Music education expert Tim Topham shares his thoughts and insights on the hybrid piano.
Just as hybrid cars offer drivers the best of both worlds…
Fuel for internal combustion
Electric power from battery generation, energy reabsorption and regeneration from braking, etc.
Cheaper running costs from not burning gas all the time
…so too hybrid pianos bridge the divide between acoustic and digital, offering the best aspects of an acoustic piano (namely the touch and feel of the action), with all the benefits of a digital instrument (see below).
The price range of some of the newer hybrids such as Kawai’s Novus offers stiff competition to even acoustic upright manufacturers by offering a similar price point and a superior action.
If you’re a teacher who requests that all students purchase an acoustic piano before starting lessons, or if you’re a teacher for whom the thought of teaching or playing a digital instrument is anathema, then I’d like you to reconsider the landscape.
Technology, as you know, is impacting on every aspect of our lives, and while you might want to keep pianos out of it, the time has come to consider what hybrid instruments can offer you and your students.
A hybrid piano is simply a digital instrument with some kind of acoustic piano action inside.
Depending on the make and model, hybrid pianos feature either an upright or grand piano action that has been only slightly modified from the original acoustic construction.
Unlike digital pianos and synthesizers, hybrid pianos don’t generally feature extensive rhythm and sound banks or on-board multi-track recording. This is left to digital and stage pianos and synthesizers which are designed more for recording studios.
Different types of hybrids
The Aures can be considered as an acoustic piano with a digital brain. You play it as a ‘normal’ piano, but then switch to digital mode, utilising volume, tuning, transposing, metronome, song recorder and playback functions, as well as accessing a built-in piano music library. Dual headphone sockets allow for quiet work in the classroom too. .
The Novus is largely a sophisticated digital piano, with an acoustic skeleton. Fusing an acoustic piano action with digital technologies, the hammers are carbon and the strings are paths of light. The Novus never needs tuning and offers a suite of sound design, practice and recording tools, and sound by one of the world’s premium audio technology companies.
I made my main studio and YouTube recording instrument the Novus NV10 a few years ago and I’ve never looked back. It plays just like an acoustic grand, sounds like a Shigeru Kawai (!) and allows me to record and practice with headphones on.
Advantages and disadvantages
There are many advantages to hybrid pianos:
Smaller size and weight can mean you don’t need piano movers to relocate them
You can practice with headphones
Never require tuning
Easily connect to recording/MIDI/laptops/iPads
Variety of sounds available to explore for composition
Many include play-along options so that students can enjoy playing with orchestras
Many grand piano actions can be regulated, just like an acoustic
Nearly impervious to humidity or movement
Possible disadvantages (I struggled a bit here)!
They use (some) electricity
The electronic elements won’t work in a power outage
Some of them can be expensive
Some will say their actions and the sound produced are inferior, but I strongly disagree on both accounts.
I’m more than convinced of the merits of hybrid pianos and hope that you’ll consider how digital instruments could positively impact your studio or classroom as well.
Want to play a hybrid piano? Visit our Hybrid Piano Retailers to try a hybrid in store.
Written by Tim Topham. Prepared by Hugh Raine.