“Touch sensitivity levels”
Hello Graham & co.
I am going to buy a new digital piano and connect it to my computer and use
some virtual instruments I have bought. I will connect the piano via MIDI to
the computer’s USB port.
I know there different digital pianos have different levels of touch
sensitivity, for example Yamaha ydp-141 has three levels (soft, medium and
hard). Does touch sensitivity matter also when I connect via MIDI? Or maybe
MIDI is the same no matter which digital piano it is played on, meaning that
the computer software determines how many levels of touch sensitivity I get?
I hope you know the answer to my question.
Thank you for some great guides on the site.
Philip Dam, Denmark
Reply/ Hi Philip
Touch sensitivity relates to the number of volume
levels you can get from each note. For example:
p, mf, f is 3 levels.
5 levels is a good number to aim for, but 4 is
enough for most levels of playing.
Graham Howard, Piano Adviser
Send me an email if you have any questions or need advice: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or call freephone 0800 358 8880
“How many touch sensitivity levels on the Yamaha CLP340?”
I’ve actually already finished your book and thank you I found it very informative.
There is one thing I wasn’t clear on and that’s around the levels of touch sensitivity. For example a piano that looks ideal for me us the Yamaha CLP340PE – I know it has three levels of sampled volumes from their concert grand, but have no idea how many levels of actual touch sensitivity the keys have. The Yamaha website casts no light on the subject. Six levels would make sense, do you know how many levels the keys of a CLP340 has? …and how many levels do you think is enough?
Reply/ Hi Guy
The Yamaha CLP340 has 5 levels of touch sensitivity.
This is enough for up to grade 8.
4 levels would be enough for up to grade 6 or 7.
“What does “brilliance” refer to? What is “scale tuning”?”
Also, there are a few terms that I cannot find reference for in your article. I’d really appreciate
it if you would help define them:
What does “brilliance” refer to? What is “scale tuning”?
Finally, do you see any disadvantages of having a display screen (i.e. more likely to break, more
difficult to deal with, etc.)?
Thanks SO much!
Reply/ Hi Fritz
The ‘brilliance’ feature can alter the 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 full of vibrance –
like the sound of a trumpet fanfare.
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 were once common but rarely used
today are the ‘meantone’ scale, ‘pythagorean’ and
It’s unlikely you’d make use of the ‘scale tuning’
A display screen – like the one on the Roland 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 screen can be found on
pianos that have hundreds of functions. Pianos
like the Yamaha CVP range.
A display screen is necessary here 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, it’s really one extra
thing that can go wrong, or suffer accidental
“What does it mean 4-6 levels of touch sensitivity?”
We have Yamaha CVP-3 Clavinova, which my son is busy learning piano on; it has 76 keys, so not quite full size. As he is learning grade 4, we are wondering whether to buy a better piano for further grades.
A friend has lent us your book, so I am busy studying it. I have one question so far, about touch sensitive keys. In your book you say that good digital pianos have between 4 and 6 levels of loudness. Do you mean:
a) The volume that comes out the speaker can only be at 4 to 6 different levels (if you keep the volume control fixed).
b) Depending on how hard/fast you play a key, the volume is much more varied, but the sampled sound will come from one of 4 to 6 different samples? I know that the more expensive pianos don’t record one sample of sound per key and just change the volume. They take several different recordings of each key, played at different loudnesses and choose which sample to use based on how hard you play a key. Is this what you mean by the
4 to 6 levels? I would have expected lots of different volumes as the MIDI standard specifies velocities from 0 to 127.
I have looked at the MIDI messages that are produced by our Clavinova when I play middle C at various loudnesses and the velocity value varies from 1 to
92 (with a good hefty thump). It looks to me like the MIDI messages are produced with loads of different velocity values, so potentially the volume of sound produced could vary much more than 4 to 6 steps, if that was the way it was designed.
Reply/ Hi Don
Most digital pianos have between 3 and 5
dynamic levels. This means that you can
only get a maximum of 5 volume levels for
each key. Usually pp, mp, mf, f and ff.
The memory simply isn’t large enough to
allow for more levels…
To increase the size of the memory is
expensive. And this would increase the
prices of the pianos considerably.
Your guide to buying digital piano is great (thank you very much for making it available) but can I just say that I feel what you wrote about the escapement feature is misleading (I think – I’m barely an expert as I’ve just learnt about the escapement yesterday.
I’ve got an 8 year old girl who’s been having piano lessons at the teacher’s upright piano for almost three years now and practices at home on a keyboard that’s touch sensitive but the keys are not weighted. We’ve said we would buy her an upright piano if she remains interested in playing and that time has now come. Alas, we can’t afford a new piano and even a good used one is out of out budget, especially when one thinks of the transport costs and tuning cost, and whether our floor would sustain its weight without us having to reinforce it first, etc. etc.
We then considered a digital piano as her teacher said any digital with weighted keys and pedals will do for her to practice for the piano exams. But when we took her to a high street shop she hated the smooth key action of the Yamaha and said only acoustic piano is good enough. After trying 20 pianos in the shop we finally came across Roland HP 302 with escapement feature and she actually liked it and said she would be happy for us to buy it (there were other Rolands, of course, but this one is more in our budget bracket and probably the only one we could consider). She said she really liked the feel of the escapement and it reminded her of the mechanical action of acoustic piano keys.
I’ve also read in your Guide that Roland sound is preferred by most professional pianists, which made me wonder if this is also because it reminds them of the acoustic piano?
I just felt I should say something as many people out there like me who know nothing about digital pianos would probably find it helpful to know that the escapement (although a flaw) is preferred by some people. I’ve certainly found forums online where some people love and some hate the escapement feature of Rolands.
Thanks for an interesting digital piano guide book
One area which I thought might benefit from more detail (and please correct me if I’m wrong, I’m new to this) is regarding the description of the difference in feel of a graded hammer action vis a vis a graded non-hammer action, as you refer only to the difference in weighting from the low notes to the high notes, which is also present in a graded non-hammer action.
In a non-hammer action, the underside of the struck key approaches a sensor at some variable velocity which determnes the loudness of the note.
In a hammer action (as I understand it), the struck key imparts momentum to a ballistic hammer, i.e. a hammer which moves on, free of the key, to strike the string or sensor. This means that a sharp short-distance tap on the key may send the hammer all the way to the string or sensor, whereas the non-hammer action requires the key always to move all the way to the sensor.
I imagine that this is what gives the hammer action its different feel, otherwise what is the point of having a hammer action on an electronic keyboard? On a string piano, ballistic hammers are necessary so that a key when held down does not damp the string, the hammer will reach the string only if given sufficient momentum, but this would not be a problem on an electronic keyboard.