A Summary of Yamaha Digital Keyboard and Piano Products including Graded Hammer

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yamaha p115

If you are checking out Yamaha keyboards and pianos, take a look at this summary of the various lines that they offer. Also, we discuss Graded Hammer at the bottom.

  • Yamaha PSR Keyboards – This is probably ere you should start your search. There are a wide range of PSR keyboards. They begin with 61 key models for beginners, but this just isn’t enough keys for most people. You should really consider the 76 key version at a minimum. The PSR-EW300 would be the model you probably need. Some of these replaced the YPG models as well. You’ll also see the PSR-S series. These are really expensive machines that are in the $2-3000 range. These are called “digital and arranger workstations” for a reason. They only have 61 keys, but you can do a ton of stuff with them from sounds effects to programmable vocal harmony. These are amazing.
  • Yamaha Portable Keyboards – DGX models start with a cheaper 76 key version (DGX-230), but the one you likely want is the DGX-660. This is a more expensive model for intermediate and advanced players, but it will give you more functionality overall. This would be something you could grow into. The Piaggero models are lightweight, piano style keyboards. These are built to be slim and light. They are not very expensive, but come only in 61 key and 76 key variations.
  • Yamaha Electronic Keyboards – YPT models, like the popular YPT-255, are for beginners. Low-priced. You can get this for about $150.
  • Yamaha Digital Pianos – If you’re a serious player looking for a keyboard with the feel of an actual acoustic piano, this is the category for you. Graded Hammer and Graded Hammer Standard digital pianos (see an explanation below). These generally have 88 weighted keys. If you are looking at these, be sure to consider the P115. It’s a very good machine and has high ratings across the internet. If you are looking for something that looks and feels more like a real piano, checkout the Arius line. They even have pedals.
  • Yamaha EZ Keyboards – These are good for children or students. The Yamaha EZ-220 is the current model. They’re fun keyboards! They can light up and show you what keys to press.
  • Yamaha Arranger Keyboards – These are great for professional players. Great for arrangers and come with built-in track sequencer. These include the PSR-S series as noted above.
  • Yamaha Motif Keyboards – For the serious keyboard player. These are super expensive synthesizers with lots of digital functions. They are classic and very highly-regarded. These are some of the best keyboards around.
  • Yamaha Montage – This is the new Yamaha synthesizer that is supposed to be the next evolution after the Motif. It’s pretty expensive as well. The retail price is $4500.

Do weighted keys really make a digital piano that good?

Weighted keys are a defining factor for many people that want to get a digital piano experience. Yamaha and other companies have really worked hard on getting this right. They want you to really feel like you are playing a piano. Since we are talking about Yamaha here, we will go over their offering.

Many Yamaha digital pianos like the P115 and Arius YDP series come with a really nice feature called Graded Hammer Effect. When you get this, the keys are heavier or require more pressure in the lower range of the keyboard. In the higher ranges of keys, they have a lighter feel in the same way an acoustic piano would. If you’re already a trained pianist or you want to really develop your piano skills, a weighted keyboard or digital piano will be very helpful in giving you a true piano experience. There are other semi-weighted or light weighted keyboards such as those of the Yamaha PSR keyboard models won’t meet your needs.

In fact, there are even levels of graded hammer that you can get. If you are looking seriously at a digital piano, you may want to know these differences. The primary categories are Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) and Graded Hammer (GH). There’s also GH3 and Natural Wood (NW) which are on the higher end pianos.

Graded Hammer Standard isn’t quite as good as Graded Hammer. GHS is usually featured in entry level digital pianos like the Yamaha P45, P115, and YDP-143. If you need a more realistic feel, then you may want to buy a digital piano with Graded Hammer, not Standard. You can find GH in mid-level digital pianos like the Yamaha P255, YDP181.

The next level of performance is the GH3 with synthetic ivory, which is better than GHS and GH. Examples of pianos with this feature are the Yamaha Clavinova CLP525. The highest level is the NW – Natural wood. There is a natural wood with grading and also NWX, which is the best they have.

With all this talk about the levels of key, you might think that Graded Hammer Standard isn’t that good. But in reality it’s still far better than regular keyboard keys. It’s much more like an actual piano.

Here’s the actual explanation from Yamaha:

Yamaha Graded Hammer Action Types: GHS, GH, GH3 NW-GH and NWX

NWX (CLP545 and up / CVP705 and up) –

Natural Wood X (NWX) keyboards are created using Yamaha’s unrivaled expertise in wood-working acquired through more than a century of crafting fine acoustic pianos. The wood used in NWX keyboards has been carefully dried specifically for use in making musical instruments. Only the best wood from the finest part of the tree is selected, resulting in a keyboard that is more resistant to buckling and warping than common laminated wood keyboards.

The NWX keyboard also features an escapement mechanism that reproduces the feel of an acoustic piano as it goes through the let-off and drop of the hammer when a key is played very softly. The action has been designed in such a way that the escapement is discernible only on the lightest keystrokes, similar to the keyboard of a grand piano.

NW-GH (CP4) –

Natural Wood keys offer the weight and response that piano players expect. Adding different weight or “grading” the keyboard reproduces the feel of a piano’s hammers: heavy in the low end and light in the high end. The surface of the key is lightly porous thanks to Synthetic Ivory key tops that add grip to the keys. This maintains accuracy during long performances or practice sessions. Finally, a third sensor allows grand piano-like key repetition where notes can be re-articulated without a complete release. This makes it easier to play fast, repeated notes and is one of the main reasons pianists choose grand pianos over uprights.

GH3 w/Synth. Ivory (CLP525/YDP163) –

Graded Hammer 3 (GH3) 88-key piano action utilizes the same hammering system and spring-less mechanism of a grand piano. This action reproduces the touch of an acoustic piano, from the heavy feel in the lower register to a lighter touch in the upper octaves. It also features a three-sensor configuration, which accurately senses and interprets the behavior of the keyboard in order to provide a grand piano-style response and feel. This allows for quick note repetition and authentic expressive control. Synthetic ivory key tops provide a tactile surface to the white keys, absorbing moisture from the fingers and preventing them from slipping.

GH (YDP181/P255) –

Yamaha, using its more than a century-old grand piano-making expertise, created a keyboard that offers a natural playing feel. Just as on a traditional acoustic piano, lower notes on a GH keyboard have a heavier touch, while the higher ones are more responsive to lighter playing. With stability and endurance in response to any kind of performance, it offers the reliability and quality expected of Yamaha keyboards.

GHS (P45/P115/YDP143/YDPV240/DGX660) –

The Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) 88-key piano keyboard provides a heavier touch in the low end and lighter touch in the high end, replicating the feel of the hammers inside an acoustic piano. GHS is great for the aspiring pianist, because it can help you build proper finger technique. When it comes time to play an acoustic piano, your hands will be ready! Additionally, the matte finish of the black keys can absorb moisture from your hands, making them less slippery even after hours of practice.

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