This article is for those of you that are interested in purchasing the best beginner digital piano or electronic keyboard that fits your needs, but aren’t quite sure where to start when it comes to finding an instrument that’s both suitable and affordable. So throughout this article, we’re going to recommend you five keyboards that we think are most ideal for a beginner, and we’ll review their pros and cons and even compare and contrast them to some of the popular keyboards on the market.
A Quick and Helpful Piano Guide
Below, please take a look at the interactive table that compares some of the best electronic keyboards available today:
$ = $500 or less | $$ = $500 – $1,000 | $$$ = $1,000 and up
|Yamaha NP-12||61||9 lbs.||$||4.0/5|
|Yamaha NP-32||76||12 lbs.||$||4.0/5|
|Yamaha YPT-255||61||9 lbs.||$||4.2/5|
|Yamaha YPT 340||61||9.7 lbs.||$||4.7/5|
|Yamaha NPV80||76||15.6 lbs.||$||4.2/5|
|Casio CTK-4400||61||9.5 lbs.||$||4.2/5|
Now, before I get into specifics, there are a few factors to consider before whipping out that credit card. Below are three things to keep in mind when deciding which keyboard is right for your needs:
1) Number of keys: The ideal number to shoot for here is whichever is closest to 88 keys, the number of keys on a real acoustic piano. For a beginning pianist, however, a 61-key digital piano will do just fine, keeping in mind as you advance to harder or more complex musical pieces, you will eventually run into a situation where you actually need the keys on the higher and lower end of the keybed that were removed.
However, 61-key keyboards are the most common and popular for new players, so most of the electronic keyboards on this list will be 61-key keyboards. With that said, 76 keys are popular too, and we have included one keyboard that has 76 keys on this list.
You know what kind of music you’ll be playing, so hopefully you have an idea of whether 61 or 76 keys is best for you. But in my opinion, bigger (or more keys) is better because you just have more options at your disposal. I also think that, when you get a 76 (or 88) key instrument, you discover that you’ve likely purchased a higher quality instrument that you’ll keep and utilize far more than your 61-key keyboard. But again, if you’re a brand new beginner, please don’t worry about this. 61 keys is perfectly fine—just understand that you’ll probably want to upgrade from that instrument within two years.
Below, please take a look at some of our favorite keyboards (and ones that are currently best sellers on the market, as well):
2) Weighted vs. Semi-Weighted vs. Unweighted Keys: These are the three options you have when looking for an electronic keyboard or digital piano: weighted, semi-weighted, or unweighted keys.
Most often when you are just looking for a portable digital keyboard, you will have the choice of unweighted or semi-weighted. Always go for the weighted keyboard because unweighted offers no resistance when you press down on the keys, and doesn’t change volume no matter how hard or soft you press on them.
Semi-weighted keys offer the same level of resistance across the keyboard, unlike a weighted keyboard that offers a gradation of resistance where the lower keys are weighted more than the higher keys, as with an acoustic piano. The semi-weighted (touch responsive) keyboard is the most common and will do just fine for a beginner learning the basics.
3) Features (or Bells and Whistles) – Each portable keyboard on this list has its own individual focus and features, whether it be a sampling function or an education focus. Though I will choose what I think is the best all-around portable keyboard, ultimately, you are the one who knows which features best suit your needs.
5 Great Keyboards for Beginners
So, now, onto the list. Here are what I think are the top five electronic keyboards out there for the beginning pianist (and please note, you can read our article discussing the main differences between digital pianos and keyboards here)
The Yamaha EZ-220 61-key lighted keyboard is aimed towards the adult beginning musician, featuring lighted keys that aid in the keyboard’s lesson program and the superb sound quality that has come to be expected from a Yamaha instrument. Some features include:
- 392 instrument sounds
- Touch responsive keys
- 100 accompaniment styles
- 100 built-in songs
- 32-key polyphony
- 9 reverb effects
This keyboard is a good introduction for the beginner and makes learning fun and easy with the lighted keyboard. For these reasons, it is one of my top five picks.
The Casio CTK-2400 is a light, compact 61 key sampling keyboard that has several features for both the piano student and the recording musician. This keyboard is primarily used for sampling and has a built-in microphone that can record up to two seconds of sound.
