In this age of technology, everything is rapidly changing. An instrument that was once the size of a sofa can now be kept in a bag and taken anywhere you like. Many musicians have played pianos for years, but still don’t quite understand the differences between a piano and a keyboard.
Both have the same function, and provide virtually the same performance. However, musicians and audiences typically agree there are distinct differences between the sounds each of them produces. Here’s a quick comparison to help you understand the significant differences between the two instruments.
Pianos have been used for solo performances for centuries. Over time, the size of pianos has been reduced significantly and groups now commonly used them as well.
Perhaps the most obvious difference is that all pianos have 88 keys, while the number of keys often varies among keyboards. Having more keys enables musicians to play more notes and create different sounds that might not be possible on a keyboard.
Here are a few other significant differences:
• Pianos have pedals that enhance their sounds, while keyboards do not.
• Concert pianos are huge and can’t be transported as easily as keyboards.
• Most concert pianists perform in auditoriums built especially for pianos to better showcase their talents, while keyboardists can perform practically anywhere.
If you plan to learn to play piano, it is better to learn on a traditional piano because it will provide you the opportunity to learn all the notes. Afterward, you should be able to easily produce the same notes on a keyboard.
Keyboards (or "digital pianos") typically have 76 keys, which means you might not be able to produce some notes. However, with proper training and practice, musicians often produce the same sounds with both.
Keyboards are electronic, and some people maintain it affects their sound quality. But whatever slight differences discerning ears might hear between the sounds produced by these two instruments, in the end, most music lovers enjoy the sounds of both.
Interestingly, the greatest difference is likely much more noticeable to performers than audiences. Keyboard players quickly become acquainted with the limits of the "touch" and the "action" of the keys. The quality of this tactile connection is critical to truly fine performances. However, the electronic reality limits the extent to which touch and action can be adjusted, while the mechanical nature of pianos allows virtually limitless adjustments to both.
In the final analysis, there’s no need to worry about the subtle differences between these two instruments. High-end keyboards even closely replicate the adjustability of pianos’ touch and action. So, when speaking in terms of comparable quality, both allow you to give your best. In the end, a truism of the digital age applies. What comes out is largely determined by what you put in. That’s why I recommend that musicians begin by learning to play piano before deciding whether or not to try their hand (or hands) at a keyboard based upon their personal tastes and the requirements of their performances and venues.