Over the years, one of the hallmarks of Kawai Digital Pianos has been the use of wooden keys in the actions of many of its top-end models. In fact, this year marks the 25 anniversary of the introduction of Kawai’s first electronic instrument with wooden keys.

What’s the big deal?

Simply put, wood has a certain feel about – a certain flex and vibration not found in the plastic keys commonly used in digital piano actions. This helps the player feel more connected to the instrument and gives a more “organic” sensation to the electronic instrument. It’s a subtle thing.

But wait, there’s more to Kawai’s wooden-key actions!

These actions use extra long keys compared to the typical digital piano action. This additional length allows the keys to pivot in the center as opposed to moving up and down only in the front. As you press the front of the key, a mechanical hammer gets pushed up from the back of the key. This hammer then strikes an electronic sensor which tells the instrument’s electronics to create the sound.

So what, you ask?

Well, this process is the same one that a grand piano’s action uses to strike the strings to create its sound. This motion is unique to grand pianos, which are considered superior in touch to other types of pianos. The reason? Other pianos use a different mechanical design. The same is true in the digital world.

Is a plastic-key action bad?

No. In fact, there are several good feeling actions that don’t use wood or center balanced keys (including Kawai’s new RH action). But if you are uncompromising in your desire for a digital piano action to feel like a grand piano, only one that employs the same materials and movement as the grand action will be the closest to the grand feel.

Check out our newest wooden-key, center pivot action – the RM3 Grand – in many of our great digital pianos. Click here to view a picture of the new RM3 action.

— Tom Love – Editor