Whether you’ve recently decided that you’d like to learn how to play the piano, or are keen to start playing again after a break, it’s often a good idea to buy a cheaper piano alternative whilst you’re developing your skills.
However, once you begin shopping around, it can be easy to get confused by the different selections of keyboards and digital pianos available. And trying to figure the difference between the two can be just as confusing!
Both digital pianos and keyboards are a great help to anybody wanting to learn the piano or rekindle their old skills, and they both come with their own set of unique features. However, they are quite different from each other, and you may find that one will work better for you than the other.
In this article, we’ll look at the differences between digital pianos and keyboards, and help to guide you towards choosing which one would be best for you.
First Things First
Before we begin discussing the difference between these two instruments, it’s important to take a few things into consideration. Asking yourself the questions below will help you when it comes to making your decision over which to buy.
- Do you need your instruments to be easily mobile?
- Which one produces the sound you’re after?
- Does one feel better to use than the other?
- Is one better for using on certain occasions than the other?
- What features does each one come with?
- How much am I willing to spend?
Not all of these questions will necessarily apply to your needs, but answering even a few of these before you start looking for your instrument will help to narrow down the search.
The Difference Between Digital Pianos and Keyboards
Although similar in appearance and the overall purpose, there are quite a few differences between digital pianos and keyboards. So, before you purchase one to practice playing on, or even for professional reasons, it’s important to understand these differences.
Much like acoustic pianos, digital pianos are designed to be upright replicas that usually remain in place, and have 88 weighted keys that replicate the look and feel of their acoustic counterpart.
Digital pianos tend to solely be designed as a piano replica and, although they often contain different notes from several instruments, they do not come with the plethora of different tones and rhythms that a keyboard has.
Keyboards are designed to be much lighter in weight than digital pianos, making them much more portable. They usually only contain 61 or 76 keys, unlike the digital piano’s 88, and tend to be played in the ‘keyboard style’, using rhythms and accompaniments.
Generally speaking, you would select a drum beat from the keyboard’s options as a backing rhythm, then play the notes with your left hand and the melody with your right.
Keyboards also come with hundreds or built-in tones and technical features that allow you to fully customize your sound.
Acoustic pianos can be very expensive, so if you’re looking for a piano alternative, digital pianos are a much more cost effective way of getting the same sound and style of instrument without spending lots of money.
Keyboards are the least expensive option when looking for a piano alternative, and are great for anybody wanting to learn basic piano notes and skills. They are also great for children, since they are so lightweight and come with lots of exciting features.
So, if you’re on a bit of a budget, we would recommend considering getting a keyboard over a digital piano. However, if money is less of an issue and you want a piano alternative that will give you the real feel and sound of an acoustic piano, then a digital piano would be the best choice.
Size and Portability
Digital pianos are much heavier than keyboards, and are basically pieces of furniture. If you have plenty of space in your house and have a designated area in mind for a digital piano, then it would be absolutely fine to purchase one.
However, if you have a smaller space, a keyboard that can be easily moved or stored away might be a better option for you. As keyboards are so lightweight as well, they are easy to transport, so if you’re planning on travelling with your instrument, then a keyboard would be the best choice.
The difference in sound quality between digital pianos and keyboards is an important factor to consider when weighing up your choices.
Digital pianos are designed to be more in line with the sound of an acoustic piano, and they have been programmed to replicate the piano notes that you would get from an acoustic one.
Bear in mind, however, that digital pianos will not give you the exact same notes as an acoustic piano, but are much closer to the true notes than a keyboard. The quality of the notes also tends to be better in higher end models.
Keyboards are packed with features, tones and rhythms, however they are not designed to give you the authentic piano notes that you would get from a digital piano. If you’re looking to just learn some basic notes though, they are great for learning on.
The keys of digital pianos are designed with graded hammer key action technology, that gives them the feel of an acoustic piano and makes them sensitive to pressure.
Keyboards tend to come with softer keys that don’t have graded hammer technology, which means you’ll need to be slightly more heavy-fingered when playing them.
You can, however, find some keyboards that do have graded hammer technology, which is great if you’re looking for something to practice piano notes on and get the real-feel, but need a more portable option than a digital piano.
On an acoustic piano, the pedals are there to change the instruments sound in various ways, and are set at the base in a row of three.
As digital pianos are designed to closely replicate acoustic pianos, they also come with pedals to give you the option to soften, sustain or silent a note. So, if you’re looking to learn or practice playing as closely as possible to a real acoustic piano, then a digital piano is definitely the way forward.
Keyboards do not tend to come with the pedals that you would find on a digital piano, however they can often be purchased as an additional accessory.
Our Final Thoughts
Having looked at the considerations above, you now need to decide whether you’re going to get a digital piano or a keyboard. But, before you make your final choice, let us summarize each one for you.
If you’re after a true, authentic sound and feel that almost replicates an acoustic piano perfectly, then a digital piano would be the best choice for you. Although, remember that they are essentially pieces of furniture, and so you’ll need to have a designated space for one and you won’t be able to transport it easily.
Keyboards are much better for learning basic piano skills on, can be easily transported, and have many more features (like amps, synthesizers and workstations) than a digital piano. However, they won’t give you the authenticity of an acoustic piano, and tend to have less keys.
Whichever you decide to go for, we hope that you’ll have hours of fun learning and practicing your new skills!