Digital piano vs. Synthesizer: what’s the difference?

Delving into the world of key instruments can be quite confusing for amateurs who are just learning how to tell them all apart. It can be particularly difficult given that, nowadays, any digital instrument with keys is called a keyboard or a piano. While it is not an entirely wrong conception depending on the case, there are some significant differences that people should know when getting into the music industry. The division line between digital pianos and other key instruments can be pretty blurry, but luckily we are here to help you tell the difference. Below, we will go into detail to break down the qualities of digital pianos and synthesizers in an attempt to help you distinguish between the two.

What is a digital piano?

A digital piano, like its name suggests, is a version of the instrument that aims to mimic an acoustic piano using digital mechanisms. Most pianos focus on the sound, but some other digital pianos go as far as implementing physical features to replicate the feel of traditional pianos as closely as possible.

What this means is that this piano variety will often have a complete set of 88 keys which will be weighted to some extent. Some will be fully weighted through some mechanic or another, while other models that are not as professional can get semi-weighted keys instead and may not feature a full key bed.

Digital pianos are instruments on their own right because they produce sound when played. This might seem like an obvious feature but we will see that it is not quite as evident. This sort of piano can also double as a MIDI controller if it’s connected to a device with compatible software that allows the use of the instrument in that manner. For some examples of the best electric pianos, you can take a look at some of the models reviewed here.

What is a synthesizer and how is it different?

A synthesizer, on the other hand, is a type of digital keyboard that turns audio signals into sound. Digital keyboards are not instruments per se because they merely reproduce samples of sounds already loaded to the memory of the device. In the case of synthesizers, however, the sounds they generate are genuine and the output is independent of any peripherals, meaning that they are musical instruments.

Now, synthesizers are not focused on replicating the sound of any existing acoustic instrument, but rather with creating their own through many different methods. To achieve this, they are mostly equipped with many different control knobs, faders, sliders, buttons, and more. These instruments are unique in how they make music, but their qualities shine brighter in music production and sound design.

The common synthesizer won’t have nearly as many keys as a digital piano. In fact, it will have around half as many and will probably be very lightweight. It is quite possible that the instrument comes with connectivity features far more diverse than those of a traditional electric piano, which only adds to its versatility when the time comes to create sounds. You can find several of the best reviewed synthesizers currently available here.

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