Digital Piano vs Acoustic Piano: Factors to Consider

The first step when purchasing a piano is to decide between the two major types: digital piano vs acoustic piano.

Choosing the right piano is not that easy. There are several factors to consider, including –

  • Sound
  • Cost
  • Maintenance
  • Level of experience.

Once you are aware of the special features of each type, the decision will be easy to make.

So, what are the differences between digital and acoustic piano, and which one suits your needs best?

The Mechanism Behind the Sound Production

mechanism behind the sound production

The major difference between those two types of pianos is the mechanism that produces the sound.

A standard acoustic piano produces sound the traditional way. It has hammers and steel strings, and the keys are connected to the hammers.

Every time you press a key, the hammer strikes the strings, and they vibrate, producing sound.

If you want to learn more about the acoustic piano mechanism, check out the article about the inside of a piano.

On the other hand, a digital piano is a more modern and adapted version of an acoustic piano.

As its name suggests, it produces sound digitally. Such a piano has no strings.

How exactly does a digital piano develop sound? Once you press a key, the piano’s electronic speakers will amplify the sound coming from an electronic tone generator.

It is based on the previously recorded sound samples of high-quality acoustic pianos.

Design and Sound

piano sound

The basic characteristics of an acoustic piano are sturdiness, elegance, and resistance.

On the contrary, a digital piano is more simple and more practical.

When it comes to digital pianos, the design options are numerous, and there are various types of digital pianos.

On the other hand, an acoustic piano cannot deviate much from the typical model.

In terms of the actual sound of the instrument, a quality acoustic piano produces a better sound since it has warmth and resonance.

However, in this day and age, some high-quality digital pianos can produce sounds very close to acoustic pianos. Yamaha YDP-184 is a great example.

The major benefit of a digital piano is that it can reproduce more than one piano sound. Digital pianos have different built-in sounds, like organ or harp.

Which Type Feels Better?

Feel of piano keys

Although digital pianos have come a long way in mimicking the feel of acoustic piano keys, they are still different from the original.

No two keypresses are the same on an acoustic piano.

Digital pianos may behave a bit unrealistically when you keep pressing the same keys since the key won’t return to its initial position.

It is also worth mentioning that acoustic pianos have a graded feel, meaning that lower keys are heavier.

Even though that feeling cannot be easily emulated, many newer digital piano models offer graded hammer action.


Piano Maintenance

Acoustic pianos have a long history. The exterior of acoustic pianos is made of natural materials, like wood and leather.

Since those materials can wear off over time, an acoustic piano needs more care and attention compared to a digital instrument.

Acoustic pianos are more complex when it comes to tuning and more susceptible to environmental changes. Let us have a closer look at some of the considerations.

Complexity When Tuning

Tuning a guitar or cello can be really easy.

Unfortunately, the same does not apply to acoustic pianos. In most cases, we recommend you tune an acoustic piano every 12 months. Tuning is an important process and only a professional piano tuner should perform the task.

On the other hand, the only type of maintenance a digital piano needs is an occasional wipe-down.

Resistance to Humidity and Temperature Changes

In the matter of digital piano vs piano, acoustic pianos should ideally be in a climate-controlled environment. However, this is not always possible.

Digital pianos have more tolerance to the environment since they are mostly made of synthetic materials.

Depending on the moisture conditions or the location in the house where you place your piano, it may require some more frequent tuning sessions.

Ease of Moving Around

Acoustic pianos are mostly made of wood for the exteriors and steel strings for the interiors. Hence, they will be heavy to move around.

On the other hand, digital pianos mainly consist of synthetic materials, and they usually weigh much less than acoustic pianos.

Therefore, a digital piano is easier to move. Some portable versions are designed to be carried around.

Acoustic Piano vs Digital Piano in Price

digital piano vs acoustic piano price comparison

In general, an acoustic piano is more expensive and requires significant ongoing expenses.

A medium-quality upright acoustic piano will normally cost around $3000-6000. And a grand piano is much more expensive. Even a baby grand piano could cost thousands or tens of thousands.

Comparatively, a digital piano with similar characteristics may be priced at around $1000.

This could be the reason that the number of acoustic pianos sold in the United States experienced a decreasing trend from 2005 to 2020.

In the contract, the number of digital pianos sold in the United States increased by roughly eight percent in 2020 over the previous year.

Hence, it may not be worth investing in an acoustic piano if you are a newbie in the field.

To Conclude…

Digital piano vs acoustic piano, both have their benefits and special features.

If you are willing to spend more money and maintain your piano regularly, then go for a traditional acoustic piano.

However, if you are just starting or wish to purchase a quality yet inexpensive instrument, a digital piano is your best bet.

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