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Stage pianos are great instruments built for live use by piano players. They tend to have the necessary components that a travelling musician needs. Given that they have a slimmer and more compact build, transporting and setting them up is easy. Additionally, they take up less space since they don’t have built-in stands and pedals compared to many standard digital pianos.
Whether you are in a band, an accompanist or a solo musician that often goes gigging or on tour, this guide is for you.
- The Best Stage Pianos
- Things to Consider When Buying a Stage Piano
The Best Stage Pianos
The Kawai ES110 showcases a responsive hammer-action keyboard with a sound engine that samples the Kawai EX concert grand piano. In addition it offers a variety of instrument samples, such as electric pianos, organs, strings, acoustic and electric bass. It also has a built-in lesson function for beginners and an integrated Bluetooth MIDI that allows it to connect wirelessly with supported smart devices.
- Keys: 88, Grade-weighted hammers
- Polyphony: 192
- Effects: 3 types of Reverb
- Sequencer: 3 song recorder, 15,000 note memory
- Audio Inputs: None
- Audio Outputs: 2 x 1/4" Stereo jacks
- Other Connectivity 1 x 1/4" Pedal input, MIDI In/Out
- Dimension: 51.57" x 5.83" x 11.22"
- Weight: 26.45 lbs
One of the great aspects many users pointed out is that it's quite light-weight for an 88-key hammer-actioned stage piano. Its fast response keys and realistic-like piano sounds impressed a lot of musicians. Apart from the good quality piano samples, the hammond organ sounds quite realistic as well. Some professional players mentioned the keys had a more refined touch compared to the other stage pianos they have previously used. The build and design of the stage piano is quite simplistic with the right amount of features, which makes it very straightforward to use.
Some users mentioned that they get a better sound by connecting it to the amplifier compared to using its speakers. One user was disappointed with the lack of USB connection, which isn't an issue if you can connect wirelessly via the Bluetooth option.
At an affordable price, this is an ideal option for beginners.
Casio Privia PX-5S
Casio are known for producing affordable pianos and keyboards, and the Privia PX-5S is one to look out for. It features Casio's AiR processor, which seeks to emulate the detail and high definition sounds found in a grand piano. It also features the Hex layer synthesizer technology found in Casio's XW-P1 synthesizer. This is made out of six sample layers that make up a single tone where you can manipulate each of their own parameters and effects. In addition it has multiple physical controllers including pitch and modulation wheels, 4 knobs, 6 sliders and 2 foot switch inputs.
- Keys: 88, Hammer action
- Polyphony: 256
- Effects: System Effects, Insert Effects, Master Effects
- Sequencer: 8 Tracks
- Other Controllers: 4 knobs, 6 sliders, Pitch & Modwheel
- Audio Inputs: 2 x 1/4" Line-in, 1 x 1/8" Line-in
- Audio Outputs:2 x 1/4" TS Lin-Out
- Other Connectivity 2 Pedal Inputs
- Dimension: 52.05" x 5.31" x 11.26"
- Weight: 24.47 lbs
Stage friendly and portable are some of the comments mentioned by musicians who have experience using this unit. For an 88-key piano, it's very light weight since the main body is made out of plastic. Despite being made using plastic, it's quite sturdy and having it powered by batteries makes it convenient to bring around for a jam. In terms key action, a number of customers mentioned it had a very fast and natural response. The built-in grand piano presets produced great quality sounds, while its Arp and Hex Layering allowed piano players to layer the pianos with other patches creatively. In his Sound on Sound review, Nick Magnus mentioned its sound engine "provides seamless timbral variations across the dynamic range; ie. no audible jumps between velocity layers, as well as a smooth tonal gradation across the entire keyboard range. "
Although the knobs and faders are easy to figure out, some reviewers found issues with the menu system. An example of this is pressing four buttons in order to transpose keys. Some also found the organ presets don't have a natural sound to them, which isn't really an issue if you focus on using piano presets.
This is an affordable, convenient and light-weight option with great effects and layering capabilities.
Casio PX-560 Privia Pro
The Casio PX-560 Privia Pro is another affordable digital stage piano featuring ebony and ivory textured keys. Its 5.3" touch-screen color display makes it easy to add new sounds, program rhythms and access other parameters. When it comes to its sound source, the Multi-dimensional Morphing AiR Sound Source allows natural simulation of acoustic piano tones. Additionally, you can control its hammer action response, damper resonance levels and string resonance levels.
