A Mini Guide to the Stage Piano
In the keyboard and piano world, the term ‘Stage Piano’ gets used a lot- but what exactly is it?
In the world of keyboard instruments there are a lot of different varieties: the portable keyboard, arranger keyboard, synthesizer, electric piano, acoustic piano, digital piano and stage piano, to name some.
The stage piano is a type of instrument that can cause a little bit of confusion among those who are unfamiliar, so to help, here’s a brief overview of what a stage piano is, why it might suit you perfectly, and some of the best available.
So, what is a stage piano?
Put simply, a stage piano is a particular type of digital piano. That is, it’s a particular type of electronic keyboard that accurately simulates the sound and feel of an acoustic piano.
The more typical digital pianos are designed to be similar to upright acoustic pianos. They have dimensions and cabinets that are designed to be similar to the instrument that they aim to replicate.
At its simplest, the piano generates its sound by sampling (digitally recording) every single note of a real piano, and then storing these recordings on memory chips within the digital piano. When a key is pressed, the corresponding note recording is played back providing an accurate representation of an acoustic piano.
When done correctly, this creates a convincing emulation of a real piano. Modern digital pianos employ some far more sophisticated trickery to make this even more believable (Roland’s SuperNATURAL technology for example).
The digital piano also employs a weighted action keyboard, to emulate the feel of a piano keyboard, which means that it has both authentic sounds and authentic feel – something that both beginner and expert piano players will appreciate.
A stage piano has all of these features, but the key difference is that it is designed specifically for use on the ‘stage’. So, rather than being built into a cabinet, it is designed to be portable. With no legs/ stand, weight is greatly reduced, making it easier to transport to performances. Professional players and touring musicians often prefer these stage pianos as they are far more reliable than an acoustic piano, as moving one of these will effect the tuning considerably, and besides, dragging a full size grand piano across a stage is definitely not going to be good for your back!
Though this isn’t a defining feature, most stage pianos have a sound set that is geared towards performance. Usually, you’ll find a selection of great acoustic and electric pianos, organs and other common sounds such as strings.
Other stage-ready features you may find include balanced outputs, for use with PA systems, user sound banks, for easy navigation when gigging, and these days, even MP3 playback.
On most stage pianos, speakers are not built-in, however. Most users will be using them in gig situations with a PA, or within a studio, so they tend to be omitted.
What type of player would suit a stage piano?
The obvious typical stage piano player is the gigging keys player. As a perfect means of getting superb sounds, with authentic piano feel, in a unit that will fit into a car without too much bother, the stage piano is tough to beat.
However, where space is tight, a stage piano can be a practical solution in the home, too. Plus, if you ever need the space it’s in, it can often be propped up in a cupboard for storage (though I wouldn’t recommend this long term).
One of the biggest groups to take the stage piano to its heart, however, is the student population. As a student might move every year for 3 or 4 years, and travel backwards and forwards to home, a stage piano is ideal for those who can’t live without a piano. Yamaha’s P45 and P-255 are particularly popular in this regard.
What are some of the best stage pianos?
Here, we’ll aim to highlight a selection of some of the best stage pianos on the market today, including items from some of the leaders in the digital piano world.
When it comes to crafting world class stage pianos, Nord excel at it, and they are often the go-to choice for those who need an industry standard to tour with. For professional musicians around the world who want realistic feel, reliability and connectivity options you should always consider a Nord at some point. Chances are if you are watching a live band at a festival, you’ll see a Nord Stage piano somewhere. The Nord Piano 2 HP Stage Piano is one of the most powerful options out there with a 73-key hammer action keyboard and a host of sampled Grand, Upright and Electrical Pianos as well as Clavinet and Harpsichords – you’ll have enough sounds for what you need. And if you find you need more, you have access to the Nord piano library as well as a vast array of effects including phaser, wah, chorus and flanger to keep you busy. You even have the option to save your preset sounds in 240 locations – a great addition for the professional musician.
The Yamaha P-45 digital stage piano is a premium grade option for those who want a professional grade piano without a a large price tag. At under £400 the P-45 is a formidable contender for best stage piano available especially considering you get a Graded hammer standard keyboard which delivers an authentic playing experience by mimicking the feel of an acoustic piano- a welcome feature for pianists of all levels. The inclusion of Yamaha’s Advanced Wave Memory (AWM) tone generator ensures you have a whole host of sounds to choose from including 10 premium quality voices such as electric piano’s, strings and beautifully sampled acoustic pianos. A great option for any player who needs a highly portable stage piano that will last a lifetime.
Roland’s FP-50 series has been developed with both professionals and beginners in mind, allowing you enough freedom to practice anywhere and at anytime thanks to the built in high quality speakers and USB and wireless connectivity options whilst providing enough voices and power for a touring piano player to get to grips with. Professional musicians, especially solo musicians will enjoy the fact Roland have included an intelligent rhythm feature with 90 rhythm types allowing you complete control over a backing band. Roland’s ground-breaking Ivory feel-G keyboard offers a superb realistic feel and the inclusion of the SuperNATURAL Piano sound makes sure you have an accurate representation of an acoustic piano – one of the best sounding samples in the world. Tweak cabinet resonance, soundboard behaviour and enjoy smoky organs, lush strings and a whole host of modern synths too. As far as stage pianos are concerned, Roland just get it right! You can even play along with your favourite songs by loading them via USB or use your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch in conjunction with the Air performer app. A great option for the serious musician.
See our full range of stage pianos here.