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This is the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) list for rec.music.makers.piano regarding digital pianos.
This FAQ list is intended to present information frequently asked in rec.music.makers.piano about digital pianos. It is posted every month. Updates, additions, suggestions and corrections are always welcome: send e-mail to the address at the end of this FAQ. However, it has become increasingly difficult to keep up with the demand, so response, if any, may be very delayed.
This FAQ is periodically posted to rec.music.makers.piano, news.answers, and rec.answers. This FAQ can also be retrieved from rtfm.mit.edu via anonymous FTP under:
If you do not have access to anonymous FTP, you may retrieve it by sending e-mail to email@example.com with the message (leave the subject line blank):
You also have access to rmmp FAQs on WWW:
updated the RMMP FAQ web page address
[Q1] What are the differences between "acoustic",
"digital", "electric" and "electronic" pianos?
[Q2] Okay, now that I know the difference between acoustic and digital pianos, tell me more about digital pianos.
[Q3] What are the advantages of buying a digital piano as opposed to an acoustic one?
[Q4] What are the drawbacks?
[Q5] Should I buy a digital piano or an acoustic piano?
[Q6] What are the basic things I should look for in a digital piano?
[Q7] Are there any magazine reviews on digital pianos?
[Q8] What's different between the different manufacturers and the different models?
[Q9] What are the most popular brands?
[Q10] What is the mean time between repairs?
[Q11] How much pounding can they take?
[Q12] Where can I get the best deal on a digital piano?
An "acoustic" piano is the traditional piano everybody is familiar with, that produces sounds by means of hammers striking strings. It is generally referred to as "the piano." The term "acoustic" is usually used when specifically making a distinction between other various forms of piano (digital, electric, etc.)
A "digital" piano is an instrument which does its best to duplicate the sound and feel of playing an acoustic piano. It uses digitally sampled sounds, amplifiers and speakers instead of strings and hammers to produce the piano-like sound. They have weighted key action to imitate the action of an acoustic piano.
An "electric" piano is an electro-acoustic instrument analogous to an electric guitar. It has a real action, some sort of metal tine or string which vibrates, and pickups to detect the audio signal for subsequent amplification.
An "electronic" piano, better referred to as an "electronic keyboard" is an instrument with a keyboard, but usually without the weighted key action or velocity sensitivity, and the sound is usually generated through synthesizers (computer-generated); however, some may have sampled sounds. This type of keyboard is the one you see most in bands playing popular music.
A complete digital piano system consists of the following: a keyboard with a weighted key action, optical or other electronic sensors which detect the velocity with which you strike the keys, a digitized sound bank, an amplifier or two, and speakers/headphone jacks. Usually the sound for each note has been sampled off a high-quality acoustic piano. When a key is pressed, the sensors detect the key's velocity, and a microchip produces the note with corresponding loudness (the faster, or harder you hit the keys, the louder), just like a piano. Keys are usually weighted to approximate the feel of a piano's keyboard rather than that of an organ (soft, very little resistance, light).
Most digital pianos also offer other than piano sounds (such as pipe organ, harpsichord, etc.), plus miscellaneous digital technology "gadgets". Since all the sounds are stored in electronic form, you can listen to the piano through headphones instead of speakers, thereby allowing you to play the piano without anyone else hearing it.
The biggest advantages of digital pianos are:
The technology of digital pianos has made some impressive strides in the last couple of years. For between $2000 and $3000 (at the best available discounts), you can get some fairly satisfying instruments. However, the current state of the art isn't perfect (yet), and for those prices you can pick up a decent used acoustic piano. If your situation doesn't require the advantages of a digital piano (relative portability, and the option of practicing silently with headphones are the big ones), you might be happier hunting down a good deal on a new or used upright. If you really want to splurge, you can get something like a Yamaha Silent Series, which is an acoustic piano with the digital piano silencing capability added. You get the best of both worlds, but you also pay the price.
