14 Keyboard Musical Instruments You Should Know (2022)

Keyboards are incredible—the beauty and variety of sound that can come from them are simply astonishing.

Depending on who is playing and what song is being performed, the keyboard can be reminiscent of any type of emotion or memory. The one thing a keyboard can’t do, however, is sound like another instrument.

Some keyboards sound like vastly different instruments!

There are hundreds of keyboard instruments in the world, both historically and currently.

However, not that many of them are commonly used.

Even the fourteen on this list aren’t all as common as you would think—some of these you might not have heard of!

Table of Contents

1. Piano

14 Keyboard Musical Instruments You Should Know (1)

While the Piano is the most famous of the keyboard instruments, it’s not the first. The piano is a more modern reinvention of the harpsichord, which is still around and will be featured later on in this list.

However, the piano is by far the most played keyboard instrument. The modern piano has 88 keys and is played sitting down.

Originally, it was created to solve the musical problem of dynamics—musicians couldn’t control how loud or quiet their music was.

The piano was initially called the pianoforte, the common musical term for “soft” and “loud” (since it could do both). Now, it’s just called a piano.

2. Accordion

14 Keyboard Musical Instruments You Should Know (2)

Although it’s not usually thought of as a keyboard instrument, the Accordion does deserve a spot on this list!

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It is a classic portable instrument created in Germany.The accordion works like a tiny organ, using air, stops, and a keyboard to control the sound.

However, unlike an organ, it doesn’t use pipes. Instead, the instrument itself acts like a bellows.

Accordions are often used in polka and traditional European dance music. It’s technically a member of the wind instrument family (but the piano is technically a percussion instrument). Accordions are usually handcrafted and can be extremely expensive.

3. Harmonium

14 Keyboard Musical Instruments You Should Know (3)

A Harmonium is a lesser-known cousin of the accordion. It works much the same way—blowing air through the instrument while controlling the sound with a keyboard.

However, the harmonium has two main differences: the method of air pumping and the size of the instrument.

A harmonium is like a small upright piano but with two large pedals. The air is blown upwards through the instrument’s reeds to create sound, which is then controlled by the keys.

It’s simpler than the accordion because there are no “stops” to control. However, a harmonium is much quieter and bulkier.

4. Harpsichord

14 Keyboard Musical Instruments You Should Know (4)

We’ve already referenced the Harpsichord as a parent of the modern piano. Physically, it looks very similar to an upright piano, only smaller.

The significant difference between a harpsichord and a piano is how the sound is made. While a piano’s keys are attached to hammers, a harpsichord’s keys are attached to hooks.

These hooks pluck the strings within the instrument instead of hitting them.

It makes a characteristic sound found on many Baroque instrumental pieces and requires technical precision. However, the musician can’t control dynamics, and the instrument has one volume: loud.

5. Clavichord

14 Keyboard Musical Instruments You Should Know (5)

If a harpsichord is the mother of the piano, the Clavichord is the father. It looks much less similar but still operates with a keyboard.

The main difference between a clavichord and a harpsichord is the strings are struck by metal rods instead of plucked by hooks.

Similar to the harpsichord, the clavichord had one central issue: dynamics. While you could control how hard you hit the keys, the instrument is too small to make enough sound in a large concert hall.

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Clavichords only had a few octaves and were primarily used in the home for practice or composition.

6. Pipe Organ

14 Keyboard Musical Instruments You Should Know (6)

Before the clavichord or the harpsichord, however, was the Pipe Organ. The original keyboard instrument, variations of the organ have been around for over two thousand years.

The instrument pushes air through various pipes to make music using pedals, while the dual keyboards and a series of stops open and shut the pipes.

The pipe organ is used in large venues such as baseball stadiums, churches, and concert halls because it doesn’t need amplification to reach the back rows.

The largest pipe organ in the world is in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and consists of over 33,000 pipes.

7. Dulcitone

14 Keyboard Musical Instruments You Should Know (7)

The Dulcitone is a somewhat unique take on the clavichord, developed in the 1800s.It borrows part of its name and design from the hammered dulcimer, which utilizes padded hammers hitting a string.

However, the dulcitone attaches these hammers to a keyboard in a portable version of the clavichord.

The dulcitone is a quiet and high-pitched instrument, generally only spanning four or five octaves.

While the dulcitone had its uses, it was often replaced by a louder, sharper-sounding percussion instrument such as a xylophone or a glockenspiel.

8. Synthesizer

Other than the piano, the Synthesizer might be the most popular keyboard instrument on this list. It’s different from an electric keyboard, however.

