Digital verses acoustic pianos (an unbiased perspective)

Even though I should be an acoustic purist, I’ve lost some of my piano tuner credentials by purchasing a digital piano recently for my flat so I can practice at night with headphones on. I made this purchase from a reputable Leeds piano shop. After being shown many new models by a fellow Leeds piano tuner working in the shop and after trying out everything in store I settled on the Nord Stage Piano and I’m very happy with my decision. Some beautifully authentic piano sounds and I was quite surprised to hear some imperfect tuning on one or two of the patches!

Now, does the Nord digital piano really compete with an acoustic piano in terms of sound or touch? I would have to say no. The keys are weighted and have enough responsiveness to be able to play expressively, but even a low quality acoustic piano has better dynamics overall. When it comes to the sound, while the sampled grands on the Nord are musically pleasing, speaker (or headphone) technology can no way compete with the room-filling quality of acoustic piano’s spruce soundboard reverberating (creating much greater air movement) and hitting the pianist with the full, powerful sound we all love. In comparison a digital piano is always going to seem slightly sterile and lacklustre.

The digital piano serves the purpose of getting pieces together for more serious playing which occurs on the grand piano in my parent’s home (I currently live in a flat and can’t fit in an acoustic piano, even a spinet or console). In a perfect world everyone would have a high quality grand or upright piano for different purposes (annoying scales and technical exercises could be done on headphones on the digital piano, which leaves the acoustic piano ready for louder and more dynamic performances). Another upside of having the best of both worlds is that their is less wear and tear on the acoustic piano over the years which prolongs its lifespan. Knowing what I know now I would certainly choose the ‘best of both worlds’ option if I was starting out as a pianist.

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