- Keys: 88, 3 Sensors Tri-sensor Scaled Hammer Action Keyboard
- Polyphony: 256
- Effects: Reverb - 17 Types (Editable) Chorus - 16 Types (Editable) Delay- 6 Types (Editable) Mester EQ -4 Bands Parametric EQ DPS - 20 Types (Parameter Editable DSP)
- Sequencer: 16 Multi Track + 1 System Track
- Other Controllers: Pitchbend, Mod Wheel
- Audio Inputs: 2 x 1/4" (L/R) Line-In, 1 x 1/8" TRS Auxiliary
- Audio Outputs: 2 x 1/4" (L/R) Line-Out
- Other Connectivity MIDI In, Out/Thru, USB, 1 x 1/4" Damper Pedal, 1 x 1/4" Assignable Pedal
- Dimension: 52.0" x 11.5" x 5.8"
- Weight: 26.5 lbs
This stage piano exceeded a lot of reviewers' expectations from Casio. A lot of them found the controls and parameters easy to use, in which they were able to select, edit and customize sounds effortlessly via color touch screen display. The standout feature that impressed a lot of reviewers was its keys. It provided a great feel and dynamic sensitivity with enough weight that mimics the keys found in an actual grand piano. The layering and various editing options gave a nice touch when it came to customizing sounds that are complementary.
One reviewer mentioned it takes a while to boot up from the time you turn on the unit to the time you can play. It's best to have it set up early before any live performances.
This is a considerable choice to use for both live performance and at home if you're looking for a simple unit.
Nord Electro 5D 73-key
The Nord Electro 5D 73-key has a lot to offer when it comes to features. Aside from the stage piano section that contains sampled acoustic and electric pianos, it includes a tone wheel organ section and a sample synth section. The organ section contains physical drawbars that's similar to what's seen on a real organ, providing the ability to tweak your sound in a similar manner. In addition to that, this stage piano's split layering capabilities allow you to customize your own sound patches.
- Keys: 73, Semi-weighted
- Polyphony: 100 Notes (40 Stereo, 60 Mono)
- Effects: Effects Section (Effect 1, Effect 2, Amp Simulations, Master Effects)
- Audio Inputs: 1 x 1/8" Monitor input
- Audio Outputs: 2 x 1/4" Line Out, 1 x 1/4" Headphone jack
- Other Connectivity Pedal Inputs (1 x Control, 1 x Rotor, 1 x Sustain), MIDI In/Out, USB, IEC C14 power connector
- Dimension: 42" x 3.8" x 11.7"
- Weight: 20.28 lbs
From electronic pianos to acoustic piano samples, its built-in core patches and quality effects were the features that stood out the most. Many users commented on how its B3 organ section also simulates the sound similar to the actual instrument. Programming its layering and splitting functions were truly effortless because of its intuitive controls and layout. Many of them were also pleased that they can download and transfer their own patches depending on their desired sound. In terms of build, it's quite light weight and portable enough to carry around.
Overall this is an excellent and versatile quality stage piano that's great for those who want to customize their own sounds.
Along with Yamaha's signature graded hammer action keybed, the CP300 provides a resistant effect on keys similar to playing an acoustic piano. This stage piano has a built-in speaker system that's great to use for practice or monitoring sounds at gigs. It also includes a 16-track song recorder/player for playback or creating songs, and a 2-part layer and split function that enables you to play different voices on each hand.
- Keys: 88, Weighted
- Polyphony: 128
- Effects: 5 Effects (Reverb, Chorus, Master Compressor, Master EQ, Insertion Effect)
- Sequencer: 16-track recording/playback,
- Other Controllers: Pitch Bend, Modulation, Master Equalizer Slider, Zone Control Slider, Song Volume Slider, Master Volume Dial
- Audio Inputs: 2 x 1/4" TS Line-in
- Audio Outputs: 2 x 1/4" TS Line-out, 2 x XLR Output, 1 x 1/4" Headphone out
- Other Connectivity 1 x 1/4" Pedal Input, MIDI In/ Out / Thru, USB
- Dimension: 54.75" x 6.75" x 18.25"
- Weight: 71.7 lbs
A lot of gigging musicians were impressed by its tone quality and configuration settings, most of them mentioning its piano patches and feel are close to playing a real piano. Many of them also were very satisfied with its onboard EQ sliders, allowing them to mix and balance out their sound when playing live. The internal speakers were useful for home users whenever they use it for piano practicing. Its rugged and sturdy build quality makes it great for taking on the road since it won't break easily.
Since it has a lot of weight to it because of its rugged build, some musicians find it an issue when carrying it around. In this case, some of them don't really have a problem with this and tend to invest in a hard case with wheels or have two people carry it when taking it on the road.
If you are a touring musician who is looking for a stage piano for that's ideal to use for both gigs and something for practicing at home, this is a great unit.
The Kurzweii Forte sports 16GB of sounds- ranging from Japanese concert pianos, electronic pianos such as Rhodes and Wurlitzers, as well as orchestral percussion. Its highlight feature includes its patented flash-play technology which allows you to load sounds instantly from its sound library in real-time. In addition to that, it has organ modelling section, editable FX engine and 16 arpeggiators.
