I can play harmonium and now, I want to learn piano. Both are keyboard instruments. Are both the instruments played in the same way or do I need to learn something more to play a piano?

3 Answers 3


Both are KEYBOARD instruments.

I play a tracker organ, acoustic piano, electronic organ and electric piano every week for various jobs and I play them exactly the same, from the weight of my arm. Arm weight equalizes everything. On the organ I leave just enough weight to "rest up" yet sustain the tone but really, it is not much different than playing legato without using the sustain pedal.

Using in/out, up/down, the pronator/supinator muscles and gravity, those movements takes the burden off the long flexors and playing is effortless. Well, unless you abduct or have a wrist deviation.

When people complain that the action may be stiff or shallow on any particular instrument it is because they are trying to play from the fingers (which don't have any muscles) and not the arm. It could also be that they have some improper movements such as abduction, ulnar or radial deviation which is getting in the way of the arm's alignment.

Piano playing is as much an athletic sport as any other. There are laws of physics and bodily ergonomics that must be adhered to. Break those laws and there will be an orthopedic surgeon in your future. If you are lucky, only mediocrity.

If you have ever taken golf lessons, you know about hand and finger placement, balancing on the balls of your feet, alignment, equal and opposite motions, rotation of the shoulders and hips. It isn't the hand that strikes the ball with the club, it is the whole body and the hands are the conduit. Playing any keyboard instrument is much the same. People who don't know this will disagree but that is okay. There are many roads to the same destination but often it is what we don't know about anatomy that holds us back.

Playing should be effortless and if it is not, there is a movement or alignment problem somewhere.

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    You seem to be throwing together two very different arguments here: a) piano isn't more physically demanding than other keyboard instruments (given the right technique) and b) all keyboard instruments are played the same. — I suppose a) is perfectly right, but b) is much more questionable – piano, harmonium and organ behave musically completely different, and I don't think it is at all a good idea to play them all the same way. I know good pianists who only produce a muddy mess when using an organ, vice versa accordion players whose dynamics are all over the place on piano. Mar 10, 2019 at 16:41
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    @leftaroundabout I would say that also a) is questionable. The different instruments do have differences which can mean differences in physical demand. The kind of tone producation you can do on an acustic piano is very different from the others. As have been said you use the body of course to play and that includes how you create the quality of the tone. The original question was about harmonium vs. piano. Well, if you can play one you can play the other because you can play on a keyboard, but there will be new things to learn regarding the feel of the instruments and the tone production. Mar 10, 2019 at 20:00
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    Fingers do have muscles. How else would they move? It's just that the fingers' muscles are located in the hand and arm.
    – phoog
    Mar 11, 2019 at 3:52
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    @phoog relevant: teachmeanatomy.info/upper-limb/muscles/hand Mar 11, 2019 at 6:16

Piano most certainly is not a reed instrument but a percussive string instrument. "Piano" is short for "pianoforte" and means that the instrument will sound with different loudness depending on how hard you strike the key. The tone will decay on its own with a comparatively long sustain or it can be cut off by releasing the key (unless you use the sustain pedal). A harmonium gets its sound energy from the bellows, a piano from the hammers striking strings with the strength resulting from the force with which you strike a key.

In short: the keyboard looks similar but the instruments are quite different in playing, sound, articulation. There is no point in striking the keys of a harmonium forcefully or with graduated strength. With a piano, it is the main means of expression.

  • And it's not all that similar even in "look" — I can stretch a 10th on a piano and a 12th on harmonium
    – Rusi
    Mar 11, 2019 at 13:37
  • But the general knowledge of which keys correspond to which notes translates. The difference is in more detailed technique.
    – Barmar
    Mar 11, 2019 at 16:13

Portable harmoniums are often played with one hand while the other pumps the bellows. Obviously, this isn't necessary on piano so you would have both hands available at all times.

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