The Best Digital Pianos: Features/Terminology

Graded hammer action: This feature involves weighting the keys so that they the bass keys are heavier to the touch, while the higher notes are lightweight. Grand pianos and concert pianos are designed with graded hammer action, making this a desirable feature for those looking to practice on an instrument that will feel exactly like a ‘real’ piano.

Touch Sensitivity: Touch sensitivity means that the harder you strike a key, the louder it will play.

Progressive damper action: This is a pedal function that allows you to control the level of dampening depending on how heavily you press the pedal.

Octave range: An octave is the full range of a scale. Grand pianos always have 6 octaves, and many digital pianos now offer this same range.

Polyphony: Polyphony is the measure of how many keys you can play at the same time.

Sound Engine: Digital pianos use a sound engine to recreate the natural sound of an acoustic piano through a series of samples.

Soundbank: A sound bank consists of built-in sounds, voices, songs, rhythms, and special effects that you can use while playing music. Keyboards can have up to thousands of programmed sounds and effects, while digital pianos usually have smaller sound banks.

Track recording: Many digital pianos and keyboards allow you to record music and layer tracks on top of each other. Using the digital effects, you can layer a string melody over a woodwind or percussion and vice versa. If you are looking to layer frequently, you should find a digital piano that offers 3 or more track recording layers.

Accompaniment: Accompaniment is a built-in recording (usually percussion) that plays in the background of your piano music in order to enhance your performance.

MIDI and USB connectivity: MIDI and USB ports allow you to connect your digital piano to a computer or another MIDI keyboard/technology in order to sample music and edit it with other software.

Digital Pianos Vs Keyboards: What is the Difference?

While many people use the terms keyboard and digital piano interchangeably, there are some key differences between these two instruments in terms of their designs, purposes, and features. To understand which one is better for you, let’s start with some definitions:

A keyboard is an electronic piano that is designed to create a variety of synthetic sounds using special effects. Keyboards are often programmed with hundreds, and even thousands, of sounds, including the ability to mimic other instruments including woodwinds, strings, percussion, and more. Compared to an acoustic piano, keyboards are generally smaller, consisting of an average of 61 keys (or 4-5 octaves).

A digital piano, also known as a “piano synthesizer”, is an electronic piano that is designed to replicate the sound, range, and feel of an acoustic or grand piano. These pianos are generally larger than keyboards and often consisting of 88 keys (6 octaves) just like a grand piano.

Both of these instruments can be used to create beautiful melodies while offering the advantages of portability and digital effects. For a quick breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of each, we have created the following pros and cons comparisons:



  • Affordable: If you’re looking for the most affordable way to practice piano skills, a keyboard is usually the way to go. Keyboards can range from as little as $100 to upwards of $300-500 for a better quality build. Compared to a traditional piano or a digital piano these instruments are much cheaper, making them a great option for those on a tight budget.
  • Easy Portability: Because these instruments are usually made of lightweight plastic, they are highly portable and weight an average of 20-25 lbs. Compared to a digital piano which is usually designed to sit pretty permanently on a stand, these pianos usually sit on a basic “X” stand and can easily be transported.
  • Large sound and rhythm banks: If you’re looking for an instrument that gives you a large selection of electronic and synthetic sounds to choose from, a keyboard is a great option to look into. Many keyboards come with hundreds and even thousands of sounds, voices, rhythms, songs, and special effects built into the instrument.
  • Great for beginners: Many consider keyboards a great option for beginners due to their simplicity and affordability, not to mention the fact that many keyboards come with built-in learning software making it easy for beginners to start playing. While serious musicians typically opt for a digital piano, as these instruments more closely resemble a ‘real’ piano in terms of sound quality and feel, keyboards offer a great value for those looking to learn basic skills or have access to a wide range of electronic effects. Because keyboards also have lighter keys, children typically find them easier to play, making them a great option for little pianists.


  • Fewer octaves: Compared to a grand piano, which has 88 keys (6 octaves) most keyboards only have 61 keys (or 4-5 octaves). For those looking to advance their musical skills, not being able to use the full octave range may be a serious disadvantage as they outgrow the instrument.
  • Synthetic sound quality: Because keyboards are designed to offer a wide range of sound effects through their built-in banks, these instruments are known for having a ‘synthetic’ or ‘robotic’ sound. If you are a novice pianist, this may not be an issue, however, more experienced musicians can usually notice this sound quality.
  • Lightweight build: Though the lightweight build makes these instruments highly portable, the downside is a plastic-y feel and decreased durability.
  • High touch sensitivity: Another downside to the lightweight build, is that keyboards are notorious for being extremely sensitive to the touch with very lightweight keys. Acoustic and grand pianos are known for having heavy keys and a certain level of sensitivity. Digital pianos are often able to mimic this heaviness, giving their keys a ‘real’ piano feel, while most keyboards cannot.

