Robert Estrin - piano expert

Digital Pianos Vs. Upright Pianos

Learn the objective differences between these two kinds of pianos

In this video, Robert gives you the pros and cons of digital and traditional upright pianos.

Released on November 25, 2015

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi I'm Robert Estrin here at and, and today the question is are you better off with a good quality digital piano versus an upright piano? Well, there's a lot to be considered here. Digitals after all have consistency, they're always perfectly in tune. Plus you can adjust the volume, even practice with headphones. You can connect to your computer for enhanced learning with music software programs. Plus you can enjoy different sounds. You can have oftentimes different piano sounds or even play some baroque music on a harpsichord sound or an organ. So there's a lot of things you can do on a digital that you can't do on an upright.

Well, what are the benefits of upright pianos? Well, if you ever looked inside your piano you can see that there are so many parts to each key. It's a very complex mechanism, the action of an upright piano. While not as complex or as responsive as a grand piano action, they're certainly much more responsive than even the best digital piano actions, try as they might, to mimic the feel of an acoustic piano.

So there are benefits to both. I would say this, if you were talking about a real bottom of the line upright piano, particularly one that is not in good repair or one that is really short that doesn't have much of a good sound or worse yet, a spinet piano. Which has an indirect blow action which is lighter and not as responsive, you might actually be better with a good quality digital. But short of that, I would have to say that an acoustic piano has the edge, not just for feel but also sound.

How could this be? After all, the sound of most digitals take the sample, the recordings, of nine foot concert grands, so they sound glorious and indeed many of them do. However, even if they do multisampling two maybe, even three recordings of each note at different velocity levels of how hard the keys are hit. On a real piano there is an infinite level of expression. So for an advanced student, there is no substitute for that real connection you get with the string and the vibrations and interaction from one key to the next.

However, digitals keep getting better. The best digitals take into account many aspects of the physical model of a real piano. So as time goes on, this question becomes murky, because a good quality digital compared to a lower line upright, you'd have to compare the actual two instruments to really make the determination which is better for you.

Thanks so much for the questions. Again, I am Robert Estrin here at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Laurel N Gibson * VSM MEMBER * on May 30, 2019 @2:23 pm PST
Well done! As teacher, I use both - for their different qualities, We are also so non-profit, and give away 3 keyboards year to students who have nothing to play at home...
Chris Farrr * VSM MEMBER * on May 29, 2019 @5:33 am PST
It's a pity that you have not mentioned the new hybrid instruments that combine an acoustic piano keyboard with a digital back end. They're expensive but seem to offer the best of both. I own a 6 ft Boston baby grand at homeand a medium range digital Yamaha at the cottage. The digital survives the changing climate which is essential as the nearest piano tuner is several hours away. I love both my instruments. Yes there are differences, but the grand cost 10x as much as the digital.and couldn't survive at the cottage. And the digital is a terrific instrument for learning.
Robert Estrin - host, on May 31, 2019 @2:27 pm PST
Hybrid pianos are a whole subject unto themselves. Here is an article and video for you:
Ken Cory on November 26, 2015 @3:56 pm PST
I love playing grand pianos and even upright grands, but I really appreciate the advantages of playing digital pianos. Robert has outlined some of their advantages, but there is also the portability issue. I would much prefer slogging my own digital piano to a gig than depending on a grand piano whose last major maintenance operation was a paint job. And of course I cannot transport my upright or grand to a gig (even if I had one!).
Robert - host, on November 27, 2015 @11:03 am PST
You bring up an excellent point. When performing out, miking a piano to sound reasonably good is also a tremendous challenge compared to the ease of plugging a digital into the sound system with no issues of feedback or bleed through from other instruments on stage.
Lynn Tilton * VSM MEMBER * on November 25, 2015 @3:03 pm PST
Besides our preference for a baby grand of high quality, my wife and I have discussed what happens to the digital version when there's a power failure? One can play a piano no matter how far off the grid one resides.

Not all pianos are of equal performance value. When we exchanged our spinet for an American baby grand, the difference in tonal quality proved substantial. True, one can't practice silently--but the middle pedal helps reduce volume. Also, closing the bedroom door early in the morning helps with focusing when at the bench promotes marital harmony.

On the side: It pays for parents to take lessons, if just to ensure the child is practicing correctly. If you are too old to qualify as merely a senior citizen, you will find learning to play the piano enhances life. A real plus is it's an instrument best practiced and played while sitting.
Philip De Felice on November 25, 2015 @10:46 am PST
I agree with mostly everything you mentioned but for economic reasons the parents might be better off with a digital piano for$500. Versus a baby grand for a lot more. Advanced students do need the acoustic experience.
Robert - host, on November 27, 2015 @11:06 am PST
Budget considerations are a reality many people face when choosing a piano. If you have a digital piano for your daily practice, it can be extremely beneficial to be able to play or practice on an acoustic piano whenever possible so that you are comfortable playing them when you encounter them.
Ray Tyson on November 25, 2015 @7:47 am PST
Hi Robert. Interesting video comparing digital to upright pianos. I have a Kawai CS3 digital and I find the 8 notes of the highest octave all sound the same. Is this normal and if not can it be corrected.
Thanks in advance
Robert - host, on November 27, 2015 @11:07 am PST
If you are saying that the top 8 notes produce the same pitch, this is not a typical situation. Hopefully there is a setting to alleviate this problem.
Charles Thomas on November 25, 2015 @6:28 am PST
Thank you! I adore a real baby grand and am always disappointed when presented with even a high end digital one. I cannot get into the music with these digitalis which are "supposed to sounded exactly like an acoustic piano" but NEVER do. I have my associate piano performer's diploma.
Robert - host, on November 27, 2015 @11:10 am PST
While digital pianos can be useful in live engagements with pop oriented groups, when playing solo Classical music, a digital piano can be very one dimensional in its expression.
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