I find it really valuable to have a second piano in the studio and prefer a digital as it gives me the opportunity of accompanying students with other instrument sounds, rhythms, drums, etc. and allows me my own time to practice with headphones if required (late night cramming!!).
But what digital piano should you buy?
Of course you can spend many thousands on things like Clavinovas and Avant Grands, however I’ve found an instrument that I think is just perfect as a second studio instrument and around a third the cost of the aforementioned digital pianos.
If you are looking for a digital piano with a truly realistic grand piano action, you can’t do much better than the Roland FP-7F for the price.
UPDATE: Roland have now brought out the FP80.
I have been absolutely blown-away with is the “SuperNATURAL® Piano engine” and the PHA III Ivory Feel-S Keyboard with Escapement.
The SuperNatural sound is absolutely extraordinary, particularly through headphones, and the action of the damper pedal is the most realistic I’ve encountered on a digital, able to respond to every nuance of half and quarter pedal and even the velocity with which it’s pressed.
And you can customise the sound of the piano down to every last detail including the difference in sound when the grand piano “lid” is open or closed (or anything in between!). You can even retune individual notes to perhaps sharpen the upper end as some tuners do for concerts.
The FP-7F can be packaged with a sturdy wooden stand and dedicated 3-pedal unit and it has now become my practice instrument of choice. In fact, I even practised for much of my AMusA Diploma exam on it.
The escapement and ivory-feel keyboard is as good as any grand, particularly responsive to repeated notes and in fact much more like a grand piano than my Kawai upright. Best of all, it doesn’t need tuning!
I haven’t even started exploring all the rhythms, songs, backing tracks and recording options. It also has a smaller brother piano called the FP-4F, however this doesn’t have quite the same action. Similarly, the older FP4 and FP7s also have a much more basic action.
I’ve heard the Yamaha Avant Grand (the first truly “hybrid” digital piano with a full concert grand action in a digital box) might be on the way to Australia, but for the $10,000+ price tag for the cheapest model, I doubt it be worth it when you can get this fantastic machine for around $3000 or less. By the way, I reckon it’s also much better than the far more expensive Roland V-piano which is supposedly their flagship digital grand piano.
Make sure you play the FP-7F when you’re next in a music store.
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Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular TopCast show, blogs regularly at topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, California Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.