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Digital Pianos vs. Acoustic Pianos – A Piano Teacher’s Perspective

digital pianos vs acoustic pianosDigital pianos make a suitable substitute for traditional pianos when the latter are not available. Digital pianos provide many benefits for players of all skill levels, but acoustic pianos still feature various aspects that are not easily matched in a digital instrument.

Many piano instructors struggle to decide on which instrument they feel is better for teaching, and some students struggle between choosing options when learning in their spare time or practicing at home.

Students and teachers must consider various factors before choosing one type of piano over the other.


SoundThe sound of a piano is arguably the most important aspect of the instrument. It is common knowledge for digital piano consumers that their instruments are only made to imitate the sound production of a standard piano.

Most high-quality digital pianos are made with accurate and rich sound sampling methods that allow them to reproduce sound very similarly to acoustic pianos.

An advantage of the digitally generated sound is the absence of the laborious tuning needed to keep the pitch of the acoustic piano accurate. The benefit of a well-kept piano is its true sound with unmistakable resonance and timbre.

Touch Response

Touch ResponseThe touch of the piano produces a louder or more intense response based on the force with which each key pressed. Many digital models replicate this effect, but there are still many that do not.

There is also the chance that touch response may vary between digital piano models. Playing a piece the same way on one digital piano may produce very different effects when practiced on a different model or if a new model is purchased later.

It may be too hard for some players to adapt to many different models in this way. An acoustic piano responds the way it should as the touch response is a natural element of a standard piano, and one can easily play traditional pieces the way they were meant to be played.


FeelThe feel of a piano can actually affect one’s ability to play if the feel is not authentic compared to a standard instrument. Many digital piano models feature weighted keys reminiscent of those on an acoustic piano. Some low-quality pianos have a more plastic feel with no weight and a “clunky” plastic sound that can be a nuisance during play.

These models are more like keyboards than pianos, and they are completely unacceptable as substitutes for the acoustic piano. Standard pianos have textured keys that prevent fingers from slipping during faster play, and they have the normal weight and pressure response to which pianists should adapt.


The price of a piano is one of the biggest factors that separate acoustic and digital pianos. Many people want to stay within a certain budget while still learning, and the cost can be the deciding factor. It is not necessary to invest in a standard piano in the earlier stages of learning.

Digital pianos are much more cost-effective in this way, so it would benefit the student or the teacher to choose this option to save money. If the student needs to practice at home, it would be wise to save for the acoustic instrument while learning on the digital piano. For some teachers and even their students, the price of the acoustic is well worth the genuine piano experience.


BuildThe design of an instrument may also heavily affect the player’s decision. Digital pianos are much lighter than traditional instruments, but many of these models can still be quite heavy. They offer the advantage of smaller frames that fit into tight spaces.

Standard pianos are heavy and stationary, so they are usually designated to one area and meant to stay there for as long as they are in use. They clearly take up much more space, but the design and width of the piano in relation to the piano bench may help some students develop better posture or hand form.

Individual Benefits

Individual BenefitsBoth digital and acoustic pianos provide their own specific benefits. Digital pianos are more portable, and they can be transported to and from practice or to performances as necessary. They can also be easily moved around a room or building, and they offer connectivity to computers to transfer and store song files.

Acoustic pianos provide the true piano experience the way students and even advanced players are meant to play, learn and develop. They offer a genuine piano sound and touch, and players should eventually adapt to this playing experience.

A piano teacher should consider how a piano will enhance his or her own teaching style when choosing an instrument for lessons, and students should consider how a piano will enhance their ability to develop as players when considering one for personal practice.

The difference between choices may depend upon the student’s skill level as much as the teacher’s recommendations or personal preferences for one type. Standard pianos are out of the realm of possibility for most students due to logistics or budget, but a quality digital piano is a much better choice for students than a less expensive low-quality acoustic.