• Gavin Stewart

Keyboard or Piano?

Updated: Apr 30


I’m often asked whether a keyboard is suitable for piano lessons or not. The short answer is no. Keyboard playing differs from piano playing in several important ways. However, it is possible to start off on a keyboard and move on to a piano later. I made this transition myself and my early keyboard experience laid the foundation for my piano studies in ways I didn’t fully appreciate until later.


So what’s the difference between playing a keyboard versus a piano? Playing keyboard involves playing a melody along with an auto accompaniment. The accompaniments come in a variety of styles, and to make them fit with the melody you play chords with the left hand. More sophisticated keyboards will have better quality sounds/accompaniments and other features to enhance the performance. An entry level model will be enough to start with, and as you progress you’ll need more advanced features. Keyboard is for you if you want to play contemporary styles, and enjoy the auto accompaniments, various instrument sounds and other effects. If you already know that the piano is where your interest lies, then a keyboard can only take you so far. When playing piano everything is played by the hands. There is also a much bigger range of keys, and they feel heavier than those on a keyboard which requires greater control. We can control the volume of each key, which allows for more expression. (Many keyboards have a feature called ‘touch sensitivity’ which simulates this effect, but the keys are still lighter than those on a piano).

The marketplace is full of many different kinds of pianos nowadays, ranging from the traditional acoustic upright or grand to the various electronic options. Here are the main options available:


  • Acoustic grand or upright

  • Digital grand or upright

  • Stage piano (these can resemble keyboards)

  • Hybrid piano (a digital piano with a keyboard action similar to an acoustic)

  • Silent piano (an acoustic piano with digital functionality)


When choosing which kind to buy, there are many factors to consider (including space, budget and proximity to neighbours) and your teacher/local piano dealers will be the best sources of information. Above all you should choose an instrument that sounds good and is fun to play.


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