What is a Digital Piano? A Guide for Beginners.

Choosing a digital piano and just starting out? This guide shows beginners what they need to choose the right one.

Many beginning students and experienced pianists alike select a piano for the features. But even if you settle on a digital piano, there are many types you can choose from. 

Before you decide, studying all the options is a good idea. Let’s look at what digital pianos offer and the differences between them and electric keyboards. Then you can decide which set of keys is best for you!

What is a Digital Piano?

A digital piano is a close copy of an acoustic piano. You can get the same weighted-key feel and often can’t tell any difference in the sound. Usually, a digital piano also offers instrumental effects to add depth to your songs. Some models come with speakers built-in, while other models (such as digital slabs) use plug-ins. You don’t have to tune them since there are no strings. However, you must keep your keys clean to ensure the best sound.

Types of digital pianos and how they work.

Once you narrow down your search to a digital piano, many choices still exist. Digital pianos come in three main types: digital, upright, and stage pianos. 

Standard Digital Piano

A standard digital piano is a great choice if you plan on mostly tickling the keys at home. These digital pianos don’t take up as much space as a regular piano and are easier to move around. (It’s hard to move an acoustic piano to your bedroom when you want to practice in private.) A standard digital piano generally has a reasonable amount of features for a fair price.  

Upright Digital Piano 

An upright digital piano has all the class of an acoustic piano. Some of their consoles are even made of natural wood. This piano can be a nice conversation piece in your living room and requires less maintenance than an acoustic upright. 

In this type of digital piano, you can get top-notch hammer action keys with built-in speakers. The upright digital piano is a piece of furniture, so it takes up more space than a standard digital piano. However, it’s also more stable and durable for high-traffic areas.

Stage Piano

Stage pianos (slabs or portable pianos) are the best choice if you plan to take your piano skills busking to coffee shops or other gigs. These pianos are lightweight and easy to carry and set up. Instead of needing a mic for a stage acoustic piano, you can plug speakers into your digital slab and be ready to go. Its compact size allows for other musical equipment you need at a show. 

Now that we’ve looked at some of the basic types of digital pianos, and their uses, let’s see how their features stack up next to their main rival: the electric keyboard.

Digital piano vs. Electronic keyboard.

The electric keyboard and digital piano have a lot in common. Both are portable enough to pack up and take on the go. They also require little maintenance and rely on speakers to magnify their sounds. However, there are also several key differences between the two.

What are electronic keyboards?

An electronic keyboard is portable and compact. They offer many instrument sounds–violins, organs, drums, wind instruments, and sometimes even voices. A keyboard has plenty of options. Some keyboards offer 100s or even 1000s of sounds to experiment with.

The main differences between an electronic keyboard and digital piano are:

Digital Pianos

  • Offer weighted keys while many keyboards have unweighted keys.
  • Digital pianos have velocity-sensitive keys that allow you to play loud and soft dynamics.
  • Closely copy the sound and feel of an acoustic piano.


  • More instrument sound options than digital pianos.
  • Can play a track to back your music as you play songs.
  • Often lighter weight than digital pianos.

Who are electric keyboards for?

Electric keyboards are often cheaper and more lightweight than digital pianos.  The keys are often unweighted on keyboards, and some more affordable models don’t offer velocity-sensitive keys, either. This can be disappointing for the serious piano player who wants the feel and sound of an acoustic piano. However, the lightweight keys can be more accessible for small hands to play with. 

Beginning musicians and casual at-home piano players often favor the electric keyboard. 

Digital piano buyer’s guide.

If you decide on a digital piano, here are some factors that can help you narrow down your search for the right piano for you. You should take into consideration:


If you like to take your piano skills to jam with friends or play at gigs, you want to ensure your instrument is portable. Digital pianos are often heavier than their compact size lets on. This is because the acoustic-style keys add extra weight. If you are ordering off Amazon, check the weight and size specifications to ensure your piano is lightweight enough to take on the go.

Sound Quality

Generally, the more expensive a piano is, the better the sound quality. This is because many top brands can record more sounds using better technology. Cheaper models often record fewer notes and then stretch the sounds. It makes the recording process more manageable. However, the sound quality of the digital keyboard suffers. Models with individually recorded notes built into the keys sound closer to an acoustic grand piano.


Polyphony is a way of measuring how many sounds you can have going at once. So if you are creating a string quartet or using a piano pedal to hold different notes through a musical phrase, this is polyphony. The more polyphony offered on a piano, the more notes you can play simultaneously. Many models on today’s market offer a polyphony of 128 or more.

Your budget 

Also, how much cash you have to put down on a piano may be a deciding factor. If funds are limited, a digital piano is almost always a wiser choice than an acoustic piano.

Whether you are a beginning piano student or already know your way around the keys, a digital piano can be a great instrument. You can set up a corner to practice at home or take your keys with you to show off your skills! 

If you are looking for an easy way to learn piano from the comfort of your home, the Simply Piano app can help you understand the basics. Download the program to your phone and explore lesson plans and songs matching your style. You can get feedback in real-time and earn points as you go!