When I start a new pupil, whether they have requested piano or keyboard lessons, I always talk to them about this choice. Often it’s something they haven’t even thought about. Sometimes it’s a parent who decides and they have a fixed idea about what they want, which is fine. But it’s always good to ask the question…
So which is better, piano or keyboard? People sometimes have strong opinions on this! I enjoy teaching both, and for me they are of equal value. I know there are those who will disagree. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of each:
- If you want to be a professional pianist or accompanist, this is the obvious route.
- Your finger strength develops more than a keyboardist (due to the weighted keys)
- You don’t need a socket to plug in your instrument (unless you have a digital piano)
- You develop similar dexterity in your left hand as that in your right.
- Once you master a piece, you can usually play it on any piano or keyboard anywhere.
- You usually have a wider range of notes
- Playing the piano is considered a useful traditional skill
- Pianos cost a considerable amount of money
- Pianos are heavy and difficult to transport
- Pianos require regular tuning and maintenance (unless you have a digital piano)
- Pianos have only one voice
- It is harder to learn to play in different styles
- The sound and vibration from an acoustic piano can cause a nuisance
- It will take you longer to ‘sound good’ to your friends
- Keyboards are generally less expensive (but make sure you get a touch-sensitive one)
- Keyboards require no tuning and very little maintenance
- Keyboards are highly portable
- Keyboards have multiple voices and effects
- It is easier to learn to play in many different styles
- You can turn down the volume to avoid nuisance or use headphones
- You can often connect your instrument to a computer for extra functionality
- You can use the auto-accompaniments to ‘sound good’ to your friends quite quickly
- The keyboard is seen as a ‘less serious’ instrument (shouldn’t be the case, but it is!)
- When you master a piece you will find it hard to transfer it to a piano
- You usually have a narrower range of notes
- Your finger strength builds less quickly
- You need electricity (mains or batteries) when you play
Sometimes I am asked if a pupil can learn piano and do their practice on a keyboard. This is far from ideal, but if it’s the difference between someone learning and not learning, I take the view they should start however they can. I encourage them to consider learning keyboard but if they are absolutely set on playing piano we go ahead. Often within a few months they upgrade to a digital piano anyway, because they feel the difference when they come to lessons and play mine. And playing any instrument is better than playing no instrument!
Are you thinking of taking piano or keyboard lessons? What would make you choose one over the other? Or are you thinking about changing from piano to keyboard or vice-versa? Let me know in the comments below. Happy playing!