Starting the right way is essential to sustain your motivation to learn a skill. Choosing between the piano and the keyboard can make or break your chances of fully discovering your musical abilities, as these two instruments are similar in some ways but worlds apart when it comes to sound quality, feel, and expression.
If you decide to play the piano, you have three options to choose from, not two, and to some of you, this may come as a relief. You’ll understand why as you continue reading this article and learn more about these instruments. Starting with the instrument that is priced the highest, your options are—acoustic piano, digital piano, or the electronic keyboard.
Table of Contents
Acoustic pianos have 88 weighted keys, and you will get a better idea of what weighted keys are when you play the keys and feel the resistance against your fingers. This is because all 88 keys are attached to hammers that move and strike the strings to produce sound when the keys are pressed.1
Pianos are also sensitive to touch, which means the player can control the volume on the piano. Gently pressing the keys produces a softer sound, and firmly pressing the keys generates a louder sound.
Pianos usually have two or three pedals that are used to control the pitch, sustain, and other sound characteristics. All the sounds on the piano are the result of the player’s touch on the keys. This adds to the playing technique and develops hand strength and dexterity.
The acoustic piano produces the most organic and rich piano sound. Even the best digital pianos cannot fully replicate and deliver the feel of all the parts responding to the touch of the player to produce the overtones and sounds of an acoustic piano.2
- Playing on an acoustic piano builds hand and finger strength.
- An acoustic piano is the best option to develop your overall piano skills and techniques.
- Acoustic pianos can be rented from stores that offer piano rental services.
- The sound they produce is authentic, beautiful, and worth experiencing, despite the expenses and care required for their maintenance.
- The instrument captures the expression and uniqueness of the player as it responds to even the slightest difference in playing styles.
- Piano lessons are more advanced, and playing techniques require the use of both hands with equal precision and skill.
- Acoustic pianos are expensive, lowest price starts from $4000 and can go anywhere upto $10,000
- Rental pianos can sometimes be out of tune and have faulty keys due to poor maintenance or overuse.
- They require maintenance and are sensitive to the weather conditions of their environment and require tuning at least twice a year.
- Acoustic pianos do not age well and usually have a lifespan of 60 years. It is a good option for learners who are serious and committed to playing the piano regularly.
- Acoustic pianos are large and cannot be easily moved or transported.
Digital pianos have the exact same features of acoustic pianos. The instruments have 88 keys that are weighted and sensitive to touch. They are much smaller, and some digital pianos come with a stand to hold the piano which is built to look like an upright acoustic piano.3
These instruments are considerably more affordable and come with lots of digital features that make them convenient to use in terms of recording and production. Older digital piano keys lacked the weighted feel of an acoustic piano, however, more recent models have replicated the feel to some degree.
- Digital pianos are easier to maintain
- They are convenient for recording music as well as adding other sounds, effects, and many other technological features that are great for creating music
- Digital pianos always stay in tune
- When compared to acoustic pianos, digital pianos are a lot more affordable. A high-quality digital piano costs around $1000 and go up to $5000
- Digital pianos have the option to plug in headphones and can be played without disturbing the household or the neighbors
- Portablity allows for the instrument to be carried to other locations easily
- Lessons and playing skills are similar to that of an acoustic piano
- Digital devices are usually complex and may be difficult to repair if something breaks or malfunctions. It may require a complete replacement.
- Some instruments may sound too digital and may not be fun to play as the sound may lack depth
- Constant innovation means the instruments will be outdated in a matter of 10-15 years and may not be compatible with softwares and other devices.
- May not build the level of playing skills that are possible on an acoustic piano
Electronic keyboards are the most portable and affordable option of the three and come with 61 or 76 unweighted keys.4 They are also known as digital keyboards and have extra features such as a drum machine, backing tracks, and other instrument sounds.
The main drawback of the keyboard is that it has fewer keys, which limits the range of music that beginners can practice. This makes most piano lessons designed for pianos difficult to practice on the instrument.
The sound quality of electronic instruments is also not as good as digital or acoustic pianos. This can be demotivating to a beginner and may not hold their enthusiasm and interest for long.
- Electronic keyboards don’t need to be tuned
- A good range of instrument sounds and backing tracks to experiment with
- They can be connected to other devices for music making
- An option for plugging in headphones for quieter playing and practice sessions is provided with these instruments.
- They are great for traveling as they are light and portable
- An electronic keyboard is the most affordable option in comparison with a digital or an acoustic piano, and you can find keyboards that cost less than $300.5
- Unweighted keys limit the development of skill, dexterity, and hand strength.
- The playing techniques are simpler and do not require the use of the left hand as much as the right.6
- The sound may need amplification as keyboards are usually not as loud as digital and acoustic pianos
- Keyboards sound the most digital and electronic, which can dampen the experience of learning after a certain point
- The range of sound is lower due to fewer keys
Most instructors and experts recommend the digital piano as the best beginner instrument, as it is not too expensive and allows for a better learning experience. The choice, however, depends on your commitment and drive. If you intend on retaining the skill as a lifelong hobby or career, it may be a good idea to invest in a quality instrument that can hold your interest and accelerate your learning. If you are not sure about your dedication or reasons for learning the skill, it may be best to start with an electronic keyboard.
- Piano vs Keyboard – Which one should you learn? – YouTube. (n.d.). Retrieved June 15, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_b1N7bhwFFU&t=321s
2. Acoustic vs. Digital Pianos: The Pros and Cons — Musicnotes Now. (n.d.). Retrieved June 15, 2022, from https://www.musicnotes.com/now/tips/acoustic-vs-digital-pianos-the-pros-and-cons/
3. How to Choose a Piano or Keyboard for Beginners | flowkey. (n.d.). Retrieved June 15, 2022, from https://www.flowkey.com/en/piano-guide/choose-piano
4. Digital piano vs keyboard: Which is best for beginners? (n.d.). Retrieved June 15, 2022, from https://liverpoolacademyofmusic.com.au/digital-piano-vs-keyboard/
5. Piano vs Keyboard: What’s the Difference When Learning To Play? – Musical Arts Center of San Antonio. (n.d.). Retrieved June 15, 2022, from https://www.sanantoniomusicschools.com/piano-vs-keyboard-whats-the-difference-when-learning-to-play/
6. What is the difference between Piano Lessons and Keyboard Lessons? (n.d.). Retrieved June 15, 2022, from https://www.musiah.com/articles/equipment-tips/piano-lessons-or-keyboard-lessons-what-is-the-difference.html