The feel of an acoustic piano is something that doesn’t compare to other key instruments. Piano players will tell you that the way it plays is just too distinctive, and they can usually tell the difference when blindly playing a different type of keyboard. What is it that makes acoustic pianos so special? It is not a great secret, and for some, it might even be too obvious: it’s the acoustic nature of the keys. When players talk about the feel of the keys they don’t mean just how ivory feels to the touch, but also how the key actually responds to different levels of pressure while playing. Digital pianos nowadays come in all shapes and sizes, but the most coveted models have weighted keyboards to simulate that aspect of acoustic pianos. Keep reading to learn more about the big difference a weighted keyboard makes on digital pianos and keyboards.
How do acoustic pianos work?
To better understand how weighted keyboards make a difference in the realm of digital pianos, we have to understand how they work in acoustic pianos first. A piano is essentially a string instrument, in which each key corresponds to a string that is tensed to produce a certain note when struck. Pressing a key on a piano will set in motion a hammer that strikes the string. The resulting sound will be proportionately subtle or loud depending on the pressure we apply to the key when playing. The hammer won’t strike the string, and therefore won’t produce any sound, if the key is not pressed. This makes for a natural resistance of the keys on an acoustic piano, which in turn is part of the distinct feel described by all piano players.
So what are weighted keyboards on digital pianos?
As you might already have guessed, a weighted keyboard is essentially a set of keys that aims to replicate this acoustic feel on a digital piano. The digital quality of these instruments means that they don’t inherently need to have weighted keyboards, given that the inner components can read with accuracy the level of pressure applied to each key and match it to a corresponding sound.
Electric piano manufacturers go the extra mile to build their keys with added weight so they can feel as similar to an acoustic piano as possible. This goes beyond what most people would think is a whim on the part of all piano players. Playing a weighted keyboard actually makes a difference in terms of technique because pianists need to know their force and speed are translating to the correct sound. A digital piano with keys that offer no resistance at all can be very confusing to play for professionals used to the natural weight of keys on acoustic pianos.
For those who play exclusively digital pianos, using a weighted keyboard has the added benefit of making them able to transition to acoustic pianos seamlessly later. If they don’t feel the need to learn, they can progressively get used to the weight of the keys by trying semi-weighted keyboards first and graded weighted keyboards later. The closest there is to real pianos nowadays are digital pianos that include hammer action mechanisms on their keyboards just for the sake of adding true resistance when playing.
For reference of the best weighted keyboard piano models currently available, feel free to check some reviews here.