While both plug into a wall and look like a smaller version of a regular piano, synthesizers have varying functions and are capable of many different sounds.

A synthesizer makes tones electronic instead of manual. While a piano hits an actual hammer to a string, synth copies that noise with an internal computer.

If you hook a synth up to an external computer, there’s no end to the number of different sounds it can make.

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The classic “synth” or electric keyboard sound, however, is well-known in classic rock.

9. Melodica

The Melodica is one of the newer instruments on this list. Although variations have been around for almost two hundred years, the modern (and most popular) version was invented in the 1950s.

It was made popular in reggae and ska music in the 1970s and 1980s.Think of the melodica as a recorder, but with a keyboard on top instead of openings.

It works the same way, with the musician blowing air through a top hole and controlling the sound by “stopping” specific openings.

The difference is that instead of directly seeing the holes, the musician is using the keyboard placed over the center tube.

10. Claviola

The Claviola is another twentieth-century hand-held keyboard that you blow into. Unlike the melodica, however, the claviola is no longer in production.

It was only made for a few years in the 1960s and is increasingly hard to find. It looks similar to an accordion and is held the same way but is easier to play.

The claviola works like a combination of the accordion and the melodica. The user blows through a pipe on the top of the instrument while playing the keyboard on the side.

On the opposite side of the keyboard, there are multiple pipes to correspond to the keys. The air brings the sound, and the keys control it.

11. Hurdy-Gurdy

14 Keyboard Musical Instruments You Should Know (8)

If nothing else, this instrument has the most entertaining name on the list. The Hurdy-Gurdy.

Legends say that it came from the somewhat warbly sound that the instrument has when it starts.

There are a variety of hurdy-gurdies, but they all sound like a combination of an accordion and a violin.The hurdy-gurdy looks like a violin with a crank on the bottom and a keyboard along the side.

So although it’s technically a stringed instrument, it fits right in with the widespread family of keyboard instruments.

As the musician cranks the instrument and plays the keys, they slide over the strings to make the music.

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12. Celeste

One of the more unique keyboards on this list, a Celeste, works similarly to a regular piano.

However, instead of the hammers hitting strings to create the signature piano sound, the hammers of a celeste hit sound plates directly above wooden resonators. The resulting sound is a bell tone.

The celesta looks like a smaller version of a regular piano and is often played by a pianist. However, the difference in sound makes the celesta sound almost magical.

The most famous use of the celeste in modern music is in the theme song for the Harry Potter movies.

13. Autoharp

The Autoharp is what happens when a hammered dulcimer and an accordion have a child.

Half of the instrument is strings pulled tightly across a wooden soundboard. The player plucks these strings with fingers or a pick.

A keyboard covers the other half and mutes all the strings except when the keys are depressed.

This combination of string and keyboard instruments leads to a very soft, controlled sound.

Unlike many of the other keyboard instruments, the autoharp sounds much more like a stringed instrument (unsurprisingly, it sounds a lot like a small harp).

It can be played flat on a table (like a keyboard) or upright (like a harp).

14. Virginals

Lastly, we have a Virginal. If we’re continuing with the family analogy, virginals (which often came in two and were called a pair of virginals) are the grandmother of the harpsichord.

The instrument works much the same way; it uses keys to pluck strings. However, it’s slightly smaller than the harpsichord.

The main difference between a harpsichord and a virginals is that the virginals are a pair of keyboards, each called a virginal.

The harpsichord consolidated the keyboards into one multi-octave set, but this predecessor instrument separated them by the size of the strings. It was commonly used in homes because of its small size.

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Final Thoughts

Now that you know a few different kinds of keyboard instruments, you can go on a quest to discover more instruments with keyboards.

While there are vast technical differences between them, a basic knowledge of music and piano would be a good start for playing each of these.

FAQs

What are the 4 main keyboard instruments? ›

Keyboards Instruments are one of the most diverse musical instrument classifications. Divided into four main categories—chordophones, aerophones, idiophones, and electrophones, each of which overlaps with other instrument families.

What is the instrument with the most keys? ›

Unlike xylophones, which have up to 40 keys, or most woodwind instruments, which have a limited number of keys, pianos have a whopping 88 keys. Each key represents a different note, giving the piano a wide range of sounds.

What is the coolest instrument to learn? ›

The guitar is often considered to be the "coolest" musical instrument to learn. There are plenty of options available too: from electric to acoustic, classical to bass, all provide different sounds and styles. Most people can master basic chords and scales fairly quickly.

What is the most familiar keyboard instrument? ›

The most common of these are the piano, organ, and various electronic keyboards, including synthesizers and digital pianos.

