Learning to play octaves takes your piano skills to a whole new level. The more octaves you play, the wider range of sounds you have for playing music. It is especially important for anyone that wants to play classical piano music.
However, the number of keys on a piano varies depending on the size, meaning some pianos have fewer octaves than others. If you want to learn how to play a full range of octaves, you need to choose an appropriate size of piano.
Here’s an overview of each type of piano and how many octaves they have:
Extra Small Digital Pianos
An extra small piano refers to compact digital keyboards that have the fewest number of keys.
The number of keys varies between 25 and 37 depending on the keyboard. This means that the number of octaves on this type of piano only range from two to three, with fewer keys resulting in fewer octave scales and intervals available.
Each of these keys on this piano are not weighted but rather spring loaded, so won’t produce a sound. Instead, they are used for music composition, typically in electronic music genres.
This device is connected to a computer using USB or MIDI connections, with various types of programs available to compose the desired music.
If you’re learning to play piano, you won’t need to worry too much about this type of instrument, as it’s usually for composition rather than learning.
Small Digital Pianos
This type of digital piano is slightly larger than an extra small keyboard, although they are still somewhat basic in their capabilities.
Small digital pianos consist of 49 keys, so more than extra small types but still less than a traditional piano. Again, the smaller number of keys means that there are fewer octave scales and intervals, with four octaves on this type of piano.
Like extra small pianos, a small digital piano features spring loaded keys rather than weighted. It’s still a great choice for learning the basics of piano, giving an idea of how to play a few octave scales and other fundamentals.
Plus, this type of piano comes with a low price point, making it a great budget-friendly option for beginners. Small and compact, you can easily take this piano to and from your lessons, while learning some basic playing skills.
However, over time if you continue to develop skills, including octaves, then you’ll outgrow this type of digital piano.
Medium Digital Piano
A medium size digital piano is where most people start learning to play. It’s the standard size for a keyboard, consisting of 61 keys, making is slightly larger than a small digital piano.
With 61 keys, a medium digital piano has five octaves. Again, it’s spring-loaded keys instead of weighed, but there’s a wider range of keys and octaves compared to smaller sized digital pianos.
These pianos are incredibly versatile, being for everything from lessons to gigs, with their compact size and portability being a good selling point. A band often has a few of these for a live set, giving access to a nice range of sounds and effects, mostly catering to the pop genre.
Medium to Large Digital Piano
Now we are getting closer to a standard piano size, with medium and large digital pianos consisting of 76 keys. This type of piano has an impressive 6 ½ octaves, so we aren’t far from the highest range available on a piano.
These types of digital pianos are best for more seasoned musicians, so you probably won’t be using one until you’ve developed some solid playing skills.
That said, it’s also suitable for newer players too, as the wider range of keys, which are often weighted, give a great platform for developing piano fundamentals.
You may even find yourself outgrowing this type of digital piano too! When you become a skilled pianist, you’ll probably want an even larger range of keys to play with.
Older Acoustic Piano
Before we get to the standard acoustic piano size, it’s worth mentioning older models of acoustic piano manufactured during the 1900s-1940s.
These pianos are unique in that they only have 85 keys rather than the standard 88 keys. While this does provide the same seven octaves available in a standard piano, the smaller number of keys is something you don’t see in modern instruments.
Don’t worry, you’re unlikely to find yourself playing one, unless you’re on the lookout for a vintage piano. Those that do use an 85 key acoustic piano may find it somewhat limited when playing music from some composers.
Now we have reached the industry standard for an acoustic or digital piano – a full 88 keys!
An 88 key piano features a full seven octaves, giving the widest range of music to play with. Weighted keys give digital pianos of this size an authentic acoustic feel, making them highly desirable.
For any pianist that wants to play classical music to a high level, a standard 88 key piano is a must buy. They do cost more than smaller digital models but offer an incredible sound and feeling that is hard to replicate.
Anyone that intends to play piano for years to come will want to invest in a standard piano, digital or acoustic, as it lets you play the most expansive range of music possible.
Its worth noting that some pianos feature more than the standard 88 key setup, although these are fairly unique and most players won’t even need them.
Certain high-end models of grand piano come with a whopping 96 keys and 8 octaves. This is to help replicate the sound produced by foot pedals for certain organ pieces. Instead of using the pedals, these pianos have integrated additional keys to allow for this even wider range of music.
Again, you’ll probably never need to worry about this as these pianos sell for upwards of six figures, so are likely out of your price range!