight
and resistance of the piano key's down stroke
and up stroke.

Light-weighted

Examples of light-weighted keys:

  • Yamaha PSR, EZ, YPT, DGX230, DGX530,
    NP11, NP31, NP-V60, NP-V80
  • Casio CTK and LK models
  • Korg PA models

Digital pianos can have semi-weighted, weighted,
medium-weighted or fully-weighted keys…

This means the key touch is heavier than typical
61 key electronic keyboards with a light-weighted
key touch.

Fully-weighted keys feel closest to an upright
or grand piano.

Semi-weighted

Examples of semi-weighted keys:

  • Chase (all models)
  • Gear4Music (SP, DP and V models)
  • Hemingway (all models)
  • Mantova (all models)
  • Suzuki (all models)
  • Thomann (All models except DP50)
  • Williams (all models)

Weighted

Examples of weighted keys:

  • Casio CDP120, CDP220
  • Galileo (all models)
  • Orla (all models)
  • Thomann DP50

Medium-Weighted

Examples of medium-weighted keys:

  • Broadway B2
  • Casio AP Celviano and PX Privia range
  • Kawai CL26, CL36, KDP90, ES100
  • Korg SP170S, SP280, LP380
  • Kurzweil KA110
  • Yamaha DGX650, P45, P115, YDP142, YDP-V240

Fully-Weighted

Examples of fully-weighted keys:

  • Broadway EZ-102, B1, B3, BG1, MK10
  • Classenti CDP1, CDP2, CDP3i, UD1, DG1, GR1i
  • Kawai CN25, CN35, CA17, CA67, CA97, CS4, CS7, CS10, ES7
  • Kurzweil M210, M1, M3W, MPS10, MPS20, MP10F, MP15,
    MP20F, CUP2, CUP110, CUP2A, MPG200, CGP220W
  • Roland RP401R, F-130R, RD800, F-20, FP-50, FP-80,
    HP504, HP506, HP508, LX-15e, HPi-50e, DP-90e, DP-90Se
  • Yamaha YDP-S52, YDP162, YDP181, CLP525, CLP535,
    CLP545, CLP575, CLP585, CLP565GP, CVP601, CVP605,
    CVP609, CVP609GP, P255, CP300, NU1, N1, N2, N3

Notes: Fully-weighted feel closest to playing a real piano.

(b) Touch sensitive keys (and dynamic levels)

When you press the piano key down softly, you
hear a quiet sound. When you press it with
force, you hear a loud sound. And there are
various degrees in between.

‘Touch sensitive’ means: the harder you strike
the key, the louder the sound. Or, to be
technically correct, the faster the key goes
down, the louder the sound.

So, it's very important to buy a digital piano
that has as many touch sensitive levels as
possible.

Now here comes the confusing part.

Different terminology is used by manufacturers
to describe these different levels of touch
sensitivity.

Here are some of the common jargon words
you’ll come across:

  • Touch sensitivity levels
  • Touch response levels
  • Dynamic levels

What gets even more confusing is when the
above terms are incorrectly used to describe
something completely different. For example
key weight…

Some pianos have a feature that allows you
to set the key weight to ‘feel’ differently when
you play. So you can get a louder sound by
pressing the keys down lightly, for instance.
But I won’t go into this right now.

So… now back to touch sensitive keys…

The term I will use from now on to describe
how many levels of touch sensitivity a piano
has is: ‘Dynamic levels’.

If you want to cut through the jargon and really
know how many dynamic levels a specific piano
has, then just send an email to:
grahamhoward@ukpianos.co.uk and I’ll tell you.

If you practice on a piano or keyboard that
doesn't have dynamic levels you'll end up with
bad habits and a very poor technique.

This is a real disaster because if you ever want
to play a real piano, you'll find it really difficult
to adapt.

Digital pianos vary in the number of dynamic
levels they offer. You get anything from 1 to 6
levels.

Most cheap digital pianos have between 1 and
3 levels. But the more levels the better!

The more popular makes such as Yamaha,
Roland, Kawai, Casio, Classenti, Broadway and
Kurzweil have between 3 to 6 dynamic levels.
Most of their basic pianos have 3 or 4 levels,
their mid-range has 4 levels, and their very
best pianos have 5 or 6 levels.

Here’s what dynamic levels means:

Pushing down a piano key with a different force
produces a louder or softer sound. It has nothing
to do with the weight of the key; only the force
required to adjust the sound of each note.

So, hitting the key hard produces a loud sound,
and pushing it down gently produces a soft sound.

A real, acoustic piano has a huge number of
dynamic levels. It all depends on the velocity of
the hammer as it strikes the string. But even the
highly trained ear of a piano tuner can distinguish
only 6 or 7, or maybe 8 at a struggle.

Digital pianos try to replicate this. Some do it
quite well, and others, poorly.

Important:
A minimum of 4 dynamic levels is essential.

If you practice on a digital piano that has a
restricted number of dynamic levels, you will
develop a poor technique. You’ll find it really
difficult to play music with expression.

This is a serious disadvantage because most
music changes in volume.

What's more, when the time comes to play an
upright or grand piano, you'll struggle to adapt…
and you’ll find yourself playing too loudly most
of the time. This is because you've been used
to thumping the keys to get a louder sound.

