MIDI Keyboard vs Digital Piano: Differences and Similarities

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The MIDI keyboard vs digital piano discussion is there for a reason. Both these instruments hold clear similarities as well as glaring distinctions.

These are what we’ll discuss today to help you make the best choice for your musical journey.

We’ll also tackle the pros and cons of the MIDI controller vs digital piano, so you won’t confuse your need for one item for the other.

Can You Play Piano on a MIDI Keyboard?

Digital pianos and MIDI keyboards may be different in a lot of ways, but they also have some similarities.

In fact, it’s because of these similarities that these instruments are so often compared to one another.

But let’s cut to the chase. Yes, you can play the piano on a MIDI keyboard.

However, one or the other might provide more perks, depending on your needs and preferences.

That’s why it’s crucial to have an understanding of the MIDI keyboard and what it’s like to play it.

This is so you can compare the experience to that of playing a digital piano.

What is a MIDI keyboard? Most will probably say that it’s not the same as a digital piano. In many cases, it might not be.

While there are similarities between the two, the differences might just be too much that the “feel” of a real piano is removed completely.

That “feel” is ever-present where the digital piano is concerned. Then, there’s the fact that your plans for one or the other might be completely different.

MIDI Keyboard vs Digital Piano Advantages

The advantages of the MIDI keyboard vs digital piano should only matter if they apply to your particular situation.

If they don’t, then the digital piano might be the better choice for you.

MIDI Keyboard Advantages Over the Digital Piano

There’s a slew of advantages to replacing a digital piano with a MIDI keyboard.


One area you’ll be particularly happy about is the price. A high-end digital piano will almost always cost more than its MIDI keyboard counterpart.

This is a really good reason to consider getting a MIDI keyboard instead of a digital piano.

Then again, this is if the extent of your “piano” needs don’t go beyond practicing occasionally.

If you’re looking to reach virtuoso levels in the future, then a MIDI keyboard might not be an appropriate replacement.

Size and Portability

Size-wise, the MIDI keyboard also holds the advantage. That’s because it doesn’t take up too much space.

On the other hand, a digital piano could take up significantly more room.

If your place isn’t too spacious, you may want to consider these restrictions.

The piano doesn’t offer much in terms of portability, either.

Not only will it not allow you to play on the go, but bringing it from place to place can require quite the effort on your end.

Built-In Output for Speakers and Headphones

MIDI keyboards also have a preconfigured output for speakers or headphones. This ties into one’s needs for portability and having restricted space.

A MIDI keyboard allows you to practice and listen closely to what you’re playing while on the go.

With a digital piano, the scenarios where you can travel and play will be severely limited.

It's also quite loud and might not allow your tired housemates much sleep. 

Digital Piano Advantages Over the MIDI Keyboard

Yes, the MIDI keyboard does have its fair share of downsides, particularly when pitted against the digital piano.

Should this discourage you from getting the product, though? Certainly not. 

A Real Instrument

The fact of the matter is digital pianos are quite different from MIDI keyboards.

They’re heavier, larger, less portable, and more difficult to play.

However, depending on the person and his or her needs, these drawbacks can be considered advantages.

That’s because it lets one experience the true meaning of playing an instrument.

A MIDI keyboard doesn’t come close to being the real instrument that the digital piano is, and that’s one of its biggest disadvantages.

difference between midi keyboard vs digital piano

Adds More Layers To Your Music

Then, there’s the matter of the digital piano being a percussion instrument.

When struck hard, its keys produce a full sound; when touched softly, the sound produced is soft and light.

This allows artists to add different layers and textures to their music. It also gives its listeners more variety.

That’s not something most MIDI keyboards provide. Granted, some models produce more layered sounds, but they are usually out of most people’s price range.

A digital piano doesn’t have to be too expensive to provide this kind of assortment in sound.

More Pedals

Digital pianos also come with two or three pedals while a MIDI keyboard can only be linked to a sustain pedal.

Better Sound Quality

Then, there’s the sound, which is more monotonous where the MIDI keyboard is concerned.

This is a far cry from the sounds created by a digital piano, which is the closest you can get to an actual piano’s sounds. Its sounds are clearer and of higher quality.

