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Piano or Keyboard: A Simple Guide

Hands playing an electric keyboard
Calendar May 2, 2016

At first glance, acoustic pianos and electric keyboards seem quite similar. But in fact, the two instruments are worlds apart. If you are trying to decide between a piano or keyboard, or simply want to learn more about them, read through Pianoforte’s quick guide for the answers you need.

Apples and Oranges

Even though digital and acoustic pianos often sound similar, they are as different as apples and oranges.

An acoustic piano is actually a stringed instrument. When the keys are pressed, an intricate analogue mechanism inside the piano causes hammers to hit the strings, creating the unique and beloved piano sound.

Digital piano keyboards, on the other hand, are sophisticated digital devices in which the keys trigger recorded samples. Whereas a piano will always sound like a piano, a keyboard could sound like a piano, an organ, a guitar, a choir, even a drum-kit!

The different functioning of each instrument creates unique benefits and pitfalls, which all need to be considered when deciding which is right for you.

Classic Sound or Endless Versatility?

The most obvious difference between the two instruments is in their sound. The best digital pianos do a good job of mimicking an acoustic piano’s sound, but the dozens of strings inside a piano resonating together creates a unique harmonic profile that can never truly be imitated.
Keyboards, on the other hand, allow you to play music with a wide variety of sounds. From imitations of everyday instruments like guitar, flute, or organ to outlandish synthesiser noises, keyboards give you a broad sonic palette.

The Feel of the Ivories

The keys on a piano feel quite different from those on a keyboard. When you press down on a piano key you are pushing an actual mechanism, which gives it a weighted feel.

A digital piano’s keys, on the other hand, can feel lightweight and lack expressiveness. However, the best digital pianos have responsive, weighted keys and expression pedals. If you are serious about learning on a keyboard, make sure you invest in a quality model.

Sizing up Your Options

Pianos are large and heavy, making them difficult to move once in place. If you are going to invest in a piano you need to be sure you have space for it, in secure accommodation.

Electric keyboards are much lighter and more transportable, making them ideal for regularly gigging musicians who need to supply their own gear.

Weighing up the Costs

There is a big difference in cost between acoustic pianos and digital keyboards. Acoustic pianos, both upright and grand, are very expensive, but they maintain their value over time and are necessary for anyone serious about learning classical music.

Electric keyboards are much cheaper, making them great for pop or rock musicians or as starter instruments, although they will lose value quickly as technology advances.

Make an Informed Choice

Our general guide is good to get you thinking about whether an acoustic or electronic piano works for you, but if you need more help or information feel free to drop into our Sydney piano showroom and talk to one of our expert team. Call us on 02 9411 8911.