Digital Piano


  • Full 6-octave range: Unlike most keyboards, digital pianos usually offer a full 6-ocatave range, with the same number of keys as a grand piano. If you are looking to build upon your musical abilities, having access to this broad range of notes is essential for certain songs and scales.
  • Weighted keys: Weighted keys give digital pianos an authentic feel, featuring a similar heaviness to that that can be found in the keys of a grand piano. If you want to practice on an instrument that resembles a concert piano, the best digital piano to look for is one with weighted keys.
  • Better sound quality: Because these instruments are designed to mimic an acoustic piano, they are known for having better sound quality that sounds almost identical to a ‘real’ piano.
  • Suited for serious musicians and those looking to advance their skills: While even beginners can start off with a digital piano, they tend to be designed for more serious musicians compared to a simple keyboard. Because these instruments mimic a grand piano, they are a great practice instrument for those aspiring to perform or learn compositions that require a full 6-ocative range. Overall these instruments offer a lot of room to grow, allowing the musician to advance their skills.


  • More expensive than keyboards: Because of the high sound quality, better build, weighted key, and greater octave range, these instruments tend to be much pricier compared to a simple keyboard. Digital pianos usually start off around $300, with the best digital piano models available in the $500-1500 range.
  • Smaller sound and rhythm banks: While the keyboard is made to produce a wide range of synthetic sounds and special effects, digital pianos are designed to create more traditional harmonies, which is why they usually have smaller sound and rhythm banks. Most digital pianos will come with a small section of voices, rhythms, and synthetic effects but for the most part, they try to mimic a grand piano as much as possible.

Overall, whether or not a digital piano or a keyboard is better for you depends on your intentions and musical needs. If you are looking for the most affordable way to start learning piano skills, or if you are interested in a wide range of synthetic sounds, a keyboard may be a better option for you. However, if you’re looking for an instrument that will allow you to grow as a musician and provide the timeless look, feel, and sound of an acoustic piano, then a digital piano is probably a better choice for you.

While keyboards may be a little bit easier for children due to the lightweight keys, digital piano are appropriate for all levels from novice to expert, and offer a full 6-ocative range, giving you the power to play more songs and improve your musical talent. If you aspire to be serious musician, and especially if you plan to perform, a digital piano is a worthwhile investment as the best digital piano will allow you to practice on an instrument that resembles a concert piano almost identically in terms of note action, sound, and feel—but it takes up much less space, making it a practical instrument to have at home.

Digital Pianos: Features to look for

6 Octave Range

The first thing to decide when looking for a digital piano is whether or not you want a full 6-octave range. ‘Real’ pianos like grand pianos and concert pianos are designed to cover 6 octaves and usually have 88 keys. Today the best digital pianos on the market offer the same range with just as many keys as an acoustic piano. If you are on a budget there are some digital pianos that only have 4-5 octaves, like many keyboards, however investing in the full 6-ocative range will give you much more power to play a variety of classical and modern compositions.

Weighted Keys

If you’re looking for a digital piano that looks, sounds, and feels like a real piano, then you have to search for one with weighted keys. Weighted keys give a piano that classic heavy feeling that a grand piano has, making it an important feature for those who want to practice their skills on an instrument that will feel the same as a concert piano.

Some digital pianos even offer graded hammer-action, which means that the bass keys are heavier to the touch while the higher notes are lighter, just like in a traditional piano. While this feature may cost you a few extra dollars, it is well worth it to have the best digital piano quality that will retain its value.

Touch Sensitive Keys

Certain musical compositions require extra emphasis on certain notes. In order to play these stresses, you need to find a piano that has touch sensitive keys. Touch sensitivity allows you to play louder or softer notes depending on how strongly you strike the keys. This is a feature that all acoustic pianos have and now the best digital pianos offer as well.

Higher Polyphony

When it comes to pianos, the more polyphony the better. Polyphony allows you to play multiple notes at the same time. Many recommend searching for a digital piano with at least a 64-note polyphony, but in general the greater the polyphony the more you’ll be able to grow with your instrument. Some complete beginners may be able to get away with a 32-note polyphony piano at first, but even then a 64-note polyphony piano may be needed for novices. For those who have a bit more experience, a 128-note polyphony instrument is usually the best digital piano.


If you find a digital piano for a great deal, make sure you double check to see if it comes with any accessories. Many digital pianos come with all the accessories that you need to start playing, but this isn’t always the case, and the accessories can add up if you need to buy them individually.

For starts, see if the piano comes with a stand. Keyboards often come with a cheap ‘X’ shaped stand and these can be used for digital pianos too; however, because digital pianos are usually more expensive and are designed to resemble a traditional piano, they are sometimes sold with more expensive table top stands. These stands can give your piano a very sleek appearance with a sturdy display.

Other accessories to keep in mind include:

  • Music stand
  • Pedal(s)
  • Headphone jacks
  • Metronome
  • Power supply

Finding a piano that offers all of these accessories included can provide a great added value.