Here at SoCal Pianos, we get asked all kinds of questions. Some of them can be a bit tricky, like this one: is a piano and keyboard the same thing? It’s tricky because it can be answered both yes and no. I know, it’s a head scratcher, but let’s dive a little deeper into it. The best place to start is understanding what it is we are talking about when we say piano and keyboard.
A piano is a large acoustical musical instrument consisting of metal strings and a soundboard which are enclosed in a wooden box. When the keys are pressed, hammers strike the strings and produce the rich sound pianos are recognized for. They also come in electric and digital piano models. When keys are pressed on electric and digital pianos, a pre-recorded sound is sent to the amplifier for playback. Digital models differ slightly from electric in that there is more sound modification possible.
Let’s just get this out of the way: all pianos have keyboards, a row of keys that players press to produce sounds. Technically speaking, however, a keyboard by itself is not of much use without the rest of the piano. But, over time the term keyboard has become synonymous with electric/digital pianos. So, for purposes of this blog, let’s move forward by recognizing keyboards as electric/digital pianos and explore how they differ from traditional acoustic pianos.
- Touch. This is probably the most notable difference between a piano and a keyboard and it refers to the feel and weight of the keys themselves. Piano keys are heavier as they are connected to the weight of the hammers. They are more sensitive to the amount of pressure players apply, resulting in what experts say is more control of tone and resonance. While keyboards have made much progress in recent years, they simply lack the dynamic range one gets with an acoustic piano. One plus for the lighter keys on a keyboard is that it can be easier for a young beginner who lacks the finger strength required to play a larger piano.
- Practicality. Keyboards have a few clear advantages when it comes to functional usage and application. For starters, they are much lighter than a piano, which runs anywhere from 440 pounds to 1200 pounds. Moving a piano is a sizable task and requires plenty of planning, whereas most keyboards can be packed up and easily moved by one person, whether it’s from one room to another or one house to another. Keyboards also offer more flexibility soundwise as the notes can be altered digitally to fit multiple musical needs.
- Lifespan/Maintenance. A traditional high-end piano can last for hundreds – yes, hundreds – of years if properly maintained. Keyboard longevity is much shorter, though some high-end models can last for decades. Maintenance is a more complicated issue as pianos require expertise and frequent attention. Keyboards, because they do not feature hammers striking strings, they do not receive as much wear and tear.
- Price. This is the most obvious difference and the one that catches everyone’s attention. Traditional pianos start in the thousands of dollars and go up quickly from there. Purchasing one is an investment, not a hobby. Keyboards are significantly cheaper with price tags beginning in the low hundreds, but can also get expensive.
Deciding between a traditional piano and keyboard involves several factors, including intended usage, playing ability and budget. For help in choosing the right piano or keyboard for you, give us a call today or make an appointment to stop by our California showrooms in Ontario and Palm Springs.