So you’ll have to re-train your fingers in order
to play with expression. And that's a lot of work!

In musical terms, here’s a summary of the
dynamic levels used on digital pianos:

3 levels: mp, mf, f

4 levels: mp, mf, f, ff — or sometimes: p, mp, mf, f

5 levels: p, mp, mf, f, ff

6 levels: pp, p, mp, mf, f, ff

Notes: Your piano MUST have touch sensitive
keys. The more dynamic levels the better –
This is absolutely essential

I recommend buying a piano that has at least
4 levels. You can get up to about grade 7 with
4 levels. To go above grade 7 you need 5 levels.

If you want know how many dynamic levels a
specific piano has, just send an email to:
grahamhoward@ukpianos.co.uk

(c) Graded hammer action

Here's the definition of graded hammer action:

"With heavier key weighting in the bass (left-hand
end) getting gradually lighter as you go up the
keyboard (towards the right)…”

This mimics the exact feel of an upright or
grand piano.

Upright and grand pianos have hammers. The
hammer strikes the string which then produces
the sound.

On an upright or grand piano, the strings are thick
in the bass (left end). The strings get gradually
smaller in diameter as they go up towards the
top treble (right end).

To achieve an even sound the hammers have to
be different sizes: Large in the bass, getting
gradually smaller as they go up towards the treble…

Different sized hammers affect the resistance of
the key. The heaviest key is on the far left. The
lightest key is on the far right.

** How do they replicate this on a digital piano? **

To achieve the same feel as an upright or grand
piano, a digital piano's key weight must be
designed to feel heavy in the bass and get
gradually lighter as you go up the keyboard.

The correct terminology is 'graded hammer action'.
This term is used by Yamaha, Kawai, Kurzweil,
Broadway and Classenti.

… Just to confuse you, some manufacturers use
a different name for their graded hammer action…

Why do they do that?

The other names I've seen in use are: progressive
hammer action, scaled hammer action, balanced
hammer action, and linear graded hammer action.

Here are those culprits:

  • Yamaha use ‘linear graded hammer action’
    on their latest Clavinova key action
  • Roland use 'progressive hammer action'.
  • Casio use 'scaled hammer action'.
  • Suzuki use 'balanced hammer action'.

Notes: The graded hammer action is not an
important feature to have.

(d) Mechanism with escapement

You can feel the key escapement on an upright or
grand piano when you press the key down VERY
slowly.

When the key gets to the bottom of its travel
you'll feel a slight jump. This jump is called the
‘escapement’, (or ‘set-off’). You can only feel this
when no sound is made.

Digital piano manufacturers have tried to copy
this 'feel', but it's not beneficial, and doesn’t
improve the actual piano’s touch.

In some cases, when it has been overdone, the
key touch can feel very lumpy.

It's actually a fault on a real, acoustic piano!

So why would a manufacturer try to replicate
this fault?

It doesn’t make any sense!

It appears that most digital piano manufacturers
attempt to copy all aspects of an acoustic piano
without actually discovering whether it’s
beneficial or not.

This is complete madness!

So, in short, key escapement is just another
one of those gimmicks that increases the
perceived value, enabling these digital pianos
to sell at higher prices.

You'll find this key escapement on Yamaha's
top end CLP pianos, Roland's top end HP pianos,
and Kawai's top end CA pianos.

Recommendation: If the piano you intend
buying has the escapement feature, sit down and
play it for a while… close your eyes… feel the keys
when you play softly and slowly. Then make sure
you’re OK with the lumpy jumpy feel of the key
when it reaches the bottom of its down stroke.

(e) Key weight control

Some digital pianos have the option of changing
key weight. There are usually 3 settings: light,
standard (which is the default) and heavy.

The standard setting is BY FAR the most
realistic touch…

It's a nice idea to be able to change this setting,
but, unfortunately, when you select anything
other than the standard key weight, the touch
feels horribly wrong…

With the heavy setting you get the sensation
of the key being stiff and then jumping down.

With the light setting you get a weird feeling,
a little bouncy, and completely uncontrollable.

So what's the point of having this setting if
you can't use it?

Unfortunately, it's yet another one of those sales
gimmicks that either inflates the price of the
piano or adds to its ‘perceived’ value.

(f) GHS/GH/GH3 key touch

This is Yamaha’s terminology for their different
key mechanisms.

GHS stands for 'Graded Hammer Standard'. This
is Yamaha's basic key mechanism. The hammers
are graded (see C above), but the touch is quite
light. This can be found on their budget line:
P45, P115 and YDP142.

GH (also called GHE) is the next level up from
GHS. This keyboard mechanism allows for
greater expression (slightly more sensitivity
in the keys).

The GH key touch is slightly heavier than the
standard GHS mechanism. GHE can be found
in Yamaha's mid-range digital pianos: YDP162,
YDP-S52, P255 and CP300.

GH3 is Yamaha's Graded Hammer Premium'
mechanism. The GH3 is an upgrade of the GH
action. It includes sensors that allows for faster
repetition.

The GH3 can be found in the following digital
pianos: CLP525, CVP601, CVP605, CVP609
and CVP609GP.

Yamaha’s latest key actions are:

GH3X and NWX.

The GH3X is an upgrade of the GH3. And the
NWX is a natural wood action.

