When buying a piano or digital piano there are many elements to consider- What is the difference between a digital piano and an acoustic piano?
A digital piano uses the recorded sounds of a piano and ,when triggered by the keys, reproduces them. This sends information (midi) to the built in computer within the keyboard which makes the sound. This is then sent to the speakers (if there are any) or to your speaker system. This midi information can also be sent to an external computer to trigger other sounds (E.g drums, strings whatever really).
They have all different kinds of sounds and key weights Light keys, heavy keys etc etc... The heavier the key the more it will strengthen the muscles but take into account age and strength when deciding the very young (under 5) or old (varies a lot but over 75/80) need a bit of help with their muscles. :0)
Digital pianos normally come separate to a stand, pedal and case. They vary in size but can normally be packed away discretely.
These elements as you can expect vary in quality and price with the spectrum being £50 - £14,000. You can get a good digital piano for £400 second hand.
The keys can vary from something spring loaded (basic) to something which imitates the feel of a piano. Piano keys are heavier in touch in the low end and lighter in the high end. There are also a lot of techniques that you can play on a piano that affect the sound produced sometimes dramatically sometimes very subtly. Digital pianos ,although to most people sound good-great, do not have the range of expression a piano has. The touch can be emulated and up to a certain level but I have yet to feel one that is 100% convincing. Basically it's not a piano.
When a key is pushed down on a piano it lifts a piece of felt which has been resting on the strings. It also simultaneously triggers a number levers and mechanisms which eventually makes a felt tipped hammer strike the string/s. This makes the famous noise! This echoes around the casing of a piano. When you release the key another piece of felt dampens the vibrations of the keys and stops the noise.
There are thousands of different makes and models the best thing to do is to literally sit, play and find the one you like. It's a personal thing. They come in all shapes and sizes from the tiny to the gigantic. Light keys, heavy keys etc etc... The heavier the key the more it will strengthen the muscles but take into account age and strength when deciding the very young (under 5) or old (varies a lot but over 75/80) need a bit of help with their muscles. :0)
These elements as you can expect also vary in quality and price with the spectrum being Free - £300,000+. You can get a good upright piano for £700 second hand.
Plus sides to buying a digital piano
Compared to acoustic pianos, digital pianos are generally less expensive when. bought from brand new second hand probably about the same.
Most models are smaller and considerably lighter, but there are large ones as well.
They have no strings and therefore don't need to be tuned.
Depending on the model they will have a number of other sounds.
Young beginners (under 5) will find it easier to play on non weighted keys.
It is a lot more likely that they will be compatible with a computer via midi or USB. (Useful for recording and other more complicated functions)
You will be able to practice quieter on all of the models via headphones.
Plus sides to buying a Piano
The sound quality on most piano's is superior to that of a digital keyboard. This in turn can promote practice a higher enjoyment of the instrument.
There are techniques that are taught on a piano that don't translate to digital pianos.
Pianos have an aesthetic value that digital pianos don't.
It's much easier to fall in love with a piano...
If you are buying a piano you need to think about size and how often you may be moving as after the initial move it is expensive moving pianos around.
Where can you buy a piano or digital piano?
Brand new pianos or digital pianos
Digital piano without weighted keys
These instruments are probably best suited for someone with a limited budget or of a very young age. These instruments have lighter keys and as such are easier to play for the younger learner. This is probably the cheapest digital piano you'll find of good quality without weighted keys: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Yamaha-NP11-Piaggero-Portable-Digital/dp/B004RTHGKW/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1344434650&sr=8-2
Digital pianos with weighted keys
If you can spend more say £500 + I'd go for a piano with weighted keys - Yamaha digital pianos are great. The p series has a good selection of instruments of different prices. http://uk.yamaha.com/en/products/musical-instruments/keyboards/digitalpianos/p_series/?mode=series
Gak are brighton based. They will match any price you find online and do a 0% finance deal so you pay small amounts monthly: http://www.gak.co.uk/en/take-it-away-0-finance
Second hand pianos or digital pianos
You can look for second hand options which are cheaper (but you won't have the guarantee). You can also pick up free pianos from various sources however the quality is generally not so good.
Second hand and brand new pianos or digital pianos (pay in instalments)
These guys offer 0% Finance discount too on real pianos as well as digital ones: http://www.brightonpianos.co.uk/index.htm
This scheme allows you to pay off the cost off your instrument in installments http://www.ukpianos.co.uk/piano-rental.html
The piano warehouse do a government funded loan scheme as well which is worth checking out. I can't see it on their website but if you give them a call I'm sure they are still doing it.
Please feel free to get in touch with us with any questions at http://www.pianolessonsuk.co.uk/contact-us
All in all I recommend-
Young pianists(5-) Yamaha Piagerro NP11 non weighted keys or light weighted piano
Aspiring midi composers & pianists - Separate midi keyboard (£20) & a piano
People with little room or about to move - Digital piano
Anything else - A Piano
Go to the piano warehouse in Brighton for all your piano needs speak to Peter and say Kevin sent you. He's lovely!
Good luck and if you need any further assistance. I'll be happy to help with any decision you want to make.