Keyboard Or Digital Piano To Learn?


Do you start with a keyboard or digital piano?


This is one of the most frequent questions we receive at our blog. Many parents ask us which is the right instrument for their children to practice at home and follow the recommended learning rhythm. Usually guided by the teacher, they usually have some idea more or less clear, but in the end the question is inevitable: Keyboard or digital piano?


We can start by clarifying that learning classical piano is not the same as learning keyboards in general.

In the case of the classical piano, some schools and academies, and especially conservatories, require the student to acquire an acoustic piano (with strings), with the investment that this implies:


And this is where the digital piano (without strings) comes into play as a viable alternative for studying classical piano; whereas home keyboards are not, and these are more oriented towards a fun time at home to perform pieces of more modern styles such as rock or pop.


We will try to clear up some doubts, although there is never a single answer and, in the end, the decision between keyboard or digital piano has to be made by the parents themselves, guided by the teacher, and by us as specialists in permanent contact with the market.


Differences between home keyboard and digital piano


Octaves (number of keys)

The main difference between the home keyboard and the piano is the number of keys on the instrument. While the home keyboard can have 49 keys (4 octaves), 61 keys (5 octaves) or even 73-76 (6 octaves), the digital piano always has 88 keys (just over 7 octaves) as if it were an acoustic piano, i.e. the entire keyboard.


It is often children who explain to their parents that the instrument they practice on at school or at the conservatory has all 88 keys.


This issue is not very relevant at the beginning, because the future pianist, can type with both hands what he practices in his classes. Therefore, and until a certain level is acquired (normally in the 3rd or 4th level), we will not hear that famous phrase: “Dad, it’s that… I’m missing keys!

Counterbalanced key Vs Touch-sensitive key

Also in terms of keys, there is another big difference that will be of great importance when deciding on the keyboard or digital piano.  


We refer to the “counterweight” or “hammer action”. Acoustic pianos have counterbalanced keys (or hard keys), which consist of a padded hammer that hits the corresponding string and, depending on the strength of the touch, emits the note with greater or lesser volume. Once the key is released, it recovers its natural position by the counterweight system.


Well, the keys of home keyboards are not usually counterbalanced but soft. In fact, finding a 61-key keyboard with a counterweight on the market is very difficult, and even more so in the product range in which we are moving. 


Therefore, it will be convenient, in the case we choose a keyboard, that it at least has “sensitive keys” or touch-sensitive. The touch-sensitive key, although not counterbalanced, is capable of capturing the speed and force with which we press it and therefore emits a different volume for each type of keystroke. This detail is very important since it will give us the opportunity to play with what we technically call dynamics.


Functions and extras

Another major difference between home keyboards and digital pianos, although this is not 100% fulfilled, is the functions performed by each instrument. 


Generally, the home keyboard is equipped with a large number of sounds and automatic accompaniments, making it a real treat for children, as they can play their favorite songs with the sound of a rock band in the background. The left hand is the one that will direct this accompaniment.

On most keyboards, these functions come from the origin and as we explained to the parents “are not negotiable”. The instrument is made this way because we are talking about a home keyboard. There are some keyboard models on the market without all these functions but generally, keyboards are loaded with rhythmic patterns, accompaniments and sounds.


The digital piano on the other hand, especially the models designed for the studio, does not have these “extras”. In these digital pianos, we usually find between 5 and 20 sounds that can belong to different types of piano, electric pianos, harpsichord, organs and string orchestra, even acoustic and electric guitar. 


They do not usually have accompaniments or large sound libraries, although there are always options and versions that have them. But if we are thinking of acquiring a piano to study, we do not need all these functions, which after all, teachers do not like very much.



The price is usually another big variable when choosing the instrument. While home keyboards with touch-sensitive keys usually range from 180 dollars to 400 dollars for more complete models. Here we’d suggest looking at the Casio CTK-3500 61-Key Touch Sensitive Portable Keyboard with Power Supply.
  We can already find options on the digital piano market for over 400 dollars (Casio Privia PX-160BK  as an example). This issue, which was unthinkable a few years ago, now allows us to have a digital piano at home for the price of a keyboard that is considered to be in the middle of the economic range. The Casio Privia PX-160BK 88-Key Full Size Digital Piano with Power Supply is ideal for those with a bigger budget.





To end the differences, we have another no less important section, which is polyphony. Very briefly, it is the number of notes that can be played at the same time. In acoustic pianos we have total polyphony, that is, we can make the 88 keys (musical notes) sound and all the piano strings will vibrate.

To study classical piano we recommend a minimum of 192 voices, but in digital pianos the ideal (and common) thing is to find 256 voices of polyphony. There are also lower ones with 128, 96, 64 and 48, which are probably cheaper. And we can also find polyphonies of 384 voices or even 512 in the most advanced models.


On the other hand, in the domestic keyboards, also depending on the number of keys, it will go from 8, 16, 20, 24, 32 to 48 polyphony voices normally.



It is not easy to decide as nobody knows if the young piano apprentices will want to continue studying or not. Many times, the instrument helps the student not to give up. The more similar it is to the one you use at school, the more attachment you will gain to the instrument. Thus the more satisfaction and enjoyment you will get. Which in turn translates into a greater chance of success.

We’ve reviewed several Casio models here as well as other popular brands.


One response to “Keyboard Or Digital Piano To Learn?

  1. […] go ahead and practice. I’ve not mastered the guitar, but I’m trying to decide between a keyboard or a traditional piano for my next instrument […]

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