Digital pianos are the modernized version of the traditional acoustic piano. These pianos are very popular in homes and they are even used on stage during live performances or for recording sessions.
These pianos differ from acoustic pianos in that they are electronic. When you press a note on your digital piano, the sound is played back from a recording that is made by playing that same note on a quality acoustic piano.
These pianos are also different from keyboards since they are not designed to be quite as light and portable as keyboards are, and often don’t contain quite as many techno features.
There are a few different types of digital pianos out there. Before you can start shopping for the best digital piano, you must first establish what type of piano you need.
The Best Digital Piano to Buy Based Your Needs
If you are shopping for digital pianos then you should always shop according to your primary need. Different types of pianos are designed for specific purposes. The one that offers you the most benefit is the one that suits your playing style.
Here is a quick look at the most common digital pianos as well as a quick guide on who these pianos are suited for.
1. Grand Digital Pianos
This is the electronic version of the acoustic grand piano. These pianos are large and have a flat design but are not quite as bulky as acoustic grand pianos. These pianos are the best electric pianos for stage performances and recording since they do tend to offer slightly better sound quality compared to upright digital pianos.
Grand digital pianos can have all sorts of features, such as weighted keys, adjustable keys (touch sensitivity), presets, learning programs, pedals, and many others.
They can also be connected to amplifiers or a headset, and many of these pianos have a USB port that enables you to store the music you play on a device so you can play it back later on.
Who Should Buy a Grand Digital Piano?
These pianos are pricey compared to upright digital pianos. They are ideal for live stage performances or for spacious homes. They are a good investment for professional players that want the best sound quality.
2. Upright Digital Pianos
An upright digital piano is a very popular piano. It is designed to mimic the acoustic upright piano but offers more features. These pianos sound and feel just like acoustic pianos since they come with weighted keys and quality recordings. They have lots of additional features such as soundtracks and learning programs, and you can often adjust the sound of these pianos to mimic other types of musical instruments.
You can connect a headset or amplifier to these pianos so you can perform in front of others or practice in silence.
Who Should Buy an Upright Digital Piano?
These pianos are more affordable compared to grand digital pianos. They are ideal for families that might have enough room to house these pianos. They are perfect for beginners and advanced players, but are not a good pick for traveling since they are bulky.
3. Portable Digital Pianos
Portable digital pianos are usually full-sized and they can have all the same functions as upright digital pianos. However, they also tend to be much smaller. These pianos are usually popped up on a stand so you can play and they can easily be disassembled for storage or transportation.
Portable digital pianos usually have lots of auto functions such as built-in lessons, music tracks, and backtracks, and many of these can be fine-tuned to sound different.
These pianos are lighter and many do not come with weighted keys to help reduce their overall weight.
Who Should Buy a Portable Digital Piano?
These pianos are ideal for beginners, musicians, or for small homes that might not have the room for a full size upright piano. They are relatively easy to store when not in use and are superb for traveling.
If you are a frequent traveler you might want to look into buying a keyboard though. The digital piano is still not quite as portable as a keyboard. However, portable digital pianos still tend to offer more features.
Things to Consider When Buying a Digital Piano
Once you know what type of digital piano you need to buy (grand, upright, or portable), it is time to consider the specs that these different pianos may come with.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for the best digital pianos:
For many people, cost plays a huge role when choosing their digital piano. Pianos can be very expensive, especially if you invest in a quality piano with many important features.
The size or design of the piano tends to have the biggest impact on the price. Each of the main types can come in a huge variety of designs and sizes.
If you need a good piano that is easy to travel with then portability should be one of your main concerns. Portable digital pianos are lighter and more compact. They are easy to detach from their stands and you can even get a carry case to secure your piano while on the road. Portable digital pianos also come in different sizes. You can get it as a full 88-key piano or invest in something smaller like a 61-key piano.
Compared to acoustic pianos, your digital piano will sound much quieter. But there are ways to overcome this small issue and digital pianos offer more benefits compared to acoustics. Digital pianos can be used with headsets or amps and speakers.
Some even have two headphone jacks so teachers and students can listen together while practicing. This is an ideal solution if you are still a beginner and do not want to disturb others.
