MIDI Keyboard vs. Digital Piano – Which One to Choose?

Digital keyboard and MIDI keyboard are musical instruments that may be deemed to function the same regarding their physical attributes. Contrary to having apparent similarities, the two instruments owe glaring distinctions as they are created for specific purposes. Today’s post aims at discussing midi keyboard vs digital piano so that you can easily make the best choice for your musical needs.

Whether you seek to learn how to play the piano or want to learn music production, either instrument is suited to achieve your need. Without further ado, let’s dive in and determine which instrument is right for you.

What Is a MIDI Keyboard?

A Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) keyboard is a portable piano-style electronic musical keyboard commonly designed with 61 keys. The musical keyboard entails buttons, wheels, and sliders. The instrument has no internal sounds; thus, it’s designed to transmit MIDI signals and commands over USB or MIDI 5-pin to connected musical devices/ computers.

The musical instruments have an interface that allows producers to control sounds and functions. A MIDI controller is primarily designed to plug into a device to access its sounds. Plus, you can load a MIDI controller with pads and faders to create beats.

MIDI keyboards vary from 25 mini synth-action keys up to a fully weighted 88-key controller. MIDI controllers are available in many shapes and sizes. They can be a replica of drum pads, string, and wind instruments.

MIDI keyboard rarely comes with stands or casing. The MIDI keyboard is as versatile as a piano despite lacking internal speakers.

What Is a Digital Piano?

Like the full-sized acoustic piano, the digital piano emulates its feel and sound. A digital piano can be termed a hybrid between an acoustic piano and a MIDI keyboard. A digital piano comes with sets of white and black keys and speakers and features extra sounds such as flutes, strings/ orchestra, harpsichord, and piano sounds.

Digital piano uses recorded samples to mimic an acoustic piano. The digital piano uses internal speakers to project the sound.

Digital pianos are designed to feature a varying range of keys. Most have standard 88 keys, while some have 61/ 76 keys.

MIDI Controller vs. Digital Piano: What’s the Difference?

MIDI keyboard is mainly suited for use in music production as it features controllers like faders and knobs. On the other hand, a digital piano is designed to emulate the sound of an actual acoustic piano. Moreover, apart from their functionality differences, other notable variances range from controller options, size, weight, longevity, and speakers.

Comparison table

Digital Piano

MIDI Controllers

Incorporates power cord, digital system, and speaker to produce sound Produces sound through external speakers. Uses musical computer software to input MIDI data
Ideal for live performances and recordings An excellent option for composing and recording. Not suitable for complex live performances
Features almost similar shape to an acoustic piano Usually small and have fewer keys and more minor keys
Features weighted, full-sized keys with a feel of an acoustic piano It has thinner and un-weighted keys than regular piano keys
Usually short with broad stature like an acoustic piano Usually portable with a thin full keyboard
Some pianos have a foot pedal as a power cord. Requires a MIDI cable, compatible software, and a functional Mac/ windows OS for connectivity.
Highly expensive as price varies with model, specs, and features Costs less than digital pianos

 

Keys

Digital keyboard and MIDI keyboard have similar key arrangements with varying key numbers. MIDI controllers are commonly designed with 61 keys, whereas digital piano coalesces 88 keys. MIDI keyboards have cheaper keys than digital pianos. Despite the variance in number, all the keys are large enough to play comfortably.

Digital pianos replicate weighted keys as found in traditional acoustic versions. The lower digital piano keys are designed to be heavier than the higher keys. MIDI controllers feature un-weighted keys; thus, you don’t exert much pressure to play them. Lighter keys can be disturbing to your fingers, especially when playing the instrument for a long time. Weighted keys are ideal for developing good piano techniques.

Midi controller keys are relatively more minor than those on a piano. Thus, you need to be precise when recording and producing music. Smaller keys require you to record more slowly.

Connectivity

The primary purpose of a MIDI keyboard is to send MIDI data to a device. It is not equipped with any external speakers like a digital piano. You can connect the MIDI keyboard to a PC with Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) using a five-pin cable or a USB cable.

With digital pianos, you can opt to use internal sounds from the piano or connect it to a pc using a USB cable. Connecting to a laptop means using the digital as a MIDI controller while using external sounds from the computer.

Midi Keyboards feature a preconfigured output for speakers/ headphones. Thus, you can practice and listen closely whenever you play. In contrast, digital pianos are pretty loud, limiting where you can play.

Weight and size

A Digital piano occupies a larger space than a MIDI keyboard. They are heavier, large, and less portable. A digital piano doesn’t allow playing on the go as it can’t be easily moved from place to place. On the other hand, MIDI controllers are available in mini sizes to facilitate portability.

Digital pianos are more miniature than acoustic pianos. A Digital piano keyboard can measure a couple of feet deep and a few inches high. A fully 88 key digital piano measures 51 to 57 inches (130-135cm). Pianos with 76 keys measure about 50 inches (127cm) wide.

Many MIDI keyboards are more diminutive than a digital piano. They are designed to look like compact versions of pianos.

The smallest MIDI keyboard (25 keys) measures approximately 30 cm wide. The full-sized MIDI controller (80 keys) measures 180cm in width. MIDI keyboard with 32 keys measures about 43 cm (17 inches), whereas 49 key controllers measure 81 cm (32 inches) wide. A 61 keys MIDI controller measure about 40 inches (101cm) wide.

