Synthesizer vs. Keyboard Instruments

Difference Between Synthesizer And Keyboard Instruments


A synthesizer is an electronic musical instrument that is used to generate or control electronic sounds. It is used in many forms of popular music, as well as electronic music. A synthesizer contains no moving parts directly involved in making sound. The sounds are usually controlled by a standard keyboard, which may have pitch-bend and modulation wheels to give further control of the sound to the performer. There are other varieties of nonkeyboard synthesizer controllers, including woodwindlike instruments controlled by breath.

Synthesizers can be divided into two main categories: analog and digital. The invention of the modern analog synthesizer can be attributed to Robert Moog in 1965. An analog synthesizer produces sounds through oscillators generating electrical waves. It is essentially a self-contained electronic music studio, combining all of the capabilities of individual items in a studio, such as oscillators, filters, amplifiers, and effects such as reverberation and ring-modulation. Synthesizers circumvented the formerly arduous tasks needed to realize an electronic music composition, such as splicing and assembling small sections of prerecorded tape. The modular approach of the analog synthesizers required the player to connect various modules within the synthesizer via patch cords; settings were adjusted with various dials, sliders, and switches. This made it difficult to reproduce the same sound twice.

Keyboard Instruments

Musical instruments, such as pianos and organs, that use a keyboard for producing sound are called keyboard instruments. A keyboard is a system of levers, or keys, from which the player selects the notes to be played. The player strikes a key to make the instrument sound. To stop the sound, the player releases the key. The pitch for each note on a keyboard instrument is fixed and cannot be changed by the player. Some keyboard instruments, such as organs and harpsichords, may have more than one keyboard. The keyboards on organs and harpsichords are called manuals.


The organ is the oldest keyboard instrument. The hydraulus, a simple type of organ, was invented by a Greek engineer in the 200’s B.C. and was popular in ancient Rome. From these beginnings, the instrument developed into the large, complex instrument known today as the pipe organ. Though modern organs usually have several keyboards, or manuals, the first organs had only one. The keys on early organs were often large sliders or levers. Players had to pull the sliders in and out or pound the levers with their fists to push them down. Gradually, organs were improved. The keys were made smaller and could be played with the fingers.

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