You can also use your piano as is and adjust the volume a little bit. They have built-in speakers and usually offer relatively good sound. Most digital pianos also have built-in sound sets.
You can add drums, percussion, woodwinds, bass, and other types of sound effects to your music too.
For performances, it is best to invest in a good quality amplifier. Amplifiers can vary quite a lot. They are available in smaller units that are ideal for home use and you can get enormous amplifiers that are perfect for live stage performances.
For many piano beginners and experts, this is a must-have feature. Most modern digital pianos allow you to record your performance.
This is ideal for learning to play so you can identify flaws in your music and will know which areas to focus on to make progress. The recording function is also perfect for songwriters or musicians who might want to record some of their tunes.
It is also important to consider the pianos’ connectivity. Many modern digital pianos come with a USB port and some have MIDI capability too. This makes it easy to connect your piano to a computer or other types of recording equipment. Some advanced pianos even come with flash memory cards.
The USB port on these digital pianos makes it very easy to use various external piano accessories with your piano.
If you are new to piano playing then this is a very important feature to look out for. Most modern digital pianos come with built-in lessons, exercises, note/chord displays, and metronomes. In addition to these, some even give you access to online piano lessons.
If you want to learn to play the piano quickly, these features can be invaluable, especially if you want to cut back on tutoring costs.
This is another huge factor to consider when you are shopping for the perfect piano. Digital pianos can come in lots of different sizes. And by different sizes, we mean they can have different amounts of keys.
A full-size digital piano has 88 keys. An 88-key piano is ideal for beginners and advanced players. For more portability, you can also look into buying a keyboard with 76 or even 61 keys. Pianos can also come in much smaller sizes. Some have as little as 25 keys.
It is, however, best not to invest in anything with fewer than 61 keys or you may find yourself greatly limited in the type of music you can play.
The more polyphony a digital piano has, the more expensive it will be. Simple children’s keyboards usually have polyphony of just one. This means that the keyboard will only play one note even if more than one key is pressed.
Anything with a polyphony less than 32 is probably not ideal. Though 32-note polyphony keyboards are usually quite budget-friendly, ideally you should try to invest in something with 64-note polyphony or higher since these offer much better play.
Professional players usually invest in 128-note digital pianos, as 128 to 264-note polyphony pianos are ideal for live performances.
Key Weight, Action, and Touch Response
This is a very important aspect to keep in mind if you have already learned to play an acoustic piano.
Acoustic pianos have weighted keys because of their design and the key materials. Most digital pianos are designed to mimic this weight so the piano will feel just like an acoustic piano. The key weight of some digital pianos is also adjustable. The key weight of digitals can also be reduced to make the piano lighter and more portable.
If you want a piano that feels just like an acoustic piano, then you should consider one with weighted keys.
The key action and touch response are also important to consider. When you play on an acoustic piano, the striking force and duration of the key offers different sounds. The harder you strike the keys, the louder the sound becomes.
Digital pianos function via a recording and cannot produce sound in the same way. There are, however, advanced digital pianos that do have action and touch response features. This feature allows the piano to detect the force and duration with which you are striking keys and louder sounds are played. The result is a piano that sounds a lot like a traditional piano.
Key action and touch response is a very important feature for advanced musicians because it can have a huge impact on the music that is produced.
Our Quick Piano Buying Guide
As you can see, choosing the right piano can be quite challenging. There are so many things to keep in mind when you are shopping for the perfect piano. Luckily for you, we are going to make it even easier for you to choose the best piano. The following guide will help you spot the right piano in a flash:
Best Digital Piano for Beginners
As a complete beginner, you don’t yet know what your playing style will be. (You also don’t know if this hobby will stick.)
Most beginners need something affordable yet durable. It should be affordable since you don’t quite know how far your piano lessons will take you. And yet, it should be durable enough to handle many long hours of practicing.
Digital pianos with a few modern features are great if you love to explore new things or combine new backtracks with your music. Ideally, you should invest in a piano that offers built-in lessons. These lessons are ideal for helping you practice while you are on your own.
Another good feature to look out for is portability, especially if you are learning the piano so you can become part of a band.
