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They call Billy Joel the “Piano Man” (based off his song of the same name) but truth be told, there are a number of musicians these days who could lay claim to the moniker. From Chris Martin to John Legend, Tori Amos to Alicia Keys, piano-playing artists ran the spectrum from rockers to crooners and everything in between.
When Sara Bareilles released her debut single, “Love Song,” in 2007, searches for “Sara Bareilles sheet music” spiked online, with fans looking for ways to cover the singer-songwriter’s unorthodox ode to romance, which kicks off with four chords and a rollicking, piano-driven beat.
When it comes to creating music, a keyboard wins points for portability, but you can’t beat the rich timbre of an actual piano. While grand or upright pianos can run into the tens of thousands of dollars, more and more companies are making digital pianos these days, that retain many of the same qualities in a more affordable (not to mention lightweight) package.
These digital pianos feature the same full set of 88 keys as you would find in a standard piano, and, unlike a keyboard, the keys are weighted, giving you a similar feeling of playing on an acoustic setup.
While a classic acoustic piano reverberates sound naturally, through hammers that “tap” steel strings inside the wooden housing, digital pianos feature built-in speakers that let you adjust the volume to your desired levels. Need to play without disturbing the neighbors or want some practice time before your big performance? Plug into the headphone jack, so you — and only you — can hear what’s playing.
Great for beginners or those with small spaces, digital pianos are also a favorite among professional musicians, who like that they can play on a full-sized set-up that’s still super portable. Built-in sound effects, laptop connectivity and easy recording capabilities are other features that make these electric pianos a solid pick for your space.
1. Casio Privia PX-360 Digital Piano
Casio has been making reliable, high-performing electronic keyboards for decades, and they apply the same craftsmanship and technology to this full-size digital piano. This great beginner’s bundle gets you everything you need to get started — including a piano bench.
The 88 keys are weighted, with a smooth ivory-like texture similar to the real thing. What this means: the keys respond to your touch just like an acoustic piano — the harder you press down on them, the louder and more dynamic the sound.
Casio says its proprietary sound technology, dubbed “AiR” (Acoustic and intelligent Resonator) provides the PX-360 with authentic grand piano sounds that fill the room. Want something a little more unique? Select from string ensemble and electric piano tones as well. Two headphone outputs let you plug in for a more immersive listening experience.
This set includes a music stand, pedals, piano bench, music rest, instructional DVD, instructional book and polishing cloth.
2. Yamaha P71 Weighted Action Digital Piano
The Yamaha brand is almost synonymous with portable keyboards by now, and this one delivers the same portability and ease of use as a small keyboard, but with 88 keys like a full-sized piano. Users say the weighted keys are firm and responsive — the harder you press down, the louder the sound.
Users can choose from ten different sound effects, including organ, harpsichord and digital tones sampled from real Yamaha acoustic grand pianos. Other features include demo songs, a built-in metronome and a headphone jack in the back.
The built-in speakers are surprisingly powerful for a piano this size, though if you really want to fill the room with sound, you’ll either want to pick up an external speaker to plug into, or consider another model on this list.
Solid, tactile keys make this mini model a great alternative to a real piano. The keys play and sound authentic and not “computerized.”
3. Alesis Recital 88-Key Digital Piano
This set is ideal for people just getting into piano, with a ton of easy-to-use features to get you started right away.
Try the piano’s “Lesson Mode,” which divides the 88 keys into two zones with the same pitch and voice. This lets you sit next to someone (I.e. your piano teacher) and play together without having to take turns or reach over one another.
Using online lessons? An on-board MIDI output lets you connect the piano to your Mac or PC to follow along on screen as you play. This USB-MIDI connectivity is also great if you want to sync your piano up with a digital audio workstation to record tracks directly to your computer.
This electronic piano features five different playing styles: acoustic piano, electric piano, organ, synth and bass. Customize the voices by combining any two together for a unique, layered effect. Built-in 20W speakers help to amplify the sound.
This piano powers up via an included adapter, or you can use six D-cell batteries to unplug the unit and take it with you on the go. It’s great for recitals, parties and band practices.
4. The ONE Smart Piano
Not all digital pianos are created equal. While many new digital pianos are more akin to keyboards, this one really looks and feels like an authentic, full-size, upright piano.
It’s handsome frame and matte black design resembles a classic piano, with 88 weighted, hammer-style keys and three pedals (soft, sostenuto and sustain). But this model is equipped with all the modern tech upgrades too, like built-in speakers, built-in metronome, LED light-up keys and compatibility with most phones and tablets (iOS and Android).
Start playing in minutes with the guided lessons, which uses light-up piano keys, and an accompanying app, to show you what to press. The velocity-sensitive keys help you learn volume and dynamic controls too — just like real keys, the keys on this digital piano respond to your touch, so the harder you strike them, the louder the sound.
At 116 pounds, this isn’t exactly a portable piano, so when it comes to digital pianos vs. keyboards, you might want to consider the keyboard options on this list. But if you want a beautiful full-size piano in your room or studio, this is a great option.