The Yamaha YPG-535 is a digital grand piano jampacked full of features that'll attract both first-time players and veteran pianists alike. It's part of Yamaha's Portable Grand line — yep, that's what the PG stands for — and this champagne gold rig is built for learning, composition, and performance, all at an attractive price point.
The Basics: How Does It Play?
The Yamaha YPG-535 features a full 88 keys, and it utilizes a Graded Soft Touch (GST) keyboard. This means the low-end keys feel heavier than the high-end keys. Its sound is fueled by AWM stereo sampling that produces the sound of an actual acoustic piano, and the volume accurately changes with the power of the key strike. Tap lightly like your third-grade piano teacher, Mrs. Borf, and you'll produce a soft tone. Slap those 88s like Thelonious Monk, and get ready to melt faces. There are three settings for adjusting the sensitivity, as well. The built-in two-way speaker system splits sound into bass and treble for depth and clarity. A headphone jack lets you strap on the cans and drown out everything but your piano. An FC5 sustain pedal is included, too.
If you've ever yearned for 13 different saxophone sounds right at your fingertips, this is the digital piano for you. The YPG-535 features 127 sounds on the main panel, including eight different types of piano, such as warm grand, bright piano, and honky-tonk. A dozen drum and sound effects kits are part of the mix, as are another 361 XGLite sounds. You can add effects to the YPG-535's sound, too, such as harmony, chorus, and reverb. You can use the pitch bend wheel to — that's right — bend the pitch, and powerful equalizer settings let you customize the overall sound to fit your speaker set-up, whether that's the built-in speakers, external speakers, or a pair of headphones because you're a good roommate and neighbor. Additionally, the YPG-535's flash ROM memory lets you retain up to 16 sound settings at a time, which is a nifty feature to have, especially if you're sharing the piano with others. You can download more songs to the memory, as well.
The YPG-535 has composers covered. It features an onboard six-track MIDI recorder, and up to five songs can be stored in the flash memory at once. That may not sound like a lot, but the piano's USB connectivity means transferring sound files to your computer and back is a cinch, and they can easily be integrated with whatever recording and editing software you use for performance sequencing and tweaking dynamics. The USB port also means you can take your music with you everywhere and share it with the world, or at least your aunt in Tucson.
The Easy Song Arranger lets you record and remix your songs as MIDI files and includes a variety of useful modes. Split mode, for example, splits the keyboard in two so you can play a honkytonk-piano with your left hand and one of those 13 saxophones with your right hand. You can designate exactly where it splits, too. Dual mode lets you layer two different instrument sounds so that, with the press of a single key, you'll hear double the sound. With 500 instruments built in, that's a lot of dynamic duos.
Don't be intimidated by all the special features, though. The YPG-535 is friendly to new players. If you're just starting to learn the piano, the Yamaha Education Suite (YES) provides interactive piano lessons that deconstruct a song so you can learn it one element at a time, such as the rhythm or the melody. Once you've mastered each part, the YPG-535 helps you put it all together — but your education doesn't have to stop there.
Turn on Minus One mode and the YPG-535 give your performance a grade when you finish playing through a practice piece. This lets you chart your progress, revel in your successes, and hurl insults at your digital piano if you feel you were underscored. Three keyboard lessons are incorporated for each hand, and the included Chord Dictionary both teaches you to play chords and identifies them for you on the LCD display so you can tell your F-sharp major from your B-flat minor.
For both beginner and intermediate players, the YPG-535's Performance Assistance Technology (PAT) lets you play along with a host of songs, fixing the wrong notes for you as you go, so you sound like the incredible pianist you're destined to be — or at least not horrible — right now. The YPG-535 includes 30 built-in songs, 70 more songs on the included CD, and you can always import additional songs via USB. A built-in metronome and auto-accompaniment — your left hand controls chords, rhythm, or bass while your right hand plays the melody — are both fun features that let newbies jump right in to learning to play. The backlit LCD display, while fairly small, can show off a variety of useful info, too, from song lyrics to which keys you should be pressing.
Tech Specs at a Glance
The YPG-535 packs a big punch into an affordable digital piano platform. Check it out:
Bells and Whistles, Some Literal
Helping (Virtual) Hands
What's in the Box
The manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) for the Yamaha YPG-535 is $799. This is the average price for digital pianos from manufacturers of similar quality and prestige that offer comparable sound quality, key action, and range of features, such as the Casio Privia PX-160, the Korg B1, and Yamaha's own P-45.
What's So Great About the Yamaha YPG-535?
At under $500, the YPG-535 is a versatile, affordable, feature-packed digital piano that produces realistic sound. It crams in a lot of features, but they're intuitive and easy to navigate; there are more than 40 buttons at your disposal while you play, ready to help you customize your experience. The creative possibilities are endless, but if you just want to sit down and jam — or dutifully practice, of course — all you have to do is tap the "Portable Grand" button to wipe the experimental slate clean; the entire keyboard will immediately return to a stereo-sample piano. This is exactly the streamlined, simple accessibility we want from a budget digital grand.
The YPG-535's portability is another pro. At 24 pounds, it's fairly easy to haul from here to there, and it's a good fit for small homes, studios, and vehicles, too. It comes with its own matching stand, and the whole shebang is easy to set up; all you need is a screwdriver, and you can do it in about the time it takes to watch a Seinfeld rerun. The champagne gold finish hides dust and fingerprints well, which is great if you have kids, roommates, or an aversion to dusting, and the speakers deliver clear, full sound. The fact that they're front-facing helps with clarity, of course.
What's Not-So-Great About the Yamaha YPG-535?
Our biggest beef with the YPG-535 is that playing it doesn't feel entirely realistic. The keys are only partially weighted — they operate with a spring mechanism that provides resistance — which makes them feel distinctly different from an acoustic piano. They're not quite a deal breaker; they just don't mimic the feel of a real grand piano. They're not going to help players build finger strength, either.
The rest of our complaints are fairly small. The monochrome LCD display isn't very big. When you play at a lower volume or without your headphones on, you can hear the keys clicking, which is always annoying. There's no option for battery power, which restricts the portability slightly. For a live performance anywhere outside of your living room, you're going to want external speakers.
The Bottom Line
Overall, the Yamaha YPG-535 is a solid digital piano for both first-timers and accomplished players alike, especially if they don't want to take out a second mortgage to pay for a portable set of keys with realistic sound. While its touch sensitive keys' lack of weight is a big drawback for some players, it's balanced out by the massive database of music built right in and its feature-filled profile.
The YPG-535 is admirably broad in its appeal. For new students, the Yamaha Education Suite can teach you to play. For seasoned veterans, the sheer number of ways to customize your experiences as a player, composer, and recording artist is bound to bring a smile to your face — and if it doesn't, the budget-friendly price point will.