Should I Buy a Digital or Upright Piano

Should I Buy a Digital or Upright Piano?

Digital pianos sound nothing like a real piano. Upright pianos take up too much room. There’s a lot of conflicting advice floating around.

I will give you the right piano buying advice so you can make your own decision on whether the digital piano or the upright piano is right for your needs.

Digital Piano History

Digital Pianos

Digital pianos were invented about 20 years ago and when they where first introduced they were pretty terrible, the keys were much too light, spongy and nothing like a real piano. The sound was incredibly bright and the sampling was quite dreadful. You couldn’t really say that it sounded much like a piano at all.
These digital pianos also looked nothing like a real acoustic piano, they had ugly, plastic looking cases that didn’t match any type of furniture in the room. If guests came around it was almost an embarrassment to have this ugly plastic looking machine in the living room. My how things have changed over the last 20 years!


Upright Piano History

Upright Pianos

The upright piano was invented in 1709 by the Italian Cristofori. It was a four octave instrument compared to the seven and a quarter octave instrument of today, with hammers striking the strings just as they do on a modern upright piano. The instrument was invented to meet the need to control dynamics by touch, which could not be achieved on the harpsichord.

The early upright piano went through many changes before it emerged as the instrument we all know today. The Cristofori piano was wing shaped like grand pianos, it had a curved body and a lid that could be elevated. There were also square pianos in which the strings ran from left to right as on the clavichord. And by 1800, there were upright pianos whose strings ran perpendicular to the keyboard. Other names commonly used are: vertical piano or acoustic piano, they mean essentially the same thing.

A typical old fashioned upright piano, tall upright standing, ivory keys, beautiful wood, moulded carvings, stylish legs and brass candlestick holders. The old pianos always had a beautiful warm tone because they were made with quality materials and real wood. The soundboard was seasoned for ages which in turn created a resonant and sustaining tone. The superior quality meant that your piano would easily last a lifetime.

Moving on to modern times

These days your typical starter piano is mass produced in China, Indonesia or Korea with very cheap materials, soundboards made out of trees that were probably knocked down the day before and thrown together as quickly as possible to get distributed around the world.
Well maybe it is not quite as bad as this, but anyway i am sure you get my point.

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Advantages of Upright Pianos

1) Your piano will hold its value over time and if it is looked after it will normally increase over a longer period (normally 20 years plus)

2) The piano has natural acoustic sounds which is produced by the hammer striking the string and then amplified by the soundboard.
3) The piano is made from wood, sometimes MDF and is very strong.
4) If the piano’s outer casing is damaged it can be repaired easily and fairly cheaply by a French polisher.
5) If there is a problem with the piano mechanically, it can normally be fixed by a piano tuner very quickly and cheaply. (With the exception of old pianos that normally need a lot of work).
6) The touch of a real piano is second to none. The deep, rich natural tones enable you to really enjoy playing music.
7) You normally get a long warranty with acoustic pianos, anywhere from 5-10 years.



Disadvantages of Upright Pianos

1) The upright piano is extremely heavy (can weigh 175kg upwards) and is almost impossible to maneuver without the help of professional piano movers

2) The volume of the piano cannot be turned up or down, it is reliant on the player to control this.
3) The piano needs tuning regularly (normally twice a year) and can cost in the region of £40-£60 a time.
4) The piano will need the occasional maintenance (every 5-10 years)
5) A good, well made piano can be quite expensive (Usually £2500 upwards)
6) Upright pianos take up a lot of room, especially the grands and the taller uprights.
7) They can mark your floor if you try to move them even the slightest bit and because of the immense weight, the wheels or feet leave deep indentations in your floor over a period of time

Advantages of Digital Pianos:

1) You can plug in headphones so nobody can hear you play.
2) You can turn the volume up or down.

3) You can record your music on the instrument itself, or to disc, smart media, floppy etc.
4) You can experiment with lots of different instrument sounds
5) Due to their light weight, digital pianos can easily be moved from room to room
6) Your digital piano will never need tuning or maintenance, which will save you a small fortune.
7) You can download songs from the web and play them on your instrument. (Normally the more expensive digital pianos offer this facility).
8) Digital pianos are very reasonably priced for what they are. You can pick one up from as little as £400.

9) Digital pianos take up less space than the acoustic piano. They are slightly shorter in length, much lower in height and most importantly about 2/3rds the depth (front to back) of an acoustic piano, thus saving you valuable space




Disadvantages of Digital Pianos:

1) The value of your piano depreciates very quickly.

2) New models are introduced every 2-3 years making your piano even less valuable and harder to sell

3) The sound is electronic and although improvements have been made, it will never sound like the real thing.
4) The touch is slighter lighter than a real piano and the key balance isn’t perfect.
5) The digital piano’s appearance is not as appealing as an acoustic piano and is made from plastic and chipboard. It can easily get damaged if moved around.
6) The outer casing is difficult and expensive to repair if damage has been done
7) Digital pianos are very expensive to repair if anything goes wrong with the mechanics or electronics
9) The warranty is normally quite short, anything form 1 year to 3 years.

I hope this article will help you in your piano buying quest.
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About The Author

Graham Howard is known as ‘The Music Guru’ and is the chief writer at Graham has spent his whole life in music. He has played various musical instruments to a very high standard, learnt to build pianos form scratch, tuned pianos professionally and run several music and internet businesses. He loves to share with everyone his experiences and immense knowledge of music. Graham hopes that the above music article will help you save money and also make the best decisions for your life. If you have any questions you would like to ask please email:

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