The difficulty faced by many parents when purchasing their first piano for their child is finding the balance between purchasing a good sounding, quality instrument that will keep them interested, and one that won’t break the bank if they aren’t.

Many parents face this scenario – your child shows an interest in learning to play piano. You contact a local piano teacher or music school, and they tell you that an acoustic instrument would be preferred. They also said that if it has to be digital, then “88 keys and a weighted action should be the minimum.”

  • How do you put a lot of money into an expensive instrument that might only get used for a few years?
  • How do you keep a child engaged in the age of iPod, iPad, Xbox and Playstation?
  • Can a lower priced piano instrument truly provide the correct tone and feel to properly learn to play?
  • What do you look for in a digital piano when you’re just starting out?

Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing your first piano.
Acoustic or Digital?
There a few very important questions you need to ask yourself when deciding between an acoustic or digital piano.

  • Acoustic pianos are often priced higher than digital pianos. Does an acoustic piano fit in your budget?
  • Do you have the space for an acoustic piano?
  • Can you undertake the semi-annual maintenance required?
  • Is your home at a constant temperature and humidity during all the 4 seasons?
  • Can the piano be placed in a space where the sound of practice won’t disturb other activities in the home?

If the answer to all of these questions is yes, then maybe an acoustic piano is the right answer. If the answer to any of these questions is no, then a digital piano may be the right choice for you.

Roland F-130R Digital Piano

Roland F-130R Digital Piano

What To Look For in a Digital Piano
There are 3 things you should look for when choosing your first digital piano.
1. 88 Key Weighted Action
The first thing you should look for in a digital piano is one that has a Hammer action that is progressively weighted. Roland makes an action called PHA, or Progressive Hammer Action. This technology is now in it’s 4th Generation and the newest version offers the most advanced keytouch ever; even in an entry-level instrument! There are many low priced instruments out there that use springs and weights to simulate a hammer mechanism, without actually using hammers. This is an important distinction, as a proper hammer action will give the pupil the best possible experience. Newer materials like synthetic Ivory-feel key tops also add to the piano experience.
2. Tone Generator
The Tone Generator refers to how the digital piano creates sound. Usually a digital piano will do a playback of a recording of an acoustic grand piano to produce the sound. A really good sound engine will have a combination of sampling and modeling. A good specification to look for is 128 note polyphony. This allows the piano to play even the most complex passages of music without any notes dropping out. You don’t need to spend a lot to get a piano with a great sound. Instruments like the Roland F-20 Digital Piano use our SuperNatural piano sound engine for the best acoustic like experience.
Related: My First Roland Piano
3. Connectivity
Keeping the piano student engaged is one of the biggest challenges, especially in the beginning when they are learning the basics. Once they are able to play a few songs, the fun doesn’t stop, but getting to the point of being able to play those few songs can take awhile depending on the student. Mobile devices and tablets can now be wirelessly connected to many Roland Pianos. Using an inexpensive wireless adapter, an iPhone or iPad can be connected to the Piano and various free apps can be used. These include Air Performer, which allows the user to stream songs directly from their iTunes library. Piano Partner is another free app, which allows control over the different functions of the pianos and has ear training and notation exercises on board.
The Digital Piano Bonus!
Besides using a slightly damp cloth to occasionally wipe the piano and keys down, the maintenance is non-existent on most digital pianos. This is their primary advantage. The cost of ownership is significantly lower than any acoustic instrument that can cost hundreds of dollars a year just to keep in tune.

Written by Jay Gough, Piano Products Sales Manager.jays face

Got a question for Jay? You can reach Jay on Roland Canada TRIBES, an online community of Roland and BOSS fans.   Follow Jay on twitter at @rcmpianoguy.