The Best Piano for You:
Comparing Acoustic and Digital pianos

Which is the best piano for you? In today’s world, answering this question is no easy task. The array of pianos from which to choose is absolutely stunning. Prices vary vastly as well. What’s more, we often need to make the important decision between which type of piano will be the best piano. Will this be an Acoustic Piano, or a Digital Piano?

Today I’m going to take a look at some pros and cons of these two types of pianos.

ACOUSTIC PIANOS

PROS

Let’s just say this: There’s nothing like the real thing. An acoustic piano is the best piano for you if you want to experience an authentic feel and sound. Because there is no digital reproduction of the sound, what you hear is very very real. An acoustic piano also feels this real, as your fingers massage the keys and your feet work the pedals in order to produce a magnificent sound. The best pianos produce a very full vibration which can fill a room or a concert hall in a very unique way. No two pianos are alike, and each has it’s own very special character.

The Instrument of The Greats!

Character is such an important element that there are even famous pianos. From Glenn Gould to Stevie Wonder, from Mozart to Liberace, they all had their own pianos that gave them that “special sound.”

Over the course of it’s development, differences in types or models have become common. The two main types are the “upright” piano and the “grand” piano. To the most exacting of piano connaisseurs, the grand piano is widely seen as the best piano. There is a case to be made for the upright piano, however, as it’s size and “folksy” sound can turn an ordinary performance into a memorable gem.

Let’s have a look at the two models:

UPRIGHT PIANO

The upright piano offers a certain convenience, while maintaining the principle characteristic of an acoustic piano — acoustic sound production. While there are many models available, an upright piano looks a little something like this:

Upright Piano
The Upright Piano

Upright pianos take up relatively little space. When comparing price against the cost of a grand piano, the upright option is much more affordable. That said, there are some very nice upright models, and they just might make the best piano choice for you.

GRAND PIANO

The word “grand” here is not to be taken lightly! Big, majestic and beautiful are ways you might describe a grand piano. Their construction allows for the longer strings to offer a full rich vibration, producing an impressive and grandiose sound. An imposing instrument (in a good way), a grand piano can inspire confidence in a musician’s playing and add elegance to a room, even if it’s not being played!

grand piano
A Grand Piano!

CONS

Despite their advantages, there are a good number of concerns that come with owning an acoustic piano. Many of them are common to a grand piano as well. Read these carefully, it may have an influence on selecting the best piano type for your needs.

Maintenance

A huge (HUGE) responsibility of owning an upright or grand piano is the maintenance routine you’ll require to keep the piano in the best condition possible. Regular tunings are a must. A humidifier is also a must-have to protect the instrument during the dryer months, and you’ll have to manage the humidifier unit. Cleaning and polishing is important too, even from time to time. Eventually, some major “overhaul” work will be necessary to replace parts and pieces as they fatigue over the years.

All of the things on this list are very doable. However, they come with a price. If you want to preserve your investment, you’ll want to contact a reputable piano tuner/technician. This relationship will prove essential in order to ensure you have the best piano you can have!

Price

Upright and Grand pianos can cost a small fortune. To say the least, purchasing an acoustic piano is no small expense. Some consider it an investment.

Portability

This ties into the price element as well. An acoustic piano will pretty much need to stay in one place. Anytime you move, it’ll cost some extra fees (totally worth it) to have a qualified piano mover do the job. Usually a move is followed by a tuning as well, adding to the cost yet again. If you expect to move a lot over the next few years, you might consider other options.

Sound

An acoustic piano is exactly as it sounds. Acoustic! Piano!

Depending on your situation, you may find that this is not the best piano choice for you. If it’s essential for you to have quiet in the house, be warned: You simply can’t turn the volume down, nor can you press “mute” at your convenience. Should you live in an apartment building or condominium, you may also run the risk of bothering your neighbours, and this can be its own set of problems.

