What Is The Difference Between A Clavinova And A Synthesizer?

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Written By Sarah Barlow

Chief Music Officer

The majority of piano enthusiasts, especially beginners, interchange the terms digital pianos and synthesizers. However, these are two different things. Even though they have some sort of similarities with one another, there are many significant distinctions between digital pianos and synthesizers that I will explain and go over in this article.

There are mainly 6 factors that distinguish digital pianos from synthesizers and vice versa. These factors include the number and size of keys, feel and keyboard action, portability, sound, and appearance. 

Factors That Make A Clavinova Different From A Synthesizer

1. Number Of Keys

One of the most apparent differences between a digital piano and a synthesizer that can easily be observed when they are placed side by side is the number of keys on each instrument. 

The majority of digital pianos have 88 keys, and only a small percentage feature 61 or 76 keys. Synthesizers, on the other hand, are the complete opposite. Only a small number of them are made with 88 keys. They generally have 61 or 76 keys. 

Digital pianos also have more keys and can play up to 7 octaves, in contrast to synthesizers, which have fewer keys and can only play 4 to 5 octaves.

2. Size Of Keys

Compared to synthesizers, digital pianos feature longer and larger keys. This is partly due to the fact that synthesizers were specifically created for musicians that typically travel for performances and gigs. They are more portable and compact when compared to digital pianos. 

The only real downside is that they take some getting used to, particularly if you’re coming from an 88-key piano with standard-sized keys.

3. Feel And Keyboard Action

Digital pianos have weighted keys that give them an additional edge over synthesizers. With this feature, users can alter the volume of the sounds they produce based on how hard they press a key. Louder sounds are produced when you press the keys harder, similar to when you’re playing an acoustic piano. 

Synthesizers, on the other hand, lack this feature. Regardless of how firmly you press down on the keys, the sound it produces remains the same. Though, you can still adjust the volume by manually modifying the synthesizer’s built-in volume knob. 

Another issue with synthesizers is that, in comparison to digital pianos, it could be challenging to produce layered sounds.

4. Portability

In contrast to digital pianos, which have wooden legs and supports that must be firmly fastened and attached to your piano’s outer frame, synthesizers come with a separate stand that you can use to set them up for on-road performances. This makes synthesizers more portable than digital pianos.

5. Sound

The sound of a synthesizer is different from that of a digital piano. In addition to simulating the sound of an acoustic piano, digital pianos can also produce other sounds, such as those from a bright piano, grand piano, electric piano, bass, string, and organ from acoustic instruments, to mention a few.

Synthesizers may also produce the sounds of pianos and other acoustic instruments. However, its sound library contains more than simply piano sounds, it also has synth tones that are analogous to physical instruments. 

However, it’s crucial to remember that not all synthesizers produce high-quality sounds, particularly when you compare a high-end synthesizer with an entry-level synthesizer.

6. Appearance

Another feature that distinguishes a synthesizer from a digital piano is its appearance. 

Synthesizers are more compact than digital pianos and offer a wider range of control methods, including control wheels, buttons, levers, and knobs. Although there are control choices on digital pianos, they are significantly more constrained and limited than those on synthesizers.

Key Takeaway

Digital pianos and synthesizers are equally excellent musical instruments in their own ways. Almost everyone can easily assert that both instruments are different from one another given the factors mentioned above. 

Now, the next question is, how can you decide which of the two pianos is best for you?

The answer depends on what you want your piano to accomplish for you. If you want one that precisely imitates the sound and feel of an acoustic piano while being smaller and lighter, a digital piano is the best option. 

A synthesizer, on the other hand, is what you should be looking for if you want a portable piano that can let you explore and experiment with different sounds that may help you with your electronic music.