Electronic Keyboard vs Digital Piano: What’s the Difference?

Mar 8, 2023

If you’re looking into piano lessons for either yourself or a child, one detail has undoubtedly already entered your brain: pianos are very big, and cannot be brought to lessons. Luckily, there is a solution! Electric keyboards, digital pianos, and synthesizers all seem like they could act as viable substitutes for the purposes of a piano lesson. That said, they can also be among the most confusing parts of learning this instrument. The fact is, each of these are different, but many people can’t actually tell them apart. But fret not! This week we’re bringing a little clarity to the issue. So, what’s the difference when it comes to electronic keyboard vs digital piano? Let’s dive in.

Synthesizer vs Electronic Keyboard vs Digital Piano

When you get right down to it, a keyboard is simply part of a piano. On a traditional acoustic piano, the keyboard is in the obvious place—right at the player’s fingertips. A keyboard is not an instrument, but rather a part of an instrument, specifically, the familiar black and white keys. This is also true of digital or electronic instruments. In fact, until very recently, there was no instrument called a “keyboard.” What many manufacturers today call an “electronic keyboard” has long simply been a “synthesizer.” The two instruments are not two, but in fact the same instrument.

Synthesizers, or electronic keyboards as they have become known, create an electrical signal when a key is pressed. These signals are then converted into sound through speakers or amplifiers. What’s more, they can imitate a wide variety of other sounds and instruments, both natural and man-made, including the piano.

Digital pianos are also electronic, and also utilize a keyboard, but are different from electronic keyboards in one key way: they only synthesize the sound of a piano. Manufacturers tend to offer several models, increasing in both price and the level to which they sound and feel like an acoustic piano.

Even with this distinction in mind, it can be hard to tell electronic keyboards and digital pianos apart. After all, they both synthesized sounds digitally, and they look very similar. Keep your eye out for these features to tell them apart more easily.

Electronic Keyboard vs Digital Piano: Key Features

Number of Keys

You probably won’t have to count all the keys to see the difference here. Digital pianos, just like their acoustic counterparts, have 88 keys with 6 octaves. This is so they can accurately replicate the full sound range of the traditional instrument. Electronic keyboards, however, have only 61 or 76 keys with 5 to 5 octaves. Sometimes even less.

Weighted Keys

In a nutshell, weighted keys are designed to respond to the amount of force applied to them. This means the sound is louder when the key is pressed harder, and softener when a lighter touch is used. What’s more, the keys representing the higher notes are lighter, while lower notes are heavier, in order to better emulate an acoustic piano.

Generally speaking, a quality digital piano will have weighted keys, but most electronic keyboards are either only light- or semi-weighted.

Key Size

This one may be a little harder to spot at first glance. Digital pianos have keys that are the same size and shape as those on an acoustic piano, but electronic keyboard keys tend to be smaller. For this reason, electronic keyboards are often easier to learn, especially for smaller hands. That said, seasoned musicians looking for a portable option may find it difficult to adjust to the smaller size.


As you can probably guess, thanks to having fewer and smaller keys, electronic keyboards are smaller than digital pianos. And due to this smaller size, they’re lighter in weight as well. Therefore it’s not a stretch to suggest electronic keyboards tend to be quite portable.

Digital pianos, on the other hand, are a bit more varied in portability. Some are small and easy to move, while others are meant to resemble pianos and are difficult to dismantle.


Often, electronic keyboards and digital pianos look very similar—similar size, shape, keyboard, control buttons, etc. But as implied in the previous section, there is a class of digital piano very different from its electronic keyboard counterpart. These console pianos are integrated into a wood-like body, usually designed to look like the front of an acoustic piano. They are beautifully decorative, and can be integrated into any home design, but aren’t designed to be moved often.


Digital pianos, as discussed, are designed to simulate only the sounds of a piano. However, it doesn’t always have to just be one piano. In fact, many different kinds of pianos can be integrated: bright piano, grand piano, electric piano sounds, etc.

An electronic keyboard, on the other hand, usually has all the sounds of a piano, as well as other acoustic and electronic instruments, and even natural sounds. Some synthesizers even allow you to add your own sampled sounds. As a rule, electronic keyboards can create vastly more sounds than a digital piano.


When it comes to the argument of electronic keyboard vs digital piano, cost isn’t the most useful comparison. That’s because the price of both kinds of instrument can vary wildly. There are high-end electronic keyboards that run upwards of $2000, and low quality digital pianos at $200—and vice versa. It really comes down to what features you want and what you’re willing to pay.

Electronic Keyboard v Digital Piano: Which Should You Buy?

With such variety in style and price, the answer to this question really boils down to one choice: are you looking for something to help you on your piano journey, or do you want to experiment with sounds or create electronic music?

If you find yourself in the former group, invest in a digital piano. If you’re in the latter, buy an electronic keyboard.

Closing Words

Always wanted to learn to play the piano, but never got around to it? Or maybe your little one has shown some interest in beginning?

Now is the time! At The Music Studio, we have piano and keyboard lessons for students of all ages and skill levels! Sign up today, and start down your own musical path!