MIDI Controllers VS Digital Pianos – Which To Choose

Man in recording studio

While digital pianos and MIDI controllers are both, in a sense, keyboards, they are created for specific purposes. If you’re looking for the difference between a digital piano and a MIDI controller and trying to decide which is best for your needs, you’ve come to the right place.

The first thing you need to do is determine what you’re looking for most in a keyboard? Are you simply looking to start learning to play the piano? Maybe, you’re looking to learn music production?

MIDI Controller VS Digital Piano – The Key Differences

The most significant difference between a digital piano and a MIDI controller is that the digital piano’s purpose is to emulate an acoustic piano. A MIDI controller has no internal sounds, and its primary purpose is to transmit MIDI data to a device.

Most MIDI controllers have cheaper keys than digital pianos and are usually not equipped with any eternal speakers like a digital piano is. MIDI controllers also range in size, whereas most digital pianos are 88 keys.

What Is A Digital Piano?

A digital piano is an electronic keyboard that is designed to emulate an acoustic piano. It usually has 88 keys, speakers, and internal sounds.

Most digital pianos can be used as a MIDI controller by connecting them to a PC or laptop via a USB cable. This means that you are using external sounds from your computer rather than internal sounds from your digital piano.

What Is A MIDI Controller?

A MIDI controller is an interface that gives the musician or producer control over sounds and functions. There are no internal sounds on a MIDI controller as their sole purpose is to plug into a laptop or synthesizer to access its sounds.

Typically, MIDI controllers do not possess as nice of keys and almost always don’t have built-in speakers. 

On the plus side, MIDI controllers are usually loaded with various controllers such as pads, faders, and knobs to create beats with.

Which Should You Choose?

The easiest way to decide on which to get is to answer the question, “what is my main purpose for buying a keyboard?” If you’re new to playing the piano and not looking to learn but want to produce music, get a MIDI controller. If you’re looking to learn how to play the piano, you should get a digital piano or something with weighted keys, in my opinion. You can get a nice one currently for under $500.

Keep in mind; you can always use a digital piano as a MIDI controller should you want the option of additional sounds or simply want to produce your own track.

Price Difference

Price points on digital pianos and MIDI controllers can vary greatly, depending on your budget. For example, MIDI controllers can cost as little as $79 and go upwards of $1,000 if you get an 88 key MIDI controller with weighted keys.

Digital pianos will typically start at the low end, around $300, and go upwards of $3,000. I usually recommend middle-of-the-road price points for digital pianos for those who are relatively new to playing keys. 

An incredible option for beginners to advanced players is the Roland FP-30X – it has astonishing key-action and some solid sounds.

If you’re new to music production and want to make beats, I recommend a MIDI controller for around $200, such as the Novation Launchkey 49 MK3.

Wrapping Up

While digital pianos and MIDI controllers can both keyboards, their purpose is where they differ. If you are a pianist who isn’t looking to create beats or produce music, a digital piano is what you will need.

If you are someone who has an interest in producing music more so than just learning to play the piano, a MIDI controller is the pick.

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