What is the Difference Between Piano and Keyboard? Everything You Need to Know
Learning to play a musical instrument – like a piano or keyboard – is great at any age. Studies have shown that learning to play the piano/keyboard can improve memory. Other benefits of piano or keyboard lessons include improved brain speed, sharpened concentration, and less stress.
Many people are unaware of the differences between a keyboard and a piano. A piano is a keyboard musical instrument in which the sound comes from felt-covered hammers striking wire strings in the body. A keyboard may have the same number of keys but is an electronic instrument that is smaller and easier to transport. The sound is amplified through internal or external speakers and/or amplifiers.
There are several differences between the two instruments, which means instruction is approached differently. But what exactly is the difference between a keyboard and a piano? Let’s read on to learn more about these two fantastic instruments.
Deciding Between a Keyboard and a Piano
While both instruments share similarities, there are some notable differences. These include:
The key arrangement on both a piano and keyboard is identical. The difference here comes down to the width of the keys. Piano keys tend to be wider, while keyboard keys are usually thinner and closer together. However, there are exceptions – and some keyboards have keys that match the width of a piano.
While it may not sound like something that matters, the width of the keys can affect how you play the instrument due to changes in hand positioning. It’s recommended to try both and decide what’s more comfortable for you.
The action is the mechanism that produces sounds – which is different between a piano and a keyboard. Being an acoustic instrument, a piano’s sound is produced when the hammer hits the strings. This creates a feeling of resistance or a weighted action.
A keyboard is electronic, and the sound derives from the processor and electronic components inside the keyboard. As a result, the action on keyboards tends to be lighter and lacks the resistance found on pianos.
Some electronic pianos have weighted keys. If the action on the keys is important to you, it’ll be something you’ll want to research.
Pianos consist of 88 keys and have a wide range of sounds and octaves. Generally, pianos have a larger range than keyboards. Keyboards can come in variations that have 88 keys, but they usually have fewer keys than a piano.
As a result, pianos tend to be able to reach deeper bass notes and higher treble notes. This is important for musicians as it gives them more options for musical expression. One thing to remember when purchasing a keyboard is that at least 72 keys are required for most contemporary music or modern music.
If price is a factor in your purchase, you need to know that pianos will be more expensive than keyboards, as they have a more complex construction. Ongoing maintenance will also be required to keep it in tune. Prices for pianos can start in the low thousands and climb to more than most luxury cars. The manufacturer, material, and design all play a part in the price of a piano.
On the other hand, keyboards might be a good option for those just starting out or on a budget. Keyboards can be purchased for around $100 up to a few thousand, depending on the features you’re looking for.
One thing to keep in mind is that pianos are considered long-term investments – and may increase in value over time. It’s also possible to rent a piano if you don’t want to commit to such a large purchase.
Technology in keyboards has come a long way. While some high-quality keyboards can mimic the sound of a piano, most pianos have a much richer and fuller sound. Since it’s an acoustic instrument, the sound of a piano is amplified from the instrument itself. The construction and action of the piano contribute to its superior sound quality.
Keyboards are electronic instruments that can produce a multitude of sounds. They can sound like pianos, horns, organs, strings, and many more. Since they are electronic, keyboards need to be amplified, either from an internal/external speaker or amplifier. Unlike pianos, they also have a volume knob, so you can make them louder or quiet.
Weight and Portability
Anyone who has ever seen a piano knows they do not travel easily. They are significantly heavier and less portable than keyboards. Pianos have more intricate parts and require more effort to move. This process usually requires professionals and a large truck. Once moved, a piano will most likely need to be re-tuned.
On the other hand, keyboards and digital pianos can be picked up and moved anywhere they are needed. They’ll fit into most cars and don’t require a team to move. Keyboards can be plugged into amplifiers or monitors for large performances. Since they are electronic, they do not need to be tuned.
Pianos require regular tuning to maintain their sound quality. This is an added expense as it needs to be done by a professional technician. Also, since it’s made of wood and metal, pianos, like guitars, can be susceptible to environmental factors like temperature, humidity, or seasonal changes.
It’s important to perform regular maintenance on your keyboard by cleaning it regularly. Dust and dirt particles can get in between the keys or into the cavity of the keyboard and affect the sound and operation.
Pianos vs. Keyboards: Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Learn to Play the Piano on a Keyboard?
Absolutely. You’ll need a keyboard with full-size keys and weighted action to mimic the feel and scale length of a piano. Without these, practicing may feel different due to the key width and the action – and switching between the two will be difficult. The final decision is up to the player and their preferences in terms of which instrument they prefer to practice while learning.
Is it Easier to Play Songs on the Piano or Keyboard?
This is going to depend on the player’s personal preference, as well as their skills, scale length, and techniques required for each song. Some musicians find it easier to play certain songs on a keyboard due to the lighter action and the ability to implement different sounds. Both a piano and keyboard can be used to play a variety of songs in different genres.
Do Pianos or Keyboards Have More Options for Sounds and Effects?
This depends on the specific piano or keyboard. Pianos have pedals that affect the sound. Also, by changing how hard you depress the keys, the player can affect the dynamics of the sound coming from the piano. Most keyboards have a large variety of sounds and effects that can include strings and piano sounds – as well as percussion, horns, and other instruments.
Is Learning to Play the Piano or Keyboard Better for My Learning and Development as a Musician?
Both keyboards and pianos are excellent tools for developing musical skills, including dexterity, ear training, and music theory.
Studies show that learning to play the piano/keyboard strengthens hand muscles, finger speed, and hand-eye coordination. At the end of the day, it’s the player’s personal preference that will decide which instrument they are more comfortable playing. Learning to play either instrument will greatly benefit a musician’s growth and development.
Ready to Get Started?
Learning to play the piano or keyboard is a great decision. In addition to a great hobby, you’ll gain important life skills and benefit from less stress and generally be happier. Choosing between a keyboard and a piano comes down to personal preference – including overall cost, portability, and the songs you’ll be able to play.
If you’re interested in learning to play either the piano or a keyboard, our experienced staff at Be Natural Music can help you choose the ideal instrument. Our experienced instructors offer lessons and classes for all skill levels so you can play the music you love.
Contact us today to learn more!