Piano vs Keyboard – What is the Difference and What to Buy?

A good instrument plays a key role in developing technique and skill. Knowing the difference between a piano and keyboard is important before you decide to study or purchase the instrument.

The most significant difference between a piano and a keyboard is in the keys. The keys of an acoustic piano have hammers attached to them. When you press keys on an acoustic piano, these hammers go and strike against strings that are inside the soundboard, producing sound. In digital pianos, the hammer action feel of an acoustic piano is reproduced by adding counterweights to the keys. However, there are no physical hammers or strings in a digital piano and the sound is entirely produced digitally.

Keyboards, like digital pianos also produce their sound digitally however, they lack the weighted keys present in a digital piano. Most keyboards also have a limited range of 49, 61, or 72 keys while pianos (both acoustic and digital) come with the standard 88 keys. Keyboards also tend of have a variety of instrument sounds built into them and offer more arranging capabilities while digital pianos usually have limited instrument sounds and arranging capabilities. Expensive digital piano models however do offer many instrument sounds and arranging capabilities.

Acoustic pianos are broadly classified into upright pianos and grand pianos. Upright pianos have their strings strung vertically making the instrument more compact while grand pianos have their strings strung horizontally, in turn increasing the size of its footprint. Due to the way in which the strings are strung, a grand piano enables the player to play very fast repetitions of notes (often found in advanced repertoire) more effectively when compared to an upright piano. There is also a difference in the functions of the foot pedal between a grand and upright piano. The left pedal in a grand piano changes the volume and tone while it only reduces the volume in an upright. The middle pedal in a grand piano makes it possible for sustain selected notes while it muffles the sound in an upright. A grand piano also has greater expression compared to an upright.

To develop a good piano technique for western classical piano, it is recommended to practice on an acoustic upright or grand piano. However, beginner and intermediate level students who are interested but unsure about investing in an acoustic piano can practice on a digital piano that offers weighted keys that mimics the keys of an acoustic piano for a few years. Students who are just testing waters can use a touch sensitive 61-key keyboard for a year. However, a student who practices only on a keyboard will find it difficult and awkward when he or she is asked to play on a piano due to the drastic difference in key action. As he or she progresses, it will be essential to have an acoustic or at least a digital piano.

The below table summarises the different types of keyboards and pianos along with their attributes and differences.


Starts from (USD)

Starts from (INR)


Portability & Space Required

Good Model for Beginners

Keyboards (61 keys, touch sensitive)



Ideal for those who are just starting out and unsure if they will be committing to the piano.

Easily portable & limited space required

Yamaha E363

Digital Piano



Ideal for beginners and intermediate students who are serious about learning piano

Limited portability & a dedicated space required

Yamaha P45

Acoustic Upright Piano



Must have for intermediate and advanced students who are playing classical music and planning to attend higher grade exams/diplomas.

Not portable and takes up a dedicated portion of a room


Acoustic Grand Piano



The dream instrument for any serious pianist! Ideal for diploma (or higher level) students or concert pianists.

Not portable and takes up large portion of the room due to its size


At Encore Piano Academy, we use only digital pianos with weighted keys so that all our students get to experience the hammer action feel. Advanced level students and students appearing for graded exams will also have access to an acoustic piano.

If you have further queries pertaining to buying a piano feel free to give us a call.