This article is adapted from several articles on buying a digital piano in Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer. The full articles are available free of charge at

Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer is a semiannual publication concerning new, used, and restored acoustic pianos and digital pianos. The publication is a hybrid book and magazine. The "book" part consists of a series of tutorial articles, illustrated and in color, each covering a different aspect of the piano-buying experience. These articles will not change, or will change very little, from issue to issue. The "magazine" part consists of articles of more temporary interest, and reference material (current prices, specifications, etc.), that will change over time. Piano Buyer is available both as a free electronic publication and in a print version that can be purchased online or in bookstores. See for more information.

If, after having read "Acoustic or Digital: What's Best for Me?" [elsewhere in Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer], you've decided on a digital piano, the next step is shopping for and selecting the right model for your needs. There are currently over 200 models of digital piano on the market. Narrowing the field requires exploring some basic issues. This article covers the needs of both entry-level shoppers and those interested in more sophisticated, feature-laden models. It concludes with a discussion of where different types of digital pianos are sold and to what extent price can be negotiated.

Initial Considerations

Matching the Player's Needs

Unless you expect to buy another piano in a year or so, you need to consider your long-term requirements. Who will be the primary player today? If it's for the family, how long will it be until the youngest child has the opportunity to learn? Does Mom or Dad harbor any musical interests? If so, it's likely that one family member or another will use the instrument for many years to come. This argues for getting a higher-quality instrument, whose advantages of better tone, touch, and features will be appreciated over time.

Most entry-level digitals have a few different piano voices, as well as a dozen or so other instrumental voices, such as harpsichord, church and jazz organ, vibes, and strings. These models, designed mainly to emulate the piano, are referred to as "standard" digital pianos. Many other, slightly more expensive models, called "ensemble" digital pianos, come with expanded capabilities: all the instruments of the orchestra (and more), easy-play background accompaniments, rhythms, special effects, and much more. You might not think you need the additional capabilities of an ensemble digital, but having them can enable the beginner, as well as family members who don't take lessons, to have a lot more fun and sound like pros with minimal practice. For an advancing player, the opportunities for musical creativity are significantly enhanced. Also for the advancing player, most digital pianos today have some degree of onboard recording capabilities, and can be connected to a computer to enhance one's musical experience with software for music education, recording, notation, and other activities.

If multiple players will use the instrument, it needs to meet the expectations of the most advanced player. At the same time, a beginner in the family will benefit from educational features that are of no interest to the advanced player, and still another family member may just want to fool around with the instrument once in a while. Easy-play features and software will keep these players happy—and you might be surprised how many people are enticed into learning to play as a result of these easy first steps. So, obviously, an individual player may search among a very narrow range of instruments, while a family may have to balance the needs of several people. Fortunately, the wealth of available choices can easily accommodate any combination of individual and/or family needs.

Introduction to Buying
a Digital Piano

by Alden Skinner

Acoustic & Digital
Piano Buyer