Buying A Digital Piano

Buying a Digital Piano

This article is adapted from several articles on buying a digital piano in Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer. The full articles are available free of charge at www.PianoBuyer.com.

Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer is a semiannual publication concerning new, used, and restored acoustic pianos and digital pianos. The publication is a hybrid book and magazine. The “book” part consists of a series of tutorial articles, illustrated and in color, each covering a different aspect of the piano-buying experience. These articles will not change, or will change very little, from issue to issue. The “magazine” part consists of articles of more temporary interest, and reference material (current prices, specifications, etc.), that will change over time. Piano Buyer is available both as a free electronic publication and in a print version that can be purchased online or in bookstores. See www.PianoBuyer.com for more information.

If, after having read “Acoustic or Digital: What’s Best for Me?” [elsewhere in Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer], you’ve decided on a digital piano, the next step is shopping for and selecting the right model for your needs. There are currently over 200 models of digital piano on the market. Narrowing the field requires exploring some basic issues. This article covers the needs of both entry-level shoppers and those interested in more sophisticated, feature-laden models. It concludes with a discussion of where different types of digital pianos are sold and to what extent price can be negotiated.

Initial Considerations

Matching the Player’s Needs

Unless you expect to buy another piano in a year or so, you need to consider your long-term requirements. Who will be the primary player today? If it’s for the family, how long will it be until the youngest child has the opportunity to learn? Does Mom or Dad harbor any musical interests? If so, it’s likely that one family member or another will use the instrument for many years to come. This argues for getting a higher-quality instrument, whose advantages of better tone, touch, and features will be appreciated over time.

Most entry-level digitals have a few different piano voices, as well as a dozen or so other instrumental voices, such as harpsichord, church and jazz organ, vibes, and strings. These models, designed mainly to emulate the piano, are referred to as “standard” digital pianos. Many other, slightly more expensive models, called “ensemble” digital pianos, come with expanded capabilities: all the instruments of the orchestra (and more), easy-play background accompaniments, rhythms, special effects, and much more. You might not think you need the additional capabilities of an ensemble digital, but having them can enable the beginner, as well as family members who don’t take lessons, to have a lot more fun and sound like pros with minimal practice. For an advancing player, the opportunities for musical creativity are significantly enhanced. Also for the advancing player, most digital pianos today have some degree of onboard recording capabilities, and can be connected to a computer to enhance one’s musical experience with software for music education, recording, notation, and other activities.

If multiple players will use the instrument, it needs to meet the expectations of the most advanced player. At the same time, a beginner in the family will benefit from educational features that are of no interest to the advanced player, and still another family member may just want to fool around with the instrument once in a while. Easy-play features and software will keep these players happy—and you might be surprised how many people are enticed into learning to play as a result of these easy first steps. So, obviously, an individual player may search among a very narrow range of instruments, while a family may have to balance the needs of several people. Fortunately, the wealth of available choices can easily accommodate any combination of individual and/or family needs.

 

Digital Pianos: Slab, Console, and Grand

Cabinet Type

Another factor that may shape your options is where the instrument will live. Is space at a premium? Are there limited placement options? Is portability a factor?

If home is a dorm room or a small studio apartment and you need to make the most efficient use of every square inch, you may opt for a portable model (not a furniture-style cabinet) that can be placed on a stand for practice and stuck in a closet when not in use. Bear in mind that this type of design, typically called a slab, doesn’t necessarily limit the quality of instruments available to you—professional stage pianos also fit into this category. Slabs generally come with a single pedal, but many have optional stands that, like an acoustic piano, have three pedals. If you do go with a stand, don’t get the cheapest one you can find. These are fine for 61-note portable keyboards, but tend to wobble when supporting the greater weight of a digital piano, and may not be able to be adjusted low enough to put the keyboard at the proper height from the floor (about 29 inches to the tops of the white keys). It should be noted that portability is a relative term: instruments in this category can range in weight from 25 to over 70 pounds, without stand.

Another option in the entry-level category is what is variously referred to as the vertical, upright, or console digital piano. The cabinetry of these models ranges from two flat side supports with a cross member for stability, to elegant designs that would look at home in the most posh surroundings. It’s common for individual models in this category to be available in multiple finish options, including synthetic wood grain, real-wood veneers, and, on some of the better models, the lustrous polished ebony often found on acoustic pianos. Most of these models have three pedals.

