Difference between piano and keyboard
People often ask “What is the difference between piano and keyboard?”
But this is really two questions in one.
- What is the difference between piano lessons and keyboard lessons? and;
- What is the difference between a piano and a keyboard (i.e. what are the differences between each instrument)?
The main differences between a piano and a keyboard are:
A 'piano' is an acoustic instrument with weighted keys whereas a 'keyboard' is an electric instrument (requiring a power source) with unweighted (lighter) keys than a piano.
Each instrument has its own unique benefits and features.
For example, the weighted keys on the piano are good for building up finger strength which enhances your playing technique; and when you play a note or notes on a piano, the enharmonics (where the neighboring piano strings vibrate in harmony with the notes/s you have just played) give a richness to the sound that is unique to the piano.
But pianos need to be tuned regularly, which can be expensive.
By contrast, keyboards never need to be tuned.
And on a keyboard, you can change the sounds and instruments which adds great variety to your practice (many keyboards have hundreds of sounds you can choose from).
Also, on a keyboard you can play along with backing tracks.
Playing the keyboard is also good for encouraging very precise playing. For example, clipping an occasional incorrect note while playing the piano is less noticeable than if you make the same mistake on a keyboard.
Plus playing with backing tracks is very good for developing your ability to play precisely in time.
And, of course, MIDI keyboards can be connected to a computer or iPad, which opens up a host of music-making opportunities.
But what about keyboards that have weighted keys?
Incorrect terminology has the potential to easily cause confusion, so I want to be very clear here...
A 'keyboard' has unweighted keys.
The correct term for an electric keyboard instrument that has weighted keys is a 'digital piano'.
Aha (lightbulb moment)!
When the term 'MIDI keyboards' is used, this refers to all electronic MIDI instruments with a piano-style keyboard so this includes both 'keyboards' (with unweighted keys) and digital pianos (with weighted keys) – assuming of course that the instrument in question has MIDI capability.
So now that you know the main differences between a piano and a keyboard, should you be having piano lessons or keyboard lessons?
The term 'keyboard lessons' often refers to lessons or courses in which the student is only taught to read the Right Hand (melody) notes while the Left Hand plays 1-finger chords or simple block chords.
By contrast, the term 'piano lessons' (especially 'traditional piano lessons') usually refers to lessons in which the student is taught to read and play the notes properly in each hand, which is vastly better than what is often taught in 'keyboard' lessons.
So it could be said that Musiah teaches piano lessons but the students learn on MIDI keyboards for obvious practical reasons — such as the ability to connect a MIDI keyboard to a computer or iPad.
As you would expect from piano lessons, Musiah teaches students how to read the notes properly in each hand, and through the use of backing tracks (a feature normally associated with keyboard lessons) and performance challenges, students are encouraged to learn to play piano pieces to a high standard.
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Thanks for reading, and please feel free to comment.
Brendan Hogan L.Mus.A, A.Mus.A.
Piano Teacher & Musiah Inventor
Over 80,000 students have learned piano through the Musiah Method
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