You might be surprised to come to a piano maker’s website and see “Hybrid Pianos” all over the place. Grand pianos have been around for 400-odd years, uprights not much less, and digital pianos and keyboards more than half a century. But hybrid pianos? Never heard of them.
As the name suggests, hybrid pianos blend traditional acoustic piano design with new digital elements. These can take many forms – hybrid pianos are still new enough that manufacturers are innovating new ideas with each new generation. Some are fully acoustic pianos that can made to sound through headphones. Some have real acoustic piano actions that trigger digital sound sources. Some bridge the difference between acoustic and digital more completely, incorporating all the features of both with the ability to switch modes.
Hybrid pianos are the logical extension of 50 years of digital piano manufacture. Since the earliest electronic pianos, the goal has been to replicate the touch and tone of the big grands. Technology, of course, has come along in leaps and bounds since then, and the pure digitals of today can contains solid wooden keys, performance grade audio components, and powerful computer systems capable of everything from playing back a metronome sound to hosting interactive lessons by the hundreds of books.
Still, there’s room to improve and still, there are plenty of players out there who’d have a grand piano or an upright piano if they had the money, or the space, or didn’t have neighbours that demand silence after 9pm. For 50 years, there’s been a gap between authenticity of experience and flexibility of function. Here, enter the hybrid piano.
The question for buyers is: what do you need from your piano? Does it need to feel exactly like a grand piano, without taking up much more space than an upright? Check out the Novus. Does it need to have both strings and Bluetooth? Look to the Aures. It’s a great time to be a piano buyer, with options on the market that were unthinkable just a few years ago, and unprecedented amalgams of performance and functionality. Maybe a grand piano is the only option for you; maybe anything more than a small keyboard is going to be too much – but maybe you’re one of the players who slipped into the gap between acoustic and digital. And if so, there have never been more options than there are right now.