2. Introduction

The idea to build a compact and transportable key instrument for the mobile musician isn’t new. In the 1600’s for example there was the clavichord, a small and rather quiet type of harpsichord ideal for those living in cramped conditions.

So called ‘’silent pianos’’, which fold up for the traveling virtuoso and ‘’practice’’ pianos have been around for a long time as well.

The first electric pianos only came into existence about fifty years ago, at the end of the 60’s. At the time both Fender, with their Rhodes model, and Wurlitzer brought the first stage pianos of electromechanical basis to the market. They didn’t sound like a real piano, but the typical bell sound they produced is now an indispensable part of pop music.

In the following years companies like Yamaha began experimenting with portable electronics, some of which functioned similar to a guitar, using pickups and string vibration to produce sound. A well-known example is the Yamaha CP70, which still required a truck to move but didn’t sound quite like a real piano.

The real breakthrough came at the end of 1985 with the Kurzweil 250, which for the first time used sampling techniques to reproduce piano sounds, and thus the digital stage piano was born.

The Fender Rhodes was one of the first electric stage pianos

Many stage pianos now offer extensive sound ranges – 128 or more sound profiles isn’t uncommon. But the needs of the live musician come first in this case so you’re more likely to encounter a range of standard sounds as opposed to sophisticated synthesizer functions. Still, some models offer considerable options in this area as well.

A stage piano can also serve as the control center for your entire keyboard set up, taking on the role of a master keyboard. To do this properly it will need certain features e.g. keyboard splitting, which isn’t included on all models. In addition it will need more standard controls such as modulation or pitch-wheel, and a freely assignable MIDI command control of some sort is useful.

What is meant by polyphony or polyphonics?

The term polyphony refers to how many tones can be heard simultaneously. The technical capabilities of an electronic instrument is, as with a computer, limited by the capacity of its built in chip(s). The more tones an instrument should control, the more data the processor needs to be able to…well…process.

If you check the technical specifications of a digital piano you will see polyphonic specifications of 32, 64, 128 or even 258 notes. Your first reaction may be to think that you would never play more than 10 or so notes at once (unless you’re Jerry Lewis who also played with his feet). But you need to be conscious of the fact that you’re in the digital world now and that every note received, from a pedal for example, must be counted in terms of the polyphony. For digital pianos with stereo samples you’ll need to pay attention to the fact that the polyphonic value given is halved, as there are two ‘’voices’’ for each sound or sample. The higher the polyphonic value, the more closely the sound will resemble a real piano because multiple resonations and overtones can be played concurrently.

What is MIDI?

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a data transfer protocol that allows digital information about pitch, tone length, and sound type to be communicated, recorded, or played back between individual instruments or between instruments and computers. More information about this subject can be found in our online guide for keyboards.

Many digital pianos have a MIDI-interface, generally an input and output, designated as MIDI-IN and MIDI-OUT. This allows you to access another keyboard or connect to a computer with a sequencing program. Notation programs also usually support MIDI protocols. Another option is to download songs with MIDI ports, especially onto devices which don’t have an USB port.

What should I look for in the controls?

When selecting a digital piano you should make sure that the knobs, sliders, panels and other controls are easy to reach while playing. Is it, for example, possible to switch easily between sound settings? Is it possible to select built-in effects and other functions with the press of a single button? Is there a touchscreen? Or are all parameters only selectable through a tiny LCD screen with cumbersome controls? An e-piano is essentially a computer developed by hardware and software specialists, and sometimes they just forget that a musician isn’t interested in reprogramming the entire system. So make sure the instrument will do what you want it to, and that you can ask it to do that on the fly!

What is arranger?

Arranger is a function which allows the player to be accompanied by (play along with) different styles from several instruments. This function can be found on most keyboards as well as digital pianos. At the push of a button an entire band or orchestra can be imitated according to the rhythms and styles of the player. For example, the player can make a cymbal rhythm in C major with an orchestra sound.

Recently Viewed
Audient iD4 MKII

USB-C Audio Interface 24 bit / 44.1 - 96 kHz, ADC dynamic range: 121 dB, DAC dynamic range: 126 dB, @Class A Audient console microphone preamplifier, Mic Gain 58 dB,

Recently Viewed
Alesis Nitro Expansion Pack

Expansion set for Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit Consist of 1x 10" One-Zone Pad and 1x 08" ON zones Tom Pad, Includes necessary rack clips, cymbal holder, L-rods and cables

Recently Viewed
Sonor SS 1000 Snare Stand

Sonor SS 1000 Snare Stand, 1000 hardware series, gearless basket adjustment, double braced, stable rubber foots,

Recently Viewed
Electro Harmonix Ripped Speaker Fuzz

Electro Harmonix Ripped Speaker Fuzz; Effects Pedal for Electric Guitar & Bass; low Fuzz settings emulate Vintage Lo-Fi Distortion Sounds created by a Razor Blade applied to a Speaker Cone, a loose Tube or a faulty channel on a Recording…

Recently Viewed
Otamatone Neo White

Otamatone Neo, Electronic sound toy / synthesizer, standard size, selection of various sounds via new studio smart phone app, cross link of smart phone and Otamatone via cable, power plug for external power supply, stereo headphone jack, volume adjustable, playing…

Recently Viewed
iZotope Spire Studio 2nd Generation

iZotope Spire Studio 2nd Generation; mobile recording studio with lithium-ion battery (up to 4 hours runtime); 2 tracks can be recorded simultaneously; up to 8 tracks per project can be played back; recording format: 24-bit / 48 kHz; up to…

Recently Viewed
Endorphin.es Ground Control

Endorphin.es Ground Control; Eurorack module; performance sequencer; 24-pads keyboard for realtime programming; USB-B port and MIDI in/out for using external MIDI devices and DAW integration; 3 melodic tracks with CV/Gate outputs; 8 drum tracks with trigger outputs; 24 pattern per…

Recently Viewed
Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera Pro EVF

Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera Pro EVF; Viewfinder fits Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro; Viewfinder with internal proximity sensor, 4-piece glass diopter, built-in status info display and digital test chart; Video and power connections: via Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro…

Recently Viewed
Universal Audio UAFX Astra Modulation Machine

Enforcement Pedal Stereo modulation, With chorus, flanger and tremolo effects, True or Buffered Bypass, Preset storable, Additional effects downloadable, Live / Preset mode, Dual processor UAFX Engine, 2 Inputs: 6.3 mm pawl (input 2 for stereo connection), 2 Outputs:…

Recently Viewed
Otamatone Neo Black

Otamatone Neo, Electronic sound toy / synthesizer, standard size, selection of various sounds via new studio smart phone app, cross link of smart phone and Otamatone via cable, power plug for external power supply, stereo headphone jack, volume adjustable, playing…

Recently Viewed
Zoom PodTrak P4

Podcasting Recorder Four microphone inputs (XLR, P48V phantom power switchable), Four headphone outputs with individual volume controls (3.5mm stereo jack), Gain control and mute button per input, Mix minus function for automatic feedback suppression for incoming calls, Connection of…

Recently Viewed
Aputure Accent B7c

Aputure Accent B7c; smart 7W RGBWW LED bulb; uses the same colour mixing technology as the Nova P300c, covering the same colour temperature spectrum from 2000 to 10000 Kelvin; built-in Li-Po battery with a runtime of up to 70 minutes…

Give Feedback
Feedback Found an error or want to give us feedback about this page?

We're looking forward to hearing from you and aim to solve any problems as soon as we can.