If space is no problem and you love the look of a grand piano, several digital pianos are available in “baby grand” cases. Remember that, most of the time, you pay a significant premium for this look, and that few of the digital grand models actually use the additional internal space to enhance the instrument beyond the non-grand model it’s based on. There are two size classes of digital grands, one about five feet long and the other closer to three feet—just long enough for the tail to curve in a quasi-grand shape.

Pricing

Slab models start at $500, console models at around $1,000. Digital grands begin at around $1,500, but the better-quality models start at around $5,000. In each category there are many options; spending more will usually get you some combination of better sound, features, touch, and appearance. For free, complete, up-to-date pricing information on all makes and models, see “Digital Piano Specifications & Prices” in Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer.

 

Voices and Expanded Capabilities

Some people, even some professional musicians, will tell you that using automated accompaniments—those rhythmic combinations of drums, bass lines, and chords—constitutes “cheating.” This has never made sense to me. If I use a tool to do something that I couldn’t possibly have done with my bare hands, am I cheating?

Whether or not a digital piano has these automatic features, frequently referred to as styles, is the primary factor that separates standard digital pianos from ensemble pianos. If your musical interest is focused solely on the classical piano repertoire, then this capability will probably be of no interest to you. If, however, you or someone in your household plays or plans to play a wide variety of musical styles, the ability to have backup instrumentalists at your beck and call is just entirely too much fun. No matter how good a player you may be, you can’t be four people at once—or eight, or twelve, or an entire orchestra. These accompaniments are typically divided into groups by musical genre: Swing, Latin, Rock, World, and so on. The best of these styles are of a caliber that the best record producers would be proud of.

How do these styles “know” which key to use when playing all those chords and bass lines? In the simplest “single finger” settings, if the player needs an accompaniment style played in C, for example, she plays a C with the left hand. As chords change in the music, the player makes the appropriate change in the left hand to indicate what the accompaniment should play. Once the harmonies have been determined, the instrument can also apply them to the right hand by filling in the notes of the appropriate chord under the melody note. More sophisticated systems can decipher complex chords by evaluating all of the notes played on the keyboard, so that even advanced players can use the accompaniment styles without being held back from their normal style of playing.

All of this technology can make raw beginners sound as if they’ve been playing for years. While many players will progress beyond the simplest settings, other members of the family may continue using these playing aids for their own enjoyment.

For more information on Voices and Expanded Capabilities, please refer to “Digital Piano Basics, Part 2: Beyond the Acoustic Piano” in Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer. Additional topics covered there include:

  • Layering and Splitting
  • Reverb, Chorus, and other Effects
  • Alternate (Historical) Tunings
  • Memory Presets
  • Song Settings, Music Libraries, and Educational Tools
  • Pitch Bend Wheels and Other Controls
  • Vocal Effects
  • Physical Modeling

Tone

Almost by definition, evaluating an instrument’s tone is very subjective, and judging the tone of instruments that have a lot of voices can be overwhelming. Your best bet is to select the five or six instruments you think you’ll use most and make them the standard for comparison as you shop. If you choose the piano on which those voices sound best to you, it’s likely you’ll find the others satisfying as well.

If at all possible, you should try at least two or three instruments in your price and style range to determine which sounds best to you. If you plan to use headphones in your home (yes, parents—your children can practice silently using headphones), be sure to try out the pianos through headphones, as this can make a tremendous difference in sound. (For consistency of comparison, bring your own headphones.) Sometimes the instrument’s weakest link is its built-in speaker system.

Digital pianos are really computers disguised as pianos, and the engineers who design them strive to develop a set of sounds and features unique to their brand. Like some features of a PC, many of the capabilities of digitals are hidden from view, accessible by pressing a sequence of buttons or through multi-screen menus. While the owner’s manual will explain how to access these features or sounds, it’s impractical for you to study the manuals of every instrument under consideration. Enter the salesperson! This is one of those instances where a well-trained salesperson can be invaluable.

Most manufacturers arrange trainings for their retailers’ sales staffs, to enable them to demonstrate the relative advantages of that brand’s features. Even if you’re a proficient player, having a salesperson demonstrate and play while you listen can be a valuable part of the evaluation process. But remember that the salesperson is not going home with you! Don’t be swayed by his or her talent—a really good player can make even a poor-sounding piano “sing.” Focus your attention on the instrument itself.

You should make sure that you get the answers to a few key questions, either through the salesperson’s demonstration or your own experimentation.

