If you or someone you know plays piano, you’ve probably heard the terms digital piano, keyboard, electric piano, and electronic piano all used interchangeably. Did you know that there are actually several important differences between these instruments?
Keyboard is a widely misused term that often causes confusion. In reality, the word keyboard simply refers to the set of black and white keys featured on many instruments including pianos, harpsichords, organs, xylophones, etc. For the purposes of researching pianos and considering which one to buy, a keyboard is just one type of digital piano.
Keyboards are almost always smaller than an acoustic or digital piano. They usually have 61-76 keys. Keyboards are very light-weight, which makes them more portable than their digital counterparts. Players may notice that the keys on a keyboard are slightly smaller and easier to press. This is because the keys on a keyboard are “non-weighted.” Put simply, they do not have the same touch and feel as an acoustic piano.
Most piano teachers would not recommend a keyboard for a student taking lessons. This is because it simply feels different playing on an unweighted keyboard versus an acoustic piano or high-quality digital piano.
Slabs are portable digital pianos that have between 76 and 88 keys. These keys can be weighted or non-weighted. The main factor that differentiates a slab from a keyboard is that a slab does not have self-contained speakers. Groups who benefit from this feature include studio and jazz band performers, marching band front ensembles, and traveling musicians.
Because the sound comes through a speaker system or an amplifier, these musicians often prefer slabs for their professional audio outputs. Slabs can connect to computers via MIDI or USB, which unlocks limitless potential for instrumentation, promotes creativity, and diversifies ensemble sounds.
The digital piano was designed with the acoustic piano in mind. It resembles the look and feel of an acoustic as closely as possible, while still retaining all of the benefits of the digitized world. These instruments are often constructed with matching stands and pedal boards that have traditional aesthetics, and also contain weighted actions to replicate the touch of an acoustic piano. For these reasons, digital pianos can accommodate players of all levels, from beginner to professional. In comparison to keyboards and slabs, these instruments are not intended to be portable. A digital piano is larger than a keyboard and often has much better sound quality, due to the built-in speakers.
Digital pianos also come in a variety of sizes and cabinet styles. These cabinet styles include spinets, uprights/verticals, and baby grands. The other difference between the different digital styles is the number of speakers in each piano, which will increase as the size of the piano increases.
Why should I choose a digital piano?
Digital pianos can be a useful tool to pianists of all levels. Many newer piano students aren’t ready to jump in and make the full commitment of purchasing an acoustic piano. By selecting a digital piano with weighted keys, the student can still have an authentic practice and rehearsal experience, comparable to an acoustic piano. This is so important to piano teachers, as they prepare students to play on concert stages, which have acoustic pianos. Another benefit is that the player can plug in headphones for silent practicing (which parents, babies, and apartment neighbors really love!) Digital pianos also don’t incur tuning and maintenance costs. That’s right, digital pianos never have to be tuned!
For even more information on the benefits and uses of digital pianos, please check out our website, YouTube channel, and future blogs. And of course, please call our store or come by and see these beautiful instruments for yourself!