Getting started in piano and getting shell-shocked at the price-tag on a baby grand? It makes sense. At upwards of $50,000, it’s not an inexpensive instrument.
You may even start questioning if you need an actual piano at all. After all, electronic keyboards are much more cost-effective, and they seem to offer the same basic benefits as a piano.
So what is the difference between keyboard and piano? Is there a difference at all? Let’s dive in and find out.
Is There a Difference Between Keyboard and Piano?
First, it’s important to understand what exactly we are talking about.
Though it doesn’t bear much resemblance to the violin, the piano is technically a stringed instrument, played percussively.
When the keys are pressed, wooden hammers strike the strings, and the note resonates within the body of the piano. This resonance produces the rich sound pianos are famous for.
It’s also the reason pianos are so large. The space within the instrument produces a richer sound, which is why there is such a tonal difference even between a grand and upright piano.
A keyboard, on the other hand, is actually a misnomer. The keyboard technically refers to the row of keys on any piano. But keyboard has now become synonymous with digital or electronic pianos.
These are digital instruments, require electricity to be played, and produce their sound by way of a synthesizer rather than by strings and hammers. This allows them to be smaller and more cost-effective.
Let’s look at the major differences between the two.
Touch and Feel
One major difference between keyboard and piano is with the keys themselves.
Piano keys are heavier and carry behind them the weight of the hammers. Playing piano may feel more organic, as the pressure applied affects the dynamics of the piece.
This gives pianos significantly more control in terms of dynamics and musicality.
Keyboards are catching up, with touch sensitive models on the market, but they can’t yet match the abilities of a piano. Many models simply don’t have the dynamic range of a piano, as much of the loudness must be handled via a volume knob, rather than by pressure on the keys.
Keyboard keys are also significantly lighter than piano keys, which may make them easier for a beginner, especially a young child who hasn’t yet built up the finger strength to be effective on a larger instrument.
Longevity and Maintenance
In 2013, a 240-year-old piano, once owned by the first Duke of Wellington, was played during a concert at Apsley House in London.
Like a musical Galapagos Tortoise, pianos can last hundreds of years, if they are properly maintained.
Maintenace on such instruments is no small feat, as they must be kept safe from damp and mold, restrung occasionally, and repaired as time goes by. In addition, very little of this required maintenance falls under “DIY”, making it an expensive proposition.
But, if well cared for, there seems to be little limit as to how long these instruments can last.
Digital keyboards, though, are no slouches when it comes to longevity. While cheaper models may malfunction within a few years, some mid-level to higher-level models may last decades and still play just fine.
These keyboards are also going to take significantly less maintenance than a full-size piano. Without keys to tune and hammers to maintain, it is a simple matter of keeping it clean, dry, and not overloading your electric outlets.
Functionality and Weight
There’s really no way around it. Pianos are heavy. The smallest uprights average 400-500 lbs, while the larget grand pianos can weigh as much as 1200 lbs. For perspective, that’s the same weight as a polar bear, if less prone to eating you.
The logistics of moving a piano are sizeable, especially if they have to go up any number of stairs. We’ve all seen the cartoons. We know what happens when you try to lift a piano in through a window.
Keyboards, by contrast, are usually lightweight enough to be carried by a single person. Setup is simple and they are portable enough to be transported by car from one place to another.
When it comes to functionality, the keyboard has the piano beat in terms of flexibility.
Pianos make one sound. They make it in a range of dynamics and notes, but it’s still one general sound.
Keyboards, on the other hand, have the ability to have their sound altered and changed to fit all manner of musical needs. They are great for in-home studios that require unique sounds and the ability to plug directly into mixing software.
The most obvious difference between keyboard and piano? The price.
Traditional pianos start in the low thousands and can range up to the price of a luxury car. They are an investment, not a frivolity. They may be far outside the budgets of beginners or those unsure how long they will stick with this new hobby.
Digital keyboards can start out very reasonable, in the low hundreds, though higher-end models can be as much as a small upright piano.
The investment is something that needs to be considered carefully. Even after the initial investment in an expensive piano, maintenance costs should be figured in as well.
Should You Get a Keyboard or Piano?
The question of which to buy is one that will come down to several factors:
- Level of Proficiency
- Available Space
- Intended Use
For a piano teacher, obviously, a traditional piano will probably be a better fit. A studio musician with a home studio may require a high-end digital keyboard for studio work, but prefer a traditional upright for composing. A piano student needs to look at how invested they are in the instrument.
While they serve the same general purpose and are two takes on the same instrument, the difference between keyboard and piano is such that the choice is one to be made carefully, keeping in mind all the variables.
For help deciding which best meets your needs, contact us or pay us a visit today!