Have you been considering purchasing a piano lately? Traditional pianos, whether baby, upright, or grand, can be an expensive investment. They’re large and heavy, and cumbersome when moving around. They also take a lot of upkeep: keeping your piano in tune can be time consuming and costly. But don’t dismiss the idea of a piano in your home completely. A better option may be to consider the benefits of buying yourself a digital piano.
Digital pianos (also known as synthesizers or electronic keyboards) have been manufactured since the 1980s, when the age of electronics exploded. Most of them were of American or Japanese origin, mass-produced not to replace traditional pianos, but to make the instrument more accessible. Don’t mistake it for a fancy keyboard. It is, in fact, so much more. True, the traditional piano gives a more acoustic sound with pleasant reverberation. But the benefits of the digital option truly tip the scales when making your decision.
Firstly, digital pianos are a lot less expensive that their acoustic counterparts. Prices start from as low as £100 going up into the thousand for better models, and can be bought online quickly and safely, whereas acoustic pianos usually need to be seen and touched in order to establish their class. Getting your instrument delivered without the need to visit it first is a definite bonus. And as mentioned above, traditional models tend to be heavy and take up a lot of space. Digital pianos are very lightweight, so they are easy to carry and transport. They are often smaller and more compact, so you don’t necessarily need to live in a large house in order to accommodate it. You also won’t have the awkward problem of where to move the sofa to after you’ve had it delivered!
Secondly, the digital piano does not actually have strings like it’s classical equal. All of the sound is, obviously, produced electronically inside the machine and amplified with the use of speakers. True, this is not as ‘authentic’, but it does ensure that your piano will be maintenance free. ‘Real’ pianos require frequent string checks and tuning, which can be an extra blow to your wallet.
Despite these differences, the digital piano looks a lot similar to its classical cousin. It still has a traditional keyboard (usually with fewer than the traditional 88 keys, but still standard sized) and pedals. The keyboard is weighted and sensitive to touch, so it will produce a different volume of sound depending on how firmly and quickly you press on the keys. The built-in pedals also change the sounds, as would the pedals on a normal instrument.
Worried you neighbours will complain about the excessive noise? Don’t be. Digital pianos come with their very own plug-in socket for headphones. So no complaints from the neighbours, or your other half who’s trying to read the paper! Along with the headphone output, you can purchase some models with extra features not found on the classic instruments. Some have lights above the keys to help the more novice players, which can be programmed to flash when the key needs to be hit. Others can have an added ‘reverb’ option, which will produce the reverberation sound that a traditional instrument would produce. Most models also have MIDI capabilities, and some may have a disk drive for composing and recording tracks, a definite added bonus to the more competent and confident musicians. This enables the instrument to be hooked up to a computer. For the more serious composers, many types of computer software are available, making the possibilities of composition endless. And any recordings that are produced are often difficult to distinguish between the real deal and the electronic counterpart. Being digital, this also means that the software inside can always be upgraded with the introduction of new software.
Digital pianos not only produce the traditional piano sound, but their soundboards can be programmed to produce other sounds, such as a more synthetic keyboard noise, an organ, a conceit piano sound, or a honky-tonk style, for example. Much as you would expect from a normal keyboard, the alternative instrumental possibilities are endless; sounds of the guitar, the flute, the trumpet, or the string quartet provides you with a rich tapestry to play with. Some even have human voice imitations! This extra feature will give you a much more varied result, especially if you are a keen composer. You’ll be able to mimic the sound of an orchestra at the mere press of a button. And if you are keen on performing in public with your piano, another benefit of the digital instrument is that they do not necessitate the use of microphones. This excellent built-in feature eradicates the issue of feedback, which can be a huge problem for classical pianos.
Most digital pianos look like a small upright piano. The benefit of the digital is that they tend to be slimmer from the keyboard to the back, making it easier to slot into a room. However, if you are looking for something more dramatic, you can purchase certain models that are based on the casework of the traditional, larger upright. And if space really is not an issue for you, they can even come in grand piano styles.
Furthermore, if you’re looking to pass on the gift of music to your children, a digital piano just might provide them with enough encouragement, with their technical futures and distractions to feed their creativity!
Like anything, digital pianos have their strengths and weaknesses. Intermingling the technical variants with tradition of sitting down at a keyboard can encourage inspiration and creativity in the most modest of musicians. Your choice of whether to buy a traditional over a digital instrument will, of course, be determined by what kind of sound and music you want to ultimately produce, not to mention you budget. But if you’re considering buying one, make sure you shop around to get a good deal. If you are into gadgets and music of the 21st century, a digital piano is an essential in the modern world!