Digital Vs. Acoustic Pianos: Learn The Similarities And Differences

If you’ve decided to buy a piano, your next decision is whether or not to buy an acoustic piano or a digital one. The choice can be difficult, as these two instruments are actually a lot more different than you might think. Keep reading to learn a brief overview of each instrument and then how they directly compare to each other across many different factors.

The Acoustic Piano

If you’re into ‘old school’ instruments, then acoustic pianos definitely qualify. They have hammers and steel strings which are enclosed inside a wooden interior. The keys connect to the hammers, and so when they are pressed, a hammer strikes the string, causing the vibration that turns into physical sound.

Acoustic pianos are available as grand pianos or upright pianos. Grand pianos take up more space since they extend horizontally, and gravity is what resets the keys back into resting positions. Upright pianos have their strings vertically arranged for a more compact form, which fits a lot easier into houses and apartments. Spring mechanisms reset the keys, but wear and tear happens over time.

The Digital Piano

Digital pianos are more modern versions. They produce their sounds digitally. When a player presses a key, the electronic speakers will then play back high-caliber recordings that were previously taken from an acoustic piano.

Like their acoustic ancestors, digital pianos come in grand and upright options, although there are also many portable piano options too.

  • Digital grand pianos have the best sound systems and key movements, but they cost the most and are only available from select manufacturers.
  • Upright digital pianos offer the convenience of more compact size for residential use; their size is similar to acoustic uprights but weigh a lot less.
  • Portable digital pianos are nearly always the lightest ones out there, and they come with a stand instead of ‘legs’; they’re typically made of plastic for their keys and exterior.
man playing a digital piano
Example of an electric digital piano

Digital Pianos vs Acoustic Pianos: Similarities And Differences

Now you should understand how the two different pianos function, so it’s time to compare them directly across a few key factors.

Proficiency Level

Digital pianos might be better for those just starting out. The available computer connection allows for many learning opportunities and educational software. Acoustic pianos are far more likely to require human-supervised education.

🏆 Winner: Digital!


Acoustic pianos require a lot more maintenance. Digital pianos have to be kept clean and dry, but acoustics need care for their steel strings, felt on the hammers, and wooden exteriors.

🏆 Winner: Digital!

Musical Genre

Anyone interested in classical or traditional music should get an acoustic piano just for the sound. Digital pianos can be better options for anyone venturing into funk, rock, or pop.

🏆 Winner: It Depends!

Other Instrumental Sounds

An acoustic piano will only ever sound like itself, but digital pianos and synthesizers can replicate the sounds of nearly any other instrument, be it bagpipes or a human choir.

They can even fire up a drum beat track that you can play to which creates the sound of a small ensemble with one instrument.

🏆 Winner: Digital!


Acoustic pianos typically have a soft pedal, a sustain pedal, and a sostenuto pedal. Digital pianos might only come with the sustain pedal. Some don’t have any.

Further complicating things for digital pianos is that the availability of any of the three pedals as add-on options will vary based on the particular make and model.

🏆 Winner: Acoustic!

Practice Location And Time

It’s a running joke how exasperated parents can get at hearing their kids practice an instrument. Anytime noise is a concern, the digital piano is a better choice, given the headphone outputs and volume knobs.

🏆 Winner: Digital!


Digital pianos come in many different kinds and sizes but they’re generally more portable than acoustic pianos. Many of them can be moved by just one person. Their typically smaller size also makes them a convenient choice for performances or gigs.

On the other hand, acoustic pianos typically need three to five people to move, as they can weigh a lot and are much bigger.

🏆 Winner: Digital!


Most of the time, but not always, acoustic pianos will cost more than a digital piano. Lower- and middle-tier uprights might run several thousand dollars. Digital pianos, though, are more likely to only cost a few hundred.

At the same time, the resale value of acoustic pianos is much higher, making them better long-term investments. Digitals depreciate faster given how many newer and more advanced models flood the annual market.

🏆 Winner: It Depends!

Recording Capability

No instrument quite has the classical sound of an acoustic piano. But recording its sound well means having it in the right room with high-end equipment.

On the other hand, a digital piano can plug straight into a computer for direct digital recording. Aspiring musicians can manipulate their own recordings using software.

🏆 Winner: It Depends!


Sound is of course a crucial component to consider. Most anyone will agree that acoustic pianos sound better. The authenticity of the sound comes from hammers striking strings that offer warm, resonant tones. The player also enjoys more control over how the musical notes are expressed and articulated.

Digitals just mimic the sounds without as much nuance. Having said that, technology has come a long way, and one of the high-end digitals can actually sound better than some of the lower-end acoustics.

🏆 Winner: Acoustic!

Touch Sensitivity

How these two instruments feel is very different. This has a lot to do with the weight of the various keys. Playing an acoustic piano means needing some strength, whereas gentler touches can still make sounds on a digital.

A number of pianists shy away from digital models given the lack of touch sensitivity. Digital pianos simply limit the potential musical nuance and expressions available.

🏆 Winner: Acoustic!


An acoustic piano needs tuning annually, if not every six months. That normally requires a professional, which adds up on the costs. Acoustics are also vulnerable to changes in temperature and humidity, especially the felt and wood.

Digital pianos might need occasional rebooting or even software patches, but they’re much easier to maintain and don’t require tuning.

🏆 Winner: Digital!

In Conclusion

Now that you’ve read this article, you know the primary distinctions between acoustic vs. digital pianos. While you can sit down with either type and play music, these paragraphs have illustrated just how many ways these two instruments differ from one another. Hopefully you read at least one or two things that indicated to you which one is right for your situation.

Which do you think is better? A digital piano or a “real” acoustic piano? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Additional Resources

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.