In recent years, we have seen an incredible increase in the quality of digital pianos. Digital pianos are offering better sounds than ever before. Advances in materials have allowed for designers and manufacturers to offer these digital pianos at prices that are lower than ever. The portability of digital pianos also makes them the perfect choice for gigging. For all of these reasons, digital pianos are incredibly popular with beginners. There are a number of features and options that can be a bit confusing for new players.
As always, Donner is here to help you get the right instrument in your hands. We hope that after reading this buying guide, you will be more confident in making your purchasing decision.
Introduction of the Digital Piano
The Digital piano was developed in the 1960s and 1970s and was popular in the 1980s and early 1990s as a substitute for the bulkier acoustic piano in some situations. Digital pianos work by creating an electronic signal that plays back a sample of a piano according to the velocity of the key press, the position of the piano’s pedals, and other physical conditions of the keys. There are two, or sometimes three, sensors under the key, and the difference in the time between these two sensors being activated determines the speed, or velocity of the key press. The specific key provides pitch information. All instruments that use digital sampling techniques to simulate piano timbres fall into this category of digital pianos.
Before you decide which piano to choose, there are several features you should especially consider.
Why Should You Choose a Digital Piano?
If you are indecisive about whether an acoustic or a digital piano is more suitable for you. Here are some key aspects for you to consider.
Adjustable Volume and Variable Tones
As with normal electric instruments, the volume of digital pianos is easily adjustable. On better models, you can even adjust the EQ of your instruments to get the sound you’re after. With a digital piano, you can also plug in a headset to delve into your music without being heard or disturbing others. Digital pianos also include many other sounds than just your standard acoustic piano. With a single push of a button, you can get the sound of other instruments like the guitar, bass, flute, violin, and so on.
Portability and Cost
Playing an acoustic piano gives you all the elegance you can imagine, but there is a fatal disadvantage to it – portability. For normal people who hit the road with their instruments frequently, a digital piano is a necessity as you can’t easily move an acoustic piano. Digital pianos are also often much cheaper than their acoustic counterparts. Acoustic pianos require frequent maintenance to keep them in perfect shape, which can be expensive.
Recording and Expansion
As a beginner, being able to record your playing and share it with others can be rewarding. With a built-in recording system, you can easily make high quality recordings of your playing. Digital pianos also have output jacks, which allow you to record your sounds more directly. Recording an acoustic piano requires microphones and a controlled environment.
Most digital pianos have built-in practice tools like backing tracks and metronomes. Some even display chords on the monitoring screens. These functions can be very useful for beginners to practice their musical fundamentals.
Digital Piano Types
Upright Digital Piano
Upright digital pianos, also known as console pianos, are usually for home use purposes. They are usually in a nicer enclosure, making them look like traditional acoustic pianos with the three standard pedals. Although it may not look like it, it shares a lot of electronic components with a normal portable digital piano and has a speaker built-in. Because the piano is in a more traditional enclosure and looks like an acoustic piano, it looks nicer in your home.
The Donner DDP-100 digital piano incorporates an 88-key full-size heavy hammer weighted keyboard and is suitable for beginners and professionals. This is a fully weighted keyboard, applicable for any situation you would use a digital piano in. It also features three pedals and Bluetooth MIDI/USB/headphone/audio output. The DDP-300 comes with 5 Demo Songs, 128 key Polyphony, and 10 piano sound libraries. Those libraries include Acoustic Grand Piano, Electric Piano, Rock Organ, Strings, Bass, Church Organ, and so on. Using AWM sampling, the digital piano more realistically recreates the sounds of the sources. Whether you are on stage or in your room, you can play your favorite music through headphones or an amplifier, immersed in the world of music. And the 20W speaker system is designed to envelop the listener, audience, and room with rich, detailed sound.
Featuring 128 note polyphony and 8 premium sound libraries, the DEP-10 with half-weighted hammer keys gives a more sensitive touch response to your playing. The 3-pedal system (Soft / Sustain / Sostenuto) ensures the quality of your practice and aims to give your performance the maximum expressiveness. Whether you are on stage or in your bedroom, you can play your favorite music through headphones (6.35mm) or an amplifier. Exquisite workmanship and high- quality sound help keep your interested in playing the piano, train a good performance posture, and help you to make the most progress in the least time.
Featuring 128 note polyphony, the Donner DEP-20 has 200 rhythms and 238 premium piano sounds. Its fully-weighted hammer keys allow you to feel more of what you are playing. The DEP 20 also features your standard piano pedals and audio output jacks.
Portable Digital Piano
With a different design philosophy, portable digital pianos are designed to be more convenient for stage and studio players. Their portability makes it easy to get to gigs and shows. Unlike the upright digital pianos, portable pianos are usually held up by a keyboard stand. They also usually have fewer pedals but more timbres and rhythm patterns. Portable models often have even more choices and options than the upright digital pianos, so make sure you know what you’re looking for and what you can spend before picking one out.
