How to Buy a Digital Piano

Graham Howard’s 7 Things You Must Know Before You Buy a Digital Piano is an extremely useful guide that breaks down everything from confusing terminology to simple tests you can do in a piano store before making a decision. The UK-based Howard aims to help you make the right decisions regarding a purchase, but he says the guide will, more importantly, “stop you from making very expensive mistakes.”

One of the most heavily advertised and prominently featured aspects of a digital piano is key weighting, says Howard. “You’ll likely come across terminology such as, light-weighted, semi-weighted, weighted, medium-weighted, fully-weighted, and heavy-weighted. The difference between the key weights is only slight. Ideally, you should aim to get a piano that has a fully-weighted or heavy-weighted touch. Manufacturers usually write their own descriptions, so they choose the terminology to describe their key touch, which can often be very misleading. I’ve seen pianos described as having fully-weighted keys, when they really only have medium-weighted keys.”

Touch sensitive and graded hammer action are terms associated with key weight as well. Howard notes that the former refers to “the force with which you play—press the key softly, you get a quiet sound, press it with some force and you get a loud sound. Graded hammer has heavier key weighting in the bass, gradually getting lighter as you go up the keyboard. This mimics the exact feel of an upright or grand piano.”

String resonance (aka damper resonance) is another important component to consider according to Howard. “When you press down a key on an acoustic piano, a note sounds. If other keys are already pressed down, then they and their harmonics will also sound very faintly. The combination of these other notes and harmonics give acoustic pianos their full, rich, vibrant sound. Many pianists complain that digital pianos sound dull and lifeless, which can be attributed to the missing string resonance. Here’s a way to test for string resonance: Without making the notes sound, press and hold down middle C, the E to the right, and the G to the right of that (a C Major chord). While holding down the C chord, play the C to the left of middle C firmly. You should be able to hear the C Major chord quietly, as if you actually played it.”

If you want all of Howard’s useful tips on purchasing a digital piano, you can get the entire 7 Things You MUST Know Before You Buy a Digital for free at: or send him your questions

This article is from our September-October 2012 issue. Click to order!

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