The GH3X key actions are in Yamaha’s latest
Clavinova models: CLP535 and CLP565GP

Yamaha’s NWX key actions are used in
the following models: CLP545, CLP575 and CLP585

(g) Keyboard split

The keyboard split allows you to play a
different voice (sound) over different parts
of the keyboard.

For example:

You could choose a string bass from the G
below middle C downwards, and a harpsichord
from G# upwards.

This is a useful feature to have if you intend
being part of a group, or if you'll be giving
live performances on your own.

(h) Polyphony

Most digital pianos today have the following
polyphony: 32, 64, 96, 128, 192 or 256.
Older pianos can have 16 or 32 note polyphony.

This number represents how many sounds can
be played at the same time. It also includes
notes that are held down by the pedal.

64-note polyphony is probably more than you
would ever need.

However…

If you desire a digital piano that has many
different instrumental sounds, effects,
rhythm, percussion, and sound layering, then
you might need a higher polyphony if you
use a few of these features at the same time…

This is because when you combine multiple
effects with complex chords and long sustained
notes with the pedal, then the polyphony value
can multiply.

Recommendation: 32-note polyphony is OK for
beginners; 64-note polyphony is good enough for
nearly all types of music and complex pieces; and
128-note polyphony can come in handy for composers
using multiple voices and effects.

(i) Midi IN/OUT (USB)

MIDI allows you to connect your piano to your
computer.

This is a really useful feature.

Whatever you play on your piano can be
replicated in note form on your computer. This
is great if you want to write your own music! And
it’s essential if your child intends taking GCSE or
A-level music.

You'll need a USB to Midi cable and good music
software such as Music Notation
(http://budurl.com/musicnotation7) – ideal for
Windows, or Sibelius (http://budurl.com/sibelius)
– perfect for Macs.

You can connect to other Midi devices such as a
Midi keyboard, synthesizer or sound module.

You’ll also be able to take additional sounds,
rhythms and effects from your computer and
put them on your piano.

Some pianos have a USB port for a memory
stick. This does the same as the Midi IN/OUT
mentioned above. But you don't need a cable.

(j) Aux IN/OUT (sometimes called Line IN/OUT)

Connect your piano to any speaker system,
amplifier (to get more volume), home stereo
system (hi-fi), mixer, sound system or MP3 player.

Some digital pianos don’t have the Aux IN/OUT
feature.

If you're piano doesn't have this, then you can use
the headphone jack to connect to an amplifier or
any external device, but you won't be able to
play any devices through the piano system (such
as an MP3 player or iPod).

(k) Record facility

A basic record feature is all you really need.

Most digital pianos have a Midi feature that
allows you to connect directly to your computer. 
You can then do more advanced recordings.

With the basic record feature you can usually
record up two tracks.

You would first need to select track 1, then
record.

Whatever you play will then be saved inside
the piano's memory. You can then play it
back anytime you want.

If you want to record an additional piece
then you can use track 2.

You can also record something different on
track 2 and play it back at the same time
as track 1.

You can create some pretty interesting things!

Bear in mind that if you turn your piano off,
then back on, you’ll usually lose anything
you’ve recorded!

(l) Built-in metronome

The metronome is simply a constant tapping
noise that helps you to play in time to the music.

This is a useful feature if you’re studying for an
exam or performance.

With the built-in metronome you can set the
speed of the metronome to any tempo you want.

(m) Speaker (amplifier) wattage

As a general rule, an adequate speaker wattage
for a medium size room in your home is 24 watts
(2 x 12 watt speakers).

The volume output depends not only on the speaker
wattage, but on the power of the amplifier, quality
of the speakers and acoustics of the piano cabinet.

An exception to this rule is the Broadway B1,
which is a piano I highly recommend. Because of
its quality parts and amplification system, the
power level easily fills a medium sized room.

Broadway B1 Digital Piano
Broadway B1 Digital Piano

For a large room you may require 30 or 40
watts: (2 x 15, or 2 x 20 watt speakers).

If you plan on using your piano for performing
in a small to medium size hall, then 80 watts
(2 x 40 watt speakers) would be best.

If the hall is quite large then you may need
to buy a separate keyboard amplifier to boost
the sound even more.

Notes: 2 x 12 watts or 4 x 5 watts should be
a minimum wattage for home use.

(n) Transpose

If you wish to accompany another instrument
that's not in C then the transpose feature
will come in useful…

For example: Your friend plays trumpet. The
trumpet is a Bb instrument. Middle C on a
trumpet sounds the same as Bb on a piano.

The transpose feature allows you to change the
pitch of your piano to align with the pitch of
the instrument you're playing along with – In
this case, the trumpet.

This will make it easy for the trumpet player.

(o) Reverb

Reverb is short for reverberation. This feature
gives a slight echo (lingering) after the note
has been played. It gives a similar effect to
playing in a large concert hall.

There are usually a few reverb selections to
choose from: Room, stage, hall, theatre and
concert hall.

Usually, the larger the hall is, the longer the echo.

You just have to decide which effect you want.

(p) Dual voice

This is a rather nice feature. The dual voice
allows you to combine different sounds. So,
one sound would overlap the other.

For example: when you select piano and
strings together, you get both sounds playing
at the same time.

(q) String resonance (aka damper resonance)

What is string resonance?

