April 08, 2024 / by Danny Mavis

Is it your first time buying a piano keyboard? If you have just got yourself into music and want to learn how to play the piano, it’s only natural to not know where to start. There are lots of different keyboard variations and keyboard specifics to learn about to know what you’re getting yourself into.

It’s important to know that there are different numbers of piano keys to choose from and different types of keyboards, each designed for different purposes. Once you learn the basics, it’s easier to go forward and choose the right keyboard for your needs.

What Are the Different Types of Keyboards?

First and foremost, it’s important to distinguish between a piano and a piano keyboard. The piano is an acoustic instrument which has been around for centuries. It has 88 keys that provide the full range of notes and the sound is produced physically, without any amplifier.

Piano keyboards, on the other hand, are electronic instruments which can produce sounds similar to those of piano and other instruments such as strings, organs and horns. They are often smaller the acoustic version, more portable and more affordable. They typically come with in-built speakers or need to be plugged into an amplifier to produce sound. Keyboards include stage pianos, digital pianos, synthesizers and hybrid pianos.

Things to Look for When Buying a Piano Keyboard

the differences between piano vs keyboard
source: tmw.com.sg

Number of Keys

Different keyboards come with different numbers of keys. You can find keyboards with 49, 61, 66, 72, 76 and the full range of 88 keys. Many beginners wonder if they can learn piano on a 61-key keyboard. The best configuration to start with if you’re a newbie is 61 and 72 keys. However, a 61-key board will be easier to learn because there are no extra notes and octaves to memorise which otherwise, could only add to the confusion when you first start learning.

If you’re planning to sign up for piano classes or you’re more of a serious classic piano player, choose a keyboard with 88 keys. For those interested in playing pop and contemporary music, a 61 or 72 keyboard is sufficient. Of course, it all depends if you have any specific needs that may require using different key numbers than those with 61 and 88.

Touch Sensitivity

The touch sensitivity of the key affects significantly how a sound is produced. For instance, acoustic pianos have high touch-sensitive keys and the sound they produce is much louder and brighter. This feature contributes greatly to the wide range of dynamics that players are able to produce.

There are models with touch-sensitive keys and fixed velocity. If you’re a professional producer or want to be professionally involved with making music, always go for models with touch-sensitive keys.

Key Actions

Key actions refer to how well the keys respond when you press them. The action is determined based on whether the keyboard has full-weighted keys, semi-weighted or it has a synth action. Different key actions provide different playing experiences.

Let’s take acoustic piano for example. The keys are much more firmer and resistant to touch and are ideal for producing classical music. But if you aspire towards creating different sounds, synth-action keyboards would be the best choice for that.

Also, full-weighted keyboards are much heavier and fairly more expensive than semi-weight and synth action keyboards, due to their mechanism.


a guy playing on digital piano keyboard
source: rollingstone.com

Different brands of keyboards offer different quality of sound. If you’re a student who needs practice or a beginner who wants to familiarize yourself with the notes, it’s not a biggie if you buy a keyboard with a lower quality.

But for any serious musicians and pianists, it’s important to have a piano keyboard that produces a high-quality sound. If you’re a classic piano player, choose a keyboard that highly resembles the sound of a traditional piano. If you’re into pop or contemporary music, go for a keyboard that has a multimodality sound component to help you produce different sounds and background essentials.

MIDI Compatability

MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. MIDI controller keyboards are much more affordable and are the perfect solution for producing electronic music with a digital audio workstation. A MIDI controller keyboard is very easy to connect to a smartphone or a laptop to help you produce various and powerful sounds. It expands the possibilities of creating different genres of music.

MIDI controllers come with a bunch of different knobs and buttons designed for electronic music production. However, if you’re a serious musician who wants to produce different sounds, buy a dedicated MIDI controller keyboard instead of a piano keyboard that has MIDI capabilities.


You can find affordable ones that start at $300 and you can find fairly expensive options that reach up to $6,000. As you can see, the difference between prices can be drastic. Also, the price will highly depend on the size of the piano, and the number of keys, whether it’s a stage, digital, a synthesizer or a classic acoustic model. The price for the same type of piano can also differ between various brands and retailers.

However, more expensive does not always mean “superior” to the more affordable options. A digital piano at a price of $6,000 will not make much difference to a $600 digital piano. The $600 will probably have the same quality and you will get a musical instrument equipped with a full range of features, without breaking the bank.


Many piano keyboards come with in-built speakers and are the best solution if you don’t want to spend loads of money on external speakers and amplifiers. However, keep in mind that models with in-build amplifiers are not sufficient for large venues that require strong and powerful sounds. For that occasion, you can buy a piano keyboard without an internal amplifier and invest in good-quality speakers and amplifiers. Models with in-built speakers are best for gigs in smaller venues.

With these things in mind, hopefully, you’ll be able to make an informed decision when buying your first piano keyboard or looking for an upgrade to your existing instrument.