Next to the human voice, the piano is one of the most versatile musical instruments on the market. There are many types of pianos, but the most common ones are digital and acoustic pianos and synthesizers/workstations.
Acoustic pianos are the conventional and oldest piano versions, which work by activating a hammer that strikes the relevant string to produce sound when a key is pressed. This is why pianos are considered percussion instruments. Digital pianos are electronic versions of acoustic pianos and they use digital technology to produce sound when keys are pressed.
While acoustic pianos are widely loved as the 'real pianos', digital pianos are becoming increasingly popular since they are more portable, less expensive and have a vast array of features for sound modification. The following are important considerations to make if you're looking to purchase a digital piano, like Kawai pianos:
1. Number of keys
Digital pianos may have as few as 20 keys right up to the maximum 88 keys (52 white, 36 black). However, common smaller keyboards have either 61 or 76 keys and are recommended for beginners and travelling pianists who need greater portability.
However, bear in mind that a full 88-key piano is needed when you're playing more complex classical or jazz pieces. Consider the level of complexity of your music as well as any portability or space restrictions when choosing your digital Kawai piano.
This is a term used to characterize the key-bed response. There are weighted or semi-weighted key-beds whose responses mimic those of conventional acoustic pianos. For an even more authentic acoustic sound, you can go for pianos with hammer action keys.
Conversely, you can choose pianos that have 'organ action' or 'synth action', which have no resistance on the keys. Therefore, they are better when playing quick successions of complex music pieces such as the riffs in pop songs.
However, getting used to organ/snyth action pianos will make transitions into acoustic pianos more difficult. That is why this system is usually used for workstations and synthesizers only.
3. Velocity sensitivity
This applies to the ability of a digital piano to detect and interpret subtle changes in velocity, which affects the volume and articulation of keys on depression. Naturally, a piano with higher sensitivity is desirable since it will be more touch-responsive. This will enable the player to have an easier transition into playing acoustic pianos and to achieve a higher sense of musicality.
The tonality of a digital piano is enabled by a user-interface program which allows the player to control different aspects, including tones. Often, digital pianos will come with hundreds of different tones/sounds, which in itself should not be a determining factor.
The real value of a digital piano is in the quality of these sounds, which will be determined by the quality of material used in construction, the craftsmanship, quality of the interface software and the addition of features such as hammer action and weighted keys.
Rather than being wooed by hundreds of tones you won't use, focus on the quality of tones that will be used most frequently.