Generally, one of the instrument voices used most frequently is the piano. There is a great deal of variation in “good” piano tone. Many players like a bright, crisp sound, while others prefer a mellower tone. Some like a great deal of harmonic content, others a bell-like clarity with fewer harmonics. Whatever your preference, will you be satisfied with the piano sound of the model you’re considering?

Many instruments sound slightly different as a note begins to play. For example, a flute takes a quarter of a second or so to build up enough air pressure to reach the pitch of the note, resulting in a “breathiness” to the sound. The same is true of many other wind instruments. Guitarists and other players of stringed instruments “bend” notes by varying their touch. Jazz organs often have a percussive “pop” at the beginning of the note. How well do the digital voices of the model you’re evaluating emulate the actual instruments?

Even entry-level standard digitals include such effects as reverb, chorus, and sustain. More sophisticated models have many other effects, are described in the “Digital Piano Basics” articles in Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer. After having heard them demonstrated, do you think these effects will be useful to you?

Take your time. Following the salesperson’s demonstration, most dealers will let you spend time experimenting—particularly if you use headphones.

For those of you interested in a more detailed discussion of tone production, please refer to “Digital Piano Basics, Part 1: Imitating the Acoustic Piano [in Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer].” Additional topics covered there include:

  • Sample Rate and Bit Rates
  • Looping
  • Sampling Dynamics
  • Sampling Effects
  • Polyphony
  • Speakers and Amplifiers

Touch

Evaluating Touch

Aside from sound, the most important element in the selection of an instrument is likely to be the feel of the action. Unless you’re considering only digital pianos that employ an actual acoustic action (a “hybrid” piano”), you’ll be selecting from a variety of actions that all try to emulate the feel of an acoustic action. As in an acoustic piano, the action of most digital pianos is primarily an arrangement of levers, but the digital action is far less complex and doesn’t require regular adjustment. Players use a few definable criteria to judge an action. Some are easily measured, others are largely subjective. Among the most frequently debated by digital piano buyers is touch weight.

Touch weight is the amount of force, typically measured in grams, required to depress a key. A touch weight in the range of 50 to 55 grams is generally considered normal for an acoustic piano. The resistance offered by the key is a combination of friction and the mass of the parts being moved. Both of these factors behave slightly differently in acoustic pianos than in digital pianos.

Just as there is no single correct piano sound, there is no single correct touch weight; rather, there is a range of acceptable touch weights. If you spend the majority of your playing time with a heavy action, when you encounter an instrument with a lighter action, be it acoustic or digital, you’ll play too heavily—and vice versa. The only cure is to play as many instruments as possible, as often as possible. Listen to how each piano responds and adjust your touch accordingly. You’ve probably driven cars with light steering and cars with heavy steering, and generally managed to avoid hitting any trees with either of them. With varied experience, you learn to adapt.

Yet another aspect of touch weight is that it varies from one end of the keyboard to the other. In an acoustic piano, the hammers are significantly heavier at the bass end of the keyboard than at the treble end, which results in heavier touch weight in the bass and lighter touch weight in the treble. Enter the graded hammer action: To replicate the touch weight of the acoustic piano keyboard, most digital piano actions employ in their designs the equivalent of graduated hammer weights. Rather than using 88 different weights across the span of the keyboard, which would be cost-prohibitive and of questionable value, it’s common to use four different touch-weight values, each one used uniformly throughout one touch-weight zone.

88-Note Weighted Keyboard

Even entry-level digitals should feel much like an acoustic piano. If you have some playing experience, you’ll want to try two or three competing models to see what feels best to you. None of the available models has an overly heavy touch. So-called semi-weighted keyboards, which depend on springs for their weight, should be avoided, as they don’t feel enough like an acoustic piano. Is a keyboard with fewer than 88 notes a viable alternative? In a word, no. None has a decently weighted keyboard. In addition, students who use instruments with short keyboards tend to outgrow them quickly, and suffer some degree of disorientation when taking lessons on an 88-note keyboard.

For those of you interested in a more detailed discussion of touch, please refer to “Digital Piano Basics, Parts 1: Imitating the Acoustic Piano” in Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer. Additional topics covered there include:

  • Differences in Key Design
  • Dynamic (Velocity) Sensors
  • Pedal Functions

Connecting to a Computer

MIDI and USB

Like the evolution in word processing, spreadsheets, and accounting, linking computers with keyboards has evolved from a complex process used only by professionals and diehard enthusiasts into something that can be learned quickly by the novice. Now even the casual player can play a song on a digital piano and print out the sheet music, or take interactive lessons, without leaving the house. This is made possible largely due to the Musical Instrument Digital Interface specification, known by its acronym MIDI.