When you press down a key on an acoustic piano,
a note sounds. If other keys are already pressed
down, then they and their harmonics will also
sound very faintly. It's hardly noticeable really.

But the combination of these other notes and
harmonics give acoustic pianos their full, rich,
vibrant sound.

When you press down the sustain pedal (the
pedal on the right), all the harmonics sound.

Providing you're not playing notes that clash,
you get an incredibly beautiful, rich sound.

This is why the pedal is used a lot of the time.

Top pianists say that digital pianos sound dull
and lifeless. This is partly due to the missing
string resonance.

Here's how to test if a digital piano has
string resonance:

Without making the notes sound; press and hold
down Middle C, the E to the right, and the G to the
right of that. This is known as the C major chord.

Whilst holding down the C chord, play the C to
the left of Middle C firmly.

You should now be able to hear the C major
chord quietly, as if you'd actually played it.

Is string resonance important to have?

It's nice to have if you're an experienced or
advanced player. But if you're just starting out,
or going through your grades, it's really unnecessary.

(r) Key off samples

Acoustic pianos have dampers. These dampers
prevent notes from sounding until you press
down a key.

Pressing down a key raises a single damper off
the string so the note will sound when the
hammer strikes it.

When the damper returns to the string it doesn't
cut the note off immediately. It takes a fraction
of a second to do this.

It's more noticeable in the lower bass due to the
heavier, thicker bass strings.

A 'Key-Off Sample' system tries to replicate this
on each individual note.

Note: An acoustic piano has many faults. The
failure to cut off a note immediately when the
damper returns to the string is one of them…

But some manufacturers are intent on copying
an acoustic piano's good points AND FAULTS!

I'm not sure if it's their ego that drives this (you

Know, we're better than rest…), or just a cunning
plan to earn more money for their top end pianos?

A bit of both, I suspect.

(s) Brilliance

The 'brilliance' feature can alter your piano's sound.

It can make it more, or less brilliant.

A brilliant sound is one of extreme clarity. It's very
rich, bright, piercing and vibrant – like the sound of
a trumpet fanfare.

(t) Scale tuning

Scale tuning could mean a number of things.

Commonly it refers to the type of tuning. The
piano is tuned to an 'equal temperament' scale

Other scales that used to be common but are
rarely used today are the 'Mean tone' scale,
'Pythagorean', and 'Just intonation'.

It's highly unlikely you'd make use of the 'scale
tuning' feature.

(u) Display screen

A display screen – like the one on Roland's HPi
series pianos – might be useful if you've got
young children learning to play…

This type of display screen has many musical
games that teach children the names of notes,
pitch, rhythm, and how it all relates to the
piano's keys. (But you can get these online for
free anyway).

Other types of display screens can be found on
pianos that have hundreds of functions. Pianos
such as the Yamaha CVP range.

A display screen is necessary in this case because
there just isn't enough space on the piano to put
all the buttons… and it’s supposed to make
navigation simpler (well, simpler for those born
into a world of mobile phones, Nintendo, Wii,
iPods, iPads, iTouch, and i-everything else).

But, on the other hand, a display screen is really
just one extra thing that can go wrong, or
suffer accidental damage.

Useful Links:

Music Notation: http://budurl.com/musicnotation7
(music composition software)

Important note: Anything underlined in blue is a
clickable link, usually to another page on this site.
To follow any link in this guide, just click on it.
If nothing happens, try hovering over it, press
the ctrl key then click on the link.

2) Common Digital Piano Questions

(a) Are wooden keys better than plastic keys?

Yamaha, Roland and Kurzweil’s top digital pianos
use wood in their keys instead of plastic…

The white notes on the Yamaha CLP575 and
CLP585, Roland HP506 and HP508, and Kurzweil
M3W, CUP2, CUP2A and CGP220W digital baby
grand have wooden keys with synthetic ivory
(that's a nice name for shiny plastic) key tops
on the top and front…

Wooden keys are more expensive to produce
than plastic keys. This is why you only find
them on more expensive digital pianos.

But do they really make a difference to the
key touch?…

When you play the piano, your finger is in
contact with the top part of the key only
(the plastic part). So, physically, wooden
keys can’t feel any different to plastic.

The wood is slightly heavier than plastic, so,
all things being equal, the touch should be
heavier, or at least feel more solid (firmer).

But…

Yamaha, Roland and Kurzweil prefer to keep
the key touch a similar weight for both wooden
and plastic keys. So they adjust the key weight
on the wooden keys to make them only slightly
heavier (about 5 grams).

I do find that the touch is more solid with
wooden keys. The feeling is an overall
solidness or firmness, no matter where
you touch the key.

Wooden keys can also make a difference
psychologically…

If you're used to playing an upright or grand
piano, then seeing the wood on the side of
your digital piano’s key could make you feel
better…

But what about the sound?

The key doesn’t play any part in the piano's
sound. So, wooden keys would make no
difference at all.

Is it really worth paying extra money for
wooden keys?

I would say only if you can feel the difference
and you’re happy to pay a couple of hundred
pounds more for it.

Something else to ponder…

One of the advantages of owning a digital
piano is that it doesn't require servicing.

With all this wood being introduced digital
pianos I’m a little worried that problems might
come up later.

Let me explain…

My first concern isn’t a worry for you right now.

