Buyer's Guides

The Best Stage Pianos: Professional Piano Performance Keyboards

Stage pianos, the gigging keyboardist and pianist’s best friend. Designed to be portable, convenient, and sound as close to acoustic pianos, electric pianos and organs as possible. You undoubtedly will have heard one being played at gigs, weddings, and by function bands. Billie Eilish can be seen playing on a Nord Stage in her Tiny Desk concert, and her brother and producer Finneas uses one for their full-scale live shows.

Piano purists will tell you that even the greatest stage piano can never replace the intricacies and nuances of an acoustic piano sound. But, it has to be said, some of the best stage piano keyboards do come very close, and do sound incredible on their own terms. Welcome to the Headliner guide for the very best stage pianos and performance keyboards, many of which are not only seen being used by top artists on stage but in studio settings also. So, let’s get ready to tickle the ivories as we go through the very best of these instruments, starting from the most affordable, to the most expensive.

Casio Privia PX-S3100

If you associate Casio with the keyboard you used to play in your school’s music department, don’t allow that to dissuade you from the fact that Casio firmly belongs in the best stage piano conversation. Admittedly, these digital piano and keyboard veterans tend to go after the at-home piano market rather than gigging musicians and studio heads, but the PX-S3100 is worthy of both environments. It uses Casio’s AiR sound engine, supplying 700 tones. Considering this is the lowest-priced stage piano on this list, the piano sounds are very impressive. The organs don’t sound far off some of the more expensive models listed, and even the strings, which so often sound dreadful on keyboards, sound lovely too. And the synth pad sounds also transcend what you’d expect from a lot of stage pianos. Hats off!


Yamaha YC61

You quite simply can’t discuss the best stage pianos without the name Yamaha popping up at least a few times. The YC61 (also available in 73 and 88 keys, depending on your budget) is concrete evidence of why this is. This keyboard for live performance doesn’t only cover budding pianists, but the electric pianos like the Rhodes sound and the synths are phenomenal-sounding also. One of its best selling points is the front panel, putting you firmly in control of this stage piano. The knobs and drawbars open up a huge world of tweaking the sounds and effects. A joy to play on, whether you do so on stage or in the studio.


Korg SV-2 88

First things first, this is one gorgeous-looking keyboard. But, as tempting as it is to judge a book on its cover on this occasion, the fine vintage look it sports would be useless if the Korg SV-2 88 didn’t sound good. As its retro styling is heavily hinting at, there are some of the best throwback electric piano sounds in its library — if brilliant sounding clavinets, wheel organs, analogue strings and the like are something you’re after, you may want to go with Korg on this one. The vintage amp modelling section allows you to add the warmth and drive effects of your dreams. Beyond the vintage, the pianos, FM synths, pads and more live up to the name as well. The SV-2S carries the most vintage look and has inbuilt speakers, but if that’s not a deal-breaker then you can save £/$200 on the regular SV-2.


Viscount Legend '70s

A legend enters the best stage piano conversation. If you’re not familiar with the Viscount brand, then naming this live performance keyboard as such may seem a little bold, but considering they have somehow combined the worlds of stage pianos and modular electronics is a pretty amazing feat. The Legend ‘70s has a front panel that puts maximum sound control and customisation as you swap out sounds as you desire them. Like the SV-2 before, its vintage look and sounds are undoubtedly its selling point, next to the entirely unique sound modules and effects units. It has been modelled on the most legendary electronic pianos, and the included EQ, reverb and modulation effects are fantastic.


Studiologic Numa X Piano GT

Why buy one of the best stage pianos, when you can get a mixer, audio interface and stage piano keyboard all thrown into one? This is the proposition laid before us by Studiologic, with their Numa X Piano GT. The hammer action keyboard with its Fatar Grand Touch is fabulous to play on, and on the panel expect a central dial and joystick, four rotary encoders which are nice and colourful, and buttons for master and insert effects. The soundbank places 200 sounds at your disposal — acoustic and electric pianos, orchestral sounds, synths, and organs. If those 200 don’t wet your whistle, you can add even more from the brand’s desktop app. Lastly, it’s nice to see a bit of colour on a stage piano for a change, in a world where most keyboards seem to identify as goths.


Yamaha CP88

Yamaha is inevitably banging strongly on the door again when they overhear that the best stage pianos are being discussed. This is fair, considering they are such renowned specialists when it comes to acoustic and digital pianos (and not forgetting motorbikes). Having discussed their YC stage piano series, it's time for the CP range to shine. Essentially, it exemplifies why so many musicians will go to Yamaha when seeking out the best keyboard for live performance. It’s a very durably built instrument, so just like Willie Nelson, it can’t wait to be on the road again. For those wanting it to be close to a piano feel, you will love the graded hammer and triple sensor keys. Note that the CP73 version is the same, just a little more compact. Last but not least, you can’t knock the sound of this stage piano. If you love the trademark Yamaha sound, you will undoubtedly love the CP88.


