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A beginner's guide to digital pianos

What is a digital piano?

Digital pianos are electrical musical instruments which are designed to serve primarily as an alternative option to their traditional, acoustic counterparts. Unlike acoustic pianos, they have no strings, hammers and no soundboard. Instead, they have electronic sound chips and speakers, which can be used to duplicate the sound and feel of playing a traditional piano.

Because such instruments rely on sampling, they can produce a range of other instrument sounds. For example, musicians can choose from such instruments as flutes, harpsichords, strings and percussion, making digital pianos adaptable devices.

Some digital pianos offer a weighted key action to mimic the feel of an acoustic instrument. For example, on the Yamaha YDP140 Digital Piano, the keys of the lower notes have a heavier touch, while the higher ones are lighter.

Advantages of digital pianos

There are a number of advantages to playing a digital piano as opposed to an acoustic version. For instance, they can have built-in rhythm capabilities to accompany players. In addition, because they are without strings, they never need to be tuned, saving their owners time and money.

They also enable their users to take advantage of Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI), which means they can communicate, control and synchronise with other electronic musical instruments, computers and equipment. An example of a keyboard with this capability is the M-Audio ProKeys Sono 88 Key.

Digital pianos are also relatively portable, as they are smaller and lighter than their traditional alternatives and can often be partially dismantled for the purposes of transportation. Users can also play silently by plugging headphones into the instruments.

Things to consider when buying a digital piano

There are a number of things that people seeking to buy a digital piano should look for. For example, the number of keys that the instrument has on offer should be taken into consideration. A good piano setup should have 88 weighted keys, such as on the PL-550 Digital Piano by Gear4music and the Korg LP-350 Digital Piano.

The level of polyphony should also be taken into account. For example, the Casio Privia PX-720 Digital Piano offers a 128-voice polyphony, meaning it allows users to make extensive use of the damper pedal and to play sweeping chords.

Other factors that should be taken into account include whether or not the piano comes with speakers, what its memory capacity is, what pedal options it offers, whether a stand is included and how many songs and digital effects it comes with.

The Casio Privia PX-320 Digital Piano, for instance, has a powerful two-way speaker system, three pedals and an SD memory medium, which enables users to expand their internal song memory.

It also comes with a stand and has 60 songs already on it, as well as eight digital effects.

Digital piano accessories

There are also a number of accessories which can be purchased to enhance digital pianos, such as headphones. Musicians can choose from a range of such devices, including Roland RH-300 Headphones, which come with a 3.4m straight cable and Audio Technica ATH-M40FS Headphones, which come with a cable of the same length.

Meanwhile, for those who do not already have one, a piano stool may also be required. Gear4music produce a Deluxe Piano Stool in keeping with the traditional style.

Posted on 20 Mar 2009 09:00 to category : Tips and advice

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