Digital Keyboard vs Acoustic Piano: Which One Is Better? An Analysis of Keyboards vs Pianos

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There are many great digital keyboards out there today. However, the prevailing view is that they are not and never will be as good as an old-school wood-and-glue acoustic piano. That may have been true in the past, but today’s digital keyboard technology is so good that the choice just isn’t as simple as it used to be.

Deciding between a digital piano vs a real piano is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make when selecting an instrument. Both have their pros and cons, which makes it difficult to choose between the two. This guide goes over the advantages and disadvantages of each to help you make a decision.

That Real Piano Sound

The most obvious distinction in the battle between keyboards vs pianos is the sound. Sampling technology has improved greatly, and today’s best digital pianos sound very close to acoustic pianos. But even with the most high quality, advanced digital pianos, you’ll still know that you aren’t playing the real thing.

The sound produced by an acoustic piano is a result of over 200 strings vibrating across a sound board. In comparison, a digital piano is an imitation of that complicated process of sound production. But that process is what gives an acoustic piano its lively sound, and a digital version can sound sterile in comparison.

Electric piano vs acoustic piano sound

On the flip side, an acoustic piano can only sound like an acoustic piano. With a digital piano, you often have the ability to select from many different sounds and voicings. Playing a harpsichord or an organ piece? Your digital piano can sound like one. Want to mess around with guitar or chorus sounds? Your keyboard has you covered.

If you’re looking for the best real piano sound, nothing beats a real piano. But if you want something that sounds very much like an acoustic piano and also offers many different sounds to play around with, a keyboard is your best bet.

Touch and Feel

Touch and feel is another important factor in considering a piano vs a keyboard. Especially if you’re just starting to learn the instrument, the difference between learning on a keyboard without weighted keys and learning on a real piano can be very obvious. Piano keys have a very distinct feel and involve different fingering habits than the average keyboard.

Feel of digital piano vs real piano

Here, digital piano technology is constantly improving. Many top-of-the-line keyboards feature weighted keys with graded hammer action. This means that the lower keys feel heavier and the higher keys feel lighter, just like on a real piano. Some digital pianos even feature keys made out of wood or imitation ivory like you would find on a piano.

While a keyboard with weighted keys may come close to mimicking real piano keys, the experience of playing on a digital piano vs an acoustic piano is still quite distinct.

​Affordability of Digital Pianos vs Real Pianos

Average keyboards can range from $100-$1000 dollars, so there is an option for you regardless of your budget. In comparison, a good acoustic piano can cost $5,000 or more.​ If affordability is an issue, digital pianos can’t be beat and offer a great value.

Today’s keyboards are much closer duplicates of acoustic pianos than ever before. With weighted keys and continuous advancements in sound quality, digital pianos are excellent instruments and do not come with the high price tag of an acoustic piano. But, with technology constantly improving, you may get gear lust and want to upgrade in a few years.

If price is not an issue, acoustic pianos are more attractive and they will add a touch of class to your home. While the price tag on an acoustic piano can be quite steep, its value is not likely to depreciate over time. Newer models will not replace the old, and a piano made fifty years ago will probably have the same features as a piano made today. These pieces are built to last a lifetime and will never go out of style.

Space, Portability​ and Maintenance

​Digital pianos are a great choice for those of you who do not have the space for a full upright or baby grand piano in your home. Electronic keyboards are compact, easy to setup, and easy to move about when necessary. They are also great if you live in an apartment, because you can control the volume or plug in headphones for silent practice.

Portability of digital piano vs upright

Acoustic pianos, on the other hand, can be large, heavy, and unwieldy. You’ll need to hire piano movers or recruit a team of people to move them anywhere. And there’s no volume control, so if you like to practice late at night you run the risk of having angry neighbors or family members.

There’s also the question of maintenance. Acoustic pianos are made of wood and have many moving parts. They need to be tuned and adjusted periodically, which will add to your cost of ownership. Electric pianos require almost no maintenance and will always be perfectly in tune.

If you have the space, don’t need to move it around frequently, and don’t mind the ongoing maintenance costs, then an acoustic piano is an option. If, however, you have limited space, need a portable piano, or need the ability to practice silently, then a digital piano is best for you.​

The Bottom Line​

Deciding whether to invest in a keyboard vs piano often comes down to your specific needs. Do you have the money to spend on a piano or is a keyboard more within your price range? Do you want the ability to transport a keyboard around to shows or jam sessions or do you just want to rock out in your living room?

If you are looking for a lifetime investment and have the space for it, an acoustic piano may be the best choice. On the other hand, if you’re currently in a compact place and are looking for something that will produce a high quality sound without a high price tag, a digital piano may be your best bet.

Whatever you decide, both are great instruments that are certain to be a delightful addition to any home.​

For more information on making the choice, check out this helpful video:​

Buying Guide: Digital vs. Acoustic

Acoustic Piano Resources

If you decide that an acoustic piano is best for you, you shouldn’t make that large of a purchase decision without doing your research. The folks over at Piano Buyer have done the legwork for you with their in depth piano guide. Check them out today!

Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer

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about the author
Andy Kovacs
Andy is a pianist and composer who has been playing since he was a small child. Originally trained as a classical pianist, his style has expanded into jazz, blues, funk, and rock. He is also an audio geek, and frequent dive bar gigging musician.

3 thoughts on “Digital Keyboard vs Acoustic Piano: Which One Is Better? An Analysis of Keyboards vs Pianos”

  1. I like your point about how digital pianos are affordable no matter what while acoustic pianos can be quite expensive for most people. I have been thinking of buying my girlfriend a piano for her birthday but I wasn’t sure what to get her. After reading this article, I think I will get her a digital piano.

  2. Great, this will help me in learning the piano. I am a beginner and looking to learn the piano. I was confused and didn’t know that from where to start like a piano or keyboard. Now I have got some clarity on this. Thanks.

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