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.)
The Yamaha falls a bit short on sound quality, though. It offers 10 sounds, but as Brent (who owns a P-45) put it, only three are usable: Grand Piano 1, Electric Piano 1, and Vibraphone. The Grand Piano 1 sound is the only one that has a button on the console for selection (it doubles as the Function button). The others are selected the same way as with the Casio—with a hold of the Function button and the press of a piano key—but the sounds are all assigned to the lowest octave on the keyboard, so you have to look and reach to the far left of the keyboard to change them.
There are many varieties of picks available, but due to the thicker, heavier strings of the electric bass, bassists tend to use heavier picks than those used for electric guitar, typically ranging from 1.14 mm–3.00 mm (3.00 is unusual). Different materials are used for picks, including plastic, nylon, rubber, and felt, all of which produce different tones. Felt and rubber picks sound closer to a fingerstyle tone.
"Jazz" pickups (referring to the original Fender Jazz Bass), also referred to as "J pickups", are wider eight-pole pickups that lie underneath all four strings. J pickups are typically single-coil designs, though there are a large number of humbucking designs. Traditionally, two of them are used, one of them near the bridge and another closer to the neck. As with the halves of P-pickups, the J-pickups are reverse-wound with reverse magnetic polarity. As a result, they have hum canceling properties when used at the same volume, with hum cancellation decreasing when the pickups are at unequal volume, and absent if the player uses only one pickup. 'J' Style pickups tend to have a lower output and a thinner sound than 'P' Style pickups. Many bassists combine a 'J' pickup at the bridge and a 'P' pickup at the neck, so they can blend the two sounds.

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.


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The bass guitars will have either 4, 5 or 6 strings. Though it may be tempting to go for the guitar with 6 strings, going for the 4-stringed is good for a new player. A bass guitar is a type of stringed instrument that plays a lower tone and sounds more impressive than a regular guitar. The most notable difference is that a bass guitar may have as few as four strings and they are much thicker. The thicker strings are what give the bass its low tone.
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In the early 1940s, many jazz musicians, especially African American jazz musicians, started to stray from the popular big band dance music of the 1930s. Their experimentation and quest for deeper expression and freedom on the instrument led to the birth of a new style of music based from Harlem called bebop music. Whereas swing was a popular music designed for dancing, bebop was a "musician's music" designed for listening. During the bebop era, given that bands no longer had to accompany dancers, bandleaders could speed up the tempo. Bebop was also much more based on improvisation, in comparison to the heavily arranged big band scores. Bebop musicians would take an old standard and re-write the melody, add more complex chord changes, resulting in a new composition.

Traditional digital pianos vaguely resemble an electronic organ or a spinet harpsichord but usually lacking a fully enclosed lower section, while some models are based on the casework of traditional upright pianos with a fully enclosed bottom part and pedals that look like actual piano pedals. An opposite and recent trend is to produce an instrument which has a unique and distinctive appearance, unobtainable with a conventional instrument. Yamaha , Kawai and Casio makes a model which is designed to stand against a wall and is far shallower from keyboard to back than any possible upright design, as well as shorter height.

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Some basses, particularly expensive boutique instruments or custom-made guitars, use more unusual pickup configurations. Examples include a soapbar and a "P" pickup (found on some Fender basses), bassist Stu Hamm's "Urge" basses, which have a "P" pickup sandwiched between two "J" pickups, and some of funk bassist Bootsy Collins' custom basses, which had as many as five J pickups. Another unusual pickup configuration is found on some of the custom basses that virtuoso bassist Billy Sheehan uses, in which there is one humbucker at the neck and a split-coil pickup at the middle position.

I brought in several other pianists for our test panel. Liz Kinnon is a pianist/arranger/composer/educator from Los Angeles who has performed with artists such as Dizzy Gillespie and Andy Williams. She was an orchestrator on the animated shows Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, and Histeria. At the Colburn Community School of Performing Arts in Los Angeles, she teaches jazz piano and is the Director of Adult Jazz Combos. She was Ryan Gosling’s piano coach for La La Land and recently worked with Simon Pegg and Juno Temple for the film Lost Transmissions.
As with any instrument, the perfect digital piano for you is going to be based on one part function and two parts preference. It doesn't matter if you're a beginner or a master pianist: the first step to your new digital piano is simply to decide which one suits you best. With that accomplished, you're well on your way to making the next step in your career with a brand new instrument you can truly call your own
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