Many people by simple culture know that the musical notes are DO-RE-MI-FA-SO-LA-TI-DO. But of course, this can lead us to think: How is it possible that there are only seven notes when a piano has 88 keys (well, up to 88) and most keyboards have 61?
This is possible because the 7 notes that we already know form a block called an Octave and it is repeated throughout the keyboard. The Octaves to the left of the piano are the lowest notes and those to the right are the highest.
Look at a piano keys image. We can see a complete block of keys. From the DO on the left to the DO on the right there is a distance of one Octave: DO-RE-MI-FA-SO-LA-TI-DO.
This is a bit confusing as you may be wondering how that C is different from the other and why there are no more notes. For pure usability, our 7-note tonal system was defined and then these are repeated towards the highs or lows in blocks of 7 notes. In a simple convention. Basically, each note is associated with specific hertz. So a low DO will have a few hertz and a higher DO will have a few hertz. Although both notes are called DO, they are different sounds.
You have to take into account that although they are different sounds between one DO and another there will always be a distance that can be measured in octaves. The same between a serious SI and a more acute one.
Nordic and Anglo-Saxon countries call notes with German notation (although it is also called American notation).
How we have already explained our conventional tonal system made up of 7 notes. These natural notes are DO-RE-MI-FA-SO-LA-TI and are the white keys. And that means no notes in between? Well, yes there are and these are the black keys.
The distance between the keys or notes could be measured in Hertz but it is not. They are measured in tones and semitones, and not all notes are the same distance apart. According to our tonal system between DO and TI there is no intermediate note. As between the FA and the MI, we see two white keys in a row with no black key in between.
To explain the black keys I will try to be as clear as possible with an example. The black key between FA and SO is a musical note in between and can be called in two ways; F sharp (represented as F#) or G flat (represented by SOb). Both notes are the same note in hertz, the distance from a white key to its next black key will always be half a tone. And the distance between two white keys if there is a black key in between will be one whole tone or 2 semitones.
It’s a more complex concept but an FA sharp is an FA note with a semitone added, which is the same as G b which means subtract a semitone. In the end, however you look at it, you fall on the black key between them.
So far we have explained what a piano keyboard is like and what each key is. You may now want to know how to test sounds on a real or virtual keyboard.
If you don’t have a real electronic piano keyboard, you can use a piano keyboard simulator to do the first experiments. The most comfortable thing is that you use a tablet because its touch screen is the closest thing to a piano and the iPad in particular has the Garage Band. With a fairly intuitive and simple piano extension… it’s free and has many more instruments.
For Android you have Perfect Piano which is quite good in its free version.
The tactile piano simulators can be used for the first approaches but they are quite limited to learn piano. They are worth it to try chords and see how they sound.
A piano keyboard is a keyboard that tries to imitate as much as possible an acoustic piano. The most important thing for this is that it has at least 61 keys and that they are sensitive to the force with which they are pressed. On the other hand, if the keys are weighted (counterweighted) they will be closer to the real touch of a real piano.
The above factors are very important in playing the piano with expressiveness and nuance. Today you have keyboards and digital pianos that emulate acoustic pianos very well. So we can perfectly study music on them whilst save a lot of money.
If you are thinking of buying a digital piano keyboard, visit our guide on the keyboard where you will be able to know what types there are, the different sizes and measures that you have at your disposal and all the possibilities that they offer you to compose your own music.
To start with you can start with a 61-key piano keyboard for example. Less than 61 keys we do not recommend because that will limit you a lot in the future. You have Yamaha piano keyboards at a good price for example.
Well, at this point we must make a concept clear: Acoustic pianos have weighted keys. This makes the keyboard of a traditional acoustic piano weighted and is a very important aspect when dealing with this question.
Another thing to understand is that there are many types of pianists. You have them who only play classical, others like to play Jazz, others are geeks of music production and electronic music. All these types of musicians are included in the world of keyboards or pianists.
Putting the above points together a bit, we can now shape the answer that I think is the most appropriate, and that is: it depends on the type of music you want to make and how you want to make it.
If you want to learn piano and you are an adult you can start with a 61 or 88 key piano but make it portable. This will allow you to move it and this is an important thing, because if you start studying piano as an adult it is good that you look for people you can play with to keep yourself motivated.
If, on the other hand, you are looking for a keyboard for a child, then I know that it may be logical to think that this child wants to study classical music at the conservatory. In that case it is important that the keyboard has 88 keys and is weighted to start with. For an adult who wants to play modern the counterweight theme may not be so important.
Normally 61-key keyboards only have sensitivity on the keys, which is different from weighted and serves to play a note harder or softer depending on how we press the key. Digital pianos or keyboards with 88 keys usually also have weights to imitate an acoustic piano.
But there is also another important nuance, 61-key pianos are usually designed to have many tones and features designed to play with sounds, mix them, etc. And that’s why they usually bring hundreds of different sounds. 88 keyboards tend to bring fewer sounds and focus on being more like an acoustic piano in materials, touch, etc.
As you can deduce from all this that I have told you, 88-key keyboards are what are usually called digital pianos and the other keyboards just plain. Although later we can classify them as home or backing keyboard, synthesizers, workstations or even controllers (which do not have internal sounds).
As for the price, both keyboards and digital pianos come in all prices and colors because there are keyboards that have more functions than a spaceship and digital pianos with tremendous qualities.
That said, reflect on what I mentioned at the beginning, so you will know what keyboard you need and by the way you will also know if your teacher is in line with what you really want to do.