Key Features of the Digital Piano that You Should Care
When an instrument is being evaluated, sound is always the priority. As far as a digital piano is concerned, the quality of sound depends heavily on its electronic components. Even if the digital piano has the greatest sound libraries, without an excellent output section, the sounds won’t come out right. When evaluating a digital piano, pay special attention to the overall realism of its sound. Generally speaking, better digital pianos have more storage and memory, which allows them to play back larger, higher quality sound files, which in turn makes the instrument sound more realistic.
Key Response and Sensitivity
The weight, feeling, and response of the keyboard is an important factor in any keyboard purchase. This is the part you will be directly interfacing with and the way that it responds to you is critical in your enjoyment and how much you are able to get from the instrument. Normally, on an acoustic piano, the keys swing wooden hammers and directly strike the strings in the piano to produce sounds. As strings have tension, you may feel a rebound after you hit a key. Things are more complex for digital pianos. There are three kinds of keys for the digital piano – weighted, semi-weighted, and fully weighted. If you have limited budget and want to have the feeling of the acoustic keys on your digital piano, weighted and semi-weighted may be a good choice for you. These options incorporate hammers in the keys and simulate the feeling that you have on an acoustic piano. Suppose you want the exact same feeling of an acoustic piano on your electric, you may want to go for a fully weighted keyboard. Fully-weighted keys are an upgrade to weighted keys as they incorporate linear weighting. This means that lower notes feel heavier as they would on an acoustic piano.
Another important factor that affects your playing is the sensitivity of the keys. As mentioned in the introduction, velocity sensors can capture how fast and hard you hit the keys and play the corresponding sounds. High-end digital pianos capture the most subtle changes in your strike, and then determine the timbre and volume of the sounds.
Don’t Get Trapped by the Number of Tones
While it may look great to you to have almost any kind of instruments' sounds on your piano, you should also pay attention not to fall into the trap of quantity over quality. Having the chance to play all the instruments on your piano may seem intriguing at first, but when you get bored with all of those extra sounds, you'll find yourself playing the standard piano sounds the most, so the quality of these sounds is the most vital.
Polyphony refers to the number of notes a piano can play at the same time. Normal models provide 32 note polyphony and 64 notes polyphony. We recommend you pick up a piano with at least 32 notes of polyphony. The greater the polyphony, the better. You can go with 128 notes and even higher if you ever have the need.
Amplification and Expansion
If you’re primarily playing piano at home, having an amplifier that sounds good is important. If you are looking to play shows, then make sure that your piano has the right outputs to plug into a PA system.
Multiple Input, Output, and Control Jacks on the Donner Digital Piano
Backtracking and Tools
To help beginners, piano manufacturers often incorporate functions that help them practice straight out of the box. Most of the pianos available on the market provide the ability to play back certain rhythmic patterns at various speeds. Then you can play along with those patterns. If the drum sounds are too distracting, you can also just use a metronome function. Practicing along to a metronome is always recommended for beginners to develop a sense of rhythm. Many models also have visual displays that can show chord charts to help a student play.
Whether decide to buy a digital piano for home use or gigs, you will need some accessories.
If you have a portable digital piano and a stand is not included in your piano package, you may consider buying a piano stand. These are usually collapsible, adjustable, and easily portable.
You will also need to be able to sit comfortably at the piano, which is where a piano bench comes in.
On an X-Style bench, you can adjust the height by adjusting the 4-position bolt lock at the bottom to ensure a comfortable height for playing your instrument.
The Donner X-Shaped benches feature high density, deformation-resistant foam and a maximum load of 250 pounds.
If you’re playing at an upright digital or acoustic piano, a classical, unadjustable bench is ideal. This bench features wooden construction that will stand the test of time. The high density foam resists deformation and can support put o 300 pounds. there is also some storage under the seat for sheet music and piano books.
Amplifier and Cables
For normal cases when you need to be heard, the speakers on the pianos should be enough. However, when you need to perform live and there is no interface for you to plug into, a digital piano amplifier and cables are required.
The Donner DA-35 35 watt amplifier is an innovative one. It comes with a durable cable designed for heavy use during gigs. It has two signal input ports. It supports both line input and microphone input. It is an ideal amplifier for connecting to computers, mobile phones, or any other audio playback devices. In addition to AUX-in, the DA-35 also supports Bluetooth wireless input, and the knob on the amplifier panel can also be used to control wireless devices. The 2 inch + 8 inch combined speaker unit can recreate more sound details and dynamics. Simply plug the MP3 player/mobile phone/laptop/tablet into the auxiliary input or wirelessly connect to the DA-35, and you can immediately become a member of the band. With the use of the 1/8-inch headphone output jack, you can practice privately. The enclosed design provides you with a heavy bass response. The amp is surrounded by hard materials to protect it from damage, and the rubber pad makes it safe and stable.
If you still have any questions regarding digital pianos or related subjects, feel free to contact us by hitting the Contact Us button. We are here to help!