Get to Know the Keyboard in Music: A Comprehensive Guide

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 24, 2022

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A keyboard is a musical instrument played using a keyboard. A keyboard is a musical instrument, specifically a piano or organ, that is played by pressing keys on the instrument, which activate notes and sounds.

The difference between a piano and a keyboard isn’t in the instrument itself, but in the way it’s played. A piano is a keyboard instrument played by a musician, while a keyboard is an instrument that a musician plays.

Plus, I’ll show you the different types of keyboards and what they’re used for.

What is a keyboard

The Keyboard: From Ancient Times to Modern Day

The Ancient Origins of the Keyboard

  • Way back in the day, the keyboard was developed and applied to the organ. It was a series of levers that you could push down with your fingers.
  • This type of keyboard was probably invented in Alexandria in the late 3rd century BC.
  • After the fall of the Roman Empire, the keyboards of the early Middle Ages had sliders that you pulled out to make different notes.
  • Some even had keys that turned like locks!
  • In the 1440s, some small portable organs had push buttons instead of keys.

The Modern Keyboard

  • By the 14th century, keyboards were already resembling the modern type.
  • The arrangement of the naturals and sharps (white and black keys) was gradually standardized.
  • The colours of the keys – white for naturals and black for sharps – became standardized around 1800.
  • By 1580, Flemish instruments had bone naturals and oak sharps.
  • French and German instruments had ebony or fruitwood naturals and bone or ivory sharps until the 1790s.

Keyboard Instruments: A Musical Masterpiece

The Most Versatile Instrument

Keyboard instruments are the ultimate musical chameleons! Whether you’re playing a classic grand piano or a modern synthesizer, you can create any sound imaginable. From tinkling ivories to booming basslines, keyboard instruments are the perfect tool for any musician.

A Variety of Options

With so many keyboard instruments to choose from, there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you can find the perfect instrument for your needs. From digital pianos to organs, there’s an instrument for every style and skill level.

A Timeless Classic

Keyboard instruments have been around for centuries, and they’re still going strong. From classical composers to modern pop stars, keyboard instruments have been used to create some of the most iconic music of all time. So, if you’re looking for a timeless classic, look no further than the keyboard instrument!

The Keyboard Through the Ages

The Ancient Greek Hydraulis

Back in the day, the Ancient Greeks had a pretty sweet invention: the Hydraulis! This was a type of pipe organ, invented in the 3rd century BC. It had keys that were balanced and could be played with a light touch. Claudian, a Latin poet, said it could “thunder forth as he presses out mighty roarings with a light touch”.

The Clavicymbalum, Clavichord, and Harpsichord

The Clavicymbalum, Clavichord, and Harpsichord were all the rage in the 14th century. The Clavichord was probably around before the other two. All three of these instruments were popular until the 18th century, when the piano was invented.

The Piano

In 1698, Bartolomeo Cristofori introduced the world to the modern piano. It was called the gravicèmbalo con piano e forte, which means “harpsichord with soft and loud”. This allowed the pianist to control the dynamics by adjusting the force with which each key was struck. The piano has been through some changes since then, and it looks and sounds different from the instruments Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven knew.

The Ondes Martenot and Electronic Keyboards

The 20th century brought us the Ondes Martenot and electronic keyboards. These instruments are pretty cool and have been used in a lot of different types of music.


Keyboard Vs Synthesizer

Keyboards and synthesizers are two instruments that are often confused for one another. But there are some key differences between them.

For starters, keyboards are typically used to play pre-recorded sounds, while synthesizers are used to create new sounds. Keyboards often come with a range of pre-programmed sounds, such as pianos, organs, and strings. Synthesizers, on the other hand, allow you to create your own sounds from scratch.

Another difference is that keyboards are typically easier to use than synthesizers. Keyboards usually have fewer knobs and buttons, making them more user-friendly. Synthesizers, on the other hand, can be more complex and require more technical knowledge to use.

So, if you’re looking for an instrument to play pre-recorded sounds, a keyboard is probably the way to go. But if you want to create your own sounds, a synthesizer is the way to go.


In conclusion, the keyboard is a fascinating musical instrument with a long and interesting history. Whether you’re a beginner or a professional, it’s a great way to make music. So, don’t be afraid to give it a try! Just remember to use the correct fingerings and don’t forget to have fun – after all, music is supposed to be enjoyable! And if you’re ever stuck, just remember: “If you don’t know what key to play in, just hit the ‘C’ Major!”

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:

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