Are digital pianos as good as acoustic pianos?

It depends.

Some high-end digital pianos such as Yamaha AvantGrand series or NU1 combine a real piano action with digital sounding technology to make the pianos play and sound like a real acoustic piano. The problem is these so-called hybrid digital pianos are as expensive as acoustic pianos. If cost is the main concern, buying a hybrid piano won’t save you any money right away. In the long term, you may save money from tuning. Digital and hybrid pianos do not need tuning whereas acoustic pianos need tuning at least once a year.

So, what about digital pianos that cost around $1,000. Are they any good? Actually, a $1,000 digital piano is not bad, but don’t expect it to be as good as an acoustic piano. The problem is the action. Piano action (as shown in the picture on the left) is the mechanical system that transfers the kinetic energy from your finger tips to the hammers that hit the strings. This system is a mechanical marvel that allows pianists endless expressions in speed and sound volume. Lower-end digital pianos try to emulate the acoustic piano action but they are not there yet.

Now, as a parent of young piano students, the lack of a real acoustic piano action probably won’t affect your kid much until he or she become an intermediate player, but that day may come sooner than you thought.

Another potential issue with digital piano actions is that they are usually lighter than acoustic piano actions. People who are used to lighter piano actions will need time to adjust when they play on a heavier action. This means your kid may play very well on a digital piano at home but suddenly can’t play at the teacher’s house or in a recital. In the case of piano recital, if you have a digital piano at home, you should arrange an acoustic piano for your kid to practice the recital repertoire at least several days in a row before the recital.

Now, before you go, please note that digital pianos are different from digital keyboards, which I will address in my next article.

This is one of the articles in a series called “Piano Buying Guide for Parents of Young Students“. You can find other articles of the series through this link.

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