Whether you’re just about to start on your musical journey, or are already on the right path but need to acquire a quality keyboard, making the correct buying decision plays a crucial role in your growth and ability to learn at a consistent rate.
From the outset though, I must tell you that the “perfect” beginner keyboard that suits the needs of each and every person simply does not exist. Amongst beginner pianists, needs, priorities and preferences vary greatly. That’s why the range of keyboards on the market is truly wide and impressive.
Nevertheless, this article will aim to help you figure out the ideal keyboard for your specific needs. We’ll also discuss many of the things you should most consider when acquiring a new keyboard, and why they may heavily influence your purchasing decision.
And below, please take a moment to check out the interactive table below, which will allow you to view some of the most popular keyboards and digital pianos currently on the market:
|Yamaha P-515||40 Voices, 18 Drum/FX Kits, 480 XG Voices|
|Casio PX-870||Redesigned Cabinet, Speaker System|
|Yamaha-YDP 164||GH3 action, CFX Grand Piano Voice|
|Roland RP-102||Works w/Roland Piano Partner 2 app|
|Casio PX-560||5.3” Color Display|
Priorities of Beginner Pianists
Now, let’s jump into a few things that I think all beginners should heavily prioritize when it comes to weighing which kind of keyboard is ideal for you and why:
- Space Restrictions
Granted, we would all love to have a gleaming grand piano in our living room, but for most of us space won’t allow us to consider a baby grand, let alone a full size! Even when it comes to keyboard size, many beginners may find a full size piano (88 key) to be overwhelming both visually and practically. Hence, many beginners opt for a 61-key keyboard, as will be discussed later.
And, if you’re looking for something in between 61 and 88 keys, well, you’re covered here as well. In fact, there are more than a few quality 76-key keyboards available on the market.
It only takes a few minutes searching piano keyboards online to come to one simple conclusion: the price range for keyboards varies significantly. Many beginners don’t want to pay through the roof for their first instrument, especially if they aren’t completely sure they are going love playing it. That’s why I’ve sifted through the range of budget keyboards to find a few that offer the best value without all the frills. More about that later!
- Technology Compatible
I can’t imagine what our great composers of old would think of today’s modern technology in the world of music. Perhaps they would turn in their graves if they knew we could connect our keys to our computer, turning it into a MIDI instrument! To beginner pianists who are also tech savvy, choosing a keyboard that offers good technology connections is well recommended.
- Lighted Keys
Keyboards that have a light up system to show the keys played for a variety of songs have become rather popular in recent times. You’ll soon see from typical lighted keys forum discussions that some musicians call them sacrilege, others call them genius.
As for me, I say if it works for you, go for it. Anything that gets you feeling comfortable and having fun at the keys is good in my books. In fact, this feature seems to work especially well for beginners who feel hesitant or nervous about playing.
And below, please take a moment to view some of the best selling keyboards online, which can be especially helpful for beginners.
|1) Yamaha P-45|
|2) Casio PX-360|
|3) Alesis Recital Pro|
|4) Casio CDP-S350|
|5) Casio PXS-1100|
Choosing a Keyboard & Learning the Lingo
When shopping for a keyboard, especially if ordering online, you will be bombarded with countless terms and phrases that make up the jargon of digital instruments. All this can seem a little overwhelming when trying to compare one choice with another.
Such expressions include:
- MIDI compatibility
The list goes on! In fact reading up on the most common keyboard features will make any piano or keyboard comparison a whole lot less confusing.
In an effort to make this article a more “all-in-one” resource, let me just tell you briefly about one of the above features that is detrimental to making a wise keyboard choice:
Key Action is Everything?
Back in the day, the difference in touch between a keyboard or digital piano and an acoustic piano was like chalk and cheese. Nowadays however, keyboards can offer a whistle-worthy feel and performance.
Below is a guide to what you will find available:
Weighted / Semi-weighted Keys
In my opinion, digital keyboards and pianos that offer weighted or semi-weighted keys are ideal. They have been created to feel and respond like a traditional acoustic piano. With that said, if you’re looking for a true beginner keyboard, there’s a very strong chance you’ll end up with a keyboard that features keys that feel cheap and plasticky.
There are two ways to look at a situation such as this. One, you can bemoan the fact that you own a keyboard that’s not going to give you action that can, to its relative best ability, “simulate” the key action or key weight of an acoustic piano.
But you can also look at it like this—you’re a beginner. And if you’re a beginner, and if you’re seeking a relatively cheap keyboard, you can’t really be all that concerned with key weight and action. You should probably be more concerned with, say, where to place your hands on the keyboard and how to read music and play chords.
As you advance though, if (or more like “when”) you upgrade to a better instrument, that’s when you’ll want to make sure you get a keyboard or digital piano that has realistic action and weighted or semi-weighted keys.
I think fully weighted keys are the best, but always buy what you can afford and what you feel will get you the best experience for your money. If you’re not as serious about playing the piano as the next man or woman, perhaps semi-weighted keys are “good enough” for you.
