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A midi keyboard is a keyboard the same as any other, one that relies upon the newest techniques for multisampling.

Sampling is used for a digital piano as well but they might each have different storage spaces and therefore different profiles possible when you play.

To understand whether you should get a midi keyboard vs. digital piano, you have to know what the different options are for each, how they differ, and what you need as a musician.

Introduction to MIDI keyboards

MIDI is a term that’s used in the music world which is a feature you get with most keyboards and digital pianos it stands for:

Musical instrument digital interface 

Even though most people think that this is a simple bonus feature that they can get with a keyboard or the digital piano, there’s a lot to it.

It wasn’t until 1981 that collaboration from many of the top synthesizing companies from the US and Europe came together to create this digital interface.

Because of the efforts of companies like Yamaha and Roland, this became standard for almost all electronic instruments.

Originally, it was simply created as a way for two different instruments to interact with one another like a sound module and a controller.

However, it now offers a lot of flexibility. MIDI for example can handle things like pitch and velocity for different notes which means that it is easier for manufacturers to create different samples and make digital copies of actual pianos sound more realistic.

MIDI also detects things like program changes or continuous controllers which are features commonly used for synthesizers but sometimes can be used for digital pianos.

If for example you need to switch out between sounds or simply depress your sustain pedal you can send a signal to the motherboard through these continuous controllers or program changes and it will respond accordingly.

How does a MIDI keyboard work?

That said, a MIDI keyboard is effectively just this MIDI technology and sampling combined.

When you press the keys on the keyboard it triggers the associated MIDI and corresponding samples.

There are plenty of top-of-the-line manufacturers like Yamaha or Korg that use high quality samples with this technology to enhance the experience and provide a range of different processing techniques and effects that make everything sound very realistic.

Who should use a MIDI keyboard?

This type of keyboard is one of many keyboard types but it does have a bunch of control options and feature buttons and knobs that you can use to do just about anything you want.

If you have a midi keyboard you can enjoy better stage performance or music production especially if you are interested in producing your own music.

As a performer you can easily carry around a small midi keyboard from one performance to another and as a music producer or aspiring music producer you can invest in things like control software that helps you link your midi keyboard with your home computer or laptop and produce high quality music with a lot of fun features, extras, and post production sounds.

Introduction to digital pianos

There are many types of digital pianos which can be broken down into portable, upright, digital grand pianos, hybrid designs, and stage pianos.

Portable digital pianos

Portable digital pianos are called that because they are in fact portable.

Most portable digital pianos are the same 88-key piano but they don’t have the stand so there is no base or legs or chair.

Instead it’s just the keyboard part. This makes it easy to move from place to place and you can set it up on a portable stand that can be closed much like an ironing board or you can even place it on a table.

One of the only downsides to a portable digital piano is the speaker quality.

There is limited space in this design so the speakers tend to produce very little in terms of the full sounding bass notes.

Unique features of portable digital pianos

Digital pianos bring with them the portability as their biggest feature.

Either lightweight which makes them easy to carry around and not too heavy which is very impressive when you consider that they still have the speakers and the same Hammer action mechanism behind each of the keys.

These are also easy to move around in and out of a closet or storage space for people who don’t have room.

If space isn’t an issue, there are matching portable digital piano stands that can be used.

Who should use portable digital pianos

Digital pianos are really best suited for beginners or intermediate players who just want to get a little bit of experience under their belts, particularly those who don’t have room for anything larger or those who are advanced and are performing but want something that they can easily bring from one venue to another.

Upright digital pianos

Upright digital pianos, just like the name suggests, are designed to mimic an upright acoustic piano.

They have the full enclosure for the music stand, the backing, and the legs and in some cases they even have the foot pedals and a chair.

Unique features of upright digital pianos

The larger body is one of the most unique features compared to a portable design.

With the upright digital piano you can enjoy the same experience of an acoustic piano but with a better speaker system and better hardware.

They also come in most cases with the triple pedals whereas with a portable piano you would have to purchase that separately.

Most upright pianos come with a cover as well much the same as you would get for an advanced design. 

Who should use upright digital pianos

If you have a beginner in the family, an upright digital piano gives you the feeling of a real, acoustic piano in that you sit down on a bench in front of a solid instrument.

This is also great for anyone who is a more intermediate or advanced player and needs something that they can leave up in their home full-time on which to practice and play .

Digital grand pianos

Digital grand pianos are some of the most beautiful digital models you can find.

Digital grand pianos look and feel exactly like a grand or a baby grand piano so that you can feel as though you are playing at a concert hall.

The design is the same body shape with the lid.

The speakers and other components are usually located under the lid where you would otherwise find all of the strings for an acoustic model.

They have an uncompromising design with the best sound quality.

Unique features of digital grand pianos

The well-engineered speaker system is perhaps the best unique feature.

You get the harmonics that you would have from an acoustic piano especially with the way that the Acoustics would otherwise react with the lid.

Who should use digital grand pianos

If you are an experienced musician and you have the space for it, you might consider a digital grand piano.

They have lower maintenance requirements over acoustic pianos which is why you might find them in certain concert halls when you go to perform and in that case being able to practice at home with the exact same make and model can be very advantageous.

Hybrid digital pianos

Hybrid digital pianos are designed to have the hammer mechanisms that you would get from an acoustic piano some of which actually have strings but also rely upon the sample playback that you get in regular digital designs.

Stage pianos

Stage pianos usually lack a speaker system but they are versatile, portable pianos that are meant for musicians who are performing.

If you invest in a stage digital piano you will need a dedicated amp or a cab combo or any other front of the house speaker setup because they’re as mentioned is no speaker system in this design. 

Midi keyboard vs. digital piano: How do they compare?

So, when deciding between a midi keyboard vs. digital piano, you really have to consider what your needs are.

A digital piano is going to be much better suited for anyone who has the space and desire to have an instrument that recreates the feel and acoustic sound of an acoustic piano on a somewhat permanent basis.

A midi keyboard is going to be better suited for people who are looking for portability and features built into the sampling.

One is not necessarily better than the other; they are simply better suited for different situations.

An aspiring music producer who is more interested in being able to mix music and combine different tracks from the same instrument will find the MIDI keyboard to be a better match. 

Those who are performing and need a portable instrument that they can bring from one gig to another have to decide between portable or stage digital pianos and a midi keyboard because in either case it might be well suited to the performance space.

And of course those who want something they can keep it home simply to play the piano and have the same sound as an acoustic piano would do better with digital design.

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