If you’ve never searched for a piano before, the terminology that describes various pianos can seem overwhelming. Maybe you’ve come across the words ‘acoustic’ and ‘digital’, but you’re not really sure what they mean when it comes to pianos. At Dickerson’s Tri-City Pianos, we understand that purchasing a piano is a big decision, and we want you to be confident that the piano you’re buying has the features that will best help you create and enjoy music. Let’s take a look at the basic elements that distinguish between these two types of pianos.

What makes a digital piano different from acoustic?

On a mechanical level, digital pianos differ from acoustic pianos primarily by how the instrument makes sound. For an acoustic, each key functions as a lever that causes the connected hammer to strike the strings. The vibrations of the strings then transmit to the soundboard, which amplifies the sound. The entire body of the instrument works as a resonator, creating a rich and complex quality of sound.

The keys on a digital piano, however, act as a switch, using sensors to prompt an electronic sound generator to create the sound, which then passes through an amplifier to the speakers. Yamaha digital pianos are still built with hammers that are used to control the dynamic response, but digitals do not have strings or a soundboard. Instead, the sound is pre-recorded, using a highly complex method to capture the sounds of an acoustic piano and then smooth out the transitions between tones and responsiveness with technology. 

Does this make the difference between acoustic and digital clearer than mud? Not to worry, we will guide you through the advantages of each below!

The Advantages of Acoustic: What is it that gives an acoustic piano such high sophistication and appeal? 

Acoustic Pianos Have Been Around for a Long Time

First, this is a classic instrument with a very long history. A traditional acoustic piano is a finely-crafted instrument that takes years of work for piano artisans and technicians to perfect. Great skill and attention to detail is required to assemble a piano from thousands of tiny parts, each made from carefully-selected wood, metal, and wire. 

Yamaha Acoustic Pianos Are Known for Their Durability & Quality Craftmanship

Whether an upright or a grand, acoustic pianos are also built to be durable instruments with a long life. With the right care and maintenance, an acoustic piano should ideally have a long lifespan and even be passed on to the next generation. Unlike digitals, acoustic pianos do not require electricity to function and thus often have significantly longer warranties.

Rich Sound That Brings Limitless Musical Expression 

Acoustic pianos also have a remarkably rich sound that allows for limitless musical expression. At the stroke of a key, the sound from the strings reverberates off the soundboard as well as off the other surfaces of the piano body, which means that everything involved in one note creating music is incredibly complex. A pianist’s touch can vary the tone infinitely on an acoustic piano, allowing them to play with great expression. One note can be sustained over a long period before the sound fades, and the keys are highly responsive to the heaviness of touch. 

Yamaha has a Wide Variety of Acoustic Pianos from Grands to Uprights 

A good example of an acoustic grand piano is any model in the Yamaha CX series. In grand pianos, the wire is strung on the harp horizontally, and the different models vary based on the length of the instrument. Other lines of Yamaha acoustic grands are the CF, SX, or GB1K/GC series. Yamaha also has several lines of acoustic upright pianos, including the YUS, U, B, and P22 series. Upright pianos are generally still acoustic, but the strings are strung vertically rather than horizontally.

The Advantages of Digital: More Options with Sound & Technology That Still Sounds Fabulous

While acoustic is the classic choice for a piano, digital pianos also have a ton of advantages that can’t be beat! Digital opens the doorway for a world of extreme versatility and endless options, especially considering how much technology has progressed in recent years. 

Digital Pianos Bring a Wide Variety of Instrument Voice Options

Many digital pianos have hundreds of instrument voice options and rhythm styles right at your fingertips. Record and replay your own music, connect the piano to your computer or smart device to compose your music onto score sheets or interact with your favorite piano teaching apps. 

Connect to the Piano with Your Cell Phone 

Use Bluetooth connectivity to turn your piano into an amazing speaker system for your favorite songs. Transpose your keyboard to a different key or use the built-in metronome to keep your songs up to speed. The ability to connect headphones and play without distraction is a huge advantage to digital pianos as well. 

Digital Pianos Are Way Easier to Move Around – Making it Easier to Bring Your Music with You 

Since digital pianos lack a harp and much of the mechanics present in acoustic, they are much less bulky, lighter weight, and able to fit well in smaller spaces. Keyboards are small enough to transport fairly easily from place to place. 

Less Maintenance, and You Still Might Need to Clean it Every Once in a While 

Additionally, digital pianos do not need to be tuned, so you will never have to worry about budgeting for regular tunings and maintenance. Check out Yamaha’s Clavinova series to get a sense of the best digital options that are available, or look into the Yamaha Portable Grand series for a keyboard you can take on the go. 

How to Decide?

Now that you know some of the more critical differences between acoustic and digital pianos, how do you decide which is best for your needs? 

Start by trying both kinds of pianos so you can get an idea of what sound and feel you prefer. Consider how you would use the piano and what features you would appreciate the most. 

  • Do you like to create and record your own compositions or are you looking towards playing for classical concerts in a more professional setting? 
  • Do you need a piano that can connect to a microphone or sound system? 
  • How much space do you have in your home? For many, a piano is just as much an accent piece of furniture as it is an instrument, so this is important to consider. 

The great news is, if you like both options and you’re still not sure which is best for you, there are pianos that combine the best of both worlds! 

Hybrid Pianos: Blurring the Lines between Acoustic and Digital

One goal of the piano industry is to continually innovate with technology to brigde both acoustic and digital so that you don’t have to compromise on the best features of either! Take a look at the ways Yamaha has designed many of their pianos to preserve the best of digital and acoustic in one instrument. 

The Best of Both Worlds with a Hybrid Piano

The Yamaha Avantgrand series is a prime example of a great hybrid piano. This piano series is fully digital but built with hammers and keys that genuinely have the weight and feel of an acoustic piano. Even the most discriminating pianists find satisfaction in the touch, pedal feel, reverberation, and resonance of these hybrid pianos.

Hybrid Pianos Make it Easy to Connect Technology & Enjoy Your Playing & Performing Experience

Yamaha also makes a number of grands and uprights with a built-in Silent or TransAcoustic system. These pianos are fully acoustic, but connected to a digital system that makes it possible to mute the acoustic sound and digitally generate the notes you play. This allows you to plug the piano into headphones or a sound system and experience all the technological advantages of a digital piano while enjoying the feel of an acoustic! The TransAcoustic pianos are built with a specially-designed transducer system to amplify the digitally-generated sounds. Both systems are compatible with many Yamaha pianos, grand and upright alike. 

Self-Playing Hybrid Pianos That Play Back What You Record 

You might also consider Yamaha’s Disklavier piano, the ultimate entertainment piano that perfectly combines the best of acoustic and digital. These are player pianos that combine the Silent piano system with the DSP Servo Drive, enabling the piano to record and play back your music. What makes this piano extra special is the ability to play digital recordings of music using the mechanical parts of the acoustic pianos, complete with moving keys and pedals! Connect a smart device to this piano and access built-in playlists or find streaming services to enjoy hundreds of musical performances at the touch of a button.

Sometimes, the best way to understand the difference between acoustic, digital, and hybrid pianos is to go to a piano store to see and play the pianos in person! We can help you explore all the options here at Dickerson’s Tri-City Pianos. Come by our showroom today and play any piano in the store. We promise you will have the opportunity to play as much as you like, ask questions, and get the help you need to find your dream piano!