So you’re going to be on stage and need some keys to jam with? The best stage piano is the perfect investment for those key players needing a solution for bringing on stage for performances since we can’t bring an upright or grand piano around with us (technically, you can try). Although in our digital pianos guide we highlighted some of the best alternatives to real pianos out there, we wanted to write a guide that really focus on those digital pianos that were more accustomed to the stage environment. Before we get into our top 10 picks, let’s get a few things clear to help you find the model that’s perfect for you.
What is a stage piano?
What exactly is a stage piano? If we’re comparing digital pianos vs. stage pianos; they’re technically within the same category; however, the more broad term ‘digital piano’ may not necessarily describe its setting use and application. We have many different routes to go when it comes to playing keys, whether it’s MIDI keyboards with VST plugins or synthesizers and more, stage pianos come in for a certain specialty — an electronic keyboard that tries it’s best to emulate a real, acoustic piano — whether it comes to the feel of the keys all the way down to the warm sound we’re all in love with. On top of this, they’re also made for that particular setting — your stage performance! This also means they’re transportable (although easier said than done), so you can go from gig to gig at your live performances without needing to hire piano movers to move that upright piano every weekend.
Picking your digital piano for the stage
Your budget is first and foremost going to dictate the direction you go — and tell you off the bat, the best stage pianos out there that will really give you some exceptional quality will cost quite a few dollars (the better models are in the thousands+ range). If this is a surprise, don’t be alarmed; there are still some budget-friendly models we recommend if you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on yours. However, the thousand-dollar plus models are worth it in our opinion and you’re getting what you pay for, especially if this will be a long-term investment.
After you’ve decided on how much cash you’d like to spend on your stage piano (or how much you’ll want to save up after picking your model), keep in mind the key-make. Firstly, we recommend for stage pianos to always go with 88 keys (some come with less, but they’re typically cheaper). Also when it comes to keys, you first want to see what they’re made of — ivory, ebony, plastic, something in-between? The cheaper the piano, typically the less quality they put into the keys — some can live with this or others may scoff since we know a lot of keyboardists who say the keys are the most important part of it all (keep in mind ivory is what real pianos are made of). Aside from key make, you then want to make sure what type of mechanism the keys are built with when ti comes to how you play them and how they interact with the piano itself. The most popular type (and best, in our opinion) are fully-weighted and hammer-action.
On top of key feel (which aside from price is an obvious must for any pianist), the last factor to keep in mind is your stage pianos little features built-in to the unit. Many of these have a computer inside which provides some extra functions you may or may not feel is worth a price hike. We’re talking metronomes, FX (reverb, compression, resonance, etc.), microphone inputs, additional sounds and voices (aside from a piano sound, such as synths, harpsichords, etc.), MIDI connectivity, and more.
This PDF about acoustic vs. digital pianos is extremely helpful if you want some more help before we delve into our top 10 picks, otherwise, let’s get started.
The best stage pianos
Up first we have in our opinion one of the best digital pianos for a stage, the PX-560. This one is the latest creation of the Casio’s Privia Pro line, which features the sounds of the very popular and solid PX-5S, and incorporates new tones, user-programmable rhythms, built-in speakers, and an easy-to-use 5.3” Color Touch Interface. The PX-560 sports a tri-sensor 88-note scaled hammer action with ebony and ivory-textured keys, while also coming with a multi-dimensional Morphing AiR Sound Source which make the concert grand piano sounds come out clean. With the all-new ‘Casio Hex Layer Synthesis’, you may also have complete control over your hammer response, damper noise & resonance, string resonance, and key-off simulation to give you numerous ways to really customize your sound. It is also very light, weighing in at only 26 lbs, which makes for easy mobility. Now this pick is for someone who has a little more of a budget, and if you’re in the market for not only a piano but a workstation on top of it all, then don’t hesitate to grab the Casio PX-560.
