Piano vs Keyboard : The Differences and What You Should Buy
We often get asked what the difference between a digital piano and a keyboard is? Why are keyboards much cheaper than pianos? Why would you need to spend a lot more money to get a ‘piano’ when you don’t know the difference?
There are some key differences when looking at purchasing a piano or a keyboard; and hopefully we can do our best to narrow down the choice on what is best for your playing style.
Traditionally, acoustic pianos have been used for many years and have a dominant position in many styles of music. For this reason, many people want to learn how to play ‘the piano’.
The biggest and most important factor of why pianos are different to keyboards is the keys. Most digital pianos will have 88 Fully Weighted Keys. This means that when you press down a key, it is doing its best to replicate an acoustic piano. When trying digital pianos, you will notice that there is some resistance to push the keys down; this enables the player to get a much more responsive touch and it is often easier to replicate the same sound when transferring to an acoustic piano.
Some digital pianos can also feature wooden keys. This gives the player an even more authentic piano action. Furthermore, pianos nowadays can feature what is known as a Hybrid Action; this action has an actual hammer mechanism inside, identical to the action found in an acoustic piano. This is not only the perfect solution for those that need the most authentic piano action, but allows a player to understand how a piano responds when it is using real hammers.
Digital pianos can also be a lot less technical and usually do not feature a lot of controls. This is so a piano player can happily sit at a digital piano and comfortably know that they will not have to do a lot to get a piano sound. However, this doesn’t mean you won’t get a large feature set from certain digital pianos; this simply means that there may not be an obvious amount of controls that are directly accessible.
A keyboard may have some similar features to a piano but there are some key differences that are important. Modern keyboards have stemmed from organ players that needed an organ sound inside a smaller format. Organs were used in churches and later became digitised to be used at home. Because of these digital technologies becoming available, they were able to produce sounds and rhythms that a traditional church or chapel organ couldn’t produce. Over the years organs became smaller, more compact and much more portable. This has since evolved into what we now call keyboards.
Keyboards usually have between 49 and 76 keys. These keys are usually softer to the touch. Unlike a piano, there is little resistance when pressing a key down. For this reason you can often play organ and synthesiser sounds much more effectively but wont respond in the same way as a digital piano counterpart.
However, the main reason you would purchase a keyboard over a piano is the way you play them. Keyboards can be sometimes known as arranger workstations. This is a fancy way of saying, you can play many parts of a song at the same time. Keyboard players do this by splitting the keyboard into two sections: the right hand melody, and left hand chords.
The right hand melody (as the name suggests) will be the part that plays your melody or vocal line. The left hand is the clever section: the keyboard will detect what chords are being played on the left hand and will arrange the parts for you. So rather than learning the bass part, the guitar part and the trumpet part and wondering how you are going to play all three at the same time, an arranger keyboard will detect the chord you are playing in and fill in the parts for you.
Keyboards are perfect for those that like to create their own arrangements of songs, or write their own music; it gives you the opportunity to explore a larger amount of sounds, and add rhythms and FX etc.
We see this a lot at Breve Music and the short answer is yes but we wouldn’t recommend it. The long answer is that you need to decide what style of playing you want to achieve in the long term. Your success is only going to be improved by how well your tool does the job.
In this case, our tool is our piano or our keyboard. What we’re trying to say is playing an instrument can be made easier when using the correct the ‘tool’. If you want to play piano music but only have 61 keys, you may find that you run out of keys fairly quickly for a lot of songs. You may even feel that you are not getting the same response as your teachers piano or other pianos you have tried in the past.
So which one is for me?
You should certainly be thinking what kind of music and playing style you would like to learn. We find that most people nowadays are looking for a piano; most teachers teach on a piano and although a keyboard may seem like a nice cheap option to start with, it won’t satisfy the piano player’s experience. However, if you are just looking to explore sounds, rhythms and learn the keyboard style of playing, the keyboard is exactly what you need. For those looking to achieve both results, there is a product out there to achieve such a thing. More details can be found on the product page: Yamaha CVP809.