It's more likely, if it ever becomes a problem, to
be sometime in the future…

What if Yamaha, Roland and Kurzweil decide to
trash their wooden mechanisms and go back
to their plastic key mechanisms?

Then what happens if one of your keys needs
replacing in the future? Will spare wooden keys
still be available?

My second concern is damp…

Wood swells in damp conditions. If two adjacent
keys swell and touch each other, you could have
a problem with rubbing, or sticking keys.

Summary

I think all of this is unlikely though… and there’s
been no reported problems so far.

(b) How much polyphony do I need: 32, 64,
96, 128, 256 or more?

32-note polyphony isn’t enough for complex
pieces. You'll lose notes when playing complex
chords whilst holding down the sustain pedal.

64-note polyphony is what you need. This is
enough for practically any piece of music.

96, 128 or even 256-note polyphony could
come in handy if you're playing multiple
instrumental voices, effects, complex chords
AND using the sustain pedal all the same time.

Not very likely though!

96 and 128 polyphony is really overkill.

It's absolutely not necessary.

(c) How much speaker wattage do I need?

The majority of digital pianos range from 2 x 6
watts (total of 12 watts output) to 2 x 40 watts
(total of 80 watts output).

2 x 6 watts isn’t enough.

Pianos with such low speaker wattage usually
produce a weak, thin tone…

And to comfortably hear the piano without bashing
the keys too hard, you’d need to turn the volume
up to its maximum. This isn’t good.

One exception to this rule is the Broadway B1, 
which is a piano I highly recommend. Because of 
its high quality parts and amplification system,
the power level easily fills a medium sized room.

Ideally you should have a total output of at least
24 watts (2 x 12 watt speakers) for a small sized
room. Or 30 to 40 watts for a standard sized
room (2 x 15 or 2 x 20 watts).

Usually the larger wattage produces a deeper,
richer sound. This is assuming the quality of
the speakers is the same.

(d) What's the difference between digital
and stage pianos?

Stage pianos (often called 'portable pianos')
are designed to be easy to move around.

If you intend to perform away from your home
then a stage piano is really what you need.

Stage pianos are lightweight, slim line, and
easy to transport in the back of a car. You
can also get soft or hard cases to carry them
around.

You would usually buy a heavy duty x-stand
to put your stage piano on. This type of
stand folds up, so it's easy to transport.

Click here to see the stand I recommend:

Some stage pianos have the option of a fixed
stand. Fixed stands are more stable than fold
away (x-type) stands…

So it's better to have a fixed stand if you
intend using your stage piano mainly at home.

Stage pianos come either with, or without
speakers.

The best stage pianos usually come without
speakers. This is because they're used
mainly by professional musicians for gigs…

The player would usually carry a separate
amplifier to connect to the piano. The
amplifier produces a much louder, clearer
sound. This is essential when playing in
a group, or in a noisy place.

Some stage pianos come with built-in speakers.

These are OK for home use. The real problem
is the sound…

Because stage pianos are slim line and come
without a fixed stand, there's not much space
to fit large speakers.

So stage pianos usually have very small
speakers. This results in a weak, thin sound.

Digital pianos are primarily for home use.

Digital pianos come with a fixed stand. The
speakers are either built-in to its stand or
underneath the key bed.

The speakers are usually much larger and of a
higher quality than stage pianos. This makes
the sound more realistic, louder, and resonant.

Because a digital piano's body is larger than
a stage piano, there's more space to fit the
mechanism, speakers, and electronic parts…

This is why a digital piano will usually
outperform any stage piano in a similar price
bracket.

Summary:

If you're buying a piano for your home then
you should go for a digital piano.

If you plan on transporting your piano
frequently, then a stage piano would be
better for you.

(e) Where are the best and worst places in
my home to put a digital piano?

Digital pianos are much more resistant to heat,
cold, and humidity fluctuations than upright
pianos.

Digital pianos consist of: MDF, plastic, metal,
glue, grease, felt, magnets, cables, and
circuit boards.

Upright pianos consist of: Wood (spruce,
maple, and sometimes oak), MDF, iron, steel
strings, plastic, leather, metal, glue, and felt.

Wood is the main problem in upright pianos,
especially the spruce soundboard, bridges
and tuning plank.

The piano's wood expands and contracts with
temperature and humidity changes. These
are the main reasons acoustic pianos go out
of tune.

Many of the older upright pianos can have a
combination of a cracked soundboard, a dried
up tuning plank or a cracked bridge. Central
heating is the biggest cause of damage.

Digital pianos don’t suffer as much from the
heat, cold, or temperature changes.

You do need to be careful of condensation
though…

Condensation can occur if your digital piano is
next to an open window when it’s raining, or
in a cold, damp place such as a basement, or
subject to steam from cooking.

Excessive condensation can cause problems with
your piano's electronics. This is something you'd
definitely want to avoid.

You should also try to avoid putting your digital
piano directly in front of a radiator, especially if
you have the heating on very high.

Ideally you should leave at least a 3 inch gap
between the radiator and your piano (about
the size of your hand).

If you want to preserve the colour of your
digital piano then you should keep it out of
direct sunlight.

