Buying a digital piano can be a stressful and disconcerting experience. The typical digital piano on display in most music stores has so many flashing lights, buttons and sliders that it can be very confusing.
First a bit of history: digital pianos have come a long way in the last 20 years. In the past, digital pianos sounded bad and keyboard action was horrible, but fortunately, all that has changed. Today, you can buy a new digital piano for your home for a fraction of the cost of an acoustic piano that many families and schools used to have. Not only are digital pianos more portable, but they now sound and even look like concert pianos.
What do you need to know before you decide to buy a new digital piano?
Try your digital piano before you buy
Since every digital piano sounds and feels different, you really should try a piano before you buy it. Visit your local music store and ask to see their keyboard department. Ask the salesperson to show you the piano section. Then sit down and play the piano yourself. If you are a beginner, you may feel embarrassed about playing the piano. In this case, find the "demo" mode button and press it. Or if you are very shy, you can ask the seller for headphones and play in privacy.
If you can't find the demo button, ask the seller to help you. The piano should start playing some classical compositions. Turn up the volume, sit down and close your eyes; you can now hear the sound of the digital piano correctly.
If you can't hear a digital piano, I suggest you read reviews like the ones I have published here on my website. Most of my reviews include demonstration videos that will give you a pretty good idea of how the piano sounds.
As an experienced musician who has purchased a number of pianos and keyboards over the course of my career, I can give you an accurate evaluation of some of the most popular models on the market today.
Evaluating the sound of the digital piano
Perhaps the most important aspect in choosing a digital piano is the sound itself. Most digital pianos are sampled from real concert pianos and sound amazing to the untrained ear. But you have to understand that it's the subtleties of the sound samples you use that make the difference in terms of quality and, of course, price. The most expensive digital pianos record the sound of shocks hitting the strings and harmonics. They also take several samples of each note by applying different degrees of pressure to the keys. Again, this costs money and you may not be able to hear it.
You should know that the piano's speakers (some digital pianos don't have built-in speakers) also contribute to the sound quality. In general, the more expensive the piano, the better the quality of the speakers.
At the end of the day, it's all about how *you* feel as a buyer. The sound of the piano should appeal to you and create a bond with you. Remember that this piano will be in your home for a long time.
In part 2 of How to Buy a Digital Piano I’ll discuss finding the right piano action and determining who the end user is.