If you need additional help or guidance on this topic, we encourage you to read our article entitled: Which Digital Piano Has the Best Key Action?
Going a step further, this action incorporates a mechanism inside the keyboard or digital piano that replicates the action of hammers hitting strings inside an acoustic piano.
This action gives no resistance. If you’re planning to play lead keys for a band and rattle out long fast passages, this option will work great for you. However, since I’m writing primarily to beginner musicians, this isn’t an action choice that I would recommend.
Three Keyboards We Recommend
Now, I’m not saying you’re going to fall for sure into one of the three categories below. However, the chances are that you will be able to relate to one group more than the others. That being the case, my keyboard recommendation may be right up your alley.
So here we go:
Musician Type #1
I know myself, and I know that if learning isn’t fun and entertaining I’m not going to stick to it. I don’t know if I’ll have time to go to a traditional piano teacher, so I’d love a keyboard that can act as digital piano lessons for me, as well as being a fun instrument.
Recommendation: Casio LK-280
This keyboard is built around the principle that if a beginner gradually builds up experience and confidence, then playing on their own will become a reachable and rewardable reality. Calling it an “instructional keyboard” doesn’t actually seem to do it justice, considering the impressive features it offers the beginner pianist:
-SD Card Storage
-48 note polyphony
-600 tones, 180 rhythms
Even though this choice of keyboard has already been on the market for a couple of years now, it still deserves its place as my recommendation for this musician type. The lighted keys coupled with Casio’s Step Up Learning System are great for developing muscle memory in beginner pianists, and the onboard sampling introduces the budding musician to the fun and worthwhile learning exercises that playback can bring.
And, in the off chance you’re actually interested in this keyboard for a child rather than an adult, please take a look at the video below:
Musician Type #2
I don’t have a lot of space, but I think the 61 keys just aren’t what I’m after. I’d like to go for 76 keys, but something that’s slim so that I can easily transport it, if necessary.
Recommendation: Yamaha Piaggero NP-32
Many potential pianists find the option of a 76-note keyboard very appealing. Perhaps it’s the fact that it has a more “piano appearance” without taking up the extra space.
Whatever the reason, a 76-key keyboard is a great choice if you want an instrument that won’t stunt you musically within the first few years, but is also easily transportable. The Yamaha Piaggero NP32 certainly fits the bill here very well.
Boasting a slim design, coupled with Yamaha’s graded soft touch keys (in other words, the lower keys have a heavier touch and the higher keys have a lighter feel, similar to a traditional piano), this keyboard offers exceptional value for money to a beginner.
Other features of note include:
-Built-in stereo speaker system
-64 note polyphony
Musician Type #3
I’m committed to my piano future. I’d much rather spend a little extra and buy an instrument that is more “future proof,” rather than one that I will musically outgrow within a year or two.
I should also note that this type of musician includes those who played piano when they were younger or already play another instrument. In other words, this musician type knows what they are getting themselves into and are totally committed to the venture.
This can also be a great option for musicians who have already started their musical journey on a portable keyboard like one of the ones discussed above, and are now ready to finally “graduate” to a digital piano that will make the musical world their oyster.
Recommendation: Yamaha P-115
Yamaha is known to be one of the world’s leading musical instrument manufacturers. And while I firmly believe that many other brands do well in matching Yamaha’s performance, there is no doubt that when it comes to the P-115, Yamaha does not fail to deliver on portability, sound and performance.
There is something about the precision and attention to musical detail in this keyboard that I feel would certainly rival any other 88-key digital piano on the market.
A great feature of this piano is the fact that you can grow with your instrument. For the beginner sitting down at the P-115, whilst the full 88 keys may at first seem a little overwhelming, the overall appearance of the keyboard is more than comfortable.
Unlike other competitors within this field, Yamaha does not overwhelm the player with a million buttons and features that clutter the piano’s visual aesthetic. The keys are what matter most and they are the main visual focus when sitting in front of this instrument—and I think that helps the player breathe a little easier.
Visually, it has sort of a calming, non-complex appearance.
Beyond the simple and clean look, this is an instrument that has graded hammer keys. This makes playing a more realistic and rewarding experience. To the intermediate or advanced musician, the hammer action keys become a way to express oneself musically and successfully perform even the most challenging classical works.
If you feel you’re on a path towards eventually becoming a serious pianist, this is a feature you want in your piano.
Other great features that make the P-115 standout:
-14 high quality voices
-192 note polyphony
-Sound boost feature
- You can read our review of the Yamaha P-115 here. You can also see how well the Yamaha P-115 stacks up against the Yamaha P-45 here, as well.
So there you have it my budding musician in the making. Choosing the right keyboard depends on the type of musician you are at this current point in your musical journey, but also the musician that you hope to become in the near future.
So work out your musical identity, consider your options carefully, and then commit to your choice. Whatever keyboard you choose, embrace it, love it and let it take you as far as it can on your musical adventure.
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