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Beginners Guide to Stage Pianos

Beginners Guide to Stage Pianos

You’ve heard of a digital piano, but what about ‘Stage Pianos’?

When it comes to the differences between acoustic and digital pianos, the distinctions are pretty clear. However, when you delve deeper into the world of digital pianos, you begin to uncover a plethora of different varieties that come in many different forms under many different names. From portable keyboards aimed at the beginner to digital renditions of grand pianos, there are many weird and wonderful terms such as digital upright, hybrids, workstations, stage piano, etc. In this article we hope to clear up any confusion with our ‘beginners guide to stage pianos’. We’re going to cover what a stage piano is, why it might suit your needs, and what options are available to you.

First of all, what is a stage piano?

A stage piano is a digital instrument that despite its name is great for both stage and studio use. Unlike digital pianos that sit in a fixed cabinet such as the Roland HP or Yamaha CLP, stage pianos are portable and perfect for musicians on the move. Models such as the Yamaha P-45 or Roland FP-30 can be readily transported in a gig bag or case from home to performance venue.

A significant benefit of stage pianos over an acoustic equivalent is that you can take them anywhere in the world, and you don’t have to worry about tuning them. Simply plug them in, turn them on and you’re ready to perform.

What is the action like on a stage piano?

On an acoustic piano, a hammer hits the string as keys are played, which in turn vibrates to create the sound. The resistance of the lever support for each hammer/key combination creates a feeling of weight. Less expensive keyboards utilise springs behind each key to encourage the key back to first position.

Stage pianos are often designed to hammers that rise and fall with keys for a more realistic feel – this is Hammer Action. On acoustic pianos, the lower the note, the weightier the action – this is Graded Action. Hence, when you see Graded Hammer action on a stage piano, keys get progressively heavier as you move down the keyboard range. Every manufacturer uses their own proprietary technology but look out for Hammer Action, Graded Hammer Action, etc.

What does a stage piano sound like?

Put in the simplest way, stage pianos use digital sampling of each note to recreate the sound of an acoustic piano. Digital recordings of each key are stored within the stage piano’s internal memory, and when each key is played the sound is activated and played back. Once again, different companies use their own proprietary sampling technology to emulate the response of acoustic pianos. Here is an example of Roland’s incredible “SuperNATURAL” technology.

As well as recreations of acoustic pianos, many stage pianos also include representations of electric pianos, organs, and synthesized versions of percussive instruments and even strings. Though many feature headphone and speaker outputs, not all come with speakers built-in. Therefore, a separate keyboard amplifier is required when performing for an audience. It is highly likely that if you’re performing at a gig, then you have access to a PA system or similar anyway.

Why choose a stage piano?

When it comes to choosing between a digital piano or a stage piano, there are many considerations to take into account. However, the most obvious comes down to what you’re going to use it for? Are you looking for an instrument that will never leave the house, or one that you can take anywhere and everywhere you go? If the answer is the latter, then it’s a stage piano that you will need. It is worth noting that as stage pianos don’t feature legs or a stand you have to buy one separately. Otherwise, you might have to play from a seated position on the floor!

Who would benefit from a stage piano?

The most obvious answer here is a gigging keys player. Thanks to advances in technology such as Roland’s “Ivory Feel” keys with Escapement and “SuperNATURAL” piano sound engine, the feel and sound of a digital stage piano is perfect for any situation from bedroom practise to the stadium stage. Stick it in a gig bag or case, carry it with you or pop it in the car, and you’re on your way.

As there is no built-in cabinet, the stage piano is also ideal for those short on space in the home. Simply fold away your keyboard stand, pop the stage piano into its gig bag or case for safe keeping, and store it for later use. Students in halls of residence can keep their skills up to scratch away from home with a stage piano, and it can travel with them between home and Uni too.

Stage Pianos – Our Top Picks!

We’ve picked out a selection of Stage Pianos to suit all budgets and skills levels.

