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

Digital Piano vs. Keyboard

Many students that are interested in learning to play the piano don’t start by playing a grand piano. Because of the high cost and amount of space required, most people will buy a digital piano or a keyboard when they are starting to learn the piano. It’s not uncommon for people to use the terms “digital piano” and “keyboard” interchangeably. What many people don’t know is that there are significant differences between digital or electronic pianos and keyboards. We’ll explain some of the differences and what they mean for the music that each instrument is able to produce. Hopefully, you’ll know everything you need to when you’re ready to buy a keyboard or piano.

The Main Differences between a Digital Piano and Keyboard

Digital pianos and keyboards are designed to accomplish very different things. A digital piano as the name suggests, is intended simply to be a digital replication of an acoustic or grand piano. They have weighted keys so that the experience of playing one more closely resembles a traditional piano.

They’re ideal for those who want to learn to play the piano but don’t want the incredibly high price tag. Not to mention the hassle of finding space for one. After all, there’s almost nothing cheap, easy, or convenient about a traditional piano.

Digital pianos have been designed to be less expensive, easier to maintain, and much easier to transport. Some advanced musicians even use digital pianos for home-recording.

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Digital Piano vs. Keyboard Continued

Keyboards, on the other hand, were designed to produce a much wider range of sounds than traditional pianos. 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 lighter than digital pianos, and often do not have weighted keys. Keyboards are designed to be used by musicians and producers with more experience. Keyboards often come with hundreds – if not thousands – of sounds. Keyboards offer the ability to customize your sound.

Not All 88 Key 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. To be comparable to a traditional upright piano, a digital piano is often fitted with the best hammer action key systems and tone generation engines.

They can still take up as much space as a traditional one, but there is less maintenance required. Stage pianos are digital pianos used on stage. Compared to a traditional piano, they are more portable and  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.

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 the user more control over their sound. Within this type of keyboard, you’ll find synthesizers and MIDI controllers.

Another differentiation 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 their keys don’t move or react like piano keys.

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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 trying to play. If you’re just starting to play or prefer a traditional sound, a digital piano might do the trick. If you’re intersted in something that offers a variety of sounds and can be used more easily in production or recording, a keyboard is probably a better choice.

Consult Your Music Teacher

Parents are often inclined to start young children with a keyboard because they can be the least expensive option. To decide whether or not this is right for your child, have a conversation with their music teacher. Music teachers would often prefer a child start with a digital piano for a couple reasons. They’re going to have the requisite number of weighted keys and fewer distracting options. When a child learns to play on an electronic keyboard, they may have a harder time adjusting to a digital or traditional piano.

Music teachers understand which digital pianos offer the best balance of sound and cost. 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 is interested in learning the keyboard, keyboards with fewer features can be a cost-effective place to start.

Get Your Next Digital Piano or Keyboard from Music & Arts

Whether you’re just starting out or an experienced musician looking to take the next step in the developing your sound, Music & Arts has you covered. We carry a wide variety of both digital pianos and keyboards. You won’t have any problem finding the musical instrument that’s right for you.

If you still need help deciding, check out the video below of Kurt Witt, Director of Merchandising, discussing digital pianos, keyboards and lessons with two of our piano instructors.


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