Acoustic Pianos vs Digital Pianos



This is a comparison to help understand about acoustic pianos and digital pianos – Shop smart and save!

I have been selling pianos for years and have seen the shift in piano sales move to digital piano, and back again. Is this because we are all caught up in the electronic age of computers, iPhones and the internet?  In our throwaway society you would never see somebody toss a Violin or a acoustic guitar. Piano’s share in the investment along with the others, but are more looked at in holding on too… for years and years.

Electric Guitars stand alone and in this case, and they are an exception. Digitals piano all shares their life span and future value along with your TV set and you home computer.
Make sure you make a well informed decision before buying a piano or digital piano, and don’t make the walk over to Costco so fast.  Your investment will be in the family for years and years and last a life time.

1) The life span of an Acoustic Piano is 70 to 100 years with regular yearly tuning and maintenance at a cost of $135.00 per year. .A digital Piano’s life span is 10 to 15 years and similar to your lap top or home computer and quickly out date themselves..  Both are digital and end up in the trash along with your TV set on the end of your driveway, because of the price to fix them.

2) Replacement parts for Acoustic piano’s are mostly all the same and have been made for centuries, with sound coming from a 4 foot wooden speaker.  Digitals have a 4” speaker when sound is not the same. Parts are different from make & model on digitals and are only stocked by the manufacturer for a short time.  Even if the digital piano is in warranty it may not be repairable, a rare exception are interchangeable from others, if one can be found..
That cannot happen to an acoustic, parts are very easy to find and interchangeable 80% of the time.

3) Acoustic Piano parts work with other pianos. Not only are they easy to get, they are made of wood, steel and brass and five times less expensive than a digital parts..
Digital Piano’s parts are made of cheap plastic, the parts have to be special ordered from Japan and china and are often not available to purchase after 5 to 6 years.

4) Sellers always stock piano parts in their store, but not all makers stock digital parts…If they do, it’s only for a short time. Digital parts need to be special ordered and often take a week or two, or months to get.  There are some people that come to your home to do the repairs but this can be costly generally. You may end up having to bring the digital piano to them for service..

5) Labor costs to repair an Acoustic Piano is cheaper per hr, an average about $25.00 to fix a broken key in an acoustic piano. In a digital it can run double the rate per hour.

6) An Acoustic Piano will go up in value, generally  after about 15 to 20 years, the value is once again the same as the original selling price.  So a nice old Apt piano made in the 1970’s would have sold for $1400.00 new, its value today would be very close , the same or higher. Yes the old upright are not in style and are big and ugly, but their cheap to buy and cheap to fix, and play much more true, them a digital.

Digitals plummet like a iPhone or a lap top computer they’re made to dispose of and not meant to be moved or for sending to the repair shop.

7) All Acoustic Pianos are built to last.  Piano Companies build them in such a way that they can be repaired easily.. “Even the cheap ones”.

8) Acoustic Piano cases are made of solid wood, maple, plywood or fibre glass, and yes they are heavy, moving them can be pricy. But there are all kinds of apt size piano around not as big and heavy.  In the long run they are better investment.
Wood makes a piano strong enough to last and take a pounding when being moved around.

The case and bases of the digital is made of plastic and press boards, which they really are not meant to be moved around, even though they are light. (Yes” they come apart, but rarely make it past 15 yrs.

The upside is:

9)Digitals are lighter than acoustic piano’s and they don’t need to be tuned.
(“Yes” that is true)  Acoustics’ are much heavier but they are meant to last.

Musicians use digital’s for a few reasons, they’re can move them with their road gear, no tuning required, and plugs in to the sound board for mixing. This is a good thing for someone on the fly, from performance to performance.  A road case is a must to protect it, because they will get damaged.  Acoustic pianos have their own quality of sound, where as a digital is a mechanical sound, in most basic brands. A professional pianist can be identified immediately playing on an Acoustic Piano.
For example: Burton Cummings insists on taking his own white grand if he can, or having only an acoustic available for him where ever he goes,” We have tuned for him as well”. Elton John, Billy Joel, and Paul McCartney..  Play acoustic most of the time, but they have the money to take them along.

10)Most Acoustic pianos, have heavy duty wheels so the piano can be pushed around.
This is not the case for a digital piano. There are no casters because the bottom are not strong enough to add a wheel, and should never be pushed.

We work tuning and repairing pianos for many Schools in the local area “and one school comes to mind”  A high school in the Niagara Area have seven Pianos, two 85 yr old uprights and five digital pianos.  Four digitals are non-functional/broken; a few keys in the middle do not sound.  These are stored in the corner of a storage room covered in boxes, books, coat hangers because their too expensive to fix.

So what do they do? “They buy another digital piano for $1500 dollars to replace the digital one that has broken again.

It’s $185.00 per hr labor on digital servicing vs $85.00 per hr on acoustic service.  Schools today are still using the 85 year acoustic uprights.

  “GO THINK” Buy a used or new Acoustic Apartment Size piano or and old upright.  It will be cheaper and go a long way, saving you hundreds of dollars down the road.

Mike Makkreel