In the exciting world of playing the piano, many beginners often wonder about the weighted keys of digital pianos.
It can be confusing when you try to figure out the different piano key actions and keyboards.
If you are in this dilemma, this article is for you.
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Three Main Categories of Digital Piano Keys
The keyboard is one of the important things about any piano. The weight refers to the actual resistance as you press down the key.
A digital piano with a full-length 88-weighted keyboard more closely resembles acoustic piano keys.
Unweighted (Spring-Loaded) Keyboard
When searching for a digital piano or keyboard, some beginners may immediately look at some inexpensive options.
However, the truth is that these inexpensive keyboards may not be the optimal instrument to develop decent skills in regard to playing the piano.
Many of those keyboards may have a spring-loaded keyboard (also known as synth-action).
The spring-loaded action keys are very bouncy and almost like an on/off switch.
There are also semi-weighted keys. They were first seen in electric organs like a Hammond Organ.
The semi-weighted means spring-loaded keys with light weights attached to them. Due to the combination of the synth action and weighted action, it sounds like a nice in-between option.
However, it’s kind of a separate genre in itself. It is mostly on some high-end Nord organ simulators or some old synthesizers.
If you are reading this blog and trying to figure out the keyboard action for you, semi-weighted probably is not the right one.
Weighted Keyboard and Graded Hammer Action
A weighted keyboard means that every key on a digital piano is given an almost realistic weight like acoustic piano keys.
Yet, weighted keys generally mean that every key on the keyboard has the same weight, regardless it’s at the bottom or the top end of the keyboard.
To this point, you don’t get the fully simulated feel of an acoustic piano.
Recently many digital piano manufacturers started shifting from weighted keys to the graded hammer action. The weighted keys are graded from low to high.
It more realistically simulates an acoustic piano.
The weight of the keys in the bass section is going to be a heavier feel in your left hand, and as you move up the keyboard, the feel gets lighter.
Importance of Weighted Keys for Beginners
To succeed in developing the proper piano techniques, the piano student needs to experience the sensation of the keys.
With weighted keys, the beginner will learn how to control his/her hands and apply proper pressure to each key accordingly.
Almost 99% of piano teachers would request the students to have a digital piano with a weighted keyboard or an acoustic piano.
Since you are going to be investing hundreds and thousands of dollars on lessons, you should have an instrument that can keep up with your progress, and help to strengthen your fingers.
Another advantage to having a weighted key digital piano at home instead of an unweighted keyboard is to avoid switching between unweighted and weighted keys.
The adjustment between the two types of keys is difficult.
It can impact your finger movements and dynamic control because of the very different feel. Pianists’ hand strengths are developed from the weighted keys. This is also where pianists’ hands are different from normal hands, it is in their hand strength, not the hand size or shape.
If you are practicing on an unweighted keyboard, then you’ll have some difficulties transitioning to a piano with weighted keys.
If you are buying a new digital piano, try to go for one with a weighted keyboard. If you can spend a little bit extra, find a model that has the graded hammer action. It’s going to give you the most realistic feel of an acoustic piano.
If you are wanting to perform on a piano, do exams or recitals, or anything like that on a traditional piano at some point, then you are going to want to practice on a digital piano where the difference between the two is minimal.
Hence, a digital piano with graded or scaled weighted keys is your choice. Interestingly many brands have their own name for key actions which are very similar with subtle differences. It boils down to a personal choice of which one you like the most.
If you just want to play some keys and have fun, not worry too much about technique or performing on an acoustic piano at any point, then you can just get a spring-loaded keyboard.
Regardless of your budget level, you can still learn a lot of piano playing and incredible things about music theory, and enjoy being creative, riffing, and composing.
Additionally, check out this least expensive digital piano with a weighted keyboard: Donner DEP-20.