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Buy a digital piano or an upright acoustic?
#2991212 06/13/20 09:13 PM
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Hi Everyone! I'm new to the forum. I was thinking about buying a digital piano (perhaps a Yamaha from the Clavinova series) but a friend told me there are many used upright acoustic pianos available for reasonable prices or even for free. I don't know which one to choose. I don't mind paying a couple grands for a good digital piano and have done my research about their advantages (like the fact that they don't need tuning, the ability to record, etc). But I don't know whether by buying one I would forego the opportunity to have a reasonable upright acoustic one at basically the piano-movers' fee. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

For what it's worth, here is my background: I turned 34 today and have been practicing since one and a half years ago. I also played the keyboard for about a year as a teenager but had a big gap until I decided to learn playing the piano when I was 32. I have been practicing mostly on a Yamaha keyboard (the psr ew300 model) and, whenever I got a chance, on some actual pianos. Now I want to buy one but am totally clueless about the advantages and disadvantages of digital and acoustic pianos.

Thanks!

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Re: Buy a digital piano or an upright acoustic?
qi_ #2991216 06/13/20 10:25 PM
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#1. living conditions - house or apartment?
In apartment you have to consider neighbours and even your family with lesser space.
Playing on phones on digital fix that.

#2. stationary or moving around a lot
There is a reason there are loads of giveaways for upright pianos.
After move x you might be fed up with that heavy piece of furniture needing so much special treatment.

#3. ability to choose piano you like better - a grand piano, or fooling around with other types of electrical pianos like wurlizer or rhodes, strings and choirs and stuff.
Favour digital.

#4. dynamics and feel playing loud in a room
This might favour acoustic since really hard to give the same presence lika a real acoustic.
You might need 50W or so amp+speakers on digital and you are probably not close anyway.
Look at higher end digitals - $10,000 or more - and you see this is where they put all the effort with maybe dozens of speakers and stuff to really spread in the room.

But not all acoustics are the same - so to really qualify with decent digitals - might take some effort.

#5. technical stuff like tuning - at least on kawai digitals there are loads of features to adjust stretch tunings and many things - done in seconds.

I had 4 Yamaha's, last one CLP-535, and none had what Kawai have in this field.

This you have to talk to piano tech doing tunings on acoustic how you want it - if you have a preference.

Last edited by Nip; 06/13/20 10:28 PM.

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Re: Buy a digital piano or an upright acoustic?
qi_ #2991221 06/13/20 10:56 PM
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I was given two acoustic uprights some years ago when my friends found out I was learning piano. I ended up chopping both into pieces much of which went to the dump.

for the better piano I bought tools and parts in an attempt to refurbish the action, thinking how hard could it be. Turns out to be incredibly difficult even to fix the smallest fault. Eventually I gave up and bought a new acoustic, and later a quality digital (because one piano is never enough) 😎


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Re: Buy a digital piano or an upright acoustic?
qi_ #2991222 06/13/20 11:25 PM
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Thanks Nip and earlofmar! Based on what you say, it looks like I'll be better off with a digital one (live in an apartment, may move in a few years, etc). Any suggestion for what brand I should buy? Judging by your signatures, I'd guess you'll both say Kawai over Yamaha! But could you elaborate? I mean I will go to a piano showroom and try things out before I buy. But I wanna go there informed and the comparison-websites I found are not that helpful. So any advice would be appreciated. If what I should buy depends on my skill level, my skill is likely best described as "pre intermediate" if there is such a thing.

Thanks.

Re: Buy a digital piano or an upright acoustic?
qi_ #2991229 06/13/20 11:48 PM
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gi, I'm very much a novice compared to everyone else here,so I can't speak to a variety of brands and models, but I definitely think it's a good idea you have to check out the pianos in person before purchasing. I went in to a local store having narrowed it down to a couple models, both by Casio and Yamaha, and ended up walking away with a Roland instead when it wasn't even on my radar b/c I preferred the sound and key action to the others.


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Re: Buy a digital piano or an upright acoustic?
qi_ #2991233 06/13/20 11:57 PM
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I would not feel qualified to recommend a piano, but agree with vintagevt on the importance of trying out as many as you can.


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Re: Buy a digital piano or an upright acoustic?
qi_ #2991235 06/14/20 12:27 AM
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Originally Posted by qi_
A friend told me there are many used upright acoustic pianos available for reasonable prices or even for free.

That’s true, but the hard bit is spotting whether they are cheap because they are junk or cheap because someone needs to get rid of what is quite a good piano.

You absolutely do not want to be stuck with a lemon. Acoustic pianos have thousands of moving parts and stuff to go out of adjustment and wear out. A worn out one will be a money pit and a source of frustration. It’s really important to get someone who knows what they’re looking at to give a once-over before you buy a cheapie.

Alternatively buy from a dealer for peace of mind but that will be quite costly.


