About Digital Pianos
In the early 1980s, samples (digital recordings) of acoustic pianos were stored in the memory of digital synthesizers of the era. Manufacturers soon began to produce dedicated "digital pianos," and by 1985 - the year Yamaha introduced their Clavinova - they had begun to overcome the technical hurdles of early digital audio technology and achieve truly realistic acoustic piano sound and playing feel. Pianos are complex instruments, and capturing their sound isn't easy. Companies such as Roland, Casio, Korg, Kurzweil, Nord, Kawai, and Yamaha have come a long way towards perfecting the digital piano.
Under the hood
The sounds generated by a digital piano are generally based on sampling. These days, a digital piano's flagship samples are typically high-quality recordings of a world-class concert grand in a space with excellent acoustics, made using high-quality microphones and preamps. To closely approximate the immense sonic variation of an acoustic piano, each note is sampled at multiple keystroke velocities. Besides acoustic piano, digital pianos usually have other sounds on tap, which may include electric piano, bass, vibraphone, harpsichord, and even drums.
Digital piano advantages
Why buy a digital piano - as opposed to an acoustic? The advantages are many, and include price, size, and weight, plus the fact that they are not sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity, and never need tuning. If you're a gigging pianist, an 88-key digital stage piano is easy to transport, stores lots of sounds, and can function as a master controller for synth modules and software virtual instruments on your laptop. If you're in the market for a fine piano to grace your home, many of today's digital pianos are housed in furniture-grade cabinets similar to that of an acoustic upright or a baby grand piano.
Onboard extras for skill development
Piano teachers suggest that their students practice to a metronome, beneficial in developing a refined sense of rhythm. Conveniently, most digital pianos have a metronome built in. Another valuable extra is an onboard recorder, which lets you record your performances and play them back for evaluation - again, very helpful for improving your playing skills. A big advantage of digital pianos is that you can plug in headphones and concentrate on your music without disturbing those around you. Many digital pianos even offer two headphone jacks - ideal for duets. Keyboard splits let the keyboard be divided into two or more ranges, useful for playing, say, a bass sound with the left hand and piano sound with the right. The same feature lets you overlap ranges to layer one instrument over another (for example, strings over piano), or set up two identical key ranges - a popular student-teacher configuration. Learn More
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