Understanding the Differences Between A Digital Piano and Midi Controller

If you are looking to produce your own music, buying a digital piano and/or a midi controller is a must. With that being said, some people do not understand the difference between the two. Before you head out and make a purchase, here are all of the key differences you need to know about.

The Basic Differences

  • One thing you should know from the get-go is quite simple: A midi controller cannot be used on its own. These devices are designed to be used with an external source, like a computer or sequencer.
  • It is necessary for you to have an audio output when using a midi controller since they do not have a sound system built in.
  • Digital pianos have the capability to produce sound and act as an instrument without any other equipment being necessary.
  • If you are used to the way that a traditional piano feels, then a digital one would give you a better experience. They work the same in the sense that the harder you press on the keys, the deeper the sound that is emitted.

Here are some of the pros and cons associated with each option.

Digital Pianos


  • These are very portable, so people who are looking for units that will be easy to travel with will get more benefits from this than they would from a midi controller, particularly since they will only have to carry along the device itself and no additional equipment will be necessary.
  • They tend to have more controls and musical options than midi controllers.


  • The knobs, pads and faders that you have available to you on a midi controller are not on a digital piano.
  • Features like aftertouch are not available unless you purchase a digital piano that has midi capabilities built in.

Midi Controllers


  • This is a device that is less expensive than the amount you would pay for a digital piano.
  • You can access more synth options when using one of these than you would if you selected a digital piano.
  • If you buy the more expensive models, you will have more features available to you that are not accessible otherwise.


  • While the price of a midi controller is fairly inexpensive, you will still have to pay for something to attach it to.
  • You cannot use this device unless you have a computer or other device to hook it up to.
  • The keys on a midi controller do not feel the same as traditional piano keys.


To break it down simply, whether you buy a midi controller or a digital piano will depend on several factors, including the money you have to spend, the features you want to access and the activities you plan to perform while you the device you purchase.

Personally, I find that a digital piano is a great choice for me since I don’t have much interest in recording myself. You will have to make a decision based on which is a better fit for your needs.

Do you have experience with Midi Controllers that you can share? Please do in the comments below!

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