What is the oldest keyboard instrument? ›

"The hydraulis was the world's first keyboard instrument and was, in fact, the predecessor of the modern church organ.

What are the 3 keyboard instruments? ›

The most common of these are the piano, organ, and various electronic keyboards, including synthesizers and digital pianos.

What is the most natural instrument? ›

The human voice is the first and most natural musical instrument, also the most emotional.

What instrument can play the most notes? ›

No other instrument has as many notes on offer as the piano. It plays lower notes than a double bassoon and higher notes than a piccolo. It's the only instrument with 88 separate keys, and you can play the lowest and highest notes all at the same time, a trick that can't be achieved by many other instruments.

What instrument is most similar to a piano? ›

Harpsichord

We've already referenced the Harpsichord as a parent of the modern piano. Physically, it looks very similar to an upright piano, only smaller. The significant difference between a harpsichord and a piano is how the sound is made.

Whats the easiest instrument? ›

HARMONICA

One of the easiest instruments you can take up, which is also very popular in a variety of styles, is the harmonica. The great thing about harmonicas is that no matter what note you play, it will be in key, which means even complete beginners can sound good.

What instrument is best to start with? ›

The Best Instruments for Beginners
  • Piano and Keyboard. Pianos and keyboards are part of their own category and a favorite for beginner musicians because they are easy to start playing right away. ...
  • Ukulele. A ukulele is a great first instrument, especially as a string instrument. ...
  • Guitar. ...
  • Violin. ...
  • Cello. ...
  • Recorder. ...
  • Flute. ...
  • Saxophone.
15 Mar 2021

Which instrument is good for brain? ›

Learning the piano from a young age has an impressive effect on the brain development; amazingly, it has the effect of making a person's brain more symmetrical.

What is the top 10 easiest instrument to play? ›

The 10 easiest instruments to learn for kids and adults
  1. Ukulele. The ukulele is the ultimate instrument for kids and beginners of all ages. ...
  2. Recorder. Hundreds of years ago, the recorder was so popular that leading composers would write concertos for it. ...
  3. Electronic keyboard. ...
  4. Piano. ...
  5. Guitar. ...
  6. Drums. ...
  7. Bass guitar. ...
  8. Xylophone.
8 Dec 2020

What is a small keyboard instrument called? ›

A spinet is a smaller type of harpsichord or other keyboard instrument, such as a piano or organ.

What's the key signature? ›

key signature, in musical notation, the arrangement of sharp or flat signs on particular lines and spaces of a musical staff to indicate that the corresponding notes, in every octave, are to be consistently raised (by sharps) or lowered (by flats) from their natural pitches.

Is the organ older than the piano? ›

The organ, the oldest keyboard instrument, has been played for several centuries. It is likely that the use of keys to produce music was popularized by the organ, compelling the invention of different types of keyboard instruments. The organ, however, is a wind keyboard, and is almost entirely unrelated to the piano.

What are the 5 wind instruments? ›

Wind instruments are typically grouped into two families: Brass instruments (horns, trumpets, trombones, euphoniums, and tubas) Woodwind instruments (recorders, flutes, oboes, clarinets, saxophones, and bassoons)

Is keyboard same as piano? ›

The piano is an acoustic instrument, meaning its sound is produced and amplified physically. In comparison, keyboards are electronic instruments with a variety of volume options, and often can produce sounds like piano, horns, strings, organs, synthesizers, and more.

What is a double keyboard called? ›

Harpsichords with more than one keyboard (this usually means two keyboards, stacked one on top of the other in a step-wise fashion, as with pipe organs) provide flexibility in selecting which strings play, since each manual can be set to control the plucking of a different set of strings.

What is the most romantic musical instrument? ›

Music Is Love: The Most Romantic Instruments of All Time
  • The harp: ethereal strings.
  • The lyre: orphic lyricism.
  • The viola: a storyteller of love.
  • The guitar: orchestrated dreams.
  • The piano: the keys of love.
3 Dec 2021

Is human voice a instrument? ›

The human voice is therefore one of the most important musical instruments to discuss, both from a historical and cultural standpoint.

Is the human voice the most beautiful instrument? ›

Richard Strauss Quotes

The human voice is the most beautiful instrument of all, but it is the most difficult to play.

Is piano harder than guitar? ›

Overall, the guitar is easier to learn than the piano. If you consider the layout, learning songs, the ability to self-teach and a few other things, it is an easier instrument. However, it's the easiest on average for everyone. This means for people of all ages.

What instrument has the best range? ›

A piano and its 88 keys, for example, has the broadest pitch range of all instruments. Its highest note vibrates at 4,186Hz (4.1KHz) and its lowest at 27.5Hz.

