Jun 17, 2010

New Digital Pianos - Where are the buttons?! - REVIEW - What to watch out for when shopping for a digital piano from Casio, Yamaha, Korg, Roland, and others

Digital Piano manufacturers include very cool features on their pianos these days such as being able to control tone brightness, reverb amount, octave changes in layered tones, transpose modulation, metronome time and speed, drum patterns, layering, split function, extra instrument sounds, and more. All of these features are really fun to use and can be very practical for learning as well as just having a better playing experience.

But there's a small problem; instead of having dedicated control panel buttons or a panel display screen where these features can be seen and easily accessed, Casio, Yamaha, Korg, and others are putting many of these features inside the piano activated solely by pressing one function button (or multiple buttons pressed at the same time) along with simultaneously pressing a specific key (or specific multiple keys) on the keyboard so that you can activate that function. And in the case of the Korg SP170 ($499 pictured above left), there are NO control panel buttons because every feature and sound is accessed strictly by pressing multiple specific KEYS on the keyboard at the same time to activate one feature or sound! In my opinion, I would never buy something like the Korg SP170 with no panel buttons, display screen, or basic panel contols. In fact, Korg puts the main volume knob on the BACK of the piano where you cannot get to it easily! Everyone else has the knob or button where it should be...on the front control panel. And their reasoning; "Korg says no buttons or knobs makes it look cleaner and more like a piano. Well maybe, but hey, a regular piano only has one sound and doesn't need buttons, knobs, or slider controls! And a regular piano isn't made out of plastic or metal either! What was Korg thinking?!

Anyway, manufacturers are cutting down on or removing altogether simple, easy to use buttons from the control panel so they can save money and make it more difficult for you to use the other features you're paying for, and some of these cool features and functions can be important to your playing as I mentioned before. Now if the piano had a nice, reliable, and functional display screen (maybe like a cell phone or iPod:), then that would be even better:) But those display screens do cost a lot of money. 

So here's my rule of thumb; when your looking for a good digital piano, try to get as many dedicated control panel button as possible along with a display screen (if available) in your price range. Actually Suzuki makes a piano with a touch display screen for around $1500 or so but it doesn't work well because it's very slow and freezes up sometimes.

However, if you will basically be using your digital piano for the piano sounds with maybe a couple of other instrument sounds and functions from time to time, then having only a few control panel buttons probably won't be a hindrance to you.

As an example of digital pianos with and without buttons, are the new Casio PX130 (top left) and the PX330 (bottom left). The PX330 is only $200 more than the PX130 and has buttons for all features. The PX330 has significantly more features & tones which easily justifies the small difference in cost. It also has a very nice LCD display screen for all of these features which makes them much easier to use. Also, the instrument tones and other functions can be changed in "real time" on the PX330 as opposed to having to stop playing so you can press and hold a button and specific keys at the same time to make a change. 

So even though the keyboard "specs" may seem like your getting a lot of features and functions, be sure you can access them as easily and quickly as possible or all those extra features may be useless to you. Of course if you are on a "tight budget" you may have to purchase a digital piano with fewer buttons. But that's better than nothing because the idea is to make music and enjoy life!

For more info on digital pianos or to learn how to get a new one for LESS than anyone else, please contact me at tim@azpianowholesale.com or call direct at 602-571-1864

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