There are plenty of differences between more expensive acoustic pianos and cheap piano keyboards. Ultimately, it is up to you which one suits you best. Pianos are better for the committed player that wishes to become a professional, while keyboards are more flexible and let you play different styles, although they don’t sound so awesome.
The two major keyboard instruments
When it comes to playing a keyboard instrument there are mainly 2 options to choose from. First of them is the classic one, the acoustic piano. It’s the larger variant, and it’s usually more expensive, but it can also deliver the best sounds, and that’s what you should choose if you want to eventually play on a stage and really develop your piano skills.
The other option is the digital piano, which is smaller and thus more portable, it’s usually less expensive, and good digital pianos do a great job at mimicking their bigger brothers. You could put the electronic keyboard in the same category here, but there are differences between these instruments.
The electronic keyboard will require the least investment from you, but that also means this instrument isn’t great. That is mainly because you won’t get the right touch and feel from such a keyboard. Electronic keyboards aren’t really made to replicate the sound of the piano, and they’re also smaller, with fewer keys. If you’re looking to play classical music, these are not for you.
So let’s talk about the biggest and oldest of these instruments, the acoustic piano first. Many expert musicians say that a beginner should have the opportunity to start practicing on a real acoustic piano as quickly as possible, once they entered the world of keyboards.
That is because the instrument produces the sound using real strings and mechanical parts made of wood and other materials, and this offers high responsiveness. Furthermore, with the help of a piano you can reach many different tonality colors, and each piano has its own style. In terms of beauty in both looks and sound, no other keyboard instrument can reach it.
The main disadvantage of pianos is the fact that they’re quite expensive. An upright piano that is decent will cost you somewhere between $4,000 and $8,000, a sum which many people won’t pay for an instrument, especially for a beginner.
There are also different types of pianos, and if you want to get a grand one, or at least a baby grand piano, the price goes even higher. You should expect to pay as much as $10,000 or more for such a piano. Fortunately, there are many rental stores that will let you keep the piano for yourself and only have to pay a monthly fee. But be careful whatever you choose, as a poor piano will make a beginner frustrated, or worse, it could hinder his or her development.
The digital piano
This is the instrument that has been made to replicate the sound of the big piano but in a more compact format. As such, it should sound like its bigger brother. The better models have their keys weighted so that they feel like the piano and they have the perfect resistance to touch. Digital keyboard pianos should also be sensitive to the speed and pressure you apply on the keys in order to give a good range of dynamics, softer or louder.
Digital pianos are smaller and cost less than pianos, and with $2,000 you can get yourself a decent one. It’s a difficult thing to simulate the range and feel of an acoustic piano, but the best digital pianos are capable of doing that to a certain extent. Beginners won’t notice the difference, but experts will.
However, if you can’t afford a piano in the beginning, or you don’t want to get one, the digital keyboard is still great. A quality digital piano will help the student learn and it will be a good investment initially. It’s better to get such a keyboard, rather than buying an old acoustic piano that can be out of tune or have sticky keys.
These can be put in the same category as digital pianos because they produce the sound in a similar way, and not using mechanical forces as the acoustic piano does. Electronic keyboards can be the most affordable keyboard instruments, and some may think that’s a good reason to start learning on them.
But they’re hardly ideal for that, and they can even prove to be discouraging. That’s mainly because they don’t come with all the octaves that a piano has, and sometimes their keys aren’t weighted, or they don’t have the proper sensitivity. That’s why experts suggest you don’t start with such a keyboard, but at least with a digital piano.
They come in many sizes, for different purposes, and they cost several hundred dollars or less. Electronic keyboards aren’t made to sound like a piano but rather to reproduce the sound of synthesizers. That’s why they have many different sounds and beats that can be found on other instruments, and they even got pre-recorded rhythm tracks.
Some of them can also be used to learn to play the piano, but for that, you need to make sure that the keys are weighted and sensitive to pressure, and you also need all the octaves. This will help the student strengthen the muscles in his or her hand, and it will also help in bridging the difference gap between the electric keyboard and digital piano.
Although electronic keyboards are the least expensive, you still need to get some accessories for them, and that includes a stand and a bench for you. These are usually of decent quality, however, stay away from benches that require you to sit in an awkward position, as this will prevent you from playing well and can cause spinal problems.
Pros and cons of pianos and keyboards
So what are the real differences? What makes an instrument better than the other. Let’s start with the simple idea that the piano needs no power source, while the keyboard does, so unless you have a really long extension cord, you’re forced to keep your digital keyboard near an outlet. Of course, that is only a minor inconvenience.
The advantage of the piano is that it has properly weighted keys that will help you build up finger strength, and that will make your playing technique better. There is also one more thing that makes acoustic pianos special, and that’s the enharmonics. These are produced whenever a hammer strikes a string, and the strings neighboring the struck one vibrate in harmony. This gives the piano a special sound.
On the other hand, you will have to tune your piano regularly, and that may be an expensive thing. You don’t have to do that on digital instruments, and they can also produce many different tonalities, so that allows you to produce a more diverse piece of music.
Furthermore, a keyboard will let you play along with a backing track, so from that point of view, the keyboard is better for a beginner. Another advantage of the keyboard is that it will help you play correctly. When you just clip a key on a piano it often goes by unnoticed, but when you do that on a keyboard, it will sound really bad, so that will encourage you to play more precise.