So, the worst places to put your digital piano,
(in order of worst first), are:

  • Near a cooker in an open-plan kitchen
  • In a damp basement
  • Next to a window that's permanently open
  • Directly in front of a hot radiator
  • In a conservatory, under direct sunlight

Providing you can avoid most of the above, then
you can place your digital piano in any room:

  • Bedroom
  • Lounge
  • Hallway
  • Basement
  • Conservatory
  • Extension
  • Outbuilding

(f) How do I protect my piano from drink
spills, dust, and cup stains?

A sliding key cover will help protect your piano
from drink spills. It will also keep dust from
getting underneath the keys…

There's nothing worse than a sticky drink that's
spilt on your keys. It not only makes your keys
sluggish, but can destroy the electronic circuits,
sensors and contacts underneath the keys!

Dust isn’t really a major problem if it gets
under the keys…

Dust can take a long time to build up. And,
if too much of it gets underneath the keys it
can interfere with key's contact pads…

This could result in some notes not sounding.

What about cup stains?

A dust cover is the answer!

Dust covers are useful for keeping dust from
getting under your keys, they're also ideal for
covering your piano when you're having a party…

You know… people ALWAYS put their drinks
on your piano! Well, with a good quality dust
cover you don't have to worry…

The waterproof material stops liquids from
spilling on, or even worse, IN your piano. And,
if someone does place a hot cup of tea on top
of your piano, then it won't leave a horrible
ring mark!

If sticky drinks spill on your keys then you
could be in for a VERY expensive repair bill…

Liquid will certainly drip down onto the
electronic parts and contact rubbers which
are located underneath your piano keys.

For between £15 and £20 you can get a dust
cover that fits over the whole of your piano's top.

Some are even waterproof and anti-static.

With a suitable dust cover you’re protected!

Here’s the dust cover I recommend:

Classenti CKC5 Dust Cover
Classenti Dust Cover – Picture shows
the cover
's bottom right corner

This cover fits over the top of you piano (keys
and top wooden panel). You'll have to fold
down the music rest though. If your piano
has its own key cover, it will fit over that too.

It's made from a high quality vinyl sheet. This
type of material stops most liquids from
penetrating your piano's keyboard.

You can find out more about these dust covers here

To summarize, these covers are:

  • Waterproof (stops liquids from destroying
    your piano)
  • Hard wearing (protects your instrument
    and prolongs its life)
  • Anti-static (helps prevent electrical fires)
  • Transparent (you can see if you've left
    your piano switched on)

To see which covers fit a specific piano model,
go here: http://www.ukpianos.co.uk/dust-covers

(g) Are wooden mechanisms in digital pianos a
good thing, or could they be a risky purchase?

Some top of the range digital pianos now come with
wooden mechanisms.

But I have my doubts about this.

Wooden mechanisms in digital pianos do look like,
and perform in a similar way to, a real acoustic piano
mechanism…

But, I'm concerned that having a wooded mechanism
in a digital piano could cause problems later…

For instance, digital pianos are known to withstand
heat sources a lot better than acoustic pianos. This
is because there ISN'T wood inside the piano…

Adding wood to the mechanism and keys could
create problems of loose or sticky notes.

What's more, I see it as a risky purchase…

If digital piano manufacturers decide that it really
wasn't such a great idea to put wood inside a
digital piano, they will revert to plastic and metal
mechanisms…

This could cause a mass shortage of spare parts
for those that own digital pianos with wooden
mechanisms…

Although there are no reported instances of this,
it could be something to think about…

(h) Are warranties transferable on digital pianos?

This is quite a common question. But it usually
only crops up when someone is about to buy (or
has just bought) a second hand digital piano
from a private seller.

A typical scenario is when the seller tells the
prospective buyer that there’s still one or two
years left to run on the warranty. So the buyer
thinks he has a guarantee and is covered for
future repairs.

Unfortunately, this is not correct…

Digital piano warranties are NOT transferable to
a new owner. The warranty remains with the
original owner.

Of course, this is not usually the case when you
buy a second hand piano from a shop. Although
the warranty is still not transferable, you do get
the shop’s own warranty. This usually covers
parts and labour for one year (sometimes two).

By all means look around for a second hand
bargain on the internet. But just be aware that
digital pianos aren’t covered by a warranty when
you buy from a private seller.

If you would prefer to have the peace of mind a
warranty provides then I recommend buying from
an internet store or retail shop (choose from my
list of recommended stores in section 7b)…

But, check what type of warranty you’ll be getting
(parts and labour; parts only; fix-at-home;
return to store?) and how long it’s for. The best
type of warranty is always ‘In-Home with parts
and labour included’.

Here are some second hand pianos for sale:

Click here >>http://www.ukpianos.co.uk/used-digital-pianos

(i) What’s the average life of a digital piano?

Digital pianos have an average life of 10 years.

Now, this figure depends on the following:

1) Quality of the piano's parts (especially the
keyboard and electronics)

2) How much it is played

3) How it is looked after

The worst case scenario is:

A cheap, poor quality, unknown Chinese digital
piano that's hammered for 2 hours a day, and
kept in a really dusty or dirty place, can last
only 2 or 3 years.

The best case scenario is:

A high quality (and high price) digital piano
from a leading brand, that doesn't get played
every day, and is kept in a clean and tidy
environment could last for up to 20 years.

