Structure of the digital piano

Structure of the digital piano

The sound of the digital piano has nothing to do with the electric piano as it differs totally from it in sound character; in fact, the latter is a different instrument that has acquired its own dignity and is still very much in use today, especially in funky, jazz fusion and pop genres.

The digital sample piano is instead aimed at emulating the character of the acoustic piano, sometimes very convincingly.


The best digital piano keyboards are made of high-quality, high-density plastic, with micro-grains on the surface that not only give a veracious feel, but also prevent fingers from slipping and sticking in the event of wet or sweaty fingers; the finest, however, are made of wood, stuffed with ad hoc counterweights and then covered in plastic materials that mimic the density and tactile feel of ivory.

Keyboards generally have 88 keys, but variants reduced to 73 or 76 keys can also be found.


One of the strong points of the new digital pianos is the mechanics. Some models are cheap: the key is not equipped with a graduated weight but with a simple spring so that, although they respond dynamically to the speed of the key descent, they do not allow full control by the pianist. Other models, on the other hand, are equipped with very sophisticated mechanics, consisting of rocker arms designed to reproduce the weight of the key and the mechanism and all the reactions that can be experienced 'under the fingertips' with a real acoustic grand piano, including the falling action of the hammers and the typical vibrations caused by the double escapement. Between the two extremes, there are also middle ground that are more modest in detail but still very good.


Nowadays, digital pianos can have the 3 pedals equivalent to those of the grand piano, some of them even allow the half-pedal effect, which allows, in emulation of the acoustic version, to suggest the reaction caused by the brushing of the strings with the dampers without stopping them altogether. 

Sound generation and quality

Compared to its synthesis-based electronic predecessor, which did not shine in sound quality and dynamic control, each time the corresponding key is pressed the digital piano reproduces a sound sample recorded in high quality; by now, each note actually corresponds to at least 3 samples, corresponding to the same note played in pianissimo, fortissimo and medium registers; these three samples are managed by a microprocessor that, through a complex algorithm based on the analysis of real physical models, reconstructs the sound response at all intensities, giving a very realistic match to all 128 gradations reproducible by the standard sound generation system, or even more as in the top models.

The best models also provide a simulation of the noises generated by the end of key travel and pedal movements, noises that are sometimes adjustable in intensity; they also allow the treble strings to vibrate freely (as if they had no stops, similarly to acoustic pianos) and to recreate more or less truthfully the complex system of grand resonance that can be experienced with the forte pedal down.

Acoustic speakers

All models allow listening in stereo via headphones, as well as the output of the electroacoustic signal for routing to an external loudspeaker system or for in-line recording; in addition, almost all of them have an audio speaker system built into the cabinet.

The quality of the built-in loudspeaker system can differ enormously from model to model; it is more or less good, but a little approximate in small 'wall-mounted' digital piano models, while it is generally better in models with a coda or pigtail, also taking advantage of the more generous dimensions of the loudspeaker case, which allows a better response to low frequencies and a diffusion by means of multiple, suitably placed loudspeakers, emulating the spatial diffusion of the acoustic instrument; in this sense, some top models of the large specialised manufacturers are excellent.

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