1. Yamaha P-45 Digital Stage Piano

Image of a digital stage piano

Yamaha’s P-45 digital stage piano is a fantastic instrument that is a favourite amongst beginners, students and teachers alike. The P-45 boasts a feature set that punches well above its modest price tag, with graded hammer-standard keys with natural matte finish for an authentic playing experience. Yamaha’s Advanced Wave Memory (AWM) tone generator provides 10 premium quality voices from acoustic and electric piano to strings and more. There are different functions such as dual, layer, and duo playing modes for side-by-side student/teacher accompaniment.

As with all Yamaha products, you know that you’re getting a quality instrument. However, just to make sure, they include a free 2-year warranty when you register your P-45 with Yamaha within six months of purchase. Not only that, but at Dawsons we are offering a bundle that includes everything you need to get off to a flying start with a bench, stand, headphones, pedal and power supply.

2. Casio CDP-130 Digital Stage Piano

Image of a digital stage piano

When it comes to high performance at an affordable price, the Casio CDP-130 Digital Stage Piano is in a league of its own. Boasting an excellent 88-note keyboard with scaled hammer action for a remarkably realistic playing feel compared to that of an acoustic piano, the CDP-130 allows pianists to transition between the CDP-130 and an acoustic grand seamlessly. Along with a superior tactile feel, Casio’s Dual-Element AHL sound engine produces sublime tones, whilst a full suite of effects including chorus and reverb allow you to polish off your performance. The built-in 16-watt speakers as well as headphone connectivity for silent practise and MIDI/USB connectivity for integrating into your studio setup with ease. Each CDP-130 comes with a sustain pedal, music stand, power adaptor, and Casio’s 3-year warranty. At Dawsons we also include a stand, headphones and bench with our bundle.

For proof as to how impressive the CDP-130 is, check out the video below where acclaimed pianist Evgeniy Rudakov puts one through its paces.

3. Kawai ES110 Digital Stage Piano

Image of a digital stage piano

Kawai are innovators in the world of digital piano with uprights that include bleeding-edge technology for peerless playing feel and sound. The ES110 stage piano benefits from Kawai’s proprietary Harmonic Imagine technology, which reproduces the revered song of their concert grand piano. From the lightest of touches to forceful fortissimo, the feel hammer-action keys respond dutifully to the subtle nuances of your performance.

Bluetooth connectivity allows you to integrate smart devices across a wide range of music apps. Built-in Alfred and Burgmuller piano lessons assist you in honing correct technique as you develop your skills. A 3-song recorder with 15,000 note capacity allows you to save and replay your performances, giving you the ability to identify and correct errors in technique or songs that you’re learning, as well as saving ideas and compositions. Our featured bundle with bench and stand allows you to get playing immediately.

4. Roland FP-30 Digital Stage Piano

Image of a digital stage piano

Whatever Roland make, you can guarantee that it is of the highest possible quality and the FP-30 Digital Stage Piano is no exception to this rule. Their digital pianos are renowned for their impressive playability and impeccable SuperNATURAL sound engine. Roland’s 88-note PHA-4 standard keyboard affords an authentic piano touch. As well as rich grand piano replication there’s also a suite of non-piano sounds, which you can layer or split to create the sound of a multi-instrument performance. A pair of built-in stereo speakers deliver and articulate output, whilst the headphone jack allows you to practise in silence as you wish.

Built-in USB and Bluetooth connectivity opens up access to a world of practise and recording capabilities. The Piano Partner 2 app for iOS and Android mobile devices offers a fun and interactive platform to develop your piano skills with. Our bundle includes a stand, bench and headphones to get you started.

5. Kawai ES8 Digital Stage Piano

Image of a digital stage piano

Kicking things up a notch or two is the Kawai ES8 Digital Stage Piano with exceptional Responsive Hammer III action. Utilising 3-sensor technology alongside graded weighting, the 88-note keyboard ensures a more accurate and responsive touch no matter how you play. Ivory touch material applies to each key for an authentic grand piano feel. The 16 x 2-character LCD display makes it easy to navigate features and sounds, with a whopping 34 voices to choose from that cover acoustic/upright/electric pianos, organs, bass, strings, and choirs. You can also split or layer sound for ensemble style playback.

