The key difference between keyboard and piano is the fact that the former is an electric instrument, while the second one is an acoustic one. A 88-key weighted keyboard is most similar to an acoustic one. Digital models, on the contrary, come with varying numbers of keys, whereas classic models always come with the same number.
A piano is commonly considered as a descendant of the keyboard. In reality, the keyboard is a digital replication of its acoustic predecessor. While the main advantage of an acoustic instrument is its authentic sound, the keyboard is designed to be a compact, universal, easy-to-use, and less expensive alternative.
Piano vs Keyboard: Comparison
The key action is in charge of the instrument’s responsivity. The keys on a keyboard react to finger movements differently than those on a traditional keyboard. The piano keys feel heavy to press. The keyboards are more sensitive to the touch and thus do not feel natural, which is a great disappointment for many musicians.
The weighted keys on a keyboard bring you closer to the acoustic piano. However, the problem is that it’s very difficult to make such keys on a non-acoustic instrument.
So, speaking of sound, what is the difference between piano and keyboard? In fact, this difference is very noticeable. Even inexperienced musicians can easily catch it. Of course, the sound quality of both instruments varies greatly depending on the brand, model, etc.
Inside a piano, hammers strike the strings as you press the keys, and this is how the sound is produced. On the piano, each key simply reproduces one note. The amount of pressure with which the keys are pressed can be used to control the volume level.
The sound quality of a keyboard is largely determined by the quality of the inbuilt speakers. Its main purpose is to perfectly replicate the sound of an acoustic piano. However, considering the specifics of both instruments, this goal is nearly impossible to achieve. Although many models got pretty close.
The keyboard lets you create and customize your own sound. This is especially useful during a live performance as you can make all changes in real time. Besides, the volume level can be regulated with great precision using dedicated controls.
At first glance, classic pianos appear to have no additional functions. However, the pedals on their base act as levers for sound modification. Modern models have three of them:
- soft (allows changing the timbre)
- sostenuto (enables the player to sustain certain notes)
- damper (enriches the tone)
Digital models, on the other hand, come with a number of built-in learning features as well as compatibility with a variety of teaching software. Furthermore, they are more compact and convenient, which is advantageous when taking private lessons. Because the key layout on both types of instruments is identical, it makes no difference which one you choose for learning purposes.
The keyboard has the ability to record the music which is used even by professional musicians who normally prefer acoustic grand pianos. It also allows you to plug the keyboard into your PC using a USB or MIDI 5-pin cable and download your recordings to your computer. More advanced models even have Bluetooth capability.
You can customize a keyboard to suit your playing style and other requirements and manipulate the sound in many different ways. It offers hundreds and, in some cases, even thousands of various pre-recorded sounds of different instruments (such as drums, strings, organs, etc.), tones, rhythms, and effects.
When being maintained correctly, the pianos have an unlimited service term. They don’t have any electronic parts that require repair or replacement on a regular basis. However, if the piano is ever damaged, the cost of repair will be prohibitive.
Cheap keyboards may start to show signs of malfunction within a couple of years. The high-quality ones usually last for decades.
A classic piano requires a lot of care to stay in perfect condition. To begin, it must be kept in tune. The tuning should be done by a professional, which increases the cost of maintenance. Second, this type of instrument is very sensitive to environmental conditions and can go out of tune due to factors like temperature fluctuations, excessive air humidity, and climate changes.
The keyboard doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. All you have to do is just wipe the keys, keep your unit out of moisture, and make sure that your outlets aren’t overloaded.
The difference between piano and keyboard is also very significant when it comes to size. Because pianos are fragile, heavy, and large, they pose numerous transportation challenges.
There are different types of pianos based on their size and weight:
- Spinet. This type has the most compact dimensions—the weight ranges from 200 to 400 lbs and the height varies from 36 to 40 inches.
- Console. The most popular one. Its weight may be anywhere between 350 and 450 lbs and the height ranges from 40 to 43 inches.
- Studio. Such pianos may have a weight of up to 500 lbs and be up to 48 inches tall. They are commonly used in music schools.
- Grand. This type is the largest and is divided into many subtypes (Petite, Baby, Medium, Living Room, Professional, Parlor, Drawing Room, Semi Concert, and Concert). The weight starts from 500 lbs and ends at about 1200 lbs. The height of such pianos can reach 107 inches.
When it comes to keyboards, the majority of them are small and light enough to be carried by one person. They are offered in a variety of sizes and styles, so you can choose between small, toy-like models and full-size versions. There are three major types (from smallest to largest):
- Standard. This is the most compact type, suitable for at-home practice. It can be placed on top of the table or on a special stand that is usually provided. Such keyboards are mobile and easy-to-transport but lack a lot of features.
- Upright. They have large cabinets, being closer to acoustic models. However, despite similar appearance, such keyboards still aren’t as big as traditional ones.
- Stage. The largest type is designed for use on stage.
The dimensions of the unit are significantly influenced by the sizes of keys. The same key sizes are used by all the pianos by default. The width of black keys is 0.54 inches and the length is 3.5 inches. The width of white keys is 0.93 inches and the length is 6 inches.
The keyboard keys are sized differently. However, their size won’t influence the sound whereas their quantity does. Usually, the keyboards come with such numbers of keys: 88, 72, 61, 49, and 25. The last four are intended to provide compactness, but their functionality is limited.
The biggest difference between a keyboard and a piano is, probably, the price. The keyboards are much cheaper than pianos, and this is one of their largest advantages. The minimal cost starts at $50. Of course, there is a plethora of high-end models availables. However, roughly speaking, a decent model of acceptable quality can be found for between 500 and 700 dollars.
A new acoustic piano will set you back at least $1000. Even so, this will be a poor choice because high-quality models cost thousands of dollars.
Keyboard vs Piano: Conclusion
Both instruments have their benefits and downsides and, and you should consider a variety of factors when deciding which is better for you. Students and average pianists who want a more compact, universal, and convenient option will benefit from the keyboard. The abundance of features will be useful for performances and sound experimentation by creators.
A traditional piano is a significant financial investment. It’s not only expensive, but it also takes up a lot of space and requires a lot of maintenance. However, it’s able to give you an authentic sound and can last for hundreds of years.