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Digital vs. Acoustic Pianos

What Is The Difference?
Digital pianos are electronic keyboard instruments that reproduce piano sounds. Unlike an acoustic piano, they have no hammers, no strings and no soundboard to produce the sound that you hear.
Instead, they have electronic circuit boards, sound chips
and speakers.

Digital Advantages
Digital pianos usually have an array of features that, for some,
make them an attractive alternative to an acoustic piano, such as:
     - Different types of piano sounds
     - Other keyboard sounds such as harpsichord, organ, etc.
     - Other instrument sounds such as strings, flute, percussion etc.
     - Built-in rhythm capabilities to accompany your playing
     - The ability to record your what you play
     - The ability to interact with other electronic music devices (MIDI)      
     - Never need tuning
     - Headphones to practice in private
     - Easier portability

Digital Disadvantages
The problem with digital pianos is that they can't really duplicate the tone or touch of a real piano. Even with modern sampling technology, individual notes might be quite accurately reproduced, but the tone of a chord or notes sounding together, as in an acoustic piano - with it's complex harmonics mixing and resonating against a flexible wooden soundboard - cannot be matched. As a result, most music sounds some what sterile played on a digital piano.

Digital pianos just don't feel like real pianos. "Touch Sensitivity" and "Weighted Action" is not the same thing as the sophisticated internal mechanism, or "action", of an acoustic piano. Some digital pianos merely simulate the touch of a real piano. They don't provide the same feedback or responsiveness to your playing, therefor your performance range is limited.

If you are thinking of buying a piano for your child, consider this: most piano teachers will not teach students who have reached a certain level on anything but an acoustic piano. Digital pianos are considered counter-productive when it comes to technique and dynamic performance. These skills can't be practised on a digital keyboard and then applied to a real piano action. It is not the same thing. A piano also represents a much stronger commitment to a student, as opposed to a digital keyboard that might represent the same thing to a child as a computer, an electronic game-station or a CD player.

Another thing to consider is that an acoustic piano will hold its value far better than a digital. An acoustic piano can last 100 years or more, while a digital can be obsolete in 5 years and might be hard to even give away by then.

Hybrid Digital/Acoustic Pianos
There are some hybrid digital/acoustic pianos on the market today, like the Yamaha Disklavier and Baldwin ConcertMaster that combine the features of both. These are normal acoustic pianos with real piano actions that can be disconnected with the digital sound on demand. Also, they are MIDI capable. These pianos are quite expensive and out of the price range of most people. However, if you can afford one, these pianos are the ultimate in a total piano experience. These are the new generation of pianos: they can record and play back your perfomance with true accuracy; can play a wide selection of pre-recorded music of all types and styles; can be used with piano instruction software; and can be used as a MIDI controller to connect to other electronic tone generating devices like samplers, synthesizers, drum machines, computers or anything with a MIDI interface.

The Bottom Line
If you want a keyboard that can be easily transported, or connected to an audio sound system, or one that can be used to record music with computer software, or has the ability to plug-in headphones for privacy, then a digital piano is the thing to buy. Otherwise, think very carefully before you make a choice to buy a digital in place of an acoustic piano.

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