Can a MIDI keyboard be used as a piano?

Do you want to play the piano but cannot afford to pay for a baby grand due to its massive price tag? Well, let us find out if you can use a MIDI keyboard as a piano instead.

Most people love music. More so, there are those people who love listening to music while others enjoy the art of creating music. Playing the piano is one of those worthwhile musical journeys that help you unwind after a long and busy day, relieve your mind from stress, and, ultimately, feel positive and boost your self-esteem. However, pianos are not cheap, and they also require ample space for set-up. As a result, many people, especially those in music production, often question whether a MIDI keyboard can be used as a piano.

The answer is a resounding yes. If you do not have enough space or your budget does not measure up to the price of a piano, a MIDI keyboard is the best alternative for you. However, using a piano is the best way to hone up your playing skills.

What is a MIDI keyboard, and how does it work?

MIDI keyboards and pianos have certain similarities and differences that affect your playing experience, depending on your needs and level of expertise. As such, you must have a clear definition of what a MIDI keyboard is before putting down any money for a purchase.

Generally, a MIDI keyboard is a digital instrument that requires electricity to function. They contain a similar row of keys like that on a piano. MIDI keyboards produce their sound via a synthesizer instead of hammers and strings like in a piano. In other words, they are digital pianos that come with a MIDI connection. However, it is crucial to note that not all digital pianos contain a MIDI connection.

These devices consist of various knobs, controls, and faders that aid in making new sounds using wave generators, also known as oscillators. They also allow you to alter different sounds in a manner to make them fit your musical needs. Once they compose a sound or melody you like, you can transfer it as a MIDI message to a MIDI-equipped device via a MIDI or USB cable.

Advantages of using a MIDI keyboard

Using a MIDI keyboard in the place of a piano has certain benefits, which include:

Saving up on space

If your home music studio is a corner in your room or you live in a tiny apartment, you certainly cannot have enough space to host a piano, not even the baby grand. A MIDI keyboard can fit even in the smallest of rooms as it takes up little to no space at all.


The weight of a piano ranges from 400-1200lbs, meaning they require a team of professionals to carry it, and they cannot move easily once set up in a particular spot. MIDI keyboards are lightweight and portable digital devices. As a result, they are an ideal choice for traveling musicians as they are easily moved and put away when necessary. More so, most of them are compact and lightweight enough to fit inside a standard backpack.

Versatility in sound

A piano is an acoustic instrument that produces and amplifies sound physically. They make one type of sound with varying notes and dynamics. Alternatively, keyboards can alter and change the sound produced to fit a specific musical need. They consist of a variety of volume options, using their volume knob, and can provide various sounds, like horns, organs, strings, piano, synthesizers, and more, depending on what you want.


Everyone knows that pianos are not cheap as the cheapest ones still require a lumpsum amount. Similarly, their maintenance does not come cheap since you have to ensure they are safe from mold and dampness, regularly restrung, and repaired when necessary.

Luckily, MIDI keyboards are quite affordable, with the cheaper models accruing to a couple of hundred dollars. However, higher-end brands may cost more depending on the features. These devices are easy to maintain as even the cheaper models malfunction after a few years of constant use. Mid-level and higher-end models may take up to decades before they require service or repair. Make sure you do not overload the electrical outlets, and your keyboard dry and clean at all times.

Disadvantages of using a MIDI keyboard instead of a piano

Despite the numerous benefits of using a MIDI keyboard, there are also various drawbacks to it. They include:

Playing a MIDI keyboard is not the same as playing the piano

Despite a piano being big and bulky, they contain weighted keys that make it somewhat challenging to play on a piano. The keys of a MIDI keyboard are often lightweight, resulting in a different experience when you switch to play the real instrument.


The sound of a piano and a MIDI keyboard vary depending on the model of the keyboard. Cheaper keyboards often have a less realistic keyboard sound, while more expensive models produce a better and more realistic piano sound.

How to choose the best MIDI keyboard for use as a piano

If you decide to use a MIDI keyboard as an alternative to the piano, there are certain factors to consider before you make a purchase.

An important feature to consider when buying MIDI keyboards is the number of keys. Generally, MIDI keyboards come with a variety of keys, including 25, 49, 61, 76, or 88-keys, which correspond to the number of octaves as 12 keys constitute one octave. An acoustic piano has 88 keys, so you may want a keyboard with a similar number of keys. However, many experts recommend a 61 MIDI keyboard to save up on space and guarantee efficient portability.

Another crucial consideration for choosing a MIDI keyboard is key weightings. Pianos have a weighted keyboard; thus, you might want to buy a MIDI keyboard with similar keys that are a little hard to press. The more the weight on the keys, the more similar it is to play on a real piano, but the cost of such keyboards increases as well. Weighted keyboards are a bit more expensive than their synth-action, semi-weighted, or waterfall counterparts.

Lastly, you should consider the set-up of your MIDI keyboard in terms of pedals. Real pianos come with sustain pedals that prevent the muting of the sound as soon as you release the key. Most MIDI keyboards do not have a sustained sound, meaning once you release the key, the sound disappears immediately. You can add a sustain pedal to your keyboard for a chance to have a similar effect, like when playing with a real piano.


If you do not have enough space in your studio or if you are looking for a lightweight and portable alternative to a piano, a MIDI keyboard is the perfect option. You might not have the same experience as when playing the piano, but it is definitely better than nothing, and it will assist you in honing up your piano-playing skills.

Peter Smith

Welcome to MusicGearAdvisor! 4 years ago I rediscovered my passion for making music and began building my own home studio. As I have gone through my journey I realized that I am just as passionate about the equipment as I am about the music. I started MusicGearAdvisor as a way for me to share my learnings with others so you can get started making music that you dream of.

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