A beginning piano student prefers not to spend a great deal on an acoustic grand piano. Over the 35+ years I have taught piano, many of my new students have asked, “What is best digital piano to learn on?” Most of them prefer a portable, smaller instrument to a full-size keyboard with a spinet-looking body.
There are literally thousands of digital pianos and keyboards on the market. I owned, played, and taught piano on a Yamaha Clavinova digital piano for over 20 years. I loved that instrument! It never needed tuning, only weighed 140 pounds and was fairly easy to move around a home, had more bells and whistles than anyone would ever use, and the piano looked beautiful. I paid more money for this Clavinova than I paid for my first car. It was worth every penny. You can never go wrong with a Yamaha Clavinova.
Thanks to ever-improving technology, finding a digital portable keyboard is easy. Figuring out which one suits your needs is another story. Do you want to begin piano just for your own enjoyment? Is this instrument intended for a child? How much of an authentic piano sound do you want? And last but certainly not least, how much money do you want to spend?
Below, please take a moment to view some of the best keyboards on the market, so you can better determine which instrument is best to learn piano:
|Yamaha NP 32||76||$||Graded Soft Touch (GST) Keyboard|
|Yamaha P-121||73||$$||73 full-sized keys|
|Yamaha P-125||88||$$||GHS Weighted Action|
|Yamaha DGX 660||88||$$||Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) Keyboard|
|Donner DEP-10||88||$$||Semi-Weighted Keys|
|Korg B2||88||$||Onboard Reverb and Chorus effects|
|Donner DEP-20||88||$$||Fully-Weighted Keys|
|Casio PX-160||88||$||Dual Headphone Outputs on Front|
|Alesis Recital||88||$||Semi-Weighted Keys|
The Best Keyboards to Learn Piano
Let’s look at 5 digital instruments suitable for beginners through experts. Here’s the list:
|1) Alesis Recital|
|3) Yamaha P-121|
|4) Roland GO:KEYS|
|5) Yamaha PSR-E363|
A couple of caveats: pay close attention to the product listing of any instrument you choose to purchase. Some keyboards come with everything you need except an audience. Some keyboards come with nothing BUT the keyboard. Look carefully to make certain you have a power supply, at least a dampening pedal/device, and an instruction manual.
A stand is always a helpful accessory, as is a bench (if you aren’t using the keyboard on a table or desk). Some pianists like headphones so they can practice privately. A battery option is necessary if your instrument will truly be used portably.
If you intend to play more than just once in a great while, weighted keys would be worth your time. They are designed to have the same ‘feel’ as an acoustic piano. If at any time you decide to purchase an acoustic instrument, there would be very little adjustment time for learning to play keys that are actually attached to hammers.
Most people know that pianos have 88 keys (unless they are an Imperial Concert Grand Bosendorfer piano, which has 97 keys). For a beginner, 88 keys are not absolutely necessary. For a ‘pick-up-and-carry-with-you’ keyboard, the Casio SA 76 44-key Mini Personal Keyboard is a decent selection. Retailing for about $50, it has 100 voices and 50 rhythm selections for accompaniment.
The keys are neither full size nor weighted, but for the money and portability, this keyboard is a good choice. It only has 8-note polyphony, which means you can’t play more than eight keys at a time before it starts sounding weird. Beginners don’t usually have an issue with polyphony, though, so if you’re a beginner you probably shouldn’t worry about it.
It does not come with a power supply, so purchase it separately. It does have a battery option. It only weighs an ounce over 3 pounds (without the batteries), so weight and portability are premium with this keyboard. The reviews on this keyboard are mixed, as is typical with digital instruments. Read them, but make up your own mind by finding one at a store near you, if possible.
This keyboard has a full 88-keys working keyboard. The keys are semi-weighted, which means they feel more like an acoustic piano than a digital instrument. They are also touch responsive, with two settings for the comfort of the person playing it.
This instrument does not come with a stand or a damper pedal, although both are available through your retailer or online. If you visit the website for this instrument, you may discover that this instrument offers a free 3-month premium subscription to Skoove, an online piano course that could help you learn more about playing piano/keyboard and perhaps learn more about this instrument.
The keys on the Alesis are full-sized keys, which provide an easier transition to an acoustic instrument if the musician should ever wish to purchase one. This instrument retails for about $200, with the optional stand and pedal adding about another $50. As is typical, the reviews on this keyboard are mixed. Again I suggest you read the reviews and then find a keyboard to try for yourself.
A workstation keyboard implies other things happening with this instrument besides just playing it. This instrument has oodles of features that an aspiring DJ might desire. From the pitch-bending wheel to a USB midi-interface, to 670 individual tones and lots more, this keyboard will satisfy anyone who wishes to experiment with musical and other sounds.
