In this article I’m going to talk about some of the different characteristics that go into purchasing a digital piano for a church setting. There are a number of things you have to consider, and this decision is not always the easiest to make, as you are not making it for the benefit of just one person, but for the enjoyment of a group of people.
After discussing some of the different characteristics, we will then look at different pianos for different levels of expertise and outline some of the best options from companies like the Roland and Yamaha.
Below, check out our interactive table that features a variety of great pianos that are most ideal for a church setting.
Digital Pianos at Church
When looking at a digital piano for a church, you first have to understand that this is not like other performance settings, and the people in the pews is something you always have to take into account.
Different churches play different styles of music, and different styles of music require different instruments or tones, or even styles of piano. For example, some churches may only sing traditional hymns or classic songs, only desiring to hear the classic sound of a grand or upright piano and possibly some strings.
Other churches, on the other hand, are heaped in tradition of gospel songs dipped heavily in rhythm and blues or jazzy chords, necessitating the use of a machine with electric piano voices and some synthesizers.
Another factor to take into account is the breadth of the use of the church equipment. Some churches are small, and only need one person to bring his or her personal piano to church every session. Other churches are massive, and therefore require a specific piano set to be bought and be stationary within the church.
Below, please take a look at some of the best-selling digital pianos available online, and see how well they compare to the instruments we discuss today:
|1) Casio PX-770|
|2) Yamaha YDP-145|
|3) Roland RP-701|
|4) Yamaha YDP-165|
|5) Casio PX-870|
Some Examples of Popular Church Pianos
If you have ever come from any musical background within the church, you will know that there are some brand names that are well known as tried and true options. These options provide some of the best pianos and are well worth the fame they have garnered over the years through performance and word of mouth.
Many times, especially in my experience, I have found that slabs are better options than upright digital pianos, despite having pianos on the market like the Casio Privia PX-770 or Casio PX-870 or some instruments from Yamaha’s Clavinova lineup.
But slabs usually work out better in the church setting because they don’t have to deal with the big audio speaker and watt systems that uprights have most of the time. Slabs usually are built for performance, so all they need are outputs to hook into amplifiers or sound systems in order to be heard.
Roland, Yamaha, and Korg provide some of the best options for pianos inside the church, so let’s begin breaking them down.
The first of these is the Roland Fantom series. The Fantom series is a set of world-renowned workstation digital pianos that have a long lineage that dates back all the way to the early 90’s.
Here’s a quick list of all the Fantoms (and their predecessors):
- Roland JV 1080 (1994)
- Roland JV 2080 (1997)
- Roland XP 80/60 (1996)
- Roland XV 88 (1999)
- Roland XV 5080 (2000)
- Roland Fantom FA 76 (2001)
- Roland Fantom S (2003)
- Roland Fantom Xa (2005)
- Roalnd Fantom XR (2004)
- Roland Fantom X (8) (2004)
- Roland Fantom G (8) (2008)
As you can see, there is a great lineage here. These Fantoms have all been set apart by the amazing synthesizer playback engines they have been supported by, which produced top of the line sounds and voices, and always had the ability to sample, sequence, and integrate sounds.
- Roland Fantom
One of the best options on the market today from this lineage is the Roland Fantom G8. In truth, this is probably one of the best workstations you can get today, and it is one of the most coveted keyboards in churches all across the country.
It is a full-length 88 key instrument, supported by the Progressive Hammer Action II (PHA) Ivory Feel keyboard, which can actually be found on many lower level Roland models.
You might ask yourself why a much more weighty system isn’t on a piano like this, and it’s because this is not designed to be like a grand piano. Instead, it’s is designed to be efficient in multiple environments, be it the church, at home, or in the studio.
This piano has an unbelievable 2,230 sounds housed onboard, which is literally more than I have ever seen on any digital piano–ever. Truthfully, there is no reason to have to look anywhere else for a full collection of voices.
This is supported by 128 voices of maximum polyphony, which will assure that you will never have any dropped notes under any setting, whether or not you have layered or split instruments.
One of the only knocks on the Fantom series is that they very heavy. The Fantom G8 itself weighs upwards of 80 pounds. However, we must realize that these types of pianos are usually designed to be stationary, so if you are looking to travel a lot, you might want to look in another direction. The Fantom has a retail price of $4000 but you can easily find it cheaper online.