The Alesis Recital 88-Key Digital piano is one of the best beginner pianos to consider. It has lots of educational features, including split keyboard function, lesson modes, and many others.
Digital Pianos for Home Use
You can get a portable or upright piano for home use. It all depends on the amount of space you have available to you. If space is an issue, portable ones with a stand are always a good pick.
It is best to invest in a piano with built-in speakers. Almost all come with headphone jacks so you can choose to play it as is or while using a headset.
If you are mostly using your piano at home, then a full size 88-key piano is the best option. We recommend the Yamaha YDP184R Piano if you are looking for the best Yamaha digital piano. But if you prefer something with a removable stand, the Yamaha DGX660B Piano is a good alternative.
If you have your heart set on a grand piano that doesn’t need quite as much space then you can also consider the Korg Micro-Piano. This 61-key piano has an incredibly compact design and is ideal for home use since you can easily store it away.
Digital Piano for Stage or Studio Use
When performing live on a stage, you should use nothing smaller than a full size 88-key piano.
For live performances, style is very important and there is nothing that says classy like a grand piano. These pianos are glorious to look at, they offer fantastic sound since they usually come with bigger speakers and they are, well, grand. The Kurzweil KAG100 is a good example of a great grand piano to get for performances.
If you are limited in space in a music studio, you can also consider an upright piano. A 88-key piano with modern features such as Bluetooth, MIDI, USB and many installed tunes is ideal. We recommend the Roland RP102 Piano for compact studio use.
The Nord Stage 6 piano is, however, another jewel for recording studios. It is considered the best electric keyboard. This piano is packed with lots of features such as weighted hammer action keypads, split functionality, 2GB memory, a huge song list mode, lots of tunes, and many more. It is a 120-note polyphony piano that will bring out the best in any song no matter how complex your tunes may be.
The Best for Musicians or Songwriters
Musicians and songwriters rely on a compact and light piano because they often have to travel from one town to another for performances or to work with different musicians. A light portable digital piano is an ideal solution for these free-spirited individuals.
You should look for something that is very light and that comes with a folding stand. This way you can easily set up for play or pack up when it is time to leave. An 88-Key piano, once again, is ideal because it offers you the soundest flexibility. We do recommend the Yamaha P-45 Compact Piano Kit. If you feel that this unit might be a bit too bulky then you can also consider something even more compact. The Alesis Melody Piano Kit can also be a good unit for musicians that travel a lot. This 61-key piano has many built in tones and it is very easy to assemble. The piano keys are also responsive, although they are not weighted.
Best Budget Digital Piano
Those shopping on a tight budget should first consider shopping in the used section. Many used or refurbished pianos are still in fantastic shape and were hardly used by people who wanted to learn to play. Some piano owners offer their pianos at a bargain price just to clear up some space in their homes.
If you want to buy new then it may be best to invest in a portable digital piano. These units are much more affordable compared to upright pianos and their advanced lesson plans make them ideal for beginners.
Keyboards also tend to be more affordable compared to digital pianos. They can be just as functional but you should take note that the playing method differs since the keys are not weighted.
The Best Interactive Digital Piano for Songwriters
Interactive pianos are ideal for songwriters because you can adjust many of the sounds and they offer lots of recordings and tracks that you can play as a backtrack to your own music.
The RockJam RJ761 Interactive Teaching Piano is a great pick for songwriters because it offers 200 rhythms, 200 tones, and 30 teaching demo songs. Plus, many of these sounds can be adjusted. The piano is also nice and compact for easy traveling. It is one of the best electronic pianos to buy if you want to create unique songs with ease.
If you can afford something of superior quality, the Nord Stage 3 Piano, with its 88 keys and various tones and rhythms is also a great pick. This piano is, however, only for advanced musicians because it offers a huge variety of customization settings that may be overwhelming for beginners.
We hope that this buying guide helped you find the best digital piano based on your needs. With the right piano, we are certain that you will soar whether you are still learning how to play the piano or need a trusted piece of equipment that can take your performance to the next level.
If you are in the market for a quality piano then you should also check out some of our other piano reviews, where we compare some of the best buys on the market in different categories.