Electronic musical instruments had been around for decades, but were unable to “talk” to each other until 1982 and the introduction of the MIDI specification. Many musicians used two, three, or more synthesizers in their setups, each with a distinctive palette of sounds, to provide the widest possible range of voices. The problem was that the musicians couldn’t combine sounds from different synthesizers and control them from a single keyboard, because of differences in the electronic commands to which each synth responded. This ultimately led to a proposal for a common set of commands to which all digital musical instruments could respond.

MIDI is now standard on all digital pianos. While it does allow your instrument to control or be controlled by other instruments, today it’s most often used to connect the instrument to a computer. Connecting your instrument to a computer allows you to venture beyond the capacity of even the most capable and feature-packed digital piano.

Connecting two instruments to each other requires two MIDI cables—one for each direction of data transmission between the two devices. Standard MIDI cables use a 5-pin DIN connector, shown here. Since personal computers don’t use 5-pin DIN connectors, connecting a keyboard to a computer requires an adapter that has the MIDI-standard DIN connector on one end, and a computer-friendly connector on the other.

In 1995, the USB standard was introduced to reduce the number of different connectors on personal computers. Subsequently, MIDI over USB has emerged as an alternative that replaces two MIDI cables with a single USB link. In addition to being a common connector on personal computers, USB’s higher transmission speed increases MIDI’s flexibility by allowing MIDI to control 32 channels instead of the 16 specified in the original MIDI standard. USB connectivity is now finding its way into the digital piano. All current digital instruments still have 5-pin DIN connectors for traditional MIDI, but many now sport USB connectors as well. One thing to be aware of is that there are two types of USB connections that can appear on instruments. One, “USB to Device,” allows direct connection to a variety of external memory-storage devices. The other, “USB to Host,” allows connection to computers. If you plan to use these connections, you need to check the type of USB connections available on the instruments you’re considering. Simply stating “USB” in the specifications doesn’t tell you the type of USB connectivity provided.

For more information on MIDI and on connecting external memory, see “Digital Piano Basics, Part 2: Beyond the Acoustic Piano” in Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer.

 

Computer Software

As mentioned briefly in the discussion of MIDI, perhaps the most powerful option that accompanies the digital piano is the ability to connect your instrument to your personal computer and enhance your musical experience by using different types of music software. Software can expand capabilities your instrument may already have, such as recording and education, or it could add elements like music notation and additional voices. While it’s beyond the scope of this article to describe music-software offerings in detail, we’ll take a quick look here at the different categories: Recording and Sequencing, Virtual Instruments, Notation, and Educational.

Recording can take two forms on the digital piano: data and sound. All models that offer onboard recording (i.e., nearly all of them) record MIDI data. This means that all of the actions you take when you play a piece—both key presses and control actions—can be recorded by a MIDI sequencer. But remember that a MIDI sequence, or recording, is data, not sound. Recording the actual sound of your music is a different issue, and few digital pianos can do this.

Enter recording software. Recording software ranges from basic packages—even the most modest of which will exceed the recording capabilities of most digital pianos—to applications that can handle complete movie scores, including film synchronization. The higher-end applications are called Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs). These software applications cost more than many of the lower-priced digital pianos, and can be used to record, edit, and mix combinations of MIDI and audio tracks, limited only by the processing power and storage capacity of the computer. If you have an opportunity to look inside a modern recording studio, you’ll find that computers running DAW software have replaced multi-track tape recorders.

Virtual instrument software can be controlled, or “played,” by your digital piano via MIDI, and can also be played by recording software that resides on the computer. Virtual instruments can take the form of standalone software or plug-ins. Standalone instrumental software doesn’t rely on other software, but plug-ins require a host application such as the DAW software described above, or other software developed specifically as a plug-in host. Virtual instruments can be sample sets for strings, horns, or even pianos, or they can accurately emulate the sonic textures and controls of popular electronic instruments that are no longer produced, such as certain legacy synthesizers. (A number of piano-specific virtual instruments are explored in the article “My Other Piano is a Computer,” in Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer.) While virtual instruments allow you to expand your sound palette beyond the onboard voices of your digital piano, they can place heavy demands on your computer’s processor and memory. A mismatch of software demand and hardware capability can result in latency—audible delay between the time the key is played and the time the sound is heard. If both the digital piano’s onboard voices and the virtual instrument’s sounds are played simultaneously, there could be a time gap between the two outputs that would make the result unusable. Virtual instruments can be an exciting addition, but be prepared for the technical implications.

