Which is Best to Learn on?
Digital pianos sound nothing like a real piano. Upright pianos take up too much room. There’s a lot of conflicting advice floating around. I’ll give you the right piano buying advice so you can make your own decision on whether the digital piano or the upright piano is right for your needs.
Graham Howard – Author and Piano Advisor.
Email for piano advice: firstname.lastname@example.org
or Call 01327 300 016
A brief history of the digital piano
Digital pianos were invented over 26 years ago and when they where first introduced they were pretty terrible, the keys were much too light, spongy and nothing like a real piano. The sound was incredibly bright and the sampling was quite dreadful. You couldn’t really say that it sounded much like a piano at all.
These digital pianos also looked nothing like a real acoustic piano, they had ugly, plastic looking cases that didn’t match any type of furniture in the room. If guests came around it was almost an embarrassment to have this ugly plastic looking machine in the living room. My how things have changed over the last 20 years!
A brief history of the upright piano
The upright piano was invented in 1709 by the Italian Cristofori. It was a four octave instrument compared to the seven and a quarter octave instrument of today, with hammers striking the strings just as they do on a modern upright piano. The instrument was invented to meet the need to control dynamics by touch, which could not be achieved on the harpsichord.
The early upright piano went through many changes before it emerged as the instrument we all know today. The Cristofori piano was wing shaped like grand pianos, it had a curved body and a lid that could be elevated. There were also square pianos in which the strings ran from left to right as on the clavichord. And by 1800, there were upright pianos whose strings ran perpendicular to the keyboard. Other names commonly used are: vertical piano or acoustic piano, they mean essentially the same thing.
A typical old fashioned upright piano, tall upright standing, ivory keys, beautiful wood, moulded carvings, stylish legs and brass candlestick holders. The old pianos always had a beautiful warm tone because they were made with quality materials and real wood. The soundboard was seasoned for ages which in turn created a resonant and sustaining tone. The superior quality meant that your piano would easily last a lifetime.
Moving on to modern times
These days your typical starter piano is mass produced in China, Indonesia or Korea with very cheap materials, soundboards made out of trees that were probably knocked down the day before and thrown together as quickly as possible to get distributed around the world.
Well maybe it is not quite as bad as this, but anyway i am sure you get my point.
ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF ACOUSTIC AND DIGITAL PIANOS
Advantages of Digital Pianos:
1) You can plug in headphones so nobody can hear you play
2) You can turn the volume up or down
3) You can record your music on the instrument itself, or to disc, smart media, floppy etc.
4) You can experiment with lots of different instrument sounds
5) Due to their light weight, digital pianos can easily be moved from room to room
6) Your digital piano will never need tuning or maintenance, which will save you a small fortune
7) You can download songs from the web and play them on your instrument. (Normally the more expensive digital pianos offer this facility)
8) Digital pianos are very reasonably priced for what they are. You can pick one up from as little as £400
9) Digital pianos take up less space than the acoustic piano. They are slightly shorter in length, much lower in height and most importantly about 2/3rds the depth (front to back) of an acoustic piano, thus saving you valuable space
Disadvantages of Digital Pianos:
1) The value of your piano depreciates very quickly
2) New models are introduced every 2-3 years making your piano even less valuable and harder to sell
Advantages of Upright Pianos
1) Your piano will hold its value over time and if it is looked after it will normally increase over a longer period (normally 20 years plus)
2) The piano has natural acoustic sounds which is produced by the hammer striking the string and then amplified by the soundboard
3) The piano is made from wood, sometimes MDF and is very strong
4) If the piano’s outer casing is damaged it can be repaired easily and fairly cheaply by a French polisher
5) If there is a problem with the piano mechanically, it can normally be fixed by a piano tuner very quickly and cheaply. (With the exception of old pianos that normally need a lot of work)
6) The touch of a real piano is second to none. The deep, rich natural tones enable you to really enjoy playing music
7) You normally get a long warranty with acoustic pianos, anywhere from 5-10 years.
Disadvantages of Upright Pianos
1) The upright piano is extremely heavy (can weigh 175kg upwards) and is almost impossible to maneuver without the help of professional piano movers
2) The volume of the piano cannot be turned up or down, it is reliant on the player to control this.
3) The piano needs tuning regularly (normally twice a year) and can cost in the region of £60-£90 a time.
4) The piano will need the occasional maintenance (every 5-10 years)
5) A good, well made piano can be quite expensive (Usually £3000 upwards)
6) Upright pianos take up a lot of room, especially the grands and the taller uprights.
7) They can mark your floor if you try to move them even the slightest bit and because of the immense weight, the wheels or feet leave deep indentations in your floor over a period of time
I hope this article has helped you in your piano buying quest.
Please note: This article is copyright and protected. You may publish this article on your website providing you leave the article “as is” and retain the author’s biography box. All contents Copyright © 2008-2018. All rights reserved. Graham Howard, author of The Digital Piano Bible (a buyer’s guide) and The Howard Score (piano rating system).
“A real piano or digital one – this is my dilemma”
I’m left with the decision of getting my son a `real’ piano or digital one. This is my dilemma. I’d like a digital for it’s looks and size – smaller and more moveable than an acoustic piano. I shall certainly look at your book again to help me decide between the two and to help me chose a digital one, if I go for one. His piano teacher says I’m denying him a proper piano. What are your thoughts?
If you go for a digital piano, then it’s vital
you choose one that’s got a fully-weighted
or heavy-weighted key touch.
This is the most important thing to get right
(also to please his piano teacher).
The Classenti range of pianos is a good
place to start with. They offer a range of
digital pianos all with heavy-weighted keys.
Heavy-weighted keys are an exact replica
of a real piano; so your son will develop
the correct technique from early on.
I recommend either the Broadway B1
or Kurzweil M110. You can see these here:
If you decide to get a real piano then I
recommend buying a re-conditioned one.
We have about 20 in stock at the moment here:
I downloaded your book but as yet am undecided as to whether to buy digital or acoustic. I play the piano myself and teach piano and singing. I currently have a basic piano which is showing signs of wear, mechanisms going wrong etc so I am wanting to update. Although digital seem to be more cost effective, I am a bit of a purist and feel that an acoustic piano gives a better playing experience so perhaps I should download your acoustic piano book too.
Reply/ Hi Carol
You are absolutely right in saying that an acoustic
piano gives a better playing experience…
The most frequent comment I hear from experienced
players about their digital pianos is that the
sound is just not right… there’s something
What’s missing is the natural sound that’s a result
of a hammer hitting a string, which then transmits
and amplifies the sound through a real wood
soundboard, bridges and wood cabinet.
Simply put, a real, acoustic piano comes to life.
A digital piano has a dead sound.
If you are considering an upright piano then I
recommend the Broadway BU-109…
The Broadway is a beautiful sounding piano.
The tone is rich in the bass and warm in the
The treble is crisp and bright, but not overly
bright like most pianos from Japan and the Far
The most important parts of the mechanism are
produced in Germany and other parts of Europe…
The more expensive materials do push the price
up a bit, but at least you can be sure you’ll
get a quality piano with a great sound.
You can read more about the Broadway here: