Most digital pianos offer a variety of different sounds, but it is the acoustic piano sounds that are the most important as they are the sounds that will be used the most. A digital piano will usually offer an acoustic piano sound suitable for Classical music, for Jazz, and even for Pop.
To emulate the complex sound of an acoustic piano, a digital piano uses a technology called sampling. Expensive microphones are used to record or ‘sample’ the sound made when a key is depressed on an acoustic piano. These samples are then stored in memory and played back each time you play the keys on a digital piano.
It’s a simple concept but worth exploring in more detail as the better the sampling technology, the better the digital piano sound will be.
An acoustic piano has 88 notes each of which has a different character due to the different length of strings and the type of metal used. Not only will a digital piano individually sample each of the 88 notes, many will also sample each note at different dynamic levels or volumes. This is because the tonal character of a piano changes according to how hard the keys are pressed. Notes are much softer in tone when played quietly, and much brighter and harder when played with more force. This is sometimes referred to as velocity layers in the technical specifications and can be very effective with some upmarket digital pianos using up to 4 samples per note. But of course, an acoustic piano is not restricted to just 4 levels of volume or tone change and some digital pianos using a technology called SuperNATURAL will emulate the very smooth and natural way an acoustic piano responds to a player’s touch.
Different Piano Sounds
The make of acoustic piano that is sampled will help determine the sound of a digital piano. Some digital pianos use samples taken from acoustic pianos that have a very bright sound others use samples from acoustic pianos that have a mellow or warm sound. At the end of the day it is down to personal preference.
Rather than live with one or two piano sounds that are OK, some digital pianos emulate the adjustments that are possible on an acoustic piano that allow you to tailor the piano sound to your taste or to adjust the sound to the acoustic properties of the room that you are playing in. Some even let you do this with an iPad
Other Sounds Available
Should you get bored of an acoustic piano sound, virtually all digital pianos offer additional sounds such as harpsichords, electric pianos or strings that might better suit the style of music that you are playing. You can even layer two sounds together for even more versatility.
Read more posts from our beginner piano series
- Choosing between an acoustic or digital piano
- What types of piano are available?
- What do I need to know when I’m in a piano shop?
- Do you need accessories for your digital piano?
- Learn faster on a digital piano
- Setting up your digital piano in your home
- Digital piano action explained
- Connecting a digital piano to a computer
- Useful features on a digital piano