Choosing your Instrument: Acoustic or Digital Piano?

Here in the Houston Metroplex, we are lucky to have such a supportive arts and music community. The market for used acoustic pianos is relatively good, and piano lessons are something that most parents seek out for their children at some point in their childhood. But in choosing between a digital and acoustic piano, several factors come into play. Follow this easy guide to see which instrument will work best for you and your family.

Do you have the space required for a full acoustic piano? They are heavy, difficult to move, and take up a good amount of space. An upright piano would be more easily placed in a smaller room than a baby grand/grand piano, which requires a large space to hold the instrument. A digital piano is much smaller and more portable than an acoustic piano, making it a good choice for a beginner. They can keep the instrument in their bedroom/living room, without it taking up too much space.

How important is the quality of sound and feel to you as a piano student? Acoustic pianos will always be the preferred choice of piano teachers across the country, just for their authenticity of sound in the hammer action and the subsequent string vibrations after pressing a key. This is the heart of the piano. Digital pianos have certainly come a long way in their software, but they will still just be electric instruments. There is no hammer/string action and no vibrations within the piano. The tone quality and sound in higher tier digital pianos comes very close to sounding like the real thing, but the action in playing doesn’t quite feel the same.

Can you afford the maintenance necessary for an acoustic piano? Keeping an acoustic piano regularly tuned is very important for the life of the instrument. According to the Piano Technician’s Guild, if you purchase a new acoustic piano, it should be tuned two to four times the first year, and one to two times annually after that. If you purchase a used acoustic piano, you should tune it a few months after it has been moved into its permanent spot in your home to give it time to settle into its climate/environment, and annually from thereafter. Check out this guide to help determine your piano’s tuning schedule from the manufacturers. Digital pianos require no tuning, therefore are a significantly more cost-effective choice regarding maintenance.

Are you comfortable with the melodious and “not so melodious” music coming from your budding pianist? All piano students make mistakes. Lots of them. This is all a part of learning and mastering the instrument! If you feel that volume controls are something that would be important for you as a parent/student, then make sure to look into a digital piano. All digital pianos have a convenient volume control and headphone jack that allows for students to practice quietly and comfortably in their home without causing major dissonance. Most digital pianos have a recording function as well, so the student is able to record and then listen to their practice sessions.

How much of an investment are you willing to make for yourself/your child? Acoustic pianos are expensive. New, they can cost anywhere between $5,000 and $15,000. You can probably find a good used acoustic piano anywhere between $1,000 and $5,000. Acoustic pianos become heirloom instruments, passed down to family members, and can last upwards of 100+ years! Imagine the gift of music you will be giving not just your child, but your family for generations to come. My family has three heirloom pianos, two of which are over 130 years old! Digital pianos are more affordable, ranging in price from $800 to $3,000. There are several digital pianos in my Amazon Music Store which I personally recommend.

Whichever piano you decide to purchase, make sure it is the best choice for your unique needs as a family.

Sound Off: Do you have an heirloom piano in your family? What are your favorite things about a digital piano? What other reasons can you think of to go with an acoustic or digital piano?