Additionally, a keyboard that offers you backing tracks will help you play on rhythm, as you have to follow the track. This will help make your timing very precise. If you’re not necessarily looking to play the grand piano, a MIDI keyboard can also be connected to a computer and that will enhance its capabilities, especially in studio recording situations.
Questions to ask yourself
When deciding if a piano is better than a keyboard for you, first of all, you need to know what you’re going to use the instrument for. You should consider how committed you are because the piano requires a large investment, and if you’re only going to play it once in a while, it’s no use buying one.
Don’t forget to plan the acquisition from a financial point of view as well as you can, so you know from the start what your maximum price is. Then you’ll be able to find out what you can get for that price, and you’ll decide if you want a more expensive acoustic piano or a cheaper digital one.
Keyboard or piano lessons then?
Now that you know the differences between acoustic pianos, digital pianos, and keyboards, and you know the answer to ‘What is the difference between a keyboard and an electric piano?’, you might wonder about which one is easier to play. Can you learn piano on a keyboard? And what is the difference between piano and keyboard lessons?
When it comes to learning to play each of these musical instrument types, there are some differences that might help you choose one over the other. Getting acquainted with the characteristics of the various pianos and keyboards available on the market will help you learn more about their capabilities and sonic potential.
Playing a piano keyboard might sound more enticing, given that this type of instrument ensures greater versatility, and, depending on the model, it can be moved from one place to another with greater ease.
However, playing a keyboard, even if it is a high-end model, can’t ensure the same experience offered by classical acoustic pianos, no matter how great the construction is and how realistically built the keys are.
Beginners might not notice these differences, but experts will. And still, some advantages and disadvantages will help you choose which type of piano to play. Find more about them below.
Piano vs. keyboard lessons – repertoire
The music genres you’re interested in playing will help you get one step closer to choosing between an acoustic piano and a keyboard. One of the biggest differences between piano and keyboard lessons regards the repertoire they usually involve.
For example, piano lessons include classical music, and the focus is on classical composers, such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach. However, you might encounter teachers who won’t hold back from teaching you modern songs for piano, but that usually happens when you’ve already gained some piano playing experience and gone through at least a few classical music pieces.
Lesson approaches may differ from one teacher to another, but when it comes to acoustic piano lessons, the focus is usually on classical music. Is the keyboard easier than the piano then? Even if you choose to learn to play the keyboard, there will still be challenges and techniques you will need to learn.
As far as the effort and perseverance required to master the keyboard and acoustic piano are regarded, there is not much of a difference between the two instruments.
Keyboard lessons do focus more, if not mainly, on pop music, which some students might find to be easier to learn and play. This doesn’t mean that you can’t try playing pop music on an acoustic piano and classical music on a keyboard. The sky might be the limit here as well, after all, and trying different things can help you discover new approaches and even be satisfied with the results.
The biggest difference between piano and keyboard lessons lies in notation. As we’ve said above, piano lessons focus more on classical music and, thus, on the execution of music pieces that are composed and notated in the form of musical scores.
Piano lessons will thus focus more on helping the student master and interpret notated music and, therefore, on developing specific skills, such as tone quality control and technique. On the other hand, keyboard lessons that focus on pop music involve improvisation upon available chords, and, more often than not, there are no written notes.
Still, it doesn’t mean that there’s less to learn. For example, while piano performances and classical music require you to refine certain techniques, a keyboard comes with a variety of functions and buttons that you will have to learn in order to make the most of this instrument.
A keyboard provides the student with a greater degree of freedom and thus the possibility to get creative. Keyboard lessons will thus help you develop your improvisation skills, get better at reading chord symbols, and play by ear.
Usually, in a keyboard lesson, you will be asked to interpret the chord symbols in a chord chart or chord sheet and also to deliver them with certain pre-determined rhythmic palettes. The goal of such lessons is to help you create your own performances, which thus makes them more suitable for those of you interested in performing in a more personal way.
Final thoughts on piano versus keyboard lessons
Even if the two instruments involve some differences regarding the repertoire, and each of them comes with certain concepts, the aim is the same in the end. Whether you decide on playing the keyboard or an acoustic piano, the lessons you go for should help you gain music literacy and develop your ability to perform the music genres and pieces you like.
If you want to explore more as a musician, then you can always learn to play the keyboard after you’ve taken acoustic piano lessons and vice-versa. This will help you develop a greater set of skills so that you can play both classical and modern music and master the different types of pianos and keyboards available on the market.
No matter which one you choose to play and master, perseverance is key. There will be times when you might feel overwhelmed and even consider giving up, but there is probably no student who doesn’t experience such challenges at some point. Even the greatest pianists had their struggles. Mastering such an instrument requires time and dedication.
Plus, set realistic goals and take one step at a time. By doing so, your motivation will grow each time you add the checkmark next to a goal. It’s natural to feel disappointed if you want to learn to play an entire classical piece in a short time, and you fail to achieve this goal.
Take one step at a time and tackle the repertoire that matches your level. Learning musical pieces that are way above your level will only lead to frustration. Starting small yet being perseverent will eventually pay off.