4 Possibilities for Piano Players to Explore When Purchasing a New Instrument

When looking for the “perfect instrument” for a piano player, there are a multitude of options to explore. There’s a wide variety of styles, brands, and sizes. Parents of you children frequently ask “Do we need to purchase an upright piano or can my child learn to play piano on a keyboard?” To be honest, the answer depends on your musical goals and personal preferences.

Perhaps more important than whether the instrument is an acoustic piano or a digital keyboard is the quality of the instrument itself. If an upright piano has aged over the years without being taken care of properly, it may have broken keys or damaged strings. It may not respond correctly when the keys are played, which may prove frustrating to the piano student. To adapt for the instrument flaws, the piano player might develop improper technique. Similarly, if a digital keyboard is casually selected without considering the quality of the instrument, it may create a less-than-ideal learning environment for young students. If the keys are smaller than regular piano keys, do not have weighted action, and do not offer a touch-response system, then piano players may develop bad habits.

Thankfully, there’s a variety of options from which to choose. Whatever your musical goals and personal preference, be sure to do your research to find a quality instrument in the budget range that works for you. As you decide which option fits you best, here’s a few considerations to keep in mind.

Budget Brainstorms

For most families, it’s important to start with a spending goal. If your goal is to spend between $150 to $1,000, then I recommend purchasing a keyboard. There are several quality keyboards available that produce sounds similar to traditional acoustic pianos. In fact, with recent technology developments, many of the current keyboards offer full size (88 keys), weighted keys, and touch response systems. Each of these features provide important aspects to support student success.

If your budget is more expansive (perhaps between $2,500 through $10,000), then I recommend exploring a traditional acoustic piano. There are a variety of quality piano brands. Yamaha and Kawai are two of the front runners, but there are a multitude of other options. Once you decide what brand you prefer, you’ll need to decide between an upright piano or a baby grand piano. Upright pianos take up less space and are more affordable than baby grand pianos. However, based on the acoustical tone production, baby grands rand at the top of the list.

Creative Preferences

Keyboards have a smaller footprint than traditional pianos, so parents looking to save space may prefer a keyboard instead of acoustic piano. Additionally, the portability factor of keyboards makes them a top runner if young musicians plan on playing anywhere other than at home.

As you discover whether you prefer the sound of an acoustic piano or digital keyboard, keep in mind that somes a digital piano offers the perfect compromise. It offers the look and feel of an acoustic piano, but also provides some creative accessories.

Many keyboard and digital pianos allow midi plug ins, recording features, and transposition options. Often times, one of the highlight features is the variety of sounds available on keyboards. From organ to strings to brass and everything in between, keyboards provide a creative sound palette for aspiring musicians to explore.

Accessible Features

Acoustic pianos have a rich sound due to the way they are constructed. All full-size acoustic pianos have 88 keys. the action of the keys provides a solid tone due to the size, weight, and response built into the instrument.

For families who are interested in purchasing a keyboard with similar characteristics as an acoustic piano, it’s important to purchase a keyboard with these features:

  • *Appropriate size: 88 keys is full size, same size as an acoustic piano (When possible, full size keyboard recommended. If not possible, 61 keys recommended as minimum size to purchase.)
  • *Touch response: keys play louder in response to force exerted on key, similar to dynamic response on acoustic piano
  • *Weighted keys: size and weight of keys support solid technique and respond with similar action as acoustic piano

*When exploring keyboard features, each of the above items should be listed in the item description.

Necessary Accessories

When selling an acoustic piano, vendors will typically include a piano bench. Once the piano is delivered to the owner’s home, it’s important to have the piano tuned. Keeping the piano tuned extends the quality of life of the piano. I recommend keeping a regular tuning schedule, preferably annually when possible.

When purchasing a keyboard, buyers should carefully inventory the accessories and supplement as needed. Typically, the power supply is included. Sometimes, there is a sustain pedal included, but it’s typically the cheapest version available. I recommend purchasing a sustain pedal that provides better function and more versatility. Many keyboards have a music stand attachment, which provides a place to set your music while you’re playing. If the keyboard does not include this accessory, you may consider purchasing a music stand to place in front of the keyboard. The keyboard stand provides the legs for the keyboard to stand on. Most keyboard stands offer adjustable heights and provide ease of portability. For musicians planning to transport the keyboard frequently, I suggest investing in a portable keyboard case. Another important accessory for keyboard players is an adjustable height bench.

Instrument Suggestions

There’s a wide variety of quality instruments available. Although it’s impossible to list all of them, here’s a few of our top suggestions to explore as you decide which option works best for you:

Yamaha U1 / Acoustic Upright Piano

Kawaii K300 / Acoustic Upright Piano

Casio CTS200 / 61-Keys for Beginners

RolandGO 88 / Full Size Keyboard

Yamaha P-45 / Full Size Keyboard

Korg B2 / Full Size Keyboard

Recommended Resources

As you determine the best instrument to fit your musical goals and personal preferences, I encourage you to visit a store with in-stock acoustic piano or digital keyboard options. As you play different styles and brands, you’ll discover the sound and feel that’s right for you. I’ve listed below a few options that I have found to provide excellent quality instruments that support student success.

*Ellis Piano: 1550 Montgomery Hwy., Birmingham, AL 35216, 205-979-4463

*Guitar Center: 694 Montgomery Hwy, Hoover, AL 35216, 205-824-6454

*Musician’s Friend: Online Store; musiciansfriend.com; 800-449-9128

Contributor Kimberly Jones has played piano for over 30 years, taught piano for many years, and serves as the Director of Dawson Music Academy. She’s had the privilege of playing a variety of different acousitc pianos and digital keyboards. She recognizes the importance of families selecting a quality instrument to set students up for success on their musical journey.