If you are an amateur pianist, you might be confused about the different piano-related terms in the industry. I know that I was really confused about the differences between a digital piano and synthesizer when I was an amateur. Even though these are two different instruments, many people – especially long time piano players – cannot tell the difference.
Don’t worry though because I am here to clarify the differences between a digital piano and synthesizer. Here are the common differences between a digital piano and a synthesizer.
Are They The Same As a Keyboard?
The keyboard is a part of the piano. In an acoustic or traditional piano, the board that contains black and white keys is the keyboard. The term “keyboard” causes a lot of confusion because it is used to describe both an instrument itself and also a part of another musical instrument. In fact, the keyboard can be part of both a digital piano and synthesizer. Today, the terms electronic keyboard and synthesizer are used interchangeably by most people in the music industry.
But a synthesizer generates an electric signal which is then converted into sound via speakers and amplifiers. The synthesizer can imitate the sound of many instruments including a piano. That’s why many people think that a digital piano and synthesizer are both the same instrument. But it isn’t so.
There are many differences between the two instruments:
A Digital Piano Has 88 Keys and A Synthesizer Has 61 t0 76 Keys.
Just by taking a look at the number of keys on the board, one can tell the difference between a digital piano and a synthesizer. You need to have some experience playing these instruments to immediately spot the difference between the two. With 88 keys, a digital piano can play 7 full octaves. But, since a synthesizer has fewer keys, you can only play 4 to 5 octaves on one.
A Digital Piano Has Longer Keys Than a Synthesizer.
The digital piano usually has longer keys compared to a synthesizer. That’s why some think a synthesizer is easier to learn compared to a piano. But, seasoned pianists might find it difficult to adjust to the shorter keys of the synthesizer.
Digital Pianos Have Weighted Keys But Synthesizers Do Not.
A digital piano has weighted keys and a synthesizer doesn’t have such keys. Weighted keys respond to the force applied by the finger pressing on the key. You get a louder sound when the key is pressed harder and a light sound when pressed lightly. Weighted keys feel like the keys of a full size acoustic piano.
Synthesizer keys play the same volume regardless of the pressure placed on the key. The volume is controlled by the device itself. It is harder to get layered sound from a synthesizer.
A Synthesizer is More Portable Than A Digital Piano.
Due to the smaller keys and the fact there are fewer of them, synthesizers are smaller in size compared to a digital piano. You can carry it around more easily than a digital piano. While digital pianos can be moved from one place to another compared to acoustic pianos, it is much harder than moving a synthesizer.
Except for Size, Many Digital Pianos and Synthesizers Look Similar.
Most of the time, a digital piano and synthesizer may look the same. They are generally black with buttons and black and white keys. But, there are quality digital pianos that are integrated into a wood-like body or come built into a stand. Synthesizers and keyboards are stand alone and made to sit on a table or stand. This is one difference you can use to identify them.
More Info About the Differences Between a Digital Piano and a Synthesizer
If you’d like to know even more about the similarities and differences between these two instruments, check out the video below. It’s a bit lengthy but will really help you understand the two.
I hope this information educated you on both synthesizers and digital pianos. At the start, I didn’t understand the difference between these two instruments. But with some experience, I was able to spot many differences between these two musical instruments.
Do you know of a difference I forgot? Tell me about your experience with digital pianos and synthesizers in the comments below!
Hello! My Name is Scott and I am the Piano Dad! I started taking piano lessons as an adult to spend time with my 8 year old daughter and love every minute of it. I created this site to help other pianists learn more about playing piano as an adult. Hope you enjoy and learn a little something!