Digital Piano vs MIDI Keyboard: Which is Better for Beginners

Nowadays, there are many electronic piano-like instruments. For any beginner, it could be confusing to pick the right electronic piano to start with. This article covers digital piano vs. MIDI keyboard and shares information about which is better for beginners.

A digital piano and a MIDI keyboard share some similarities. Both can produce sounds that mimic traditional pianos and other instruments. They have the ability to connect to an external amplifier or speaker.

It is also worth noting that the MIDI keyboard and MIDI controller are not the same. The main difference is that the MIDI controller does not have built-in speakers, while the MIDI keyboard does.

Now, let’s delve into more details of the differences between a digital piano and a MIDI keyboard.

What is a Digital Piano?


A digital piano is a musical instrument that uses digital sound technology to reproduce the sound of an acoustic piano. It typically consists of a keyboard with weighted or semi-weighted keys that simulate the feel of playing an acoustic piano. Digital pianos usually have built-in speakers but can also be connected to external amplifiers or headphones for sound output.

Digital pianos offer several advantages over acoustic pianos, such as –

  • The ability to adjust the volume
  • Using headphones for silent practice
  • Selecting from a variety of voices and settings
  • Record and playback feature

They also require less maintenance than acoustic pianos, as they do not need to be tuned and are less susceptible to damage from environmental elements such as temperature and humidity.

Some digital pianos may include additional features, like an onboard metronome, various MIDI or Audio input and output connections, split or layering functions, and built-in lessons. The MIDI or Audio connectors allow beginners to easily use any online piano lessons they prefer.

For practice, recording, and live performances, beginners and professional musicians often use digital pianos. Check out our articles on the best digital pianos and how to choose a digital piano.

What is a MIDI Keyboard?

A MIDI controller is a musical instrument controller that uses the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) protocol to communicate with other MIDI-compatible devices, such as computers, synthesizers, and sound modules. It typically consists of a keyboard with unweighted or semi-weighted keys that do not produce sound on their own but instead send MIDI messages to connected devices to produce sound.

midi system

MIDI Controllers customarily require a computer or other device with software to produce sound.

On the other hand, MIDI keyboards usually refer to MIDI controllers with built-in sound modules and speakers.

MIDI keyboards can be used to control a wide variety of virtual instruments and software synthesizers, allowing musicians to create and manipulate a range of sounds and effects. They can also be used to record and sequence MIDI data in music software, making them a popular tool for music production and composition.

synthesizer connected with speaker

MIDI keyboards come in a range of sizes and configurations, from compact portable models with just a few keys to larger models with a full range of keys and additional controls such as sliders, knobs, and pads.

Overall, MIDI keyboards are versatile instruments that can be used for a wide range of musical applications, from playing and recording virtual instruments to controlling sound and effects in live performance settings.

Digital Piano vs MIDI Keyboard

Basically, a digital piano is designed primarily to replicate the sound and feel of an acoustic piano, whereas a MIDI keyboard is designed to be used as a controller for digital audio workstations (DAWs) and software synthesizers.

Digital pianos usually have weighted keys that simulate the weight and resistance of a traditional piano, while MIDI keyboards may have unweighted or semi-weighted keys that are easier to play quickly. In order to develop finger techniques and strength, it is critical to have an instrument with weighted keys. In this regard, digital pianos are better for beginners.

MIDI keyboards can usually control a vast array of virtual instruments and sound through a computer or other MIDI-compatible device, whereas digital pianos typically have a limited range of sounds.

Side-by-Side Comparison

Let’s take a closer look at the key features of digital piano vs. MIDI keyboard:

FeatureDigital PianoMIDI Keyboard
Sound QualityHigh-quality sampled sound of acoustic pianosDepends on the quality of the software synthesizer or sound module
KeyboardWeighted keys simulate the feel of an acoustic piano.Unweighted or semi-weighted keys that are easier to play quickly
Sound SelectionLimited selection of sounds that mostly focus on piano and other keyboard soundsWide selection of sounds and ability to control virtual instruments and sound modules
SpeakersOnboard speakersOnboard speakers
MIDI Controllers require external sound modules and speakers or other MIDI devices
PerformanceDesigned for live performances and practice sessionsDesigned for use with DAWs and music software
CostMore expensive due to higher quality sound and weighted keysGenerally less expensive due to simpler design and fewer built-in features
PortabilityOften include built-in learning tools, such as lessons, metronomes, and recording functions.Lightweight and highly portable, especially smaller models
Learning FeaturesIt may not include learning tools but can be used with learning software or apps.It may not include learning tools but can be used with learning software or apps.

Best Digital Pianos for Beginners

digital piano vs midi keyboard: best digital piano for beginner - Yamaha-P45

When it comes to choosing a beginner-friendly piano, the Yamaha P-45 (or equivalent model Yamaha P-71) is a popular choice.

There are several reasons why many people consider the Yamaha P-45 one of the best pianos for beginners.

Firstly, it is compact and lightweight, making it easy to move around and store when not in use. This makes it ideal for small spaces or for students who need to transport their piano to lessons or performances.

Secondly, the Yamaha P-45 has a fully weighted 88-key keyboard, which means it feels and responds like an acoustic piano. This is important for beginners as it allows them to develop proper finger technique and build strength in their fingers.

Thirdly, the Yamaha P-45 has a variety of built-in features that are helpful for beginners, such as a metronome, different voices and modes, and the ability to record and playback performances. These features aid in learning and practicing different techniques and providing feedback on progress.

Lastly, the Yamaha brand is known for its quality and reliability, which is important when investing in a musical instrument.

Best MIDI Keyboard for Beginners

alesis melody 61 MKII

For learning piano with MIDI keyboard, we usually recommend keyboards have a minimum of 61 keys. One of the best beginner MIDI keyboards is the Alesis Melody 61 MKII.

The Alesis Melody 61 MKII is a 61-key keyboard with built-in speakers. It is designed specifically for beginners. It comes with everything you need to get started, including a keyboard stand, bench, headphones, and microphone.

One of the key features of the Alesis Melody 61 MKII is its full-sized, velocity-sensitive keys. This provides a more realistic playing experience and allows beginners to develop proper finger technique and dynamics while playing.

The Alesis Melody 61 MKII also comes with 300 built-in voices and 40 demo songs, making it easy for beginners to explore different styles of music and learn new techniques. Additionally, it has a variety of other useful features, such as a recording and playback function, a metronome, and a headphone jack for private practice.


Overall, digital pianos are designed to replicate the sound and feel of an acoustic piano and are suitable for both live performance and practice. MIDI keyboards, on the other hand, are more suited for use in a studio setting with a computer or other MIDI-compatible device and are highly customizable in terms of sound selection and control.

Another critical aspect is the weighted keys. Digital pianos usually have weighted keys that are best suited for beginners to learn and develop piano techniques. The Yamaha P-45 is a great choice for beginners because it provides a realistic playing experience, has useful features to aid in learning, and is a trusted and reputable brand.

On the other hand, if you are learning piano and are more interested in creating music, having a MIDI keyboard will meet your needs. The Alesis Melody 61 MKII is a good pick for beginners who want full-sized keys with speakers and a variety of built-in features. It provides a realistic playing experience, is easy to set up and use, and comes with everything a beginner needs to get started.

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