Notation applications are the word processors of music. If you have a tune in your head and want to share it, simply recording it will allow others to hear it. But in order for most people to play your music, it must be written out in standard notation. In the early days of notation software, it was necessary to place each note on the staff individually using the computer’s keyboard and mouse. The advent of MIDI created the ability to play a note on a musical keyboard and have it appear on the computer screen. Today’s notation programs virtually take musical dictation: you play it, and it appears on the screen. As with recording applications, there is a wide range of capabilities available, from programs that will let you capture simple melodies, to applications that will easily ingest the most complex symphonic works, transpose and separate the individual instrumental parts, and print them out.

The final category we’ll discuss is educational software. Just as there are educational programs and games to assist in learning math or reading, there are applications that use the MIDI connection between your instrument and computer to help you learn different aspects of music. A music-reading program may display a note, chord, or passage on the screen; you play the displayed notes on the digital piano and the software keeps track of your accuracy and helps you improve. An ear-training application may play for you an interval that you then try to play yourself on the keyboard. The application will tell you what you did right or wrong and help you improve your ear. Other types teach music history and music theory. While many of these applications are geared to specific levels or ages, some can be set to multiple levels as you progress, or for use by multiple players.

 

Onboard Recording

Recording has been discussed above, in the “Computer Software” section. However, because nearly all digital pianos come with at least basic recording capability, it deserves a bit more attention. You may say that you have no intention of recording your music for others to hear, but in ignoring the instrument’s ability to record what you’ve played, you may be overlooking one of the simplest ways of improving your playing. Whether you’re just starting to play or are beginning to learn a new piece, being able to hear what you’ve just played is a learning accelerator.

I know what you’re thinking: “I heard it while I was playing it.” While most professional musicians have reached a level where they can effectively split their attention between the physical act of playing the instrument and the mental act of critically listening to what they’re playing, few of the rest of us can do this. Recording and listening to yourself will reveal elements of your playing that you never noticed while you were playing, and will allow you to see where to make changes in your performance. This is even more useful when working with a teacher. Imagine listening with your teacher, music score in hand, and pausing the playback to discuss what you did in a particular measure. This is one of many reasons piano teachers are adding digital pianos to their studios; they’re great learning tools.

Ease of Use

All of the amazing capabilities of the modern digital piano are of little value if the player can’t figure out how to use them, or can’t access them quickly while playing. The considerations here are the location, spacing, grouping, size, shape, colors, and labeling of the controls. In the case of instruments with displays, considerations include the size, resolution, and color capabilities of the screen and—more important—the logic behind its operation.

Also worth considering is the placement of connections you’ll use often. If you frequently switch back and forth between speakers and headphones, you’ll want to make sure the headphone jack is easy to locate by sight or feel, and that the cord will be out of your way when plugged in. If you’ll be using a USB memory device to transfer files between instruments or between the instrument and a computer, make sure the USB port is easy to get to. In newer designs, a USB port is placed above the keyboard level for easy access, as opposed to earlier models in which the port was below the keyboard or on the instrument’s rear panel.

We can’t leave the subject of user interfaces without discussing the owner’s manual. A well-written manual can make it a pleasure to learn a new instrument, and a bad manual can be worse than useless. This is particularly important for higher-end instruments. Fortunately, many manufacturers allow you to download the manuals for their instruments. This lets you compare this critical aspect of the instruments you’re considering. The manual should be thoroughly indexed, and clearly written and illustrated. Third-party tutorials are available for some instruments, especially the more complex models. These tutorials step you through the model’s functions with audio or video instructions, and provide an alternative to sitting down with the manual.

New or Used?

Because digital technology advances at a blistering pace relative to acoustic piano technology, there is much less interest in used digitals than in used acoustics. Many of today’s digital pianos eclipse the capabilities of the models of even five years ago. Combine this technological advancement with the fact that support of older instruments may be limited—after production of a particular model ceases, electronics manufacturers are required to maintain replacement parts for only seven years—and investing in older models becomes worthy of serious second thoughts.

Owner’s manuals no longer accompany many used instruments. If you find an interesting used instrument, make sure that the manual is either still with it, or is readily available from the manufacturer or on the Internet. The manual is your best tool for ensuring that everything on the instrument still works correctly. It’s not simply a matter of pressing every key, button, and pedal to see that they work; to thoroughly check the instrument, you also need to know what some of the less obvious controls are supposed to do. None of this is to say that used instruments should be avoided—I’ve played ten-year-old digital pianos that worked perfectly. But when considering an older digital piano, extra care should be exercised.