Next we look at the Yamaha P45, which is one of the best stage pianos for people looking to try learn how to play the piano, as it is one of the more economically priced models. The P45 is a 88-note, graded hammer standard (GHS) digital piano that offers a basic set of features – ideal for a beginning piano student. The GHS weighted action gives the P45 an acoustic piano feel, and practicing on GHS action helps someone build proper technique when it comes to actually performing on an acoustic piano while saving some money at the same time. Another highlight is the Advanced Wave Memory (AWM) stereo sampling allows you to hear the deep, true sound that’s captured by two microphones (L and R). The P45 has a compact and slim design, weighing in at only 25 lbs – bring it anywhere without difficulty. It sits on the lowest price point of guide, and if you are new to the piano-game, the Yamaha P45 might be the best stage piano for you.
Nord Stage 2 HA88
Moving onto our next digital piano, we approach the highly interactive Nord Stage 2 HA88. The entire Stage 2 series is extremely famous is for our serious composers, as it is the most cutting-edge types of stage pianos in our guide. Backed with Nord’s new flagship instrument technology, the HA88 serves as one of the best live performance pianos on the market. The Stage 2 features 3 sound generating sections: piano, organ, and synthesizer, all of which can be used at the same time. The piano section has approximately 500 megabyte memory for piano sounds (all sounds can be saved in the Nord Piano Library), while also featuring sounds from acoustic grand pianos, upright pianos, electric pianos, harpsichords, and the electric grand pianos incl. CP-80 to name a few. Utilizing the Nord sample and piano libraries (in the organ and synthesizer sections), the Stage 2 HA88 can be customized for various piano, organ, electric piano, clavinet, synth, and other sounds. To better your experience – you get some FX too; a compressor and reverb are placed at the end of the sound chain to help you blend your sounds more naturally together. As I said before, the HA88 is something a little more advanced, and if you’re serious about your piano career, check out the Nord Stage 2 HA88 — this thing is a monster.
Here we get a feel for the RD-300NX, one of the best live performance pianos in our guide. This ultra-playable piano is ideal for all types of performances due to its hundreds of built-in rhythms and sounds, Ivory Feel-G keyboard and on-board effects. The RD-300NX has an easy-to-use ‘One Touch Piano’ feature that gives you instant access to their grand piano and electric piano sounds – allowing you to liven your on-stage performances at just the touch of a button. These sounds are engineered with Roland’s SuperNATURAL technology, along with the on-board electric piano sounds. The Rd-300NXb offers creative and great playability plus very solid sounds for the price you are paying. It also comes featured with the Sound Focus feature, which makes sure that every note you play can be heard clearly, without compromising the dynamics of your playing style. You are also able to build custom pianos with the Piano Designer feature via the easy-to-read display. Now Roland RD-300NX is probably for your most advanced piano players, and should be considered if you’re looking for one of the best live stage performance pianos.
The Alesis Coda is another one of the simpler models that is in our opinion one the best digital stage pianos for beginners. However, the Coda could be useful for anyone, beginner or pro! This 88-key digital piano comes with 20 piano voices, 60 preset songs and record mode, which all make the experience fairly engaging. The Coda’s compact design, MIDI connectivity, easy setup, and transportability are all features that make this model easy to travel with. It also comes with a built-in metronome, dual headphone outputs, and a split keyboard lesson mode which gives beginners some direction, and a real instrument to learn and practice on. You can also enjoy the full 88-key playability with AIR and SONiVOX-designed sounds, 50 accompaniment patterns, and built-in effects. When you take into account the price of this model and all that it’s able to do, it is not hard to justify spending the money for the Alesis Coda, especially if you’re just starting out.
A little past midway point of our guide, we introduce one of our best live performance pianos, the Kurzweil SP4-8. This one is an 88-key stage piano that comes equipped with 128 Sounds, built-in drum patterns, and a large LCD Screen. The 88-note hammer-weighted action keyboard with velocity sensitive adjustable keys ensures a more realistic grand piano feel that others in this guide can’t provide. The Kurzweil gives you a variety of sounds; the 128 sounds built-in the piano feature Kurzweil’s ‘Triple Strike Grand Piano‘, classic electric pianos, lush strings and orchestral instruments to mention a few. The SP4-8’s easy-to-use interface also allows you to create splits or layers (up to 4 zones) and select presets, with just the touch of a button – suitable for either onstage or in the studio. It also comes with dozens of pro-quality effects that give you the tools to add layers of depth and dimension to your music when performing. If you’re in the market for a professional stage piano, the Kurzweil SP4-8 may be the best live performance piano for you.
