Digital Piano & Electronic Keyboard buyer’s guide
5 Keys to buying a stage piano or electronic keyboard
Acoustic pianos have been a stable of live musical performances since the early 17th century and electronic keyboards have been on stage since the early 1960’s. While acoustic pianos, both grand and upright, are still popular, they cannot match the popularity of digital pianos and electronic keyboards.
This buyer’s guide will help you better understand the digital piano and electronic keyboard landscape and help you determine which is best for your musical performance needs. To simplify the process, we will consider five key factors when looking at purchasing ‘keys’.
But before we look at these five factors, we need to differentiate between digital pianos (also known as stage pianos) and electronic keyboards.
The Digital Stage Piano
Designed and build to best replicate an acoustic piano, stage pianos primarily use modulated samples of acoustic pianos to produce their sound. They have full 88 keys, like an acoustic piano, and are either hammer action or weighed to simulate the feel and action of an acoustic piano. Most stage pianos have their casing and keys made from wood and as such, are not light weight nor do they transport easily.
While many stage pianos offer a variety of sounds, effects, percussive options and other features typically found on electronic keyboards, digital pianos are first and foremost designed to replicate acoustic pianos.
Stage Piano examples:
The Electronic Keyboard
The most common keyboards available today, are decedents of the early electronic pianos and synthesizers of the 1960’s and 1970’s. By the 1980’s electronic keyboards as we know them today, became ever increasingly popular as home instruments and stage performance instruments.
The most common keyboards today offer a variety of sounds ranging from pianos to strings, percussions to synths. These sounds are typically synthetic sounds with some high-end keyboards offering modulated samples of acoustic instruments. Most keyboards have a rhythm or ‘beat’ function and many offer recording functions and advance arrangement and creative tools.
Typically built using plastic, keys and casings of keyboards are lightweight and far easier to transport in comparison to stage pianos.
Electronic Keyboard examples:
With that basic breakdown of digital pianos and electronic keyboards, let us look at the key factors to consider when looking at purchasing either one for your next live performance on stage.
#1 Your style of music
While it may be apparent to think that because keyboards have piano ‘sounds’ that they are the obvious choice, it is not always the case. How an instrument feels can be as important to a musician as how it sounds.
If your style of music you intend on playing requires the sound and feel of an acoustic piano, then a digital piano is a good consideration. If the style of music requires more than just basic piano and strings sounds, then an electric keyboard will be a better buy as they offer a wide range of sounds and effects.
#2 Your key count
Most stage pianos have a full 88-key count allowing the same full range as an acoustic piano. Keyboards can range from small 25-key to full 88-key instruments. Unless you need all 88 keys, a keyboard is an option for those who need less octaves in their musical performances.
#3 Your performance and practice locations
The easy of transporting any instrument and additional gear is always a consideration to make before purchasing and instrument. This is especially true for pianos and keyboards because of their size and weight.
If you will be playing in fixed venue and can have the instrument left stationary for extended periods of time, then a digital piano is a great choice. However, if you plan on hitting the road for a tour or perform and practice in different venues, then a keyboard is a good option to consider.
#4 Your accessories
Digital pianos are generally an all-in-one solution when it comes to accessories. They have built in speakers, their own stand, foot pedals, music stand and cover (which all add to the overall weight). This means there are just about no additional accessories needed.
On the other hand, electric keyboards need a lot of additional accessories. These include; a keyboard stand, possible music stand, soft carry bag or hard case, additional pedal/s, and in some cases a keyboard amplifier might be needed.
#5 Your budget
As always, no buyer’s guide would be complete without budget considerations. Any instrument is an investment into your musical passion and it is always good to look at your budget to best determine which range you should be looking into.
On average, digital pianos come with a higher price tag in comparison to keyboards. While budget stage pianos are available, they will still cost more than mid to upper ranged keyboards.
Even though budget keyboards are available, especially those recommended for students, fully loaded top-tier keyboards will be on par with high end digital pianos in terms of price.
Before heading out to go and buy your next set of keys, consider your musical, performance and budget. This will help you have a clearer idea of what your needs and wants are and should let you return home with the right instrument for you.
About Brendan Ihmig
Brendan is an accomplished studio and stage guitarist, a project studio owner and former music teacher. He is a freelance writer, branding and marketing consultant, and a professional speaker. Connect with Brendan on Twitter