Price

MIDI controllers and Digital pianos have varying price points. Thereby, you can select an ideal instrument depending on your budget. MIDI keyboards cost as low as $78 up to $1,000. The difference in price range is a result of extra weighted keys.

Digital pianos cost as little as $300 up to $3,000. Digital pianos with a complete set of 88 keys are relatively more expensive than pianos with fewer keys.

Ноw and when to use MIDI and digital pianos

Digital pianos are perfect for live performance, whereas MIDI controllers are ideal for studio production. Connecting MIDI to a device allows playing sounds generated from software synths while recording MIDI performances.

Plug your musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) controller into your computer, load your digital audio workforce, and then load record tracks. MIDI controllers are excellent for both recording and working with digital music. Ideally, they are also great instruments for beginners.

Unlike MIDI controllers, a digital piano is distinct; it uses recorded sounds and speakers to amplify sounds. Once you press a key on the digital piano, the key sends an electronic message to the soundboard, producing the pressed note.

Digital piano is designed to identify change whenever you change the instrument’s sound. It quickly registers the change to play the corresponding sound. The electric musical instruments require you to plug in the power cord before playing the sounds.

How MIDI works

MIDI keyboards are sometimes regarded as master keyboards. MIDI controllers don’t amplify sound on their own; hence, you will need a device to create sound. One of the most popular accessories to create a sound for a MIDI controller is a computer (Mac/ windows). You will need MIDI-compatible software. Use a cable to connect the MIDI controller to your pc.

Use a Digital Audio Workstation such as FL Studio to record music. Alternatively, use a notation program such as Finale to compose music to play on a digital piano. Upon inputting the MIDI data use external speakers to listen to your music. Below are steps to follow;

  • Connect your MIDI controller to your receiving device ‘slave’
  • Load up music software of choice that uses MIDI input. Consider software and programs such as DAWs and music notation programs.
  • Create a project and a track to run in the program for your MIDI input.
  • Let the setup load, then press the keys on the MIDI keyboard
  • The MIDI controller keyboard will then produce MIDI data that the digital audio workforce will analyze.
  • You can now play the recording to hear the music on the controller

Uses for a MIDI controller

MIDI controller is commonly used to compose and record directly into the computer. You can easily record music at any time.

You can use a MIDI keyboard to download a plug-in with sound banks.

How digital piano works

Contrary to the tedious process of working a MIDI controller, Digital pianos are easily operated by sitting at the piano, turning it on, pressing the keys, and letting the speakers produce the sound. Digital pianos don’t require any extra accessories to play as they use recorded samples. All you need is to press the key to produce a note. The steps are as follows;

  • Plug in the power cord of the digital piano and turn on the power.
  • Connect the keyboard to an outlet. Then set up a piano bench/ a chair to sit comfortably during composure.
  • Press a key to send a message to the soundboard. The corresponding sound note is played in the speakers.
  • Once you stop pressing the key, use a sustain pedal to hold the sound notes.

Uses for a digital piano

The Digital piano is a flexible electric instrument to use in place of an acoustic piano. This is a plus for the instrument as you can play it in different gigs.

You can use a digital piano as a MIDI controller in the long run.

Using Digital Piano as a MIDI Controller

A Digital piano is an electronic keyboard that can be connected to a PC to act as a MIDI controller. Using digital piano as a MIDI controller enables you to play various instruments. You can play the digital piano with or without a pc.

To use a digital piano as a MIDI controller, you require a USB or MIDI connection to transmit to your digital audio workforce on your computer.

MIDI keyboard integrates smaller keys that may be tough to use while recording and producing music. Thus, you can use a digital piano with bigger keys to substitute for a MIDI controller.

Digital Piano with MIDI Functionality

Digital piano uses a MIDI/ USB cable to connect the MIDI functionality. Digital piano with MIDI functionality stands out compared to other versions because it allows any user to play piano while also creating digital music. Digital piano allows connection with other online apps; hence you can play in real-time and get feedback on your progress.

Pros

Provides an excellent interface to learning and recording piano music

Digital piano coalescing MIDI functionality provides a setup that has 88-fully weighted keys. Thus, you can easily learn and record piano music quickly. Unlike MIDI controllers, digital piano integrates the feel of almost the actual instrument.

If you want to become a piano master, then a digital piano with MIDI is the real deal. The instrument will help develop better control and performance.

A perfect option for social gatherings

Digital pianos are popular for live performances. They don’t require a computer or other accessories to work. Take advantage of a digital piano with MIDI to make your occasion special. Digital pianos are designed with a pre-configuration of speakers, so there is no need for other sound-generating devices.

Full-sized weighted digital pianos are cheaper.

Contrary to the enormous price tags of MIDI controllers, digital pianos with a USB port are a better choice.

Cons

Not portable

Digital piano isn’t ideal for playing on the go and is heavier to move around. 

Minimal control

Digital piano doesn’t allow the addition of MIDI effects into your compositions. You can’t incorporate vibratos, legatos, or attacks into your composition.

Conclusion

Choosing the ideal instrument depends on the primary intention of buying the keyboard. If you want to produce music, go for a MIDI controller. If you are a pianist and want to learn to play piano, choose a digital piano. But with the fact that you can use a digital piano as a MIDI controller, you can opt for a digital piano to learn to play piano while still producing your own track.

That’s a wrap on our discussion midi keyboard vs digital piano.

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