That’s because a digital piano usually makes use of higher quality construction materials.

This translates to better sound quality, which also means more money for the piano’s manufacturers.

What is a MIDI keyboard? It’s a tool whose disadvantages should not keep one from using it as a digital piano.

It can still be played as one. Besides, you shouldn’t limit yourself to playing either one of these instruments only.

If you’re determined, there’s no reason you can’t practice using both.

If you can only afford a MIDI keyboard, to begin with, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s certainly better than not playing anything at all.

Can a Digital Piano Be Used as a MIDI Controller?

The short answer is: yes, a digital piano can be used as a MIDI controller. This, however, is provided that the instrument has a USB port.

Those who were so sure the answer was going to be “no” are probably wondering how the digital piano’s size and limited controllers allow it to function efficiently as a MIDI controller.

Well, this will come down to your needs. The MIDI controller mustn’t also be confused for its keyboard counterpart.

The disadvantage of the MIDI vs keyboard is that it can’t produce sounds independently, unlike the latter.

Also, when choosing between the MIDI vs keyboard for practicing piano, you’re better off selecting the latter since it doesn’t need to be linked to a synthesizer or computer.

Consider your needs for the MIDI controller vs digital piano.

The Advantages of Using the Digital Piano as a MIDI Controller

There are a lot of positives to be drawn from using a digital piano as a MIDI controller. These include:

An Excellent Way To Learn and Record Piano Music

A setup that has 88 fully-weighted keys allows you to learn and record piano music most efficiently.

That’s because learning the touch and feel of keys that are as close to the real thing is a huge advantage for anyone looking to become a piano master.

These keys allow you to produce a true performance and help you develop greater control.

88 Fully-Weighted Digital Pianos Are Cheaper

MIDI controllers of the 88-key variety usually have enormous price tags attached to them.

While their digital piano counterparts aren’t what many would consider cheap, either, they are significantly lower down the price spectrum.

That should make them the better choice, considering that they are full-sized digital pianos with fully-weighted keys.

If the model you’ve chosen has a USB port, then your decision couldn’t be more perfect.

Great for Social Gatherings

If singing songs together is a “thing” in your family, then a digital piano is the best choice for you.

You can make Christmases, birthdays, and other special occasions even more special when you have a digital piano just waiting to be taken advantage of.

Digital pianos are preconfigured with speakers so there’s no need to purchase any other sound-generating device or software with them.

These instruments don’t even require a computer to work.

With a MIDI controller, you need to bring your computer, smartphone, tablet, or laptop with you to entertain the guests. That can be too much of a hassle for some people.

The Disadvantages of Using the Digital Piano as a MIDI Controller

Now for the drawbacks of using the digital piano as a MIDI controller. 

Can't Play on the Go

If playing on the go is one of your goals, then a digital piano can’t do much to help you achieve that.

This instrument is generally heavier so moving it around is the last thing you’ll want to do.

You definitely want to go for the lightweight MIDI controller if traveling is your thing.

All Keys Usually Not Needed

As close as these keys are to the real thing, they might not be needed.

If your taste in music revolves around hip-hop beats and electronic sounds, then a digital piano is not a must-have.

In fact, you’d be better off with a MIDI controller. Still, if you need a MIDI controller with the full 88 keys, then there should be an affordable option for you on the market.

Less Control

If you’re looking to incorporate the MIDI effects into your compositions, then there’s no way you can choose the digital piano over the MIDI controller.

It simply doesn’t allow you to add vibratos, legatos, or attacks into your work.

What Is MIDI on a Digital Piano?

MIDI is the language or binary codes sent to a computer, telling it what notes should be played.

It communicates the duration and loudness of the notes, too.

Of course, these are just the basics. The MIDI is also responsible for recording, notating, and editing your music using your computer’s software programs.

Is Digital Piano Better Than Keyboards?

Ultimately, a digital piano is most advantageous to someone who’s looking to become a full-fledged pianist.

If you’re a stickler for the touch and feel of a real instrument, then you’re going to favor a digital piano over a MIDI keyboard any day.

However, if your needs center more on audio production, portability, and on-the-go playing, then a MIDI keyboard should strike your fancy just a little bit more.