Before you set out shopping, fetch a good-quality (the best quality you can get your hands on) headphone sets and take it with you to the piano dealers. If you're buying a digital piano instead of an acoustic piano, the chances are you'll be practicing through headphones a lot and should determine how it sounds through a headset as well as through the speakers. Using headphones is also practical because it is easier to hear many subtle defects which might be masked by the speakers. Don't be afraid to play away on the floor models. That's what they're there for. If you want, you can grab a friend who can play the piano well, so you can listen how it sounds while your friend plays it. But don't be a passive observer. Also, if the showroom also has fine acoustic instruments, use them for comparison.
Keep in mind that it is *you* who will be playing the digital piano, and not your friend or the salesperson. Buying digital piano is like buying a stereo system. You can spend almost infinite amount of money if you don't watch out. Get what you are satisfied with, not what others say that you will be satisfied with.
Here are some common concerns for picking a good digital piano, whatever your needs.
The December 1993 issue of "Keyboard" had a review of many models, and the July/August 1994 issue of "Piano and Keyboard" had a similar review -- you might want to check your local library and see if you can find them.
"Electronic Musician" publishes a yearly "Digital Piano Buyers Guide" (the last one came out around October 1994); you won't find any recommendations for specific models, but it gives a pretty comprehensive listing of *everything* on the market, and an easy overview of the current technology for people unfamiliar with it.
The December 1995 issue of the "Keyboard Magazine" is a hardware buyer's guide, and it seem to have specifications on most digital pianos and synthesizers.
As for *manufacturers*, they usually differ in:
Usually, the main differences between various models within the *same maker* are in:
For overall satisfaction within this newsgroup, the general consensus seems to center around Yamaha Clavinova and Technics Digital Piano series. Roland HP series seems to have good reviews on key action and miscellaneous sounds, but they tend to be more expensive. Kurzweil is another brand which is well received. But as stated before, go check them out yourself. Like/dislike is a very personal thing, and you should not make a decision based on what others say.
Also, the rmmp newsgroup maintains the Digital Pianos Hardware List. This document lists the hardware specifications of many current or about-to-be-obsolete models of digital pianos available. You can retrieve it through anonymous ftp to rtfm.mit.edu under:
/pub/usenet/news.answers/music/piano/digital-pianos-listYou can also read it on www on URL:
No body really seems to know the answer to this. This is akin to asking how often does a new car or a stereo component breaks down. There are many people who have had the digital pianos for 10+ years with absolutely no problem, and there are people who ended up with a "lemon" which needed frequent repairs soon after the purchase (within the warranty period).
The general consensus is that digital pianos can take as much pounding as a piano can. One would hope that the manufacturers have designed them with that in mind. But there have been reports of people chipping the plastic on the key, or losing a spring which helps the feel of a weighted action and have been playing gingerly ever since, but this seems to be in the minority.
Prices vary greatly depending on the make and the model, and the suggested retail price (SRP) can range anywhere from $1500 to $7000. Don't be daunted by this, though. You can buy most of these from mail-order houses for substantial discounts, as much as 50% off the SRP. Some local dealers may or may not try to match the mail order price. You will just have to shop around and ask. There are many mail-order firms. Any copy of the magazines "Keyboard", "Electronic Musician" or "Piano and Keyboard" will have ads for them.
One thing you will want to consider is, that in some states, a "Use Tax" law is enforced, which is a sales tax levied on mailorder purchases made out-of-state and delivered out-of-state. If you are not aware, you may receive a rude surprize few years down the road from the Department of Revenue of your state. If you are found liable to the Use Tax, and did not file a Use Tax return by 15 April of the following year, you may be required to pay up to double the sales tax amount in taxes, interest, and penalties (Believe me. I was caught unaware and was forced to pay 2 years after I bought a digital piano out of state).
You might also want to take a look at the following WWW sites for price lists and dealers (this list is quite outdated. You probably will be able to find a better list doing a google search yourself).
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This document is copyright (c) 1995-2010 by Isako Hoshino. It may be freely distributed in its entirety provided that this copyright notice is not removed, and link to its permanent site is kept intact ( http://rmmpiano.tripod.com/rmmp-faq.html ). It may not be sold for profit nor incorporated in commercial documents or sites without the author's permission. This article is provided "as is" without express or implied warranties. While every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this article, the maintainer assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.