When choosing a digital piano, as a basic rule I always lean toward companies that have a reputation for manufacturing great-sounding acoustic pianos. If you want big piano tone and feel in a lightweight keyboard, you're asking for a lot, but you may be in luck. The new Yamaha NP-V80 and the Yamaha NP-V60 Piaggero keyboards weigh less than 16 pounds, yet offer 76 keys and rich piano tones.
Before we go any further, I just want to make it clear that the name "Piaggero" is the combination of the Italian word "leggaro" (which means light), and piano. This is an instrument that prides itself on being a featherweight with multiple sounds, lots of built-in musical accompaniment styles, with a really easy-to-understand user interface.
When we're talking about keyboards, it's important to talk about the keys themselves. Both Piaggero models feature “Graded Soft Touch” keyboards which imitate the resistance found in acoustic piano keys. If you build a lightweight digital piano, one of the things you're giving up are the weighted wooden piano keys. But what you can do is have them imitate the behavior of real piano keys.
When you press a key on an acoustic piano, a hammer physically strikes a string inside of the instrument. The lower you go on the keyboard, the heavier the hammers get because the strings they strike are thicker. The keys at the lower portion of an acoustic piano have more resistance, while the higher keys require a lighter touch to play a note.
The Graded Soft Touch keyboard on the Piaggero series mimics the resistance in an acoustic piano. This way you get a natural playing feel in a piano that a pre-teen can tuck under an arm and carry up a staircase.
The physical appearances of the NP-V80 and the NP-V60 are nearly identical. One of the only ways to distinguish between them are the narrow cherry wood end pieces on the NP-V80. Besides that, the NP-V80 has an additional pair of 5 cm speakers (both models have two 12 cm x 6 cm built-in speakers), an included footswitch, 11 extra voices (the NP-V60 has 489, the NP-V80 has 500), and five extra styles (the NP-V60 has 160, the NP-V80 has 165).
However, the main difference between these two digital pianos is the "smart" arpeggiator in the NP-V80. Before I explain what a smart arpeggiator is, I'll first explain what a basic arpeggiator is. When you turn an arpeggiator on and press and hold a single key, instead of one note sounding, a sequence of notes will play. Likewise, when you play and hold a chord, a number of sequences of notes will play. The sequence of notes is called an "arpeggio."
On a traditional keyboard or synthesizer, it can be tricky to match the right arpeggio with the current instrument sound you have called up on the instrument. When you change the sound or you change the arpeggio, a bit of programming can be required to make the two elements work together. This is not an issue with the smart arpeggiator found on the NP-V80.
When you change the instrument sound on the NP-V80, the smart arpeggiator will adjust the arpeggio to better suit the settings on the keyboard. For example, if you switch from a grand piano to a clavinet, the arpeggio will change to take full advantage of the sonic character of the clav. In addition to matching the instrument sound, the arpeggio will also be synced with the internal tempo of the NP-V80. So if you have rhythm and bass accompaniment playing, the arpeggios will be perfectly in time with them.
With any digital piano, there are a few essential accessories that make the whole experience of owning and playing the instrument a lot more rewarding. Having the right kind of keyboard stand, bench and case can make all the difference. B&H has put together complete kits for both the NP-V60 and the NP-V80 that take all of the guesswork out of assembling a digital piano system. All of the necessary accessories are included, so all you need to do is to set up and start making music.
All in all, there's a lot to be found on both of these keyboards for surprisingly little money. Yamaha has one of the best reputations for making great-sounding pianos (both acoustic and digital), and the Piaggero series may be your ticket into this musical space. If you have any questions about the Yamaha Piaggero series, or about digital pianos in general, we'd love to see them in the Comments section of this post!