Digital vs Acoustic Piano by Kirill Yurovskiy
Manufacturers of musical instruments have made great strides in the development of modern digital pianos, both in the quality of the key mechanics and in the imitation of the sound. But for all their technological sophistication, there is still a perception that they cannot replace a real acoustic instrument. Let’s find out if this is really true, in what ways digital pianos have caught up with their acoustic counterparts, and in what ways they are even superior.
Weight and dimensions
These parameters can be decisive when choosing a tool.
Home pianos weigh on average around 200 kilograms. And concert pianos can weigh up to half a ton. Such monumentality is due to the size of the instrument and the materials: the wood of the body is very heavy. But the greatest weight in the instrument is on the cast-iron frame. Only it can reach a weight of up to 200 kg together with the strings.
The strings are stretched on it, which can weigh up to 15 tons on a piano and nearly 30 tons on a concert grand piano. You cannot move such instruments around the apartment, even though they have legs with wheels.
A statistical digital instrument in a portable format weighs up to 20 kilograms, but more often it is closer to 10 kilograms. The average case digital piano weighs up to 50 kg. Although, there are models of digital pianos that weigh up to 200 kg or more.
The height of an average piano is 1.2 m. The length is 1.5 m and the depth is 0.6 m. The depth of pianos starts from 1.5 m.
A digital cabinet piano is very similar in size to an acoustic piano. It is usually shorter, up to 0.8 m in height. The width is the same as acoustic instruments, but the depth is less. Portable unmounted instruments without a stand take up very little space in comparison: width up to 1.4 m, height up to 15 cm and depth up to 40 cm.
Digital tools have a huge advantage in terms of mobility and compactness. They offer a greater choice of sizes, so it is much easier to choose the best tool among them.
Maintenance and tuning
An acoustic instrument is always a very delicate piece of work, a work of art that requires proper maintenance. The case materials are literally alive and can behave in different ways. For example, in winter and summer, when humidity levels vary greatly. In the winter, the instrument can become very dry and the case can crack.
During this time, it is important to remember to moisten the instrument with water cans. They are placed inside the case throughout the drought. In summer, on the contrary, the level of humidity is higher, which causes some mechanical parts to swell, creaks appear when playing, the keys or hammers begin to fall down.
Separately, it is worth noting that moths often live in home acoustic instruments, eating cloth materials inside: dampers, gaskets, drukshafts.
From time to time, once every six months, you should invite a master to tune the acoustic instrument. The master also checks the overall technical condition. Sometimes it will be necessary to replace some consumables, such as leaking gaskets or druks.
Digital pianos do not have these disadvantages. However, like any digital devices have their own recommendations for use: less sun and less humidity. But this is much easier than the proper care of an acoustic instrument.
Digital pianos can wear out the lubrication layer of the hammer mechanism over time, which can cause the keys to make more noise, squeak, rub or even stick.
Therefore, every few years it may be necessary to renew the grease layer under the keys. This can also be done at home. But if you are not sure, you can contact a master. The operation is not complicated, but it may take some time.
The feeling when playing
The piano class is characterized by a hammer-action mechanism: a hammer raised by pressing a key strikes a string.
This is very different from the feeling when you press the buttons, or the keys of a synthesizer. It is quite difficult to play an acoustic instrument, these instruments require a lot of training.
As a rule, on more expensive and high-quality acoustic instruments, the keys are tighter and heavier. On simpler instruments, home pianos, the keys are softer. But even they enable a good pianist to produce a beautiful sound, to convey many nuances.
Digital pianos are much inferior to their acoustic counterparts. After all, a digital instrument for the most part mimics the mechanics of an acoustic instrument. And really good keyboards are mostly about expensive instruments.
However, if earlier special hammer mechanisms were implemented only on expensive digital pianos, recently they can be seen more and more often on inexpensive models. But all other things being equal, an acoustic instrument will always be more responsive under the hands of the performer than a digital one. But this difference can only be noticed by an experienced musician.
The sound of a live wooden instrument is quite difficult to imitate with digital technology. The modern approach to the formation of sound in electronic instruments is sampling: the sounds of a real acoustic instrument, usually very expensive, are recorded in a studio on high-quality equipment. Each key is recorded many times, played at a different volume.
The more of these samples are recorded, the more variations of performance on the digital instrument will be recorded and the more lively the playing will seem. Even the different degrees of resonation of the body are simulated, as well as the sound of the neighboring strings, barely audible, but still participating in the overall “picture”.
An experienced performer will be able to catch the difference. But a good digital piano can be just as much fun to play as an acoustic piano.
An equally important characteristic is the ease of use of the tool at home.
Sometimes inspiration can strike even deep in the night. A digital instrument that can be connected to headphones can be a great help. But during the day, an acoustic piano can be just as uncomfortable for your neighbors. This, too, should be kept in mind.
In fairness, it should be noted the existence of very noisy digital piano keyboards. That is, you can play with headphones, but the rattling of the keys themselves will be felt. This applies mainly to inexpensive instruments, or old, which over time erases the layer of grease in the rubbing places.
Most often acoustic instruments look really solid: wooden body, carved overlays and capitals, solid solid varnish or wood texture, beautiful fittings, shiny or aged. But the execution is mostly vintage, we can say classical. Even modern models look very authentic. Not every interior would be able to fit in.
Digital instruments are more willing to keep up with the times. Among them, it will be easier to choose an instrument for a modern apartment.
Dependence on electricity
Not the most pertinent thing. But you still need to keep it in mind. A digital instrument sounds only when there is electricity in the house. The exceptions are digital pianos, which are powered by batteries.
You can find many used versions of acoustic instruments for token prices in ads for sale. And some even donate them, only to take the huge thing out themselves. With the proper understanding, you can find quite a decent instrument and bring it to mind with the help of a master tuner. But in most cases, these are unplayable instruments that do not sound right, and music school students only ruin the technique of playing a soft keyboard, perpetually sticking hammers and constant upsetting.
You have to understand that you can’t buy a good instrument for $200. A good used one costs at least 10 times as much. And you will have to pay 20 times more for a new one. A good new grand piano can cost as much as $100,000.
A good digital instrument doesn’t come cheap either. Among the new ones, you can choose instruments that start at $500. We are talking about instruments with hammer mechanism, on which a learning pianist can practice without consequences. But here it is necessary to understand that this instrument will not require additional investments: it does not need tuning, does not need frequent diagnosis and replacement consumables. For a portable digital piano, you will only need to buy a stand.
Despite the many advantages of digital instruments, acoustic pianos should by no means be written off. Even if digital pianos uncompromisingly catch up to their acoustic counterparts in terms of feel and sound, they will still have their admirers and connoisseurs of live sound. Taken by link