What is the highest tone in music? ›

The pitch named "A" is the lowest frequency, and the pitch named "G" is the highest. The white keys on a piano keyboard are assigned these letters, as shown below.

What instrument is easiest to learn after piano? ›

If you still aren't sure, here are a few suggestions:
  • Guitar. The guitar is one of the most popular instruments in the world (second to the piano) and is a great secondary instrument. ...
  • Violin. The violin is most known for it's beautiful, soaring melodies. ...
  • Drums. ...
  • Voice. ...
  • Trumpet. ...
  • Clarinet.

What is a keyboard with strings called? ›

harpsichord, keyboard musical instrument in which strings are set in vibration by plucking. It was one of the most important keyboard instruments in European music from the 16th through the first half of the 18th century. harpsichord.

What are the 5 wind instruments? ›

Wind instruments are typically grouped into two families: Brass instruments (horns, trumpets, trombones, euphoniums, and tubas) Woodwind instruments (recorders, flutes, oboes, clarinets, saxophones, and bassoons)

What type of instrument is an electric keyboard? ›

An electronic keyboard, portable keyboard, or digital keyboard is an electronic musical instrument, an electronic derivative of keyboard instruments. Electronic keyboards include synthesizers, digital pianos, stage pianos, electronic organs and digital audio workstations.

What instrument are in the keyboard family? ›

With a keyboard, you can play more than one note at the same time, allowing you to try out different styles of music. The standard instruments that you will find under this classification are the hurdy-gurdy, the piano, the organ, the clavichord, synthesizers, the harpsichord, the accordion, and the melodica.

Is keyboard and piano the same? ›

The piano is an acoustic instrument, meaning its sound is produced and amplified physically. In comparison, keyboards are electronic instruments with a variety of volume options, and often can produce sounds like piano, horns, strings, organs, synthesizers, and more.

What musical instrument should I learn? ›

Which Instrument Should I Learn?
Piano/Keyboard
Saxophone
9 years +Easy to play instrument. Heavier that a clarinet, can be loud and overpowering – great for outgoing personalities. Reed instrument, popular in bands. Four types:- Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Baritone. Alto is most popular for beginner.
Trumpet
28 more rows

What instrument uses the most air? ›

The tuba, along with the flute, is at the top of the list for instruments that take the most air to play.

Which instrument is played with mouth? ›

harmonica

What are the 6 types of keys in keyboard? ›

In addition to letters, numerals, punctuation marks, and symbols, the typing keys also include Shift, Caps Lock, Tab, Enter, the Spacebar, and Backspace. Press Shift in combination with a letter to type an uppercase letter.

What is a small keyboard instrument called? ›

A spinet is a smaller type of harpsichord or other keyboard instrument, such as a piano or organ.

What is a double keyboard called? ›

Harpsichords with more than one keyboard (this usually means two keyboards, stacked one on top of the other in a step-wise fashion, as with pipe organs) provide flexibility in selecting which strings play, since each manual can be set to control the plucking of a different set of strings.

What instrument is most similar to a piano? ›

Harpsichord

We've already referenced the Harpsichord as a parent of the modern piano. Physically, it looks very similar to an upright piano, only smaller. The significant difference between a harpsichord and a piano is how the sound is made.

What instrument looks like piano? ›

Today we usually reserve the term harpsichord for the one shaped somewhat like a grand piano. Many Italian instruments have this basic shape, though typically more slender and angular.

Can a keyboard sound like an accordion? ›

Melodica. The melodica is a wind-powered, portable keyboard instrument that can sound like an accordion, oboe, and/or harmonica, depending on the type you're using and how you play it. When you blow into the instrument, internal reeds vibrate, creating the melodica's signature sound.

Is learning keyboard hard? ›

Yet contrary to popular belief, learning to play the keyboard is that difficult, especially when coming to grips with the basics. All it really takes is hard-work, time and dedication. Plus, once you learn the basics, it becomes so much easier to play more advanced notes and chords on a keyboard.

Can I learn keyboard on my own? ›

Absolutely. While there is no doubt that having a good traditional teacher can be helpful, the fact is you can teach yourself how to play piano / keyboard very effectively with the Musiah online piano lesson course, and you can do it with or without the involvement of a traditional piano / keyboard teacher.

Do pianists look at the keys? ›

Do pianists look at the keys while they play? The short answer to that last question is: YES! It's perfectly acceptable and normal for a pianist to look at their hands while they play. An important part of the design of any musical instrument is the necessary range of movement for the player in order to produce sound.

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