Is one better than the other for beginning students?

The decision whether or not to purchase a digital piano instead of an acoustic piano for a beginner is not an easy one.

Initially, there is your budget to consider. Good-quality new acoustic pianos cost most than new good-quality digitals. So, for some people, the decision is made for them. Remember to include the cost of tuning an acoustic piano at least once or twice a year when determining your budget.

However, if your budget can handle either, you still may choose a digital. For example, if you live in an apartment or condo, a digital piano may be a better choice because you can lower the volume or eliminate it altogether by using headphones. In addition, a digital piano or keyboard takes up less space and can even be used completely outside of the main living area by placing it in a study or bedroom.

Next, you will need to make sure that your piano – acoustic or digital – has a good action and keyboard that includes 88 touch-sensitive, weighted keys. There are some digital pianos that have better actions than less-quality acoustic pianos! Your piano also must have two pedals — a sustain pedal and an una corda pedal. 

If you go with an acoustic piano, you also have to feel confident that the piano is of high enough quality to stay in tune between tunings. Poor-quality acoustic pianos often can’t hold their pitch and motivation slips when playing an out-of-tune piano. A beginner needs to like the sounds they are making!

If you choose to go with a digital piano, I would pay more for a better action and good quality piano sounds over computer teaching gadgets, especially if you will be taking lessons anyway. However, there are some benefits to the computer-enhancements of high-quality digital pianos. For example, some use samples of top-notch acoustic pianos that most people can’t afford to own, they stay in tune, offer motivation through additional instrument sounds, and can use optional rhythm settings in addition to the metronome to learn how to stay in tempo. Playing your favorite popular pieces using additional instruments and rhythm settings can be very satisfying and motivational because you can sound pretty close to the original. Also, many digitals have the ability to record yourself, which is a great way to learn to listen and critique your playing.

As students progress into intermediate literature, most will need an acoustic piano because of it’s inherent acoustic benefits. These include a keyboard action that is striking real strings, an acoustic sound versus sound coming from speakers, and pedals that are interacting with real strings. However, that doesn’t mean the digital piano will go to waste. It provides the pianist with an option to practice whenever they want by using headphones — a win for the entire household!

Let me know if you have any questions or comments regarding this article. I hope this information was helpful in your journey to learn to play the piano!