Useful Links:

Bags and Cases
http://www.ukpianos.co.uk/gig-bags-and-cases-for-piano-and-keyboard

Dust covers
http://www.ukpianos.co.uk/dust-covers

Fold away piano and keyboard stands
http://www.ukpianos.co.uk/keyboard-and-piano-stands

Piano Stools
http://www.ukpianos.co.uk/piano-stools-and-keyboard-benches

Headphones
http://www.ukpianos.co.uk/keyboard-piano-headphones

3) The Disadvantages of Buying a Second Hand

Digital Piano, Versus a New One

No guarantee

Unless you're buying from a shop, it's highly
unlikely you'll get any guarantee with a second
hand piano.

New pianos come with a warranty from anywhere
between 1 and 10 years. The length of the
warranty depends on the make, and of course,
where you buy it from.

No returns policy

Buying from a private seller doesn't give you
the same legal rights you'd get if you bought
from a shop.

If you buy a second hand digital piano then I
definitely advise buying from either a physical
shop, or a reputable online retailer. This is
because by law you get 7 working days to
change your mind. Some shops offer you 14,
or even 30 days.

If you do decide to buy from a private seller
then make sure you get the piano thoroughly
checked out before you commit (section 4 of
this report will give you many tips on how
you can do this yourself).

** Please don't take this advice lightly**

… It's extremely unlikely you'll get any
guarantee or comeback if you buy from a
private seller, whether it be through an online
auction, marketplace, local newspaper, or by
any other means.

Old technology

Second hand digital pianos have old technology.

Depending on the age of the piano you may get
technology that's out-dated such as: CD drive,
smart media, floppy disk drive, etc.

Digital pianos are always improving

Second hand digital pianos often have a less
realistic touch (inferior key mechanisms)
than the latest models…

The sound quality can also be less realistic.

This is because new methods of sound
sampling are often superior.

Cabinet styles and designs can be dated

Older cabinet styles are usually bigger or
chunkier than current ones. This means they
take up more space in your home.

Can be damaged when shipping

Unless you plan on picking up the piano
yourself, then it's not wise to let a private
seller arrange deliver of your piano by courier…

A second hand piano can get damaged if you
allow it to be delivered by a courier company…

This is because it's almost impossible to pack
it securely enough (unless it's in its original
packaging) – highly unlikely if it's a second
hand piano.

You’d be best off collecting the piano yourself,
or asking them to deliver it personally.

Very difficult to make a claim

Buying a second hand digital piano from a
reputable piano shop is your best bet…

All pianos delivered by a shop are fully
insured. So if anything were to happen,
you would get your money back.

Might be in need of repair

Repairs on second hand digital pianos can cost
you a fortune. Even something as simple as a
single note not sounding could cost upwards
of £150 to get fixed! That's assuming parts
are still available.

Parts may be hard to get

Manufacturers don't always keep parts for
older models…

So, if you have a piano that's more than 5 years
old, you could find yourself in a situation where
it's difficult to get hold of parts.

If parts are not available, then a good digital
piano technician should be able to fix your
piano in most cases…

But this takes a lot longer than simply replacing
a part. Technicians charge by the hour (usually
from £50 to £75 per hour).

So watch out!

Usually no user manual

If you're lucky, you'll get a user manual with a
second hand digital piano. Otherwise you may
have to spend hours online trying to find out
how to use some of its functions.

There really is only one advantage of buying a
second hand digital piano over a new one – the
price, of course…

But…
You may be pleasantly surprised at how much a
decent new digital piano costs these days. Not
only has technology advanced, but prices have
held, and in some cases, reduced over a long
period.

For example: I bought a very basic Yamaha
Clavinova in 1989. I paid about £1,000 for it.

Today you can buy the equivalent model
for around the same price!

Here’s what I advise…

If you really must buy a second hand digital
piano then get something that's no more than

3 years old. You'll save a little money, and,
hopefully, you'll get something that has
current technology.

Where to buy from?

Here's where you can find some bargains on
second hand digital pianos from private sellers:

http://marketplace.ukpianos.co.uk

Or check out the complete range of second hand
digital pianos available from ukpianos.co.uk:

http://www.ukpianos.co.uk/used-digital-pianos

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Part 2

4) 6 Simple Tests You Can Do In A Piano Store
Before Making Your Decision.

IMPORTANT: Don't Buy If The Digital Piano
Doesn't Pass All 6 !

a) This test should be done when you listen to the sound – [page 32]
b) How to test if the key mechanism is poor, acceptable, or top quality…
I can't stress enough the importance of this! – [page 32]
c) Test the sideways movement of the keys… find out what is correct – [page 32]
d) Test the touch sensitivity… this is crucial – [page 33]
e) Do the keys have the correct resistance? – [page 34]
f) Make sure the sustain is long enough, or it could be a disaster! – [page 35]

5) The Top Digital Piano Brands. Scored On:

(a) Selection (top 5 brands) – [page 38]
(b) Reliability (top 10 brands) – [page 42]
(c) Long term popularity (top 5 brands) – [page 47]
(d) Recent popularity (top 5 brands) – [page 49]
(e) Overall result (top 15 brands) – [page 49]

6) Which Are The Best Digital Pianos?

(a) The top ten list. Rated on: touch, sound,
design, build quality, reliability, resale
value, popularity, and value for money – [page 50]

(b) The top ten list in three categories: the best
under £500; the best from £500 to £1000;

and the best over £1,000 – [page 58]

7) Should You Buy Online Or In A Physical Store?

