The 10 Best Digital Pianos
10. Korg SP-280
- can create various piano sounds
- capable of high volumes
- keys require a lot of pressure
|Rating||3.6 / 5.0|
9. Yamaha YPG-535
- includes a sustain pedal
- tracks your progress
- keys don't have a natural feel
|Rating||3.6 / 5.0|
8. Casio PX-870 Privia
- 256 notes of polyphony
- backed by a three-year warranty
- comes with a 60-song music library
|Rating||4.2 / 5.0|
7. Kawai KDP90
- wooden-key actions
- interactive rhythm training feature
- sliding key cover
|Rating||4.3 / 5.0|
6. Yamaha YPG-235
- backlit lcd screen
- connects to computers via usb
- keys aren't weighted
|Rating||4.3 / 5.0|
5. Kawai ES100
- dual and split modes
- onboard piano lessons
- doesn't come with a stand
|Rating||4.9 / 5.0|
4. Yamaha DGX-660
- built-in audio recorder
- wide range of acoustic settings
- midi display screen
|Rating||3.9 / 5.0|
3. The One Smart
- high quality stereo speakers
- great choice for beginners
- creates over 100 instrument sounds
|Brand||The ONE Music Group|
|Rating||4.6 / 5.0|
2. Casio Privia PX-160
- company's best-selling model
- two headphone outputs on the front
- available in gold or black
|Rating||4.7 / 5.0|
1. Yamaha YDP-181 Arius
- damper pedal gives you great control
- built-in 16 cm stereo speakers
- preloaded with a variety of songs
|Rating||4.6 / 5.0|
There's More To Playing Piano Than "Piano Man"
Even if you never played in school orchestra or jazz band, it's very likely that you've sat down at a piano at some point in your life.
Maybe you had a piano at home, and your parents insisted on putting you in piano lessons, or your friend was a decent pianist and tried to help you learn a tune or two. But what you might not realize is that your attempts at a moving rendition of Chopsticks actually put you at the end of a long line of a Western European middle class tradition, that starts sometime around Jane Austen, meaning you're basically starring in your very own version of Pride and Prejudice.
Don't believe me? Imagine a time before the Internet (scary, I know). Imagine a time before phones, before TV and radio, before the invention of the gramophone or even recorded sound. Now let's say you're in London, maybe, or Paris - what is there to do for fun? The answer: play the piano.
For women in particular, playing the piano was not only a socially approved form of entertainment, it was something that might land you a husband, the only real "prospect" most women had at the time. As the social mores of England and France made their way to the United States and Japan, the good citizens of these countries took on the whims of their European counterparts, and a piano revolution was born.
By 1900, pianos were all the rage, especially in the United States. In the first part of the century, roughly 250,000 pianos were made every year. But pianos weren't immune to market forces, and the Great Depression hit this market particularly hard. To make matters worse, the advent of the record player and radio meant that live performance wasn't the only way the middle class could access great music. The market crashed and never fully recovered to its previous levels.
While that might have been the nail in the coffin, advents in electronic music brought the piano back into the limelight with its brand-new cousin, the digital piano. Cheaper, smaller, and lighter than its analog model, it contributed to the declining sale of acoustic pianos but helped bring the keyboard back to the forefront.
They're such a big deal that you, dear reader, has decided to buy one too! Excellent choice. But how do you choose a digital piano from the hundreds out there?
How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?
You're never going to practice unless you actually have something to practice ON, and you want it to be a fun experience.
That means choosing a digital piano that you'll actually want to play, but the number of options are overwhelming. Here's where we come in. Behold!
Concert Grand Piano Sound - when piano companies create the sounds for their piano, they pick the best sounding piano they can find. Audio engineers place microphones all around the piano and use the resulting audio files to calibrate the sound of the digital piano. Most often, they'll use a 9-foot concert piano.
3 pedal attachment - "analog" pianos (you know, the real thing) almost always have three pedals: the soft pedal (which moves the hammers so that the resulting sound is softer), the sostenuto (which sustains the note you've just played until you release the pedal), and the damper pedal (which will hold all the notes you play after you press it until it's released). Many digital pianos will come with only the damper pedal, and some require you to purchase this piece separately.
Stand - Some digital pianos are shaped like a regular upright piano, meaning it is self-contained and does not require any additional parts. Others are sold as just the keyboard itself, meaning that you'll need a stand. Look for an adjustable yet sturdy model.
Fully Weighted Keyboard (aka "Progressive Action" or "Graded Action" Keyboard): Acoustic pianos have a hammer action that gives a feeling of weight or heft to each key as its played. Many digital pianos attempt to replicate this action so that it feels closer to the real thing. Cheaper digital pianos will tend to avoid this feature, but it's well worth it if you plan to play more than once a year.
Note Polyphony - this sounds more complicated than it needs to be. This refers to the number of notes that can be sounding at any given time. At a minimum, most digital pianos will create 32-note polyphony, but some of the models on our list go up to 128-note polyphony (more notes than there are keys on the keyboard!). There's a great discussion over at Time about how this affects your ability to play repertoire.
Learning Tools - each company treats this differently, but this can include all sorts of fun toys like lighted keys to show you which one to push, metronomes, and a display that shows you the chords as you go. Because sheet music just isn't good enough for you.
No Really: Practice, Practice, Practice.
Here's the thing about the piano: they're ubiquitous, so almost everyone has, at some point, sat down and tried to play one.
Most people who have had this experience have walked away with one conclusion: playing the piano is HARD.
Sure, you can pluck out an easy tune here and there, but getting your hands to play two different rhythms, notes, and in syncopated time is a crazy hard thing to do.
So what's the secret? You gotta woodshed (practice) with the best of them. Make it fun! Try learning pieces you really love. Pick out songs from the radio if you can. Find duets to play with your friend (or maybe that cute classmate in your English class).
Mix it up, and make sure that you choose a digital piano that will make you love playing. If you can do that, the work won't feel like work and you'll be playing Herbie Hancock and George Gershwin with the best of them.