When it comes to musical instruments, the choices are endless. How do you decide which one is right for you, especially if you’re just getting started? In the case of pianos, there are so many different types and manufacturers that it’s almost impossible to figure out which way to go.
Digital pianos are an excellent option for players at all levels, not just beginners. They have the same number of keys as a real piano, are much, much lighter than real pianos, they don’t take up much space in your house, and, because they are electronic, you don’t need to worry about tuning.
So where do you begin? How exactly do you select the best digital piano for a beginner? Well, let’s start with some basics.
Piano Buying Guide for Beginners
Please use our interactive table below to compare the best pianos for beginners and help you make an informed purchase:
|Casio PX-S1100||192-note polyphony; 18 built-in tones|
|Alesis Prestige Artist||30 voices, 256 polyphony|
|Casio CDP-S350||700 built-in tones|
|Yamaha P-515||40 Voices, 18 Drum/FX Kits, 480 XG Voices|
|Casio PX-870||Redesigned Cabinet, Speaker System|
|Korg LP-180||Natural Weighted Hammer Action|
|Casio PX-770||128 Note Polyphony|
|Yamaha P-45||64 Note Polyphony|
Best Digital Piano for Beginners: Key action
One of the benefits of a digital piano is that they are designed to simulate the feel of a real piano. This is known as weighted key action. When you play a key on a real piano, you can feel a certain amount of resistance from the key, and it requires a certain amount of finger pressure from you to get the key to produce the sound.
In addition, the harder you push they key, the louder the sound. This is also called “touch sensitivity.” Many inexpensive keyboards do not have weighted action or touch sensitivity, so when you play them they’ll feel “cheap.”
There are actually three types of weighted action:
- Graded hammer action
Many semi-weighted keyboards are going to be more lightweight and the action will feel like a cross between a piano and a cheap keyboard. Regular weighted action feels more like a real piano. Graded hammer action is the closest you can get to the feel of a real acoustic piano.
All products marketed as digital pianos are going to have some sort of weighted action. The key is to find one that feels good under your fingers.
And below, please take a look at some of the best selling digital pianos online:
|1) Casio PX-S3000|
|2) Casio PX-870|
|3) Roland RP-102|
|4) Alesis Prestige Artist|
|5) Korg D1|
Just like cars, not all digital pianos are created equal. In many cases, you get what you pay for in terms of sound quality. With modern technology, however, the average listener might have a hard time distinguishing between the piano sounds of different brands.
Another advantage of a digital piano is that you can play other sounds besides piano, such as organ, strings, and so on. So you’re actually getting multiple instruments for the price of one, so to speak.
Digital pianos come in three different body styles: slab, stage, and console.
Slab and stage pianos are similar in shape; just your basic keyboard a few inches thick plus the control surface behind the keys. The main difference between the slab and the stage piano design is the slab features built-in speakers, whereas the stage piano needs to be hooked up to an amplifier.
Some people feel the stage piano offers better sound quality than a slab piano; however, the technology keeps getting better and better each year and I think most people would be hard-pressed to tell the difference. Many stage pianos are quite a bit heavier than slab pianos, so that may be a consideration for you.
The third type of body style is called the console. Console also happens to be the name of a specific kind of upright piano. With a digital console piano, you get the look of a more traditional upright piano. Basically, it’s a slab piano that sits inside of a cabinet.
Most console cabinets feature two or three pedals, as you would find on a traditional piano. Some cabinets have a woodgrain or glossy black finish instead of the traditional matte black finish on the keyboard itself.
Making a Choice
To help you avoid option paralysis when searching for pianos online, I’m going to suggest a few of my favorite digital pianos that are best suited for newbies (such as yourself, a friend, or maybe a loved one).
In comparing pianos suitable for the beginner level, you will find many of the same features exist from one brand to the next, such as:
- Quality grand piano sound
- Hammer action with adjustable sensitivity
- Effects such as reverb, chorus, etc.
- Variety of other sounds
- Built-in speakers and metronomes
Now, let’s move onto the handful of digital pianos that we really think are great options for beginners:
- Yamaha P45
The Yamaha P45 is the first entry in the company’s “P” series. It is a portable slab piano, which comes in black. The piano sound was captured via a stereo recording of an acoustic piano, and it features graded hammer action.
According to the company’s website, the lower keys have a heavier touch, while the higher keys respond better to lighter playing.
The sensitivity of the action can be adjusted by the player. On the P35B, there are four different settings: hard, medium, soft, and fixed. Ten different sounds are also available, as well as a built-in metronome.