(a) The advantages and disadvantages of both – [page 65]
(b) A list of trusted online, and offline stores -
(website and contact details included) – [page 66]
(c) 2 simple ways to find out if a store is
legitimate – [page 73]
(d) How to GUARANTEE your money is safe when
you buy online – even if the store goes bust! – [page 74]

All contents Copyright © 2009-2015 Graham Howard. All rights reserved.

Graham Howard, Piano Advisor

 

 

"Please note: Part 2 of the Digital Piano Bible (pages 32 to 74)
is
only available through email, because I didn't want some of
the content to be visible on the internet, so please enter your
name and
email below so I can send it to you for free", Graham Howard

 
 

Please note: Your email address is 100% safe and secure. And I promise never to share it with anyone.

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Comments from readers…

"I couldn't have found out all this information in ten years elsewhere!"

Dear Mr Howard,

Thank you for producing this digital piano buying guide! I couldn't have found out all this in ten years elsewhere!

Nigel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Saves Hours of Research"

An essential read for anybody buying a digital piano, no matter what their budget. It covers all the bases and saves hours of research and potentially a lot of wasted money and disappointment.

Michael Newman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I'm amazed by the content and can't believe it's free!"

Hi Graham, I had no trouble downloading your book. I'm amazed and impressed by the content and can't believe some one is providing this information free! I feel indebted to you. Thank you very much! I will be contacting you again soon.

Yours sincerely, Leon Carter, Solihull

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

"Many thanks for your help"

Many thanks for your help in steering me through a confusing process for a non-piano playing parent, who is trying to get the right piano for her son and budget!

Kind Regards, Janice Briggs, Kent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"It's really informative especially for parents like us sourcing piano for kids yet can't play it ourselves"

Hi Graham,

I read the whole book. It's really informative especially for parents like us sourcing piano for kids yet can't play it ourselves. Now at least we know what to look for. Do keep up your good work and I believe your advises have helped many like us.

Tks & Best rgds Janet Young, Elstree, Herts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, we have a well-researched, objective review of what's available. Hurrah!

Many Thanks, David Briggs

 

 

 

 

 

"Your help was unbiased and constructive"

Graham,

Thank you for your help. Your book is great and based on your
recommendations we purchased a Yamaha CLP 320 from our local store. It has just arrived and we look forward to years of playing.

Thank you again for your help. Your help was unbiased and constructive.

Regards, Michael Beneworth, Cambridge, UK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Something FREE? must be a catch somewhere!"

Hello Graham,

Thanks for the guide to buying a digital piano.

My first thought was, something FREE? must be a catch somewhere! Its good to know that there are some genuine people who wish to help.

Sincerely, Terry Levene

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"You have saved me an enormous amount of time – and possibly a great deal of money. I can't thank you enough"

Hi Graham,
 
Quite frankly, I found your book remarkable. I have rarely seen so much useful information written in such straightforward language packed into such a compact format, and all freely given.
I currently have an upright piano (Knight) which, as a consequence of almost daily use and living in a somewhat damp part of Wales, needs tuning regularly. Requesting your book was my first tentative step at looking into a digital piano as an alternative. You have undoubledly saved me an enormous amount of time – and possibly a great deal of money. Without wishing to sound patronising, I cannot thank you enough.
When the time comes, I may well be in touch with a few questions. In the meantime, thanks again.
 
Kind regards, Ryan James

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I put down my email address with trepidation"

Hi, Graham, I have to compliment you on your communications – I stumbled upon your buying guide and put down my email address with trepidation, expecting a scam or a flood of spam…instead I've gotten exactly the right amount of helpful information. Congratulations! Some much larger businesses could learn from you. :-)

Amanda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Your guide helped immensely with the technical jargon, Your comments about buying online and your list of trusted stores were useful"

Hi Graham
 
Many thanks for your incredibly helpful guide. I found it very reassuring, like a child being held by the hand to give it the confidence it needs to go forward in the world.

It helped immensely with the technical jargon, and the listings gave me confidence with choosing Yamaha.

Your comments about buying online and especially your list of trusted stores were useful and persuaded me to buy online.

Thank you, Robert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Without your information I may well have just bought a cheap piano that I would have been disappointed with"

Hi Graham,

Without your information I may well have just bought a cheap piano that I would have been disappointed with. I have ordered a Yamaha CLP535. I would have liked the CLP545 but for my needs the extra cost was just too much.

Regards
Mary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 "It's so refreshing to have unbiased un-salesman like information"

Dear Graham,

Thank you for your e-mail. I'm so glad I came across your book, it was an immense help!

I've actually just ordered the Roland RP201.

I don't have any questions as yet – but if I do I know where to come!

Thanks for being so open with the advice given on your website – it's so refreshing to have unbiased un-salesman like information.

Kind Regards, Claire Miller, Andover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read hundreds more comments

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is based on personal experience and anecdotal evidence. It can’t be found
anywhere. That means that this information has value. And your friends,
neighbours and co-workers may want to share it.

It should go without saying that you can’t post this document, or the information
it contains, on any website, electronic bulletin board, FTP site, newsgroup or blog.

You are welcome to print out these pages for personal use.

Email Graham Howard if you have comments on this book: grahamhoward@ukpianos.co.uk

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