Yamaha U1. Yamaha P-45. Yamaha RD-250 (a long time ago). smile
Re: Buy a digital piano or an upright acoustic?
qi_ #2991237 06/14/20 12:51 AM
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@qi there is a whole forum dedicated to digital pianos and keyboards, so you are best to ask there for detailed advice. But to summarise what they will say

1. Choose the best you can afford
2. Try before you buy as only you can determine "best" after experiencing them

The three must popular makes are Yamaha, Roland and Kawai and opinion seems split on which is the best. I think in general that Kawai is prefered for the action, Yamaha for the sound, but even that is contentious.

The other aspect you need to consider is between a keyboard which is portable and a digital piano, which a piece of furniture. The first you have to get a stand for (and maybe speakers, or better speakers) the second has the speakers built in.

For your budget that you mentioned look at Yamaha P515, Roland FP90 or Kawai MP7 or ES8 (MP11 is better but slightly more expensive) for portables. Digital Pianos are harder to suggest, Yamaha's Range seems to have a hole at $2000, Arius below and CLP above, Roland seem to have lots of models around that point and Kawai top of CN series (CN39) or bottom of CA series (CA49).

Re: Buy a digital piano or an upright acoustic?
qi_ #2991269 06/14/20 03:37 AM
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You have so many options, you won't believe it. The option that I went with for practicing was the Kawai VPC1. It's just a keyboard controller, but the action is very nice, it's meant to simulate a grand piano's feel. I connect it to a laptop, and the laptop runs Pianoteq, a piano simulator, i.e. not sampled sound. The sound through the headphone is pretty convincing, and you can pick different simulated piano models, like Steinway D, B, Bechstein, Steingraeber & Sohne, Bluthner, etc. I learned a lot about how acoustic pianos work with this software because there are so many adjustments you can make. It's not for everybody, but if you like to tinker and you want to someday own a grand piano, it'll prepare you well. It's compact, and you probably won't ever want to get rid of it even if you get an acoustic some day. In my opinion, once you get an nice acoustic, it's hard to go back to digital, except for practicing... Also, in my opinion, for an acoustic, consider an upright >50" or a grand >6'. To me, the richness of the sound (in general for a piano of those sizes) really becomes satisfying at that point.


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Re: Buy a digital piano or an upright acoustic?
qi_ #2991282 06/14/20 04:48 AM
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Originally Posted by qi_
. I don't mind paying a couple grands for a good digital piano and have done my research about their advantages (like the fact that they don't need tuning, the ability to record, etc).


I do get the impression that you did not yet do your research.

Did you already test play acoustics and digitals yourself? What matters in a piano is how they feel, respond and how they sound TO YOU. Not how the spec sheet looks like , nor how enthusiastic someone else is about it.

For me, I can not stand the sound of digitals. They sound clunky, wooly, synthetic, dead to me. If you are the same, then opting for digital would kill your enthusiasm for piano playing.


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Re: Buy a digital piano or an upright acoustic?
wouter79 #2991290 06/14/20 05:20 AM
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Originally Posted by wouter79
Originally Posted by qi_
. I don't mind paying a couple grands for a good digital piano and have done my research about their advantages (like the fact that they don't need tuning, the ability to record, etc).


I do get the impression that you did not yet do your research.

Did you already test play acoustics and digitals yourself? What matters in a piano is how they feel, respond and how they sound TO YOU. Not how the spec sheet looks like , nor how enthusiastic someone else is about it.

For me, I can not stand the sound of digitals. They sound clunky, wooly, synthetic, dead to me. If you are the same, then opting for digital would kill your enthusiasm for piano playing.

I agree, the best piano is the one that speaks to you. The one that you play to try out and do not want to stand up and walkaway from. I have never had that on any cheap digital piano, only on the more expensive ones.
Also, good uprights are expensive. It is difficult to find a used one that is in great condition unless it is refurbished by the master.

Piano sound is not just what strings have produced after they start vibrating - the whole noise in the attack of the keys and hammers contribute to the sound, also acoustic pianos have harmonics that are not there in the digital pianos.

The best wold be to try out everything that is within your budget and make a choice from your heart. Also do not pay attention and compare the functions of different digitals, if your concentration will be piano playing, just look for the best sound and response in piano sound that you can find.

Re: Buy a digital piano or an upright acoustic?
qi_ #2991311 06/14/20 06:49 AM
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I have both and while I generally prefer the acoustic, there are those evenings when I have my headphones on, not very loud, but isolated from the world and playing some sampled or modelled really mellow piano.
At least for me, after 10-15 min of playing I get lost in playing and forget about the slightly arificial key feel. The piano is only a small part of the experience of playing the piano.

Re: Buy a digital piano or an upright acoustic?
qi_ #2991314 06/14/20 07:01 AM
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Personally, I am SO SO happy with my digital piano + pianoteq. Especially as a student, digital has so many advantages.

