Types of Piano Keys

There are many different types of piano keys. It is important to ensure that you choose a piano with the right kind of keys for you because this can greatly impact your piano playing. Ultimately, the differences in piano keys are due to the mechanisms that the piano keys use to create sound. A traditional acoustic piano uses a hammer action for their keyboard. Digital pianos and keyboards use an array of weighted options to mimic the feel of an acoustic piano. When you are searching for a new piano, there are many things that you will need to consider.

It is also important to consider the necessary maintenance that will keep your piano in good condition. Here are a few important things to understand regarding the different types of piano keys that are available to choose from. This can help you to choose the right type to meet your specific needs.

How Many Keys on a Piano

piano keys

First and foremost, you will want to look at the size of the keyboard that you want. A full size keyboard has 88 keys. This means that the piano will be able to span 7 octaves with an additional 3 notes. This will ensure that your piano playing isn’t limited in any way and that you can play any piece you want on your piano.

However, smaller keyboards are certainly available if space or price is a concern for you. The number of keys that your piano has will impact the pieces that you can play on the piano. This can limit your ability to play certain pieces. Keep this in mind when you are looking into purchasing a piano.

Differences Between Types of Piano Keys

The main difference between different types of piano keys is the amount of resistance that the mechanism provides to the keys. Some piano keys will have no resistance, others may have tapered resistance, and others may have a more balanced resistance across the board. When you have more information about the different types of piano keys, you will be better equipped to make the best decision for your specific type of piano key. If you still need additional guidance after reading this article, our team is happy to guide you through your own piano buying process. Hammer action and weighted keys are the most common thing that you will see with various pianos.  

Hammer Action

A hammer action is the most popular type of piano key. Acoustic pianos use hammer action keyboards. This means that even a hammer action digital keyboard will make it easier to transition to playing acoustic. This is important for students, because they will most likely play on an acoustic piano with their instructor. Performances also generally use acoustic pianos. With a hammer action keyboard, the bass keys tend to be heavier, while the treble keys are lighter. If you aren’t used to this balance, it may be difficult to learn how to play on a different piano than the one you practice on. The keyboards you use will have a substantial impact on the way in which you learn to play piano.

The Importance of Hammer Action

Hammer action keyboards tend to be incredibly beneficial for developing pianists. When learning to play the piano, you will want a keyboard that will make it easier to improve.

Hammer action keyboards can help you to improve your playing and transition more easily between playing different instruments. This can help you to continue making progress in all aspects of your piano playing.  

Weighted Keys

There are different varieties of weighted keys that are often used for digital pianos. While the balance of these keys will fluctuate depending on the specific type of weighted key, they tend to be more balanced from top to bottom than hammer action. There is also a combination of a weighted keyboard with a hammer action option, which can be particularly helpful in improving your playing. It can be beneficial to understand the varieties of weighted keys, so that you can choose a digital piano that will be better able to meet your specific needs.


Fully-weighted keyboards provide much more resistance than semi-weighted keys. The major benefit of this is that they aid with the development of playing endurance. This is incredibly important when you are working on improving your overall piano playing skills. It is also important to note, however, that fully-weighted keyboards tend to have even resistance across the keyboard, rather than fluctuating based on the various pitches. This can be disconcerting when you switch to playing a piano with heavier bass keys and lighter treble keys.

Fully-Weighted with Hammer Action

Another common option for the keys of your piano is to have a fully-weighted keyboard with hammer action. This type of keyboard tends to create the most realistic feel to replicate playing an acoustic piano. It is important to note, however, that these keyboard types tend to be more expensive than some other varieties. The resistance can help you to improve your playing, while the hammer action can enable you to mimic the feel of an acoustic piano.

Semi-Weighted Keys

Semi-weighted keys are just one of the types of weighted keys that you may choose. This type of key uses a spring mechanism to enable the key to be depressed quickly. The key may be slow to rise back up. Adjusting to this will help you to improve your playing. Semi-weighted keys tend to be heavier on the bass keys and lighter on the treble keys. This is used to mimic the way in which an acoustic hammer action keyboard functions.


Keyboards most commonly use unweighted keys for their playing. These types of keyboard use a spring system that doesn’t do much to replicate the resistance of an acoustic piano. Unweighted keyboards have little resistance. While this may make it easier to play, it certainly makes it difficult to transition to different instruments. In addition, this can also impact how easily you build up playing endurance. Though these keyboards may be detrimental to professional playing long-term, they can be perfectly sufficient for playing for fun. It is also important to keep in mind that this tends to be the least expensive type of piano key to obtain, so it may be the best option if you are on a budget.

Acoustic Pianos

Acoustic pianos tend to be the most common pianos that are used in professional settings. This can include anything from performances to piano lessons. Acoustic pianos use hammer action keyboards to create their particular sound. Due to this, the use of a hammer action keyboard on a digital piano will make it easier to adjust to playing on an acoustic piano. If you have the space and budget for an acoustic piano, you may want to consider investing in an acoustic piano to begin with. These acoustic pianos can help you to improve your playing and get an authentic feel regarding the pianos that you may be likely to play. They also tend to have a different sound than digital pianos.

Digital Piano vs a Keyboard

The terms “digital piano” and “keyboard” tend to be used interchangeably, but this isn’t exactly the case. In general, keyboards tend to use unweighted keys while digital pianos most often use varieties of weighted keys. The purpose behind this is generally to help mimic traditional piano playing on an acoustic variety. Understanding the differences between a digital piano and keyboard can help you to make the best decision for your own piano purchase.


Price is another important thing to keep in mind when you are deciding on a type of key for your piano. The price of a piano will often vary based on the type of keys that the piano has. Fully-weighted hammer action keyboards tend to be more expensive than other options, though they are often the most effective at helping you develop your piano playing skills. Unweighted keys, alternatively, tend to be the least expensive. Our team can help you to identify the right key type to meet all of your specific needs and fit with your particular situation.

Find Your Piano At The Ogden Piano Gallery

These are just a few important things that you will need to know about the various types of piano keys. Our experts at Ogden Piano Gallery can help to guide you through the process of choosing the ideal piano to meet your specific needs. Whether you need a specific size, key type, or sound quality, we will have the right piano to further your piano playing. It will also be important to ensure that you know whether you want to purchase a used or new piano. To learn more about the various types of keys and the pianos that we have available at our piano gallery, contact us at Ogden Piano Gallery today!