The CP40 is one of the more versatile digital stage pianos in our guide, giving you a variety of rich sounds based on the Yamaha CFIIIS, one of Yamaha’s grand pianos. The CP40 is an 88-key stage piano with 297 presets, a graded hammer action keyboard, and pitch and mod wheels – all designed to enhance the live and studio experience. It also comes with 35 vintage EPs and 247 voices from Yamaha’s flagship Motif workstation. The hammer action keyboard is designed to give you a natural feel, while also coming with an interface that lets you easily create splits and layers with the simple layout and large illuminated buttons. The CP40 can also be used as a full-fledged MIDI Controller, coming equipped with pitch and mod wheels and a CC pedal input, so you may have full control of your software or hardware synths during your performances. This is the one of the best live performance pianos on the market, and if you have a little money to spend, then look no further than Yamaha’s CP40 if you weren’t feeling our previous picks thus far.
This one here is also another one of our user-friendly pianos that is best suited for your beginners, or someone who may not have the largest budget. The portable and stylish SP-170S is simple in design, while also still emphasizing the vital piano elements: a comfortable keyboard and a satisfying sound for the price you are paying. It also offers a convenient piano play button which instantly recalls the main piano sound from which you were jammin’ to. The SP-170S provides a total of ten sounds, including electric pianos, harpsichord, organs, and strings to name a few. Korg also has a new natural-weighted hammer action feature (NH), which gives you a pretty close representation of an acoustic piano considering the price of this one. Perhaps the feature that makes this model one of the best digital pianos for stage is that it comes with key touch controls, which offer three levels of sensitivity to match the keyboard to any style of play. If you are in the market for a digital piano, don’t miss out on the Korg SP-170S, which offers reliability and pretty good sound at a very affordable price.
Casio PX-350 Privia
Hitting the final turn in our guide, we look at one of the best digital pianos for stage or studio, the PX-350 Privia. The PX-350 Privia is a combination of a new 88-note keyboard, with tri-sensor hammer action and Casio’s proprietary AiR (Acoustic and Intelligent Resonator) sound source that provide a detailed sound and expression of a grand piano, while also maintaining a lightweight and stylish design. The Privia’s AiR sound engine provides realism and a detail that other models in this guide cannot match, which makes it one of best live performance pianos on the market right now. As said above, this digital piano features a 88-note tri-sensor scaled hammer action keyboard, with simulated ebony and ivory keys that may add a more realistic feel to your live performances. It also comes with a total of 250 built-in instrument tones, such as strings, organs, electric pianos, brass, and drums to name a few – also giving you the option to store your favorite splits and layers once you figure out which tones sound best with each other. Casio’s PX-350 Privia sits on the lower price point of our guide, and offers some solid live performance features that both novices and experts can find useful. You can’t go wrong with a Privia.
Now at the end of our guide, we check out yet another model made from Yamaha (for good reason), the P-255. This one is an 88-key contemporary digital stage piano that uses Yamaha’s Pure CF Sampling CFIIIS Sounds and graded hammer action keys which makes it one of the best digital pianos for stage. It comes with an on board stereo speaker system that provides enough sound for small venues, or even your studio, without an external PA. The P-255 uses Pure CF Sampling which bring the sound of a Yamaha CFIIIS concert grand piano to life and also comes with built-in rhythm patterns that let you spice up your live performances with drums and percussion. You can also cut through the mix onstage when you’re in sound boost mode, which makes the 255 louder and a bit beefier to enhance its presence. It is a little pricey, but when you put in perspective all the features and quality you are receiving, it’s really not that hard to justify spending the money on this unique model. Do yourself a favor, and don’t miss out on the Yamaha P-255!