When choosing any instrument for a beginner, there is a balance that must be found: You want an instrument with enough playability and features that the student will not instantly get frustrated with it. But at the same time, you don’t need to spend extra on features that the novice won’t yet use or understand. This holds especially true for keyboards and pianos.
A piano or keyboard is a first instrument for many people. This is because a foundation of piano playing can make other instruments, like the guitar, simpler. Understanding more complex parts of music theory such as chords, scales and melodies can be easier on the piano. This is the case because there is one key for each note, rather than multiple ways to play it, which makes it much easier to visualize intervals. You can think of the piano as a guitar with one string.
Learning to play the piano a perfect way to develop an ear for intonation as well—pianos need to be tuned, but far less often than other instruments. Electronic keyboards maintain perfect pitch and many can be set to various non-standard tunings at the flick of a switch.
A grand expense? It needn’t be
One obstacle to learning to play a traditional acoustic piano is that it requires a large, expensive instrument that is nearly impossible to move. Modern keyboards and electric pianos can offer great sound and the same dynamics of an acoustic piano in an inexpensive and portable package. The days of being confined to the piano teacher’s dusty living room are over; modern keyboards (or electric pianos) are portable and great for practice and performing. With a wide range of features (and an even wider price range), what is the right choice for your baby would-be Beethoven or Elton?
A primary consideration – number of keys
The acoustic piano has 88 keys most people are familiar with, and starting a student or other beginning player on a keyboard with 88 keys will make their transition to an acoustic piano much easier. However smaller keyboards can be easier to play and less-confusing—not to mention more portable and convenient—for new and, especially younger, players! Commonly, these smaller instruments will have either 76 or 61 keys. A keyboard with 61 keys will still allow a beginning student to complete most of the lessons they will initially encounter. Note that more complex and much classical music does require the full 88 keys.
A super deal for the beginner seeking a full-size, semi-weighted keybed, the Williams Legato 88-Key Digital Piano features 5 built-in voices plus MIDI/USB connectivity.
Interested in electronic music, or recording and producing your own music of any genre? TheYamaha YPG 235 76 Key Portable Grand Piano is a great practice keyboard that can easily be connected to your computer via USB.
If space or weight is a concern, the compact 61-key Yamaha Piaggero NP-11 Digital Piano packs a versatile range of voices, 32-note polyphony and a great-sounding speaker system into its super-portable housing.
Ergonomics and circumstances
Is your piano student taller or shorter than average? How easy is to adjust the height of the instrument, seat or stand? Musicians should play sitting at a height where the forearm is parallel to the ground.
We offer a complete selection of keyboard stands and racks to match any student and budget.
The Pro Platinum Keyboard Stand from On Stage Stands is sturdy, with adjustable height and width to help you play comfortably.
Does the instrument need to travel with your student, and if so, how portable is it? What about the power source? Will you need to play in areas where it may not be easy to plug in? Read specs to find out if the keyboard can be powered with batteries, an AC adapter, or both. Not all keyboards include an adapter—read descriptions carefully so you order the appropropriate extras.
The Yamaha NPv80 76-Key High-Level Piaggero Ultra-Portable Digital Piano can be powered by AA batteries, or a power cord. This 76 key instrument is easily portable, weighing only 15 pounds.
For preschool pianists
A love of music can start very early. If you want to provide your young children with long-lasting enrichment consider one of these instruments.
A toddler Tchaikovsky on your hands? For those wanting to start a child on a very early musical journey, check out My First Piano by Schoenhut. More than your typical toy instrument, the color coded lessons and everything else learned can be transferred to an adult piano. Let your kids have fun while playing correct notes on full-sized keys.
An affordable choice for young children, traveling, or spontaneous backyard sing-alongs, the Casio SA-76 keyboard has 44 mini keys, and a headphone jack for musical exploration that maintains household peace.
Why consider weighted keys?
On an acoustic piano, pressing down on a key causes a hammer to strike a string. In order for this mechanism to function, tension must be maintained. Therefore, the keys offer resistance to the musician’s fingers. Weighted keys on electronic keyboards simulate the feel of playing on an acoustic piano. Playing a keyboard with weighted keys will allow a student to build a technique that will easily transfer to an acoustic piano. This is a feature particularly worth considering if the player plans learn the acoustic piano as well.
Kurzweil builds acclaimed professional stage pianos and the company’s MP-10 Digital Pianomakes a great choice for serious students. Housed in a living room-friendly spinet cabinet, and equipped with fully weighted action and adjustable touch-sensitive keys, it’s a delight to play.