DIGITAL PIANOS

Digital Pianos have been around for a relatively short period of time. Today we can safely say they’re the focus of a revolution in the way we think about pianos. Take a quick look at all of the “cons” I mention for the acoustic piano. All of these cons are indeed “pros” in relation to the Digital piano. With this reversal of the situation, you may indeed feel a digital piano is the best piano for you.

PROS

Volume Control

Because digital pianos don’t rely on the same mechanics as an acoustic piano, they don’t produce a real acoustic sound. The sound you hear is electronic at the source, amplified by speakers. This is a good thing, because control of volume and timbre is much easier than with an acoustic piano. Therefore, a digital piano can be very useful if you’re using the piano in an apartment building or condominium-type situation. Quite simply, all you would need is to plug in your headphones. You won’t disturb anyone!

Affordability

A digital piano is generally less expensive than most acoustic pianos. Using plastic and electronics creates a cost advantage for digital piano manufacturers. We, the consumers, benefit from this. You can still pay a lot of money for a digital piano, however. Usually price is connected to quality. The more you pay the more you’re getting in return.

Maintenance

Overall, the maintenance regime for a digital piano is much less than with its acoustic colleague. If you would like to have some more insight on this subject, I wrote this article about digital piano maintenance. In short, if you keep it clean and do not physically damage the unit, it will last a lifetime.

Portability

You’ll never have to worry about hiring a mover for your digital piano. Some models are on the heavier side, but they’re never as prohibitive as an actual acoustic piano!

Versatility

Digital pianos have amazing versatility. Depending on the model, you may be able to connect to your computer, change the sounds (selections range from tens to many hundreds), and even play along with a drum beat. An acoustic piano simply does not offer these features.

Examples

best piano
A CASIO intermediate-level digital piano

Take for example this digital piano that I found at BestBuy.ca. The Casio CDP130CSBB is an 88-key (full-size) digital piano. It’s not nearly as big as an upright piano, and it has a very affordable price when compared to any acoustic piano. It’s what I’d consider to be a very good intermediate-level digital piano.

 

 

Step things up a notch, and we find ourselves looking at the Casio PX760BK.

The CASIO Privia is an advanced digital piano with a superior sound and feel

It may not look all that different from the previous example. In this case, it’s often what’s “under the hood” that counts. With digital pianos, it’s the quality of the sounds and the feel of the instrument which go a long way to determining the price you’ll pay. This model has a very high quality sound and feel.

Which leads me to the “cons” of digital pianos …

CONS

By a large margin, the drawbacks of digital pianos can be summed up using two words: Sound and Feel. A digital piano will never sound like an acoustic piano. It will never feel like one either.

The sound of a digital unit can be very good, and the feel seriously authentic. That said, there is still a leap to be made before the whole world will be convinced that a digital piano can truly replace an acoustic instrument. When I try to compare the two, I inevitably end up deciding that a digital piano is simply an attempt to sound like an acoustic piano. Honestly, it’s impossible to digitally recreate the magic of the best pianos in the world. In the end, however, it’s surprising how close today’s models can be!

The Best Piano Type?

What do you consider to be the pros and cons of both acoustic and digital pianos?

There are so many factors to consider in this discussion. Budget, timbre, convenience. Feel and versatility. Each and every one of us has a different need. One thing is important however. Be sure to take some time to think about these pros and cons before making your decision!

If you’re leaning toward choosing a digital piano, a great place to begin the search is at Best Buy Canada’s Digital Pianos section. Enjoy your search!

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Clinton Ryder
For over 20 years, Montreal bassist Clinton Ryder has been on the Canadian music scene. With over 20 album credits, he works with musicians of all genres and generations. In recent years, he’s performed with Jim Byrnes and Petru Guelfucci, and a member of the Félix Stussi’s 5 (featuring trombonist Ray Anderson). He continues to freelance on his instrument of choice while honing his skills in Logic Pro, Sibelius and other interests, including his website www.country-music-hoedown.com.

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