Which Is Better Digital Piano Or Keyboard?

Last Updated on January 11, 2023

Which Is Better Digital Piano Or Keyboard?

The ultimate question for any musician looking to purchase a new instrument is should I get a digital piano or keyboard? When making this decision, it is important to understand why you are trying to learn the piano in the first place.

If you prefer an acoustic piano but don't have space for one, is that still the case? If so, then digital pianos will be your best bet due to their incredible sound quality and realistic feeling keys. Contrarily, Keyboards are the better option if you need something easily transportable to take on trips and make music with friends due to their lighter size and portability.

At the end of the day, it all depends on your individual needs and desires. If you need an instrument that sounds great, feels solid, and looks nice in your home then a digital piano is more likely for you. However, if you want an instrument that has a wide range of tones then a keyboard will be better suited for what you need.

What Exactly Is A Digital Piano?

So what exactly is a digital piano? Well, it's a type of instrument specifically designed to resemble traditional acoustic pianos. On the surface, they look just like an acoustic pianos but on the inside, they are more sophisticated.

Digital pianos generally come with 88 keys, just like their acoustic counterparts, and can be built in three different arrangements: upright like an acoustic, in a cabinet, or on a keyboard stand.

The biggest difference between digital pianos and keyboards is the touch and feel. Digital pianos often have weighted keys that replicate the action of an acoustic piano. This makes it easier for pianists to transition from playing one instrument to another.

Furthermore, digital pianos usually have higher quality sound as well which replicates the authentic sound of an acoustic with much more detail and realism.

What Exactly Is A Keyboard?

A keyboard is a popular, compact alternative to a digital piano. It is designed to be portable, lightweight, and user-friendly. Generally, it has fewer keys than standard 88-key digital pianos, often consisting of 61 or 78 semi-weighted or unweighted keys instead.

This makes keyboards easier to use for beginners and people with smaller hands, however, they cannot replicate an acoustic piano. Moreover, keyboards offer a wide variety of sounds that you don't get from traditional digital pianos.

What's The Difference Between A Digital Piano And A Keyboard?

If you're looking for a musical instrument, there are many important considerations to make before deciding if a digital piano or keyboard is an excellent choice for your needs.

Portability is an important factor when choosing between a digital piano and a keyboard. Keyboards are typically lightweight and fit easily on just about any stand making them more portable than a digital piano.

Digital pianos, while still able to be transported, usually come with some sort of built-in stand, are much heavier, and you may need a properly rated stand to hold it safely as it is not designed to fit on standard stands.

The sound quality of each instrument is different as well. Digital pianos typically offer higher quality acoustic piano modeling technology giving them an edge over keyboards when it comes to replication of top-of-the-line Yamaha or Steinway acoustics.

On the other hand, keyboards often feature 100+ sounds with editable parameters that provide more flexibility for customization so your choice depends on your preference for sound accuracy versus the breadth of acoustic piano tone options.

The Number Of Keys

When it comes to choosing between a digital piano and a keyboard, the number of keys on each instrument is one of the most important factors. Digital pianos are designed to emulate the sound and feel of an acoustic piano, so they'll often have 88 keys just like their acoustic counterparts.

The Yamaha NP-12 is an exception since it has 61 keys but still classifies as a digital piano due to its realistic acoustics. By contrast, electronic keyboards typically have fewer keys than a digital piano - usually just 61 - spread over five octaves.

This is ideal for those who want portability but don't want to sacrifice the potential to learn two-handed playing styles.

Key Action

When it comes to choosing between a digital piano and a keyboard, key action should be a primary consideration. Acoustic piano keys have varying weights depending on where they are located in the keyboard - the lowest notes are heavier, and the weight diminishes as you go up towards the higher notes on the right-hand side of the keyboard. The bounce back of each key is also an important factor that determines how to properly play a real high-quality piano.

Therefore, most digital pianos come with weighted or semi-weighted keys that replicate the same feel as an acoustic piano. In comparison, keyboards usually come with ‘synth action’ keys that are much lighter to press down - making them great for people just starting out with playing music.

The Velocity Sensitivity

The velocity sensitivity of digital pianos and keyboards is a major factor when it comes to creating dynamic, expressive music. It works by having sensors beneath each key that detect the forcefulness of your playing, allowing you to control the volume of the sound produced. This is similar to an acoustic piano, where gentle keys will produce a soft note and hard notes will create a more forceful authentic piano sound.

This feature is important if you want the music you create to have any dynamic expressiveness. Without it, regardless of how hard or soft you press the keys on your keyboard, the sound won’t change in volume. So make sure velocity sensitivity is top of your checklist when looking at digital pianos or decent electronic keyboards.

Sound/voice Types

When it comes to sound types and voices, digital pianos offer fewer options compared to keyboards. With digital pianos, you'll typically find acoustic piano samples, some electric piano sounds such as some organ voices, Wurli and FM-style E-piano tones, and a clavinet or harpsichord. There may also be a string patch or two that can be layered up and played together with another acoustic piano sound.

On the other hand, electronic keyboards come with a variety of instrument options, from synthesizer tones to sound effects and "super articulation" voices designed to provide extra realism when mimicking acoustic instruments through the addition of samples such as bass slides, flute trills, or guitar harmonics.


Auto-accompaniment is one of the defining features of a keyboard or original piano. It gives users access to hundreds of styles and genres, turning them into a one-man band.

With just one finger on the left hand, musicians can select a chord for the virtual band to play, while the right-hand plays a melody over the top. The auto-accompaniment section takes care of bass, drums, and additional keyboard or guitar parts that perfectly follow your chords.

To decide if you want a digital piano or keyboard, consider whether you need special features or not. If you’re interested in classical music then you may find this feature unnecessary but if you want to learn multiple genres then auto-accompaniment could be great for you!

Midi Controllers

Midi Controllers are the perfect solution if you want to use a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) in order to make music. They are ideal for those who want to use their computer to create sounds and record MIDI performances, as they don't have any speakers or produce any sounds of their own.

These controllers can range from tiny desktop keyboards with 25 mini synth-action keys, right up to large 88-key fully weighted controllers with a keyboard action similar to that of an acoustic piano.

MIDI controllers don't create sound, but they can transfer MIDI data between the user and a computer. They're not ideal for those who want a device that makes its own sounds without needing to be connected to a computer.


In conclusion, the main distinction between a digital piano and an electronic keyboard is the number of keys, the weight of the key action, and the variety of voices. A digital piano typically comes with 88 weighed keys and a specialized sound range while an electronic keyboard normally has 61 lighter keys and lots of voices.

It all depends on your needs: a digital piano is suited for learning or pro-level play while an electronic keyboard should suffice if you just want to learn the basics or enjoy more portability.

Heya'll Im Oliver (Oli), I run MyDigitalPiano.com. By trade an Electrical Engineer, an owner of a piano shop. Always being asked about my recommendations for top piano, I created this site. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to reach out :)

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