Meri’s Musical Musings

Digital or acoustic piano? Why I actually prefer a good digital

Posted on: June 30, 2009

There are many debates on various music forums about digital and acoustic pianos. I have students who can play very well on either, but I do prefer a good digital piano over a poor acoustic. I think a teacher should have both.

Some of the advantages of digital pianos are the various sounds they come with, some digital pianos allow the ability to record playing, the fact that some digital pianos contain a variety of famous piano pieces that may inspire students, the fact that you can practice with headphones (especially late at night or if neighbours work a night shift), that they never need tuning, that you can adjust the volume, that you can set different effects, different touch weights (hard, medium or soft, depending on the player’s and music’s needs), and the cost: a good digital is about 1/2 to 1/3 the cost of a new acoustic. Theirmain disadvantage is that they sometimes depreciate quickly, although there is a growing demand for quality used digitals.

The main advantage of the acoustic piano is only true if it’s a good one: the expressive range possible. This is not critical in most elementary and intermediate repertoire for the piano. I’ve seen too many acoustic pianos that are out of tune and poorly maintained. Plus the cost of a starter acoustic piano is about that of a good digital, and in many cases a digital piano would be a better choice, because some digital piano models replicate the touch and feel of a grand piano. The fact that you can adjust the touch settings alone makes digital pianos suitable for most piano students, especially very young students or students wih weak fingers due to injury for example. And the fact that students can listen to some of the great piano literature that’s built in some digital pianos, and record themselves, either with the built-in recording feature or connected to a computer, for example via MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface). Another disadvantage is tha they need electricity, but the power supply in most of North America tends to be reliable, so that is not that big of an issue.

I prefer a fine acoustic over a digital. But if the budget is restricted, I vote digital!

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