Digital or Acoustic Pianos: Which Is Best for Your Students?

By Tim Praskins | Buying a new piano

Jul 26

digital or acoustic pianos

Welcome to our final guest post for this month’s theme, Technology in the Piano Studio. Today we welcome digital piano reviewer and experienced music teacher Tim Praskins. 

He has a wealth of piano knowledge and is the perfect person to turn to when deciding what piano you should recommend to your students. A contemporary debate surrounding pianos is whether or not digital pianos can adequately replace the more expensive traditional acoustic piano. 

According to Tim Praskins, they absolutely can. Read on to find out why. 

Benefits of Playing Piano

My name is Tim Praskins and I have been playing and teaching piano in the US for over five decades. I not only play and teach piano, I also play and teach guitar, keyboards, synthesizer, and organ.

Through my musical experience, teaching and writing, I have come across one musical truth. That is, if playing music (piano in this case) does not make you feel good and does not speak to you in a personal way that touches your inner soul (assuming you have really given piano a chance), then you are better off doing something else.

Playing the piano is not for everyone. Just like painting pictures or cooking is not for everyone. We are all different and that obviously makes things interesting for all of us.

But, as a common denominator, just about everyone I know likes music in one form or another. Whether that is listening to it, dancing to it, singing to it, or playing it. From when you are very young to when you are very old, music is part of life and it’s almost impossible to escape from it.

I believe good music is so beneficial for us that everyone should be given an opportunity to play an instrument.

Especially the piano.

I love piano because it allows me to play harmony and melody all in one instrument (and sing along at the same time if I want to), something that few instruments can offer.

Digital or Acoustic pianos

When it comes to actually buying a piano, where should you look?

There are hundreds and thousands of great piano teachers and performers throughout the world who have very definite opinions on how to teach, learn, and play piano. I am not here to debate the merits of one system of thought over the other when it comes to the best approach for piano lessons and which piano would be best to own.

It’s a very subjective matter and you can find a variety of so-called experts who have different musical experiences and opinions on the issue.

buying new piano

Do your students have to buy a traditional acousitc piano?

For me there is only one thing that really matters when it comes to learning, owning, and playing piano, especially for my many students over the years.

That is to add something magical to their life so they can express themselves in a way that few others things will let them do.

My part in all of that is to give them the musical tools and inspiration to get there!

So with all that in mind a couple of good questions arise…

  • Should the piano you choose be a traditional acoustic or a new digital piano?
  • How do you choose a piano for yourself and/or your family?

The answer to the first question is that either digital or acoustic pianos are fine choices as long as they play like a good piano should.

How do you know if a piano plays ‘good’? Well, generally it’s difficult to know that if you don’t play the piano. Try to rely on someone who does play and can test some pianos for you. If that is not possible, then read enough articles, reviews, piano forums, or blogs to formulate the best decision you can from those sources.

For me and my students, I almost always recommend a good digital piano for a number of reasons.

Why? Here are just a few reasons…

  • They require little or no maintenance over time as they never need tuning. This saves hundreds of dollars per years in extra costs.
  • They can be played silently with headphones, which can have big benefits for the entire family.
  • They have a volume control so can be played at different levels, something which is obviously not possible on a traditional piano.

Piano playing experience

But what about the piano playing experience itself? Can digital pianos reproduce the traditional piano playing experience?

The answer is for most people, yes!

Remember, playing the piano is about making music and making music is definitely not exclusive to traditional acoustic pianos. I for one love to play a high quality Steinway, Bosendorfer, Kawai, or other fine grand piano, and have owned many through the years.

acoustic pianos

Digital pianos can provide a very realistic piano playing experience.

But there are some really wonderful new digital pianos out there starting at less than $500US going up to well over $10,000US. Generally speaking, the more you pay the better and more authentic the piano key action, piano sound, and pedalling will be.

This is also true of regular acoustic pianos. Even in the acoustic piano world, just because you get a ‘traditional’ piano, does not mean it will automatically be a good one.

Acoustic pianos are subject to a variety of differences from one to another and depending on the price, who makes it, the model, the age, and the weather/humidity conditions in your area, so you could be disappointed in the performance of that piano.

Technology

With regard to digital pianos, the technology some of them have is truly amazing. This could be another selling point when deciding what type of piano to

buying a piano

Digital pianos make the most of new technologies.

Many now have the ability to record what you are playing so you can hear and instantly analyze your playing. Moreover, you can connect them to external devices such as iPads, computers and USB devices.

Digital pianos allow you to enhance your learning experience with interactive piano educational tools that are very impressive and work well for both kids and adults. I use iPad apps in my studio all the time to help students understand musical concepts and fundamentals in a fun and memorable way.

Combine iPad technology with a digital piano and the benefits for your students could surprise you.

Related: Best iPads Apps for Piano Teachers.

How to choose

So which digital pianos are the best ones to get?

The answer to such a question is actually an extremely personal one, and changes from student to student. It certainly depends on what your budget is and how much you want to invest in yourself or your child’s musical future and happiness.

Most people spend less than $3000US for a new digital piano and more often it’s around the $1000-$2000US mark.

A word of advice, stick with the major Japanese or Italian brands such as Kawai, Casio, Yamaha, Roland, Dexibell, and Korg. I find these are by far the safest choices that will give back the best quality and most authenticity with useful features the student and entire family will appreciate.

Be careful and do your research. There are some low-quality digital piano (and acoustic piano) brands out there that I do not recommend.

Recommended: Best Digital Pianos for Students.

Need more information?

If you’d like in depth information on a variety of digital piano models, I have a well known and comprehensive digital review piano blog. You can visit the blog by clicking here. I review and talk about a huge variety of digital pianos and related topics in detail.

You are welcome to personally email me with questions and I’ll be happy to answer them the best that I can.

I wish you and your family musical happiness and success, and if you have children please give them the opportunity to learn how to play and interact with music on a good piano.

Trust me, they will likely thank you for it and cherish the gift of music you have given them.

Over to you- what do you think? Do you recommend digital or acoustic pianos for your students? What are the benefits of both? Leave your questions and thoughts in the comments section below.

Tim Praskins

About the Author

Tim Praskins has been teaching music for decades in the US. He runs an in-depth digital piano reviews blog, providing advice to piano teachers, players and students from all around the world.

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