What’s the Difference Between a Digital Piano and a Keyboard?

Many students that are interested in learning to play the piano don’t start by playing a large grand piano. Because of the high cost and amount of space required, most people who are just starting to learn the piano will buy a digital piano or a keyboard. It’s not uncommon for people to erroneously use the terms “digital piano” and “keyboard” interchangeably. What these people don’t know is that there are many significant differences between digital or electronic pianos and keyboards. In this article, we’ll go into some of the differences as well as what they mean for the music that each instrument is able to produce.

The Main Differences

Digital pianos and keyboards are designed to accomplish very different things. Digital pianos, as the name suggests, are intended simply to be a digital replication of an acoustic or grand piano. Digital pianos have weighted keys so that the experience of playing one more closely resembles a traditional piano. Digital pianos are ideal for those who want to learn to play the piano but don’t want to pay the incredibly high cost of purchasing one or deal with the hassle of finding space for one. After all, there’s almost nothing cheap, easy, or convenient about buying or owning a traditional piano. Digital pianos have been designed to mitigate these factors by being less expensive, easier to maintain, and much easier to transport. Digital pianos are also beneficial for more advanced musicians that want to record their music onto a computer.

Yamaha Arius YDP-143 88-Key Digital Console Piano with Bench
The Arius YDP-143 digital piano provides authentic piano touch and tone suitable for any aspiring pianist. The Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) action builds proper fingering technique for an easy transition to playing on acoustic pianos. PureCF sampling delivers expressive recordings of Yamaha’s CFIIIS 9-foot concert grand piano. Learn More

 

Keyboards, on the other hand, were designed to produce a much wider range of sounds than traditional pianos. Though they are sometimes good options for beginners, the range of available features on a keyboard make them more appropriate for intermediate to advanced musicians who are interested and capable of developing their own sound. It’s uncommon for such musicians to use a keyboard to create the same sounds that a traditional piano would make. Keyboards are usually much lighter than digital pianos, and they often do not have weighted keys. In short, keyboards are designed to be used by musicians and producers with more experience. Keyboards are often much lighter than digital pianos and have tones which number in the hundreds and sometimes thousands. They include a lot of technical options to allow the player to fully customize their sound.

Not All Digital Pianos are the Same

Among digital pianos, there are several differences. The three main types of digital pianos are standard digital pianos, upright digital pianos, and stage pianos. Upright vertical pianos are built with a large cabinet, not unlike a real upright piano. They are often fitted with the best hammer action key systems and tone generation engines so that they are comparable to real upright pianos. Obviously, they still take up as much space as a real one, but there is less maintenance required. Stage pianos are digital pianos designed to be used in live performances, or on stage. They are much more portable than traditional pianos, and much sturdier than standard digital pianos. Standard digital pianos are intended more for practice and play at home. They are not as large or fully featured but offer an excellent balance of sound and portability.

Yamaha YPG-535 88-Key Portable Grand Piano Keyboard Standard
The 88-key Yamaha YPG-535 Portable Grand Piano Keyboard offers you great-feeling graded soft-touch action atop a sturdy, good-looking built-in stand. Its Performance Assistance Technology ensures the Yamaha YPG-535 delivers error-free performances. And the digital piano’s music database provides complete keyboard setups organized by song title. Learn More

 

Not All Keyboards are the Same

There are many different types of keyboards available. On the lower end are keyboards that you’d find in a toy store, while music stores have keyboards that are more fully-featured and intended for serious musicians and producers. These types of keyboards are commonly loaded with different voices, tones, rhythms, and sound effects to give a player or producer a lot of control over their sound. Within this type of keyboard, you’ll find synthesizers and MIDI controllers. Another differentiator among keyboards is the number of keys. Some keyboards have fewer than the traditional 88 keys you’d find on a digital piano. This allows certain keyboards to be more compact and generally doesn’t impact the ability for the player to create music. While some keyboards have keys that are weighted, many do not. This means that keyboards do not move or react like piano keys.

Casio PX-160BK Digital Piano Standard
The Privia Series digital pianos have provided a strong option for people seeking an affordable digital piano with authentic sound and action since its introduction in 2003. The PX160GD is part of the latest version of the Privia series, housed in a classic black chassis. It is stylish and handsome, and every bit a Privia. Learn More

 

Which Should You Choose?

If you’re trying to decide whether to get a digital piano or a keyboard, you should consider what you’re hoping to accomplish. As has been said, digital pianos are a great option for anyone who is just starting to learn to play the piano or for those who play a traditional piano but would like another option that is more convenient. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to play the keyboard and take full advantage of all of the various options that they have, then a digital piano would likely not be as useful for you.

For young children, parents are often inclined to start with a keyboard because they can be the least expensive. To decide whether or not this course of action is right for a young student, it’s good to have a conversation with that student’s music teacher. Often, music teachers would prefer that a child starts with a digital piano because they are going to have the requisite number of weighted keys and fewer distracting options. When a child learns to play on a keyboard, they may have a harder time adjusting to a digital or traditional piano. Music teachers also have preferences for which digital pianos they think are going to offer the best balance of sound and cost, and their experience with a particular instrument can certainly be helpful as your child learns. For these reasons, it’s always best to talk to a child’s music teacher before making a purchase. If your child has expressed an interest in learning to play the keyboard specifically, less expensive keyboards with fewer features can be a good place to start.

Get Your Next Digital Piano or Keyboard from Music & Arts

Whether you’re interested in learning to play the piano for the first time or are an experienced musician looking to take the next step in the development of your sound, Music & Arts has you covered. With a wide variety of both digital pianos and keyboards, you won’t have any problem finding the musical instrument that’s right for you.

Once you’ve decided, check out our Digital Piano and Keyboard Buying Guides.

Music & Arts

Music & Arts is a family owned and operated music resource for parents, students, educators and musicians. With over 140 stores in 23 states and the largest private lesson program in the United States, Music & Arts is an authority on music education and a resource for new and experienced musicians alike.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.