What is the difference between a piano and a keyboard? Why does one cost £1000’s more than the other and how do the insides differ to make them sound different to each other?
Essentially a keyboard and a piano are two different musical instruments. They have the same set of black and white keys arranged in the same patterns as each other but they work very differently.
What is a keyboard?
A keyboard is basically an inexpensive synthesiser that has inbuilt speakers and an amplifier. (The name synthesiser means it is an instrument with a set of keys (they don’t have to be in piano order). These keys use electronic signals to reproduce sounds or sound effects that have been pre programmed into the machine.
Keyboards use something called a ‘keyboard matrix circuit’ to reduce the amount of wiring needed. When a key is pressed, a signal is sent to sound that note. Each key is spring loaded and pops back up instantly after being pressed.
Unique features of a keyboard
- Keyboards can produce a wide variety of pre programmed sounds, from percussion instruments like drums to brass, woodwind, strings or even sound effects.
- Keyboards usually have preprogrammed backing tracks to select from too, to play along to.
- Keyboards can be bough for very little money, some are obviously very expensive, but a basic one is very affordable.
- Keyboards are lightweight and portable, perfect for carrying around with you if you are a travelling musician or live in a small house with no storage space to leave it set up all the time.
What is a piano?
A piano is both a percussion and a string instrument, metal stings (usually 88 of them) are encased in a wooden frame. A piano produces sound by the piano keys being pressed – this triggers a hammer mechanism to hit associated string. The volume is created by the chamber in which the strings it.
In an upright piano, the strings are positioned vertically and in a grand piano, the strings are horizontal. The volume is controlled by the force at which the note is hit and the by the use of pedals, which also help to either elongate or shorten a note.
Unique features of a piano
- The piano is created by expert craftsmen and contains complicated mechanisms to sound the notes
- The piano needs regular maintenance including tuning, which has to be done by an expert as it is very tricky to do!
- A piano has three pedals to manual control the length of a note.
- Any amount of notes can be pressed at the same time, unlike a keyboard, because the sound is ‘man made’ and not digital.
What are the mail differences between a piano an a keyboard?
- Price – keyboards are WAY cheaper
- How it is made – pianos are man made from wood, keyboards are plastic
- Portability – keyboards can be easily transported
- Sound quality – a keyboard will never be able to produce a sound as pure and emotive as a real piano
- Size – Keyboards are often less than 88 keys – (the size of a full piano)
- Effects – A piano is unable to produce any other sound that the piano notes
- Maintenance – a keyboard needs little to no maintenance whereas a piano needs frequent ‘servicing’ and tuning to keep it in excellent condition
- Value – A piano will hold its value and still be working for at least 50 to 80 years, a keyboard is less likely to work for this long.