And below, check out an interesting video uploaded by someone who created a few church organs from complete scratch on his G8:
- Yamaha Motif
The Motifs are also music workstations, and when they came out they replaced Yamaha’s EX series. The Motif series is certainly on par with that of the Roland Fantom, something not every musical company can boast.
Here’s a list of some of the classes of Motifs that have debuted over the years:
- Yamaha Motif Classic, 6,7,8 (2001)
- Yamaha Motif ES 6,7,8 (2003)
- Yamaha Motif MO 6,8 (2006)
- Yamaha Motif XS 6,7,8 (2007)
- Yamaha Motif XF 6,7,8 (2010)
One of the most sought after versions of the Motif is the wonderful Yamaha Motif XF8.
The XF8 has a full length of 88 keys, which are supported by Yamaha’s Balanced Hammer Effect Keyboard. This key action system is not as widespread as some of the other Yamaha systems such as Graded Hammer Standard (GHS), but it is designed to be not as weighty but still bring the professional touch of a piano with the action of real keys.
The second generation of the Advanced Wave Memory tone generation system is seen here as well, except it has a bit of an upgrade with Expanded Articulation. Expanded Articulation allows the user to modify instruments to very detailed lengths, including changing piano key releases, guitar slides and harmonics, and changing strings between spicato, tremolo, and pizzicato.
The options are truly endless.
This piano has around 1,200 voices along with 128 notes of polyphony. Its retail price is, admittedly, quite staggering: $4,039. But if you rummage around online, I have no doubt you can find a pretty good deal.
Korg has a number of machines that can compete with the Roland Fantom and the Yamaha Motif. They are the Korg Triton, the Korg M3, and the Korg Kronos. They have all developed differently over the years, and some were made as progressions from others.
The Korg Triton was first released in 1999 and has seen at least 9 different versions, including Classic, Pro, Rack, KARMA, Le, Studio, Extreme, TR, and X50. The Korg M3 then debuted in 2007, as a successor to the Triton.
The Kronos debuted in 2012. One of the best options of these is the Kronos X. It has 88 keys supported by the Real Weighted Hammer Action III system (RH3), along with a synthesizer with an unheard of combination of nine sound engines. This means that the machine will be able to synthesize almost any electric sound or combination of sounds.
Each synthesizer has its own maximum polyphony, with some having 40 voices and others up to 200. So depending on what sound you are looking for you will have different polyphonic resources matched up. This machine also comes with up to 2 GB of expandable RAM, so you will always have more than enough space to record songs if desired. This is probably the cheapest of the pianos reviewed here, at a price of $2000 online.
A Good Upright to Buy
While I did mention that I personally think slabs are a bit better in the church setting than a bigger instrument, upright digital pianos are still wonderful and dependable options.
One great option is the Casio Privia PX 870, which we have reviewed and discussed quite a bit before. The PX-860 combines everything you might need in a piano, while still giving you the feel of a real upright acoustic piano.
It comes with Casio’s Tri-Sensor Scaled Hammer Action board, supported by a nice 256 notes of polyphony and 4 layers of stereo grand piano samples. It also has class compliant USB connectivity, which allows you to use the piano in connection with Mac or Windows, and also allows the piano to be used as a MIDI controller.
Speaking of connections, one other important factor you need to consider when buying a piano for a church is its connectivity options.
The sound, acoustics, and audience for almost every single church will be different, and it needs to be taken into account. Also, digital pianos with onboard speakers and amplifiers most likely will not be needed, simply because even the best built-in speakers will only be able to push your sound so far inside a church. And the goal is to have everyone be able to hear the music.
Most churches have capable sound systems that will allow for a connection to be made that will amplify the sound and allow it to be leveled and equalized. If not, a solid set of floor standing speakers might be ideal. From Infinity to Sony to JBL and Martin Logan, there are so many great manufacturers, lines, and prices that there’s little doubt you’ll find speakers that are not only good, but within your budget.
Also, its very important that the piano has the latest USB and MIDI capabilities, as not having such would limit the pianos ability to hook into recording software systems or to be able to control external sets of instrument packs through a device like an iPad.
One unfortunate thing about slabs, however, is that sometimes they mostly come with one pedal sustain unit, as opposed to three. So again, while slabs will have some signficiant advantages in terms of portability or connectivity options or price, there will be some drawbacks when compared to certain upright pianos.
With that said, here’s a list of some of the best three pedal units, should you need one after pursuing a digital slab piano:
- Roland RPU
- Yamaha LP-7A
- Casio SP-33
- Korg PU-2
- Kawai F-350
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