There are a lot of considerations for people learning piano, that are thinking about getting a piano or keyboard for their home. Cost is often the largest one, and if you’re not too familiar with the different kinds of piano and keyboard options out there, I wrote another article called “Different Types of Pianos & How To Choose the Right One,” which I encourage you to go and check out. For those of you that are still on the fence about whether to go acoustic or electric, this article will review some important pros and cons to the electric keyboard, and my overall take on the issue. Hopefully, it will help you with your decision!
Pro: Price and Portability
Price is the most obvious pro when it comes to electric keyboards when compared to acoustic pianos. A quality electric keyboard is only going to cost a fraction of a decent upright acoustic piano. A new electric keyboard can run in the mid to low hundreds, where a used acoustic will likely be upwards of one thousand, at least. Acoustic pianos also need maintenance on (at least) a bi-annual basis or the tuning will suffer. Maintenance costs start at around $150, depending on the condition of the piano. And that will not something that an electric keyboard owner would have to worry about. Just don’t drop it!
Portability is another pro for the electric keyboard. Acoustic pianos are extremely heavy, and require movers for transportation (or at least a couple of very strong friends). But without all those heavy strings and mechanisms, the electric keyboard can be easily moved around the home. And it can be transported without the assistance of movers. Electric pianos can be set up on an easily collapsible stand and stored vertically if needed. So size and space requirements are considerably easier to manage.
An electric keyboard will typically have a variety of settings for different stylistic options, and tools built into it for learning and practice aids, such as a metronome. Many electric keyboards have a traditional piano sound setting and an “electric” piano sound which is much brighter. Many also have “synthesizer,” sound settings as well. Or even a library of various band instrument, percussion, and electronic sounds on which one can play. So there is a lot of room for exploration.
Built-in learning tools can also be very useful. Most electric pianos have, at the very least, a metronome tool. This is essential for developing rhythmic ability. Certain brands, like the Casio LK-280 for example, feature lighted-keys to help students learn songs, pre-recorded back-up music to play along with, and even Apple device compatibility.
An electric keyboard piano has a variety of specifications that make it ideal for certain practical situations as well. If you live with other people, or the keyboard is for a child, the ability to control the volume is invaluable. The ability to dial up or down the volume on an electric keyboard makes the time spent practicing much easier on the people and parents around the player. Most models will have a audio jack or a USB port for headphones as well. This means one can practice without any worry of bothering others in the home. Alternatively, they can be hooked up to amplifiers. This means they can be used in loud concerts where the built-in microphones would not suffice.
A USB port can also be used for connecting to music writing programs or recording programs. Certain music writing programs, such as Sibelius or Finale, have the option to use an electric keyboard to input musical notation more easily. This can be a big help when it comes to composing one’s own music. It speeds up the input process and keeps the writing process tied to how it feels to play the music.
Con: Dependent on Power
The most obvious con is that the electric keyboard relies on electricity or batteries to operate. That is, of course, not an issue for an acoustic alternative. But unless you are struggling to find things to do in the event of a loss of power, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Con: Sound Quality
Especially if a very high-quality keyboard is a bit outside of the budget, the richness of sound that an acoustic piano can make just can’t quite be replicated by most electronic alternatives. I don’t want to get to heavy into the sound science of it all. However, this is the reason: When an acoustic piano plays a key, the base level sound, called the “fundamental” sound, isn’t the only one that can be heard. Other sounds called “overtones,” or “partials” mix together with the “fundamental” to make the uniquely complex sound that acoustic instruments create. All acoustic instruments work like this, including the voice. Electric keyboards generally lack the programming to replicate that sound sufficiently. In short, it just doesn’t feel the same!
There is a certain extra something that you can only really get from an acoustic instrument. But that being said, there are a lot of good reasons to go with an electric keyboard piano, to be sure. If you are a new student, if you are on a budget, or if you are wanting to use it for music writing or recording programs, there are considerable benefits with going electric.