A wide selection of backing tracks covering pop, jazz, funk, Latin, etc allow you to develop your improv chops, whilst USB connectivity allows you to record song ideas via your computer without any fuss. Our bundle includes a double-braced keyboard stand for extra support, padded headphones and padded bench to get you playing in comfort and style.

6. Yamaha P-515 Digital Stage Piano

Image of a digital stage piano

Yamaha’s P-515 Digital Stage Piano is full to the brim of stylish appointments and cutting-edge tech. At the heart of the piano is Yamaha’s acclaimed CFX and Bösendorfer Imperial sounds as well as over 500 built-in sounds and drum samples to play with. There are 40 rhythms (drum and bass), 50 built-in piano songs, and 21 full demo songs for use as backing tracks. The “Natural Wood X” keyboard combines synthetic ebony and ivory keys for a sublime tactile experience.

Once again, USB and Bluetooth connectivity feature to make it easy to integrate smart devices and make recording a breeze. Yamaha’s free Smart Pianist app for iPhone/iPad offers an intuitive program for controlling the P-515 sounds, reading sheet music, capturing and playing back performances. Our bundle includes a double-braced keyboard stand for added support and padded headphones for comfort.

7. Nord Stage 3 88 Stage Piano

Image of a digital stage piano

The Nord Stage 3 88 Stage Piano combines award-winning technology with futuristic design in an instrument that has become a favourite with pros around the world. Host to three of the most in-demand instrument sections: Organ, Piano and Synth, the Stage 3 includes a powerful and versatile effects section to deliver the full package.

Alongside exceptional sound libraries the Stage 3 facilitates the use of two sounds from each of the three instrument sections simultaneously. Therefore, two organs, two synths and two pianos. You can combine them in any split or layered configuration that you wish. The weighted hammer-action keyboard with aftertouch offers articulate control, whilst the string resonance and dynamic pedal noise add another dimension to the playing experience. Expression is key thanks to the Nord-patented Pitch Stick and Modulation Wheel. Thanks to Nord’s Morph Grouping technique, you can assign sound and effects parameters to any physical controller.

The intuitive user interface puts all vital functions across the front panel to ensure easy access to as you play. The parameter that you desire is never more than a single-button push away or at the turn of a dial. Though the Stage 3 possess incredible power it is a joy to work with, enabling you to get on with your performance.

8. Yamaha CP88 Stage Piano

Image of a yamaha cp88 digital stage piano
Yamaha’s CP88 Stage Piano is an outstanding instrument that is packed with the finest sounds taken from Yamaha’s top of the range Grands and Organs, as well as percussive, orchestral and synth sounds. They’ve even managed to slip in sublime vintage sounds such as the legendary CP88, all powered by the incredible AWM2 Sound Engine.

The 88-key Natural Wood Graded-Hammer keyboard boasts synthetic ebony and ivory key tops for a glorious tactile experience and authentic playing feel. Making the transition from an acoustic piano is as seamless as can be. Furnished with an array of digital effects from reverbs to EQ, user programmable memory allows you to store settings for later recall.

A raft of connections allows you to integrate the CP88 into any setup with ease with ports for two foot controllers, MIDI and USB, 1/4-inch jack outputs and a headphone output for silent practise. The built-in LCD screen provides you with all the information you could need as you play. Words truly can’t do the CP88 justice, so we implore you to check out the video and prepare to be wowed.

There we have it

We hope that you’ve gained an insight into the world of stage pianos, but for more information please don’t hesitate to get in touch. As ever, if you need any help or advice then our Customer Service Team are more than happy to help over the phone on 01925 582420. Our in-store specialists will guide you through the wonderful world of stage pianos, keyboard amplifiers and accessories, just pop into your nearest Dawsons store.

About The Author

Jon

Jon is a multi-instrumentalist with a passion for inspiring others to get involved in making music. After spending many years playing venues here, there and - pretty much - everywhere, he joined the Dawsons' Music Web Team before progressing into his current role managing the Dawsons Blog.