Is It Ok To Learn Piano on a Digital Keyboard?

Are you thinking about starting piano lessons or an online course? Do you need an instrument to get started?

Choosing between acoustic and digital pianos can be tricky, but it has everything to do with your specific goals. This blog will provide some guidance for piano shoppers, and if you have any questions, please get in touch.

Is It Ok To Learn Piano on a Digital Keyboard?

Yes, it is safe, effective, and perfectly fine to learn how to play the piano on a digital piano or electric keyboard. Whether you buy a Korg, Yamaha, Casio, Roland, or other brand, you can still master the basics of piano playing. You can learn the notes on the staff, map those to the keys on the piano, learn your scales and arpeggios, and even have fun with various voicings (like an organ sound or electric piano sound), record music with AUX IN jacks, and more. If your keyboard is good enough, you’ll even be able to learn how to play with good dynamics, tone, and pedaling.

Before we continue: If you would like to learn more about our piano lessons in San Antonio, please get in touch! 

What Specifications Does Your Digital Keyboard Need?

Firstly, you should purchase a keyboard with 88 keys (a full-sized keyboard) – this does make a difference. You’ll be limited in the repertoire you can play and the exercises you can practice when you only have 61 keys, and if you do eventually make the jump to a full-sized keyboard, the 88-key view will appear very foreign.

Secondly, get a keyboard with weighted keys. Digital piano manufacturers attach weights to the keys to try and copy the feeling of a hammer and counter weight in an acoustic piano. It’s not a perfect copy, but it’s much better than nothing.

Thirdly, make sure you get realistic pedals if at all possible. It helps to be able to practice all three pedals on your digital piano, and you get bonus points if you find a digital piano that allows you to half-pedal.

Will Practicing Piano on a Digital Keyboard Hurt Your Technique?

No, it won’t hurt your technique to practice on a digital piano or electric keyboard, but your technique won’t necessarily transfer to an acoustic piano. Perhaps you want to play keyboard in a rock band – then it doesn’t really matter. But if you want to play on an acoustic piano in the future, practicing only on a digital keyboard may hold you back.

That’s because on acoustic pianos (and grand pianos in particular), the action is much stiffer in most cases, and you will become fatigued fairly quickly if you haven’t practiced on an acoustic piano. The stiffness of the keys could lead to significant tension in your hands and arms if you aren’t playing with great technique.

What are the Downsides to Learning Piano on a Digital Keyboard?

As mentioned above, your playing technique may not transfer smoothly to a grand or acoustic piano. Let’s say you have a high school student who will be auditioning for a bachelor’s degree in piano performance; if they have only ever practiced on a digital keyboard at home, they may not be able to get the same tone, dynamic range, and speed out of the acoustic grand piano in their audition.

You also won’t have the same range of dynamics at your disposal on a digital piano. You can play loud and soft, and you can digitally adjust the volume of course, but it’s not the same as having a full palette of musical colors at your disposal on a good acoustic piano.

A third consideration is that nothing matches the sound and feeling of an acoustic grand piano. In fact the Yamaha AvantGrand N3X, a digital hybrid, even introduced a vibration feature to try and replicate the feeling that wall of sound from a grand piano can produce.

The music stand placement is also different, among other spatial issues.

In short, if you want to play the piano seriously and in any kind of performance setting, you will need to find a way to practice on the kind of piano that you will be performing with.

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The Pros Outweigh the Cons For Amateur Pianists

You can purchase a very nice digital piano, like a Clavinova, for under $4,000USD these days, while a used Baldwin baby grand, for instance, will be $8K+. You can enjoy a beautiful sound, full keyboard, weighted keys, multiple voicings and technical components, and contemporary cabinet design for an affordable price.

If you want to pay as little as possible, you could even get a decent beginner model instrument for $1,500 or so – that’s a good enough instrument to learn the basics before committing to a nicer piano.

More blog reading: Should you learn just one song at a time on piano?