- Keys: 88, fully-weighted hammer-action with velocity and aftertouch sensitive keys
- Polyphony: 128
- Effects: Over 1000 complex effect chains,, 32 total FX units
- Sequencer: 16-Track recorder
- Other Controllers: 1 x Pitch wheel, 1 x Modulation wheel, 9 x Front panel sliders (w/ LED ladders), 9 x Switches (assignable/zone mutes/KB3 control), 1 x Variation switch,
1 x tap tempo switch, 2 x transpose switches, *3 x switch pedal inputs (1 switch/sustain pedal is included, 2 x continuous control pedal inputs monopressure
- Audio Inputs: 1 x 1/8" back-panel input (with FX)
- Audio Outputs: 4 x 1/4" balanced TRS analog
- Other Connectivity MIDI In/Thru/Out
- Dimension: 54.5" x 5.5" x 15.5"
- Weight: 48 lb
Aside from its piano patches, the Forte's synthesizer and effects engine were commended by a lot of reviewers since it offers quality synths and effects respectively. A very intuitive layout is presented with its large color display that offers an organized and well-structured interface when it comes to accessing settings. Its buttons and sliders make it easy for users to edit and customize sounds, especially during live performances. In his Sound on Sound review, Gordon Reid mentioned that its control panel "offers robust controls, clear on–screen menus, ‘live’ on–screen display of which parameter you’re adjusting when you grab a physical control, and many other welcome touches." Many users also mentioned that it was easy to upgrade with the latest software updates, which improve its functionality.
This is exceptional for those who are looking for a stage piano that offers great quality piano samples as well as synthesizer patches.
Things to Consider When Buying a Stage Piano
Size, Portability and Durability
One of the factors that sets stage pianos apart from digital pianos is that they aren't built into a cabinet and are meant to be portable. Although they are built with a robust body in order to withstand getting broken from heavy touring, there are a number options for musicians that enables them to carry the instrument on their own. In this case, weight and size is also factor when it comes to portability-the lighter and smaller the stage piano, the easier to carry around. Finding a stage piano that you can easily pack into your car or van and light enough to carry on your own is recommended. If you prefer a more robust option with extra weight and features just be prepared for the extra effort loading in and out.
Since a stage piano is specifically designed for stage use, it usually comes with quality instrument samples. Manufacturers use tone generation and layering technologies to sample and model real instruments, sometimes their own signature acoustic piano in order to accurately emulate the real thing. Apart from acoustic pianos, most of them also sample instruments from classic electric pianos to Hammond organs. In the end, it’s quite subjective depending on what type of sound you are going for. If possible, it's good to test and listen to any subtle nuances, such as the sustain and decay, that make it sound similar to the actual instrument.
Sound Quantity and Value
Stage pianos usually contain fewer sound selections that a standard keyboard or synthesizer. They typically have acoustic piano, electric piano, Hammond organ, and a few other synths. This really depends on what type of music you play and what you need when it comes to sound selection. For example if you play for jazz bands, it is best to give priority in choosing a stage piano with great acoustic piano. If you are a versatile musician that experiments and does accompaniments with the use of multiple sounds, having the essential samples, such as pianos, electric pianos, organ, are often enough.
When it comes to function, they are mostly comprised of controls and features that are simpler. This makes it more efficient than scrolling through menus for accessing large numbers of sounds and settings. It’s highly recommended to look for one that caters to your specific needs, such as the ability to save settings from an easy accessible set lists, split function, layering multiple sounds on the go, and on-board EQ.
Key Action and Sensitivity
Most stage pianos come with 76 to 88 keys. Hammer-weighted action keys are ideal when looking for a stage piano. Traditional pianos have keys that are attached to a lever that causes the felt-covered hammer to strike the strings inside the piano, so manufacturer's try to replicate that effect to make it feel more authentic to the player. Although there are some stage pianos with semi-weighted keys, it best to invest in weighted keys in that way you can play on any piano with the same sense of feel. Velocity sensitive keys are required if you want that similar dynamic movement that adds a more authentic touch.
Some stage pianos don’t have built-in speakers and are designed to be connected to an external amplification system, such as a PA system or keyboard amplifier. By default, stage pianos have stereo outputs, one monitor input and an input for a pedal. A monitor or headphone output is essential to monitor your own playing live or whenever you practice at home. USB connectivity is an optional feature you may look into if you plan to connect your unit to a laptop or any other computing device for additional features or sound editing purposes, but this isn't usually a requirement for live performance.
Best Stage Piano Selection Methodology
Although there is some overlap between Digital Pianos and Stage Pianos, we chose to focus on those that are labeled as Stage Pianos by the manufacturers but did include some that don't have that title but which are clearly designed for live performance. There were 15 stage pianos on our short-list and you can see the complete list in the Music Gear Database. We gathered ratings and reviews about eligible stage pianos that were priced up to $5,000 from online retailers, forum discussions, online magazines and blogs, and we processed those data with the Gearank Algorithm to produce the scores out of 100 that you see above. We then selected the highest rated options to recommend. For more information about our methods, please read How Gearank Works.