It also comes with a music stand and foot pedal.
While some models are expandable to the three pedal configuration you find on a real piano, this particular model, however, is not. It also does not come with it’s own stand, but you can get a matching stand for it (model #L85). Some people find the sound quality, coupled with the built-in speakers, not quite up to par with some other models, but then again, this is a more entry-level option.
- Yamaha P105
Yamaha calls the P105 “a compact digital piano.” Like its younger brother the P35, it is also a slab piano, and it comes in black or white.
The piano sounds were recorded from one of their most popular concert grand pianos, and this instrument also features graded hammer action with four different sensitivity settings. Unlike the P35, the P105 has 10 different accompaniment styles, whereby you play simple chords and the instrument will translate those into different backup styles such as swing, slow rock, blues, and so on.
This piano also has 10 built-in drum patterns that you can play along with, besides the built-in metronome.
In addition, this piano has a “record” feature so you can record yourself playing. You can then playback and listen to your masterpiece. This is especially helpful to beginners, who may need to hear what they played to better see when and where they may have hit the wrong keys.
In other words, the “record” feature can be a priceless learning tool for those new to playing piano.
There is also a USB input in the back so you can connect it to your computer and use it with educational or music production software. The built-in speakers are more advanced than the ones on the P35, giving you much more realistic sounds.
There are also outputs in the back for connecting to external powered speakers, a mixing board, or a computer sound card. You can also buy a three-pedal unit (sold separately, model #LP5A) to simulate the pedals on a real piano. It also does not come with it’s own stand, but the L85 stand will fit.
- Do note, Yamaha has recently come out with the Yamaha P115, which replaces the P105.
- Casio Privia PX350
When you think of the name Casio, you might be inclined to think of watches, or cheesy portable keyboards from the 1980s. Believe it or not, however, they make some terrific digital pianos.
The Privia line is one such example, and the Casio PX350 (or PX-360, which is the newer version) is an excellent option.
It’s a slab piano that comes in black or white.
The grand piano sound on the 350 is quite good, and Casio’s “scaled hammer action” is very similar to that of Yamaha, with 4 different sensitivity settings. Occasionally owners have complained about a key losing functionality, but this seems rare.
One unique feature, too, of the Privia is that the keys themselves have a special coating on them which resembles the feeling of an actual acoustic instrument.
In general, you get more bang for your buck as far as built in sounds go; the PX350 has 250 sounds, including strings, organs, electric pianos, brass, drums, bass, and so on. This piano also contains many features that you’d find on a professional synthesizer workstation. For example, it comes loaded with 180 drum patterns and a 17-track recorder so you can create your own mixes.
Like the Yamaha P105, it has USB connectivity and outputs for powered speakers or mixing consoles. Also like the Yamahas, it doesn’t come with a stand, but the CS-67 (sold separately) will fit the bill nicely. The Casio SP-33 3-pedal unit is also available for real-world simulation, also sold separately.
- Do note: The PX-350 has been replaced by the Casio PX-360, which we have reviewed.
- Korg SP280
Korg has a rich history of manufacturing high quality instruments, and their SP280 is no exception.
The Korg piano sounds have always been excellent, and their version of “natural weighted hammer action” is comparable to that of other brands, and you can change the sensitivity to suit your style. The piano itself is available in black or white, and comes with legs so there’s no need to purchase your own stand.
The SP280’s highlights include its piano and electric piano sounds, so if you’re into 60s and 70s pop and soul, this might be a good option for you. Also included are organs, strings, harpsichord, and more. The built-in speakers provide plenty of output, and this instrument also features outputs in the back to connect to larger speakers or a PA system. The PU-2 3-pedal unit is available for real-world simulation.
So what do you do now? I recommend first asking yourself what you’re going to use the piano for.
Are you wanting something simple with a great piano sound?
Do you want something that has more features and can benefit you more long-term?
Are you going to play your piano at home, or do you need to take it with you to a vacation home, or to work or to a college dorm room?
With that said, if you want a wealth of features to keep you satisfied long-term, go with the Casio PX350. But if you’re looking for those classic electric piano sounds you hear on all your favorite records, go with the Korg SP280.
Finally, if you’re just looking for a good digital piano, any of these options will work. They are all great pianos that offer something a little different to the user. But if you are a true beginner, you can’t go wrong with any of these options. So just do as much research as you can, and then confidently make the leap into the realm of digital pianos!
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