Best Digital Piano Under $500
Many people dream of having a piano in the house, but don’t have the space or the finances to fit one in. But these days, electronic instruments can help make that dream come true.
Digital pianos and keyboards are often less pricey and more compact than the real thing. And, as technology advances, these electronic instruments are beginning to feel and sound a lot like the real thing.
If you’ve got a young piano player on your hands, or you’ve always wanted to learn to play, we’ve got some suggestions for instruments that will get you playing. Not only that, these instruments will grow with you and help you build your skills so that if you do choose to move to an acoustic piano, you’ll be ready.
Choosing what to spend is important, you can go as low as double figures if you so choose. Most people tend to see this as an investment so seek out the best digital piano under 500, to get quality as well as value for money. Deciding which instrument is right for your needs depends on what features you’re likely to use, so let’s take a look at some of the common ones.
Digital Piano or Keyboard?
A keyboard is a very different instrument to a digital piano. Keyboards can trace their beginnings back to the 1960s when innovative musicians began to experiment with synthesizers. Modern keyboards are much more compact than their 1960s ancestors, but they still have the ability to simulate the sounds of many different instruments.
A keyboard also has ‘one touch chords’ playable with the left hand. This allows players to accompany themselves more easily, by pressing just one key with their left hand. Compare this to piano players who must learn to play complex chord patterns with their left hand, while playing the melody with their right.
One touch chords can make playing more fun in the early stages, as you make a full sound early on in your playing career.
Digital pianos, on the other hand, will require you to provide the chords yourself. They won’t simulate the sounds of other instruments either, but may have a few different piano sounds to choose from.
A big difference between the two instruments is the keys, and how they feel when played. The keys on ‘real’ acoustic pianos are heavy to press. They will also respond to how hard they are pressed by producing a louder or softer sound.
Digital pianos try to recreate the weight and responsiveness of acoustic piano keys, making the transition from digital to acoustic instrument as easy as possible.
The keys of an electronic keyboard are often light to the touch, and don’t feel like acoustic keys much at all. If the plan is to move on to an acoustic piano in the future, a digital piano is likely to be the best starter instrument.
However, an electronic keyboard can motivate a learner by allowing them to feel a sense of achievement early on, as the range of accompanying sounds allows you to give a full concert all by yourself.
How Many Keys Do I Need?
Most modern pianos have 88 keys in total – 52 white keys and 36 black ones. These add up to make seven full octaves, plus a few extra notes.
An instrument with less keys will be more compact, and will fit into smaller rooms in your home. However, some more advanced pieces of music will need the full range of keys, so you just won’t be able to play them on a smaller instrument.
Anything over 61 keys (five octaves) should be enough for the first few years, although if you plan to do a lot of duets (think ‘Chopsticks’) you’ll probably appreciate the extra space a full 88 keys would give two players.
In an acoustic piano each key is attached to a lever system and a small hammer, which strikes a string when you press the key. This system (along with the wooden keys) gives a heavy feel to the keys.
Plastic keys on electronic keyboards feel very light in comparison, and a player who learns to play using this system may struggle to move to a traditional set of keys.
Manufacturers have come up with ways to add that ‘real’ piano feel to their digital models. They call this Graded Hammer Action, and some even offer progressive Graded Hammer Action. Progressive Graded Hammer Action makes the lower keys feel heavier to press than the higher keys, just like on an acoustic model. This allows players to move more easily between the two types of instrument.
Velocity Sensitive Keys
On an acoustic piano, playing hard makes a loud sound, while playing softly makes a quieter sound. This allows for expression in the music and is known as ‘dynamics’.
If a keyboard has ‘velocity sensitive keys’ it mimics this effect. Keyboards without this feature will often be less expensive, but eventually a learner will need this in order to progress.
Voices is the name given to the different instrument sounds the keyboard or piano can make.
A keyboard will often have many voices, such as trumpet, harpsichord, violin, guitar, clarinet and more.
A digital piano often has less voices – perhaps just a small selection of different piano sounds like grand piano, upright piano and electric piano.
A sustain pedal is essential for a great playing experience. When pressed, it allows the notes being played to ring out for longer. This is used to create a smooth flowing sound in some sections of music, and to allow chords to be heard after you need to move your left hand.
Polyphony is how many notes the instrument can play at once. An acoustic piano will allow you to hear all 88 keys at once (if you could work out how to press them all). Electric instruments will have different levels of polyphony.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this guide and if you’re still wanting to find the best digital piano under 500 then check out our unbiased product reviews. Doesn’t matter if you’re buying in $ or £ we’ll take you through to the product.