Once the basic parameters were established, I reached out to colleagues who are piano teachers or musical directors to get a sense of what models were in highest rotation in the professional world. I also played several models at the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) show in January. From there I searched through Amazon, Musician’s Friend, and Sweetwater for available models, then cross-checked that information with manufacturer websites and added anything that was missing. After considering all that information, I decided to limit the price to $500. That was high enough to include several quality-built keyboards that met all (or most) of the criteria without being too pricey. This gave me a list of 21 models from nine different companies.
Six strings are usually tuned B0–E1–A1–D2–G2–C3—like a four-string bass with an additional low B string and a high C string. Some players prefer B0–E1–A1–D2–F♯2–B2, which preserves the intervals of standard six-string guitar tuning (an octave and a fourth lower) and makes the highest and lowest string the same note two octaves apart. While less common than four or five-string basses, they appear in Latin, jazz, and other genres, as well as in studio work where a session musician's single instrument must be highly versatile, and to facilitate sightreading in the recording studio. Alternative tunings for six-string bass include B–E–A–D–G–B, matching the first five strings of an acoustic or electric guitar with an additional low B, and E–A–D–G–B–E, completely matching the tuning of a six-string guitar but one octave lower allowing the use of guitar chord fingerings. Rarer tunings such as E–A–D–G–C–F and F♯–B–E–A–D–G provide a lower or higher range in a given position while maintaining consistent string intervals. In 1974, Anthony Jackson worked with Carl Thompson to create the Contrabass guitar (BEADGC). Later, Jackson brought his ideas to Fodera and worked with Ken Smith to create a wider-spaced Contrabass guitar, which evolved to the modern six-string bass.
We all agreed that the keyboard action felt the most like an acoustic piano. It has what Casio calls “tri-sensor scaled hammer action,” which involves the use of three sensors instead of the usual two. This makes the keyboard more responsive with repeated notes because the key doesn’t need to return to its resting position before being struck again. In our testing, this seemed to allow more musicality than just the on/off trigger switch that most synthesizers use. In the transition into the second half of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, for instance, the tri-sensor action will allow you to better control the dynamics of the quickly repeated C-sharp.
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Macaque monkeys drum objects in a rhythmic way to show social dominance and this has been shown to be processed in a similar way in their brains to vocalizations suggesting an evolutionary origin to drumming as part of social communication. Other primates make drumming sounds by chest beating or hand clapping, and rodents such as kangaroo rats also make similar sounds using their paws on the ground.
The bare minimum requirements for a budget digital piano are to have 88 keys (the same number found on traditional acoustic pianos) and internal speakers to facilitate practicing without an amplifier. Beyond that, some amount of weighted key action (either semi-weighted or hammer action, more on this in a moment) and an accurate piano sound were the primary deciding factors for our picks. An included stand and sustain pedal were not requirements, as aftermarket options are readily available and inexpensive. (We discuss some options below.)
Toward the end of the 1920s, variations of the hi-hats were introduced. One of the most popular hand held hi-hat cymbal variations used was called the "hand sock cymbals". The reason for the name "hi-hat" was because earlier versions of the hi-hat were referred to as a "low boy". The evolution that became the "hi-hats" allowed drummers to play the two cymbals with drum sticks while simultaneously controlling how open or closed the two cymbals were with their foot. The pedal could also be used to play the cymbals with the foot alone, while the right hand played other drums. By the 1930s, Ben Duncan and others popularized streamlined trap kits leading to a basic four piece drum set standard: bass, snare, tom-tom, and a larger floor tom. In time, legs were fitted to larger floor toms, and "consolettes" were devised to hold smaller tom-toms (ride toms) on the bass drum.
No matter which digital piano you choose, you're in for something special. The instruments found on these pages all offer different features, so take a few minutes to think about your needs as a musician and go from there. Whether you go with a higher-end stage piano like the top-selling KAWAI MP11 Professional Piano or a student model Yamaha's NP12 61-Key Entry-Level Piaggero Ultra-Portable Digital Piano, any digital pianos here will enhance your musical journey.