* For instance, it is hard for me to listen at my playing simultaneously as I play. This is just natural, because I need my attention for playing. Pianoteq records everything that I play, and whenever I feel the need, it is so easy to just listen to what I have just played.
* Also, I can see a graph of the loudness of each note. So when I play scales non-legato, I like to watch this graph to see that I play each note equally loudly. It helps a lot.
* Furthermore, I like it so much that I can make beautiful recordings of my playing - of course, limited by my technique, but without any sounds from the room, or my husband sneezing. Not that he sneezes a lot, but still.
* And of course, I can play as loudly as I feel like, I can do the same exercise over and over again, and I can play whenever I feel like it, even in the middle of the night.


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Re: Buy a digital piano or an upright acoustic?
wouter79 #2991318 06/14/20 07:17 AM
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Originally Posted by wouter79
I do get the impression that you did not yet do your research.

Did you already test play acoustics and digitals yourself? What matters in a piano is how they feel, respond and how they sound TO YOU. Not how the spec sheet looks like , nor how enthusiastic someone else is about it.

For me, I can not stand the sound of digitals. They sound clunky, wooly, synthetic, dead to me. If you are the same, then opting for digital would kill your enthusiasm for piano playing.

I fully agree with you about the feel of the piano and about digitals. I had a couple of digital pianos but now that I have a grand piano I am fully converted and will never go back to digitals (except for late night practice). Even the high end hybrid ones that have complete mechanics like a real accoustic are still not the same. In a real piano the whole body of the piano vibrates and fills the room with sound. The whole experience of connecting with the instrument cannot be compared to anything digital.

But I understand that some people need to compromise on cost, space, etc. A digital may still be a great option for you but you need to try and see for yourself how it feels. The most important aspects are 1) the feel of the action, and 2) the sound (both through speakers and headphones). Price is a general indicator but not always and there is a lot of room for personal preference. For instance, I chose a slightly cheaper older model of digital piano because the newer action felt unrealisticaly "pushy", for lack of a better term. What I mean by that is that in digital pianos, unless you have one of the top end ones that have the complete hammer mechanism, the keys are usually weighted but the weight keeps pushing the key up with the same force even after you play, which is not what a real accoustic piano does. In a real accoustic action there is more inertia. The point I'm trying to make is that you have to try it for yourself to decide what you find acceptable.

Re: Buy a digital piano or an upright acoustic?
qi_ #2991329 06/14/20 08:35 AM
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Get both! I was using a hybrid N2 exclusively for a long time. After moving in with my girlfriend, I was able to use an old Kawai upright. It was in near mint condition. My girlfriend bought it years ago, played a few months on it, and then left it sit and covered for over decade.

Anyway, it's not a high end acoustic, but I practice more on this than I do the digital now. I feel/hear a better dynamic range with the acoustic. I'll still use the N2, early in the morning if I want to practice, otherwise I'll use the acoustic during the day and at night.


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Re: Buy a digital piano or an upright acoustic?
qi_ #2991337 06/14/20 09:02 AM
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If your budget is sufficient to afford a decent used upright in good condition, and space or noise is not a limiting factor, I’d always recommend getting an acoustic. As some have said already, a good acoustic is just very satisfying.

I have only played on my digital twice since I got my acoustic. My digital is 7-8 years old now and it was pretty entry level when I bought it, but still decent. But there’s just no comparison with my acoustic.

A caution. Free pianos are pianos people don’t want and can’t sell for money, so they are most often NOT a good option at all.

@bSharp(C)yclist, poor N2... that’s a very good hybrid. frown

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 06/14/20 09:02 AM.

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Re: Buy a digital piano or an upright acoustic?
qi_ #2991369 06/14/20 12:13 PM
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Thank you all so much! Your comments and tips are very helpful smile

I am certainly going to try out some options before I buy. I am glad I asked the question here and get all this useful info. This board is such a great resource.

Re: Buy a digital piano or an upright acoustic?
qi_ #2991372 06/14/20 12:24 PM
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In the Great ABF Survey of 2020, 78.6% of the respondents preferred an acoustic piano. Just saying...

Sam

Re: Buy a digital piano or an upright acoustic?
qi_ #2991381 06/14/20 12:51 PM
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While many of us prefer acoustic over digital, some of us don't have a choice. Living in a building, it's a hassle to move an upright up the elevator.

Many years ago (1970s) the family had an upright because the digital technology was still behind. After a long break, I joined a music group playing violin and then got a keyboard starting with a 61, then 76 and finally 88. Besides practicing at home, the music group would borrow a keyboard from time to time so the portability is justified. With a separate folding stand, all the pieces can be moved easily. When I'm done, the keyboard can go into the closet and not take up space in the room.

While taking lessons at the local conservatory, I have access to practice acoustic pianos including Yamaha, Young Chang & Steinway.

Someone in the family stopped playing for 10 years after moving to an apartment and eventually decided to get a digital. It's impossible to move an acoustic into a small space.

Re: Buy a digital piano or an upright acoustic?
qi_ #2991382 06/14/20 12:53 PM
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You can't voice anything on a digital like you can with an acoustic. Digital pianos usually have three or four different volumes when you play more then one note simultaneously. A very important part of piano playing is how loud the different voices are in comparison to each other. Because this is very hard to do, the first impression is usually that a digital piano sound better then an acoustic, because it does the job for you.

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