The production of sound in pianos, both digital and acoustic, is a fascinating blend of art and engineering. While digital pianos have come a long way in replicating the sound and feel of their acoustic counterparts, there are still notable differences between the two. In this article, we will focus on the key differences in sound production between digital pianos and acoustic pianos, with a particular emphasis on upright pianos. It is important to note that while digital pianos have made great strides, acoustic instruments continue to offer a higher level of precision and authenticity in sound production.

Resonance, action, vibration

One of the most significant distinctions between digital and acoustic pianos lies in the production of sound through acoustic resonance. Acoustic pianos generate sound when hammers strike the strings, creating vibrations that resonate throughout the instrument. This natural resonance adds depth and richness to the sound, creating a more organic and immersive playing experience. Digital pianos, on the other hand, rely on electronic sound samples, lacking the intricate resonance that occurs in acoustic pianos.

In upright pianos, the hammer mechanism plays a crucial role in sound production. Acoustic upright pianos feature an intricate system of hammers that strike the strings at different velocities, depending on how the keys are pressed. This mechanism allows for a wide range of tonal expression, enabling musicians to convey nuances and dynamics. Digital pianos use sensors to detect key velocity and mimic the hammer mechanism digitally, but they often lack the same level of responsiveness and subtlety.

Acoustic pianos produce sound through the physical vibrations of the strings. The quality and characteristics of these vibrations contribute to the unique tonal qualities of each note. Digital pianos attempt to replicate these vibrations through complex algorithms and multi-sampled recordings, but they can fall short in capturing the intricacies and nuances of string resonance found in acoustic instruments.

In upright pianos and Keybird instruments, the wooden cabinet plays a vital role in sound production. The vibrations created by the strings transfer to the soundboard and other parts of the cabinet, causing the entire instrument to resonate. This resonance adds warmth and depth to the sound. Digital pianos, lacking a physical soundboard, are unable to recreate this natural resonance, resulting in a more sterile and artificial sound.


Digital pianos provide extensive sound customization options, allowing players to select different piano tones, adjust parameters, and even add digital effects. While this versatility can be appealing, it deviates from the fixed and consistent sound production of acoustic pianos. Generally, acoustic instruments offer a distinct sound signature that is inherent to their construction and cannot be altered. With Keybird, the customizable felt additions offer a wide variety of changes to the original Keybird sound. Also, with the midi out and pickup options, your range of sounds becomes infinite, depending on your sound processing gear.


Another critical aspect of sound production is the tactile experience of playing the instrument. Acoustic upright pianos have a natural touch and feel, with keys that respond to varying levels of pressure and offer resistance based on the piano’s mechanism. Digital pianos attempt to replicate this feel through weighted or graded hammer action keys, but they may not provide the same level of authenticity and responsiveness as acoustic pianos.


While digital pianos have made remarkable progress in emulating the sound and feel of acoustic pianos, there are fundamental differences in sound production between the two. Acoustic upright pianos, with their intricate mechanisms, natural resonance, and organic vibrations, continue to offer a level of precision and authenticity that digital instruments strive to achieve. The acoustic resonance, hammer mechanism, string vibration, cabinet resonance, and other unique characteristics of acoustic pianos contribute to a more nuanced and expressive sound.

Although digital pianos provide convenience, versatility, and the ability to reproduce a wide range of piano tones, they often fall short in capturing the depth, warmth, and subtleties of acoustic instruments. The limitations in polyphony, the absence of physical resonances, and the inability to replicate the exact touch and feel of acoustic pianos all contribute to a less precise sound production.

For musicians and enthusiasts seeking the most authentic piano experience, acoustic upright pianos remain the preferred choice. The richness and complexity of their sound production, coupled with the tactile feedback and responsiveness, create a deeply immersive playing experience that digital instruments have yet to fully replicate.

While digital pianos have their merits and continue to improve with advancing technology, they serve as convenient alternatives for various settings where portability, sound customization, and recording capabilities are essential. However, when it comes to capturing the essence and subtleties of sound, the precision and authenticity of acoustic pianos remain unparalleled.