Serious Listening

You’ve decided what type of instrument you’re looking for and how much you’re going to spend (unless, of course you hear something that just knocks your socks off, and your budget along with them). There are still a couple of last steps in preparation for the hunt.

If you don’t already have a good set of headphones, this is the time to get them. Headphones are probably the most widely used accessory for digital pianos, and it’s a sure bet that you, or another player in the house, will need them or wish the other player were using them—and they’re an invaluable tool for auditioning digital pianos. I’ve always found it odd that people will agonize over the choice of a digital piano, spend hundreds—frequently thousands—of dollars on their choice, and then listen to it through $19.95 headphones. (See “Digital Piano Basics, Part 2” [inAcoustic & Digital Piano Buyer] for a more detailed discussion of headphones.)

The final step is to “calibrate” your ears. Listen to recordings of solo piano. Listen to what you enjoy, be it jazz, classical, or ragtime—just listen a lot. For part of this listening, use the headphones you bought for your digital piano. This will embed in your head, as a benchmark, the sound of high-quality acoustic pianos. One of the great things about digital pianos is that if you love, say, honky-tonk piano, all you have to do is make sure the instruments you’re considering have a Honky-Tonk setting. Then you can “change pianos” at will. But for the moment, listen to the best piano recordings you can get your ears on.

 

Shopping Options

Your shopping options depend on the type of digital piano you’ve decided to buy and the region you live in. In North America, different categories of instruments are available through different types of outlets. Furniture-style models, particularly the higher-end models manufactured by the largest suppliers, are available only through traditional bricks-and-mortar piano or full-line music retailers. The lower-priced furniture-style, slab, or stage models, and some of the less widely distributed brands, are available from a cross section of traditional bricks-and-mortar music retailers, club and warehouse chains such as Costco, consumer-electronics chains such as Best Buy, and online retailers.

Perhaps the biggest difference between shopping for digital and acoustic pianos is that you usually want to make sure you get the specific acoustic piano you played on the showroom floor. But once you’ve decided on a model of digital piano, it doesn’t matter if you get the one you actually tried or not. Every unit made of the same model will be identical to all other units.

Negotiating the price of a digital piano at a bricks-and-mortar retailer is no different from negotiating the price of an acoustic piano, which is discussed in “Piano Buying Basics” [in Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer]. However, many of the simpler furniture-style digitals and nearly all portable or stage-piano models that are sold through a variety of local and online stores are virtually always sold at the same price, wherever you shop. This is due to a pricing model called minimum advertised price, or MAP, used for many categories of products. A manufacturer’s or distributor’s MAP is the lowest price at which a dealer is allowed to advertise an item. Since prices are easily compared and all retailers want an even chance to win your business, everyone advertises at the MAP. And since the MAP is typically lower than the price at which the dealer might have preferred to sell the item, the price almost never drops below the MAP. Therefore, MAP has become the standard pricing for all non-piano-dealer models of digital piano.

You should find out how warranty service is handled for the instrument you’ve selected—not only the terms related to coverage for parts and labor, but where the service is performed. Like acoustic pianos, most digital models available only through piano dealers have a warranty specifying in-home service; that is, the technician comes to you. Models sold outside of traditional piano stores must be brought to the technician’s shop for warranty service. Ask your salesperson where the closest authorized service technician is located, or check the manufacturer’s website.

In the chart of digital piano specifications in Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer, you’ll notice that it’s not unusual for different models from the same manufacturer to have different warranty terms. It would be tempting to attribute this to differences in quality, but most often it’s based on differences in anticipated use (home vs. commercial), and on marketing decisions for a given product segment. Unlike some warranties for acoustic pianos, I’m not aware of any digital piano warranty that is transferable to a subsequent owner.

There are many decisions to be made when selecting a piano, digital or acoustic. But in the end, there is no substitute for playing and listening for yourself. The best anyone else can do is tell you what he or she would buy. But unless that person’s requirements exactly match your own, all you’ll end up with is a piano that’s perfect for someone else.

Go out and try everything you can get your hands on—and enjoy the process!

For more information

If, after reading this article and the source articles in Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer, you still have questions about buying a digital piano, I recommend visiting the Digital Pianos—Synths & Keyboards Forum on Piano World (www.pianoworld.com), the premiere website for everything related to pianos and pianists. The helpful folks there have a wealth of knowledge and advice they are happy to share.

 

 

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