Pianos for the past more than three centuries have evolved in many ways. And only during the twentieth-century electric pianos that are also vintage instruments were made to create music. But it was in a mechanical method of capturing the sound by an electromagnetic transducer. But still, there is a demand for the traditional acoustic pianos, which are the pride for the music lovers. But for the general masses, it is now the electric or digital pianos that suit their pocket, space, and portability. And with technology at a rapid pace of development, their usage is increasing every year.
An electric piano is a heterogeneous category of pianos that encompass many different instruments. They may vary in their sound-producing mechanisms and their consequent timbral characters. Like the acoustic pianos, electric pianos also produce sound while pressing the keys. They strike the mechanical hammers to metal strings and are converted into electrical signals by magnetic pickups. For making the sound louder, they are connected to a loudspeaker or an amplifier instrument. It enables the performer and the audience to hear the keyed in music in the electric pianos. Electric pianos are not electronic instruments like synthesizers but are electro-mechanical instruments.
History of electric pianos
Nearly two centuries from the first piano was made, the electric pianos started to emerge in the 1920s. The early ones for producing the tone like a traditional piano used lengths of wire. Some short electric pianos used sharp steel slivers for creating the tone. The first electric piano is Neo Bechstein’s electric grand piano made in 1929. Lloyd Loar’s Vivi-Tone Clavier is the earliest electric stringless model. Likewise, many reputed electronic piano producers emerged during this period. They include companies like Wurlitzer, Baldwin Piano, and Organ.
Watch Video: A Brief History of the Piano
Evolution of electric pianos after the 1950s:
For the next twenty-odd years, the companies mentioned above made electric pianos, which were widely used among music lovers. But during the 1950s, electric piano popularity started to rise. Some of the early electric piano recordings include the 1955 Duke Ellington, the Indian Sun Ra, and other tracks. In 1956 it was the Super Sonic Jazz, also known as Super Sonic Sounds. In 1959 it was Ray Charle’s “What’d I say” that hit the roof for the popularity of electric pianos. In the 1970s, the Yamaha CP70 was made to be an example of giggle grand piano. It had the proper hammers and strings but came up with pickups and no soundboard. Musicians worldwide started to adopt various domestic electric pianos for their rock and pop music. The piano manufacturers hence modified the keyboards mainly intended for the stage use.
With rapid technological development, the world was turning digital. And pianos from the start of the 21st century also started to become digital. During the 2010s, digital pianos provided an emulated electric piano sound that extensively supplanted the electro-mechanical instruments. Also, a massive range of piano tones was possible by these low weight, small size, versatile digital pianos. But still, some musicians and music lovers perform and record with vintage acoustic and electric pianos.
Reasons for preferring digital pianos over acoustic pianos:
Digital piano types:
While acoustic pianos cost a minimum of $2500 and can go up to multiples of it depending on the brand’s other factors. But a good digital from branded companies like Roland is available for less than $600. It is the reason that pianos are now widely used across the world. It has broken the barriers of only the elite, and the rich can learn and play pianos. Now it is not only available far cheaper than the acoustic pianos and readily available everywhere, unlike until the 20th century. There are many types of digital pianos including
Digital Home pianos:
Home pianos are of sizes that suit most of the homes. They come in both stationary and portable models. They are eighty-eight vital digital pianos that are primarily designed only for home use. Though they are similar to upright or grand pianos, they come with subtle styling and décor. Also, these pianos come in nominal prices for those with passion for piano playing could afford to buy one for professional or personal hobby use.
Digital upright pianos:
Digital upright pianos mimic the traditional upright pianos but are of their smaller version. Improvisation of crucial action and quality of speakers is possible with the increased space. Also, with the strings being vertical to make the frame more compact.
Digital stage piano:
Until the last few decades, pianos were used to play only in concerts. And it could be one of the main reasons that they were restricted for elite musicians and wealthy people to learn them as a hobby. In recent decades, the evolution of music into many forms of rock, jazz, and others. They were all easily performed on stages, even in the nook and corner of the world. It brought the necessity of compact, portable, flexible, and cost-effective digital stage pianos into the market. Now they are the hot cakes for many digital piano manufacturers focus more to meet their market needs. They come with various stand and inputs and outputs. They are great for gigging and session work.
Digital portable pianos:
Portable pianos are almost like stage pianos. But they are not only easy to carry them only to the stages, but to anywhere one needs. Those who want to practice only with their pianos can bring them to teaching classes, or for parties to entertain the audience. Also, to showcase anyone’s piano playing skills to get due recognition and appreciation for it.
Digital grand pianos:
Like in acoustic pianos, where there is a kind to have grandeur and uniqueness with huge costs, these digital grand pianos are similar to it. They come with grandiose aesthetics and have a luxury look for the piano players to be revered and respected by the audience. But due to their high costs, only those who have a passion for having such pianos can afford these digital grand pianos.
Key features of all types of digital pianos:
Knowing only the types of digital pianos is not enough to buy or for practicing piano playing. Along with the type, the essential features for all types of digital pianos include
In this digital world, where everything is transforming to digital, music is also following suit. Hence it is now the time of digital pianos to rule the roost, and it has made anyone with a passion for learning and playing the piano. Though it may lack the realistic sound and the aura of acoustic pianos, all types of digital pianos are suitable for learning and playing piano for a happy and prosperous life.