Kurzweil SP7 Grand

If your first thoughts are ‘Look at the size of that thing!’ — don’t worry, as the Kurzweil SP7 Grand is surprisingly light to carry at just 27lb/12.27kg. It’s rare to find an 88-key stage piano that isn’t completely burdensome to carry to gigs, so it’s a strong plus point on an already feature-packed keyboard. You may have noticed each brand has its own special sound engine name, and for Kurzweil it’s the A.T.S.T (not to be confused with the AT-ATs seen wandering around the planet Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back), sounding fantastic as it emulates German and Japanese grand pianos and impressive string resonance. The orchestral bits, strings, organs, and even the brass and guitar sounds also ensure this instrument is well worth a look.


Kawai MP 11

Let’s be clear right out the gate on this one: this is the stage piano for those who need an authentic piano, and authentic piano sounds, while the rest just feels like a bonus. Indeed, the Kawai MP 11’s moniker is ‘the pianist’s stage piano.’ So, if this sounds like you, it certainly is one of the best stage pianos. Because, for the non-piano section, there are 16 sounds which include pads, bass, strings and harpsichord. You also have 12 electric pianos. All sound professional-level and great. To some, this might sound like plenty, just bear in mind the listed competitors mostly offer dozens ranging up to hundreds of sounds. So, with that said, let’s focus on Kawai’s speciality: the 12 acoustic piano sounds, all emulations of Kawai’s own grand pianos. Predictably, they all sound fantastic. There’s also certainly an argument to be had that Kawai stage pianos have the most authentic piano feel on the keys, dubbed the Grand Feel keyboard. The keys have the longest wooden keys currently available, with highly accurate pivot action.


Roland RD-2000

Roland is all-conquering in the world of synthesizers, but their RD-2000 is their very worthy attempt at producing the best stage piano, with their stated aim of creating the best playing experience for pianists. Well, it sounds absolutely wonderful, so you wouldn’t want to argue with them on that one. So, like our chums at Kawai, Roland are also prioritising piano feel and sounds with this one. Acoustic piano lovers will love the hybrid wood and plastic keys with hammer action. At this point in the article, it’s worth saying that whether you like Nord, Yamaha, Kawai, or Roland, etc etc’s piano sounds best is very subjective and it’s down to you which you like the best. The modelled pianos on the RD-2000 are absolutely top-notch, however. Also, this is Roland we’re talking about, and the synthesizer sounds are among the very best you can expect from a stage piano. You can even drop beats with it, giving it elements of a keyboard workstation. There are a total of 1,100 sounds, which is quite barmy for a state piano, but we’re not complaining about that.


Nord Stage 4 88

Make way for the OG, the GOAT, the deity of stage pianos. Alright, alright, that was completely over the top. But it is safe to say that the manner in which these Swedish stage piano maestros have eaten up a significant amount of the performance keyboard market share is most impressive. If you go and see someone performing live on a stage piano, there’s a fair to good chance you’ll see the Nord’s signature red colour on stage. As mentioned earlier, Billie Eilish and Finneas use the Stage 4. You can shorten its review to one sentence: it’s a near-perfect stage piano, the only bummer being that it costs four grand.

So, what on Earth do you get for that price? One of the most extensive collections of samples found on a stage piano, a control panel that has been brilliantly laid out for dimly lit live performance scenarios, and unlike some of those listed above, the Stage 4 covers almost every conceivable type of piano sound, including grand pianos, uprights, and more.

The Nord Piano Library also has brilliant-sounding harpsichords, clavinets and vintage electrics to boot. It also, surprisingly, does an exceptional job of rivalling the synth sounds of its Yamaha, Korg and Roland counterparts with the Wave 2 Synth Engine. This isn’t merely a collection of synth sounds, but rather a very powerful synth engine which is fully customisable with a brilliant arpeggiator, the ability to layer synths, and even an emulation of the EDM-style sidechaining effect. And that, dear friends, is why it’s so pricey. Take a listen for yourself.

Do I need a stage piano, MIDI keyboard, synth, or other keyboard?

The raison d'être of a stage piano is to bring the most authentic piano-playing experience to the stage and is usually designed to be a little more convenient to carry around than some of the bulkier keyboards out there. Because of the quality of the sounds and playing experience, people often like to have one in their studios too.

As they can be very expensive, it’s important to be sure a stage piano is what you need. If you just need a USB keyboard to plug you into your DAW and produce music, you will save an absolute fortune by buying a MIDI keyboard.

There are also workstation keyboards, which are like a DAW within a keyboard, where you can build entire tracks with beats and all manner of sounds. These can be very expensive, sometimes costing even more than some stage pianos, because they offer deeper production techniques and effects than a stage piano.

If you specifically want electronic synth sounds, then you are definitely wanting a synthesizer rather than a stage piano. Many stage pianos will prioritise the quality of their piano and keyboard sounds over their synth sounds, although some of the above do a fantastic job of bringing synthesis to a stage piano!

Pianists, and keyboardists, the time has come to hit the stage. With the best stage piano that suits you best above, you’ll be unstoppable. Happy tinkling! 

Further Reading:

Best Workstage Keyboards

Best synthesizers