A lot of people looking into buying a piano ask if a keyboard would be sufficient to get started. Often, they’ll see an inexpensive keyboard at a big box store and hope that it will do the trick for at least a few years.
I do not recommend starting with a keyboard for a number of reasons.
- They usually do not have all 88 keys. Even beginning students will be using the full range of the piano.
- The keys are not weighted like a piano key. The student’s fingers will not learn the strength required to play the keys of an acoustic piano.
- They keys may be smaller than a normal piano key. When learning the piano, your hands quickly learn the feel of the topography of the piano and distances between keys. It can be confusing to learn this in the wrong proportions.
- They often are not capable of producing the same quality of sound as an acoustic or digital piano. A huge part of playing the piano is learning that striking the keys in different ways will produce different sounds.
- Keyboards often are not capable of producing the same range of loud and soft tones as an acoustic or digital piano. Piano keys are sensitive to touch – playing firmly produces a loud sound; playing gently produces a softer sound. On an acoustic piano, there are unlimited possibilities for dynamic range. On a keyboard, sometimes there is no dynamic range, or very limited dynamic range.
Keyboards can be fun to play around on and might be a good tool at times, but they really aren’t sufficient for learning to play the piano. You might be able to play your very first song on a keyboard, but it is likely that you will quickly wish you had something a bit more substantial.
If you are wanting to purchase an electronic instrument, rather than an acoustic, I recommend a digital piano.
Digital pianos were designed to have a very authentic feel and sound. In some cases, they can very accurately imitate the tones of an acoustic piano.
The nice thing about a digital piano is that there is a huge range of price as well as features. Some are portable like a keyboard and others are built into a console more like an acoustic piano that would need a permanent space in your home. For now, we’ll just consider the portable version and save the bigger options for another post.
If you’re looking for something really simple and portable, I highly recommend the Yamaha P series, such as this Yamaha P115. This one happens to come with a stand and a bench. This is actually a really good deal because you’ll need a stand and bench any ways. It is not recommended to put a portable instrument on a table, bed or other surface. It needs to be at the same height as an acoustic piano.
I own, play and let my students play 2 digital pianos from the Yamaha P series and I have been very happy with them. I find them to be an excellent value. They are a really solid and well made instrument with a nice sound and touch.
This digital piano does not have a lot of bells and whistles and really, that is perfectly fine. I would rather see students get started with a higher quality piano sound and feel than to have a bunch of extra buttons that they may or may not use.
The nice thing about getting started with a portable digital is that you have a lot of flexibility with it. You can pack this instrument in the car, use headphones if you need to limit noise, or put it away if you need more space. If you do decide to upgrade to a more permanent instrument, it would still be worth it to hang on to your portable digital. A lot of my students like having a place to practice in their own room. This is the type of thing they could even take with them to college or their first apartment. It’s a good investment.
If you prefer to shop around a little, keep in mind that you’re looking for 88 full-size weighted keys. If you find something super inexpensive, you may be sacrificing quality. It might not be a good long-term purchase.
It can also be tempting to find a deal on a used digital piano. It is important to remember that like all technology, digital pianos have changed and improved rapidly over the past 30 years. Just because a digital piano was top of the line10 or 20 years ago does not mean that is would be the best choice by today’s standards.
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