A power supply is included and batteries are optional on this instrument. The 76 keys make this instrument nearly the same width as an acoustic keyboard. This instrument has 48-voice polyphony, which no one but the most serious disc jockey or musician would ever require.
With a retail price around $300, this keyboard is a serious option for anyone who wants to learn to play piano as well as anyone who wants to experiment with sounds, rhythms, and effects. It weighs about 26 pounds, so it isn’t your typical ‘sling over your shoulder and go’ keyboard.
For all its features, though, it shouldn’t be surprising that it weighs 26 pounds. The keys are not weighted, but in an instrument with these usages, weighted keys might actually be a hindrance. It does have a stand and an input jack for a damper pedal, so the pedal is optional.
As I mentioned earlier, I have a pre-determined bias toward Yamaha products. This instrument satisfies the needs of a beginner who wishes to use a full-size keyboard with weighted keys. With the keys being full size and weighted, transition to a regular instrument is easier.
This instrument has some great features! It has a sufficient number of various voices to keep practice interesting, especially for a younger beginner. Using the USB-to-host feature, you can plug this instrument into a computer and utilize 16 MIDI channels—a cool feature for an aspiring composer. Its 64-note polyphony provides a wide range of recording options without ‘overloading’ the sound, especially for a beginning musician/composer.
Most reviewers feel that this keyboard is an excellent piano for a beginning student. It weighs about 25 pounds, so it is still quite the portable keyboard. In the box you will find a keyboard, switch pedal (on and off), power supply and instruction manual. It does not come with a stand or a piano-style damper pedal. Alone it sells for about $440. With stand and piano-style pedal you will pay about $640. If I were purchasing this instrument for myself, I would add the stand and piano-style pedal. The pedal will still operate as a switch, but it feels much more natural than just the on-off pedal switch.
Just for kicks, let’s take a look at a digital grand piano. The Yamaha DGX-660 Portable Grand Digital Piano is a prime example of such a piano. (And yes, we’re back to Yamaha!)
Full-size keys with a graded weighted touch (which means that the touch is heavier on the bass end than on the treble end), this piano/keyboard is pretty close to the look and feel of an acoustic piano. However, it has some pretty impressive ‘extras’ that might lead a musician to covet this piano!
For example, this piano has a microphone jack which allows you to plug in a microphone and have your voice amplified through the piano. The Damper Resonance feature allows for the beautiful overtones of an acoustic piano with the damper pedal, rather than just a sustained sound. Those overtones which are harmonic vibrations between the strings of an acoustic piano lend to the beautiful color and depth of an acoustic instrument. Having those overtones on a digital instrument is a bonus feature that most digital instruments do not possess.
This instrument has an LCD display that can be switched from score to lyrics with any MIDI song the instrument is playing. There are 100 preset songs, or you can plug in any USB device with songs downloaded from Yamaha MusicSoft. This instrument utilizes Smart Chord technology as well, which allows a musician to use just one finger to create chords to accompany any melody. You can even plug in your mobile device to enjoy the powerful, clear-toned speaker system on this instrument.
This instrument carries a heftier price tag: around $800 for just the keyboard, and over $1250 if you purchase the deluxe package that includes a bench, a furniture-type stand, and a 3-pedal adapter unit that mimics the 3 pedals on an acoustic instrument.
However, if you’re looking for a long-term instrument that will hold up under medium to heavy use, this may be the instrument for you.
BONUS: Roland GP-607EP
Here’s a bonus for anyone who may be looking for a lifetime instrument but would still like the desired features of a digital piano. The Roland GP-607 EP is a grand-style digital piano. At first sight, it looks like an acoustic piano. It is smaller than even a baby grand, but it has the graceful and classic lines of a grand. It is available in classic ebony or white. (Ebony is beautiful; white is also beautiful, unless you have toddlers!)
This instrument provides Bluetooth technology, a feature I haven’t seen on any of the smaller instruments. It also features a progressive hammer action keyboard that gives the keys the look and feel of wood without the maintenance challenges of wood. The keys are full size and beautifully weighted. This instrument sounds and feels as much like an acoustic grand as any I’ve played in recent years. The key action on this piano is superb!
If you just want to listen, you can enjoy the pre-programmed music in this piano on the impressive sound system built into it. With a 4.1 multi-channel speaker system, this piano can fill an entire room with amazing sound. It even has a remote control that allows you to control the internal song library with the touch of a button.
The one I played was in a music store in my area. The price on this instrument in the store was rather hefty: about $9,000. If this is the instrument for you, I’m sure you can find it for a lesser price if you shop carefully.
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