But the CTK-2400 is also education based, with a cool LCD display that shows a pair of hands for fingering, a treble and bass clef staff that displays the notes as you play them, as well as a mini keyboard that highlights key(s) you’re playing. Here are some features of the CTK-2400:
- 400 different voices and 150 rhythms
- Built-in microphone that allows you to record up to two seconds of sound
- 48-key polyphony
- 20-song song bank
- USB/MIDI connectivity
One major drawback of this keyboard is that while it has boxed-in keys that give the appearance of acoustic piano-like keys, the keys are not weighted. This may make the transfer of knowledge to an acoustic piano more challenging to the beginner. But this keyboard is still a top pick because of its great educational and sampling features.
- You can read our review of the Casio CTK-2400 here.
The PSR-e243 from Yamaha is another 61 key keyboard aimed toward the beginning musician. Here are the important features:
- Non-touch sensitive keys
- Lesson function (called the Yamaha Education Suite)
- USB connectivity
- Reverb effects
- Song Library
- 385 voices, 100 accompaniment styles
- Sound controller app, as well as progress tracker app—iOS compatible
- Portable grand button
- Ultra-wide stereo sound
- Song playback continuously adjusted to player’s tempo
The PSR-e243’s iOS compatibility and sound controller app is appealing to the pianist who loves technology. Recent Yamaha keyboards seem to all be equipped with this sound controller app that lets you control the keyboard from your iPhone or iPad, from changing the voice setting to playing with effects like pitch wheels. The device connectivity/technology options make the Yamaha PSR-e243 a top pick for a beginner’s keyboard.
- You can read our review of the newer Yamaha PSR-E253 here.
The Casio CTK-4400 is a compact, portable 61 key keyboard that is ideal for beginners just learning the piano ropes. It has several features that are beginner-friendly. Here are some of them:
- Touch-sensitive keys
- 600 AHL keyboard voices
- Concert hall reverb
- 48-note polyphony
- Step-up learning system
- 180 rhythms
- 152 Songs
- Sampling function
- USB/MIDI connectivity
- Power adapter included
The CTK-4400 is a versatile keyboard that can do everything from helping students learn programmed songs through its educational features, to record and sequence music compositions using the recording and sampling function. The keyboard has 152 songs to learn through the Step Up lesson system, possibly more than any other manufacturer offers on a similar keyboard.
And with 600 different voices and 180 different rhythm options to choose from, it’s easy to be creative on the CTK-4400. Another cool feature is the concert hall reverb function, which allows the piano voice to ring out as if it were being played in a concert hall.
- NOTE: You can read our review of the Casio CTK-4400 here.
Yamaha Piaggero NP-V80
For me, the number one electronic keyboard for beginners is the Yamaha NP-V80, a sleek 76-key keyboard with a realistic piano sound and Yamaha’s signature graded soft touch keys. Though this is not the same as fully weighted keys, the graded soft touch keys do provide increasing resistance as you move down to the lower keys on the keyboard.
With 10 voices, 32-key polyphony, and built-in stereo speakers, the NP-V80 is a keyboard that simply has the basics of what a beginner needs—a good quality piano sound and weighted keys. Other features included:
- Built-in metronome
- Battery or adaptor power option
- MIDI In/Out
- Headphone jack
- Sustain pedal connectivity
This keyboard is for the beginner that just wants a classical keyboard without many voices, rhythms choices, or other extraneous features. Not to say that the other keyboards that have these things are inferior, but the Yamaha NP-V80 is basically a no-frills, meat-and-potatoes kind of instrument that gets the job done at a reasonable price of around $350.00. And if for some reason you cannot find the NP-V80, you can always see if you can track down its predecessor, the NP-V60 (perhaps you can find it used and in really good condition).
- NOTE: You can read our review of the Yamaha NP-V80 here!
There you have it: a top five list of the best keyboards out there for the beginner player. Hopefully, this article has given you some insight in what to look for when purchasing a keyboard, and what features are specifically important to you as a budding pianist.
Two things to remember before you make this purchase:
1) The higher the number of keys, the better
2) Touch resistance of some sort is a must if you are to transfer your knowledge to an acoustic piano down the road in a seamless fashion.
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