How to choose the proper keyboard for piano lessons!

How to choose the proper keyboard for piano lessons!

How to choose the proper keyboard for piano lessons!
Posted on September 9th, 2023. 

Beginning Keyboard Selection Notes!

Please note: At the beginning of these notes, I’m referring to the term “keyboard” in generic terms, i.e., to key playing instruments that need to be plugged in or powered by battery. At the end I will differentiate between a “Keyboard” and a “Digital Piano”.

First, keyboards are plugged in or may be run by battery. This is as opposed to a regular (acoustic) piano run by human power, there is no plugging in. Keyboards are light in weight comparatively speaking, therefore, much easier to move than an acoustic piano. Keyboards also have a different number of keys depending on the model. They may have 49, 61, 76, or 88 keys. With regard to the sheer number of keys, 88 keys are the best (which is what the acoustic piano has) because there is no piano literature that you can’t play, this is a “full sized keyboard”.

Weighted Keys. Next, are the keys weighted (i.e., they have a resistance when the key is pushed or may feel a little harder to push down) or unweighted (very easy to push)? Weighted key models are the best because they give you the best feelof a real piano because of the resistance they offer. When switching over and playing an acoustic piano, there should be very little to no problem getting adjusted to an actual piano feel. Some keyboards may refer to “touch response”, “velocity-sensitive” or “touch sensitive”. This means that the keyboard will play at different volumes depending on how fast or slow you push the key down. For example, if you push the key down quickly, the sound will be louder than if you push the key down slowly and the sound is softer and yet the key may be “unweighted”. Go for the “weighted” key that has a good “touch response” as the best option if you are going to be playing a lot of piano down the line.

Full sized keys. The keys must be full sized, i.e., the white keys are approximately 5 ½ long by 1 inch wide. “Mini keys” are just that, “mini”, avoid!!

Headphones. Headphone jacks for using headphones are a plus because they allow the student to practice without disturbing others.

Metronome.The keyboard has a “metronome”. This is a feature that mainly aids the student in playing a piece at the suggested speed with a steady beat. This helps the student from slowing down or speeding up while playing. It also has other advantages that will become apparent as the student continues study.

Pedal. The keyboard has an attachable pedal. The pedal aids in the overall sound of a piece when it is being played. It is easier to understand what it does through an actual demonstration then to try and describe it here. On acoustic pianos, this is an indispensable aid.

Great sound quality. You want a keyboard that simply sounds as close as possible to an actual piano. The keyboard should have quality built in speakers.

Graded hammer action or hammer action! On the left side of a piano where the low sounds are located, the keys feel heavier to push down, but as you play the keys to the right side, the sounds get higher, the keys feel easier to push down. This gradual shift in the feel of the keys is what is referred to as “Graded hammer action”. This is what an acoustic piano feels like when played.

A sturdy keyboard stand and bench can add another $200 or so to the overall price. These suggestions form the basics of a good beginning keyboard.

Digital Piano vs Keyboard

Digital pianos are digital copies of the acoustic piano. They give you the feel and touch of an acoustic piano. Digital pianos consist of mostly 88 keys. They usually have a graded hammer action for a realistic piano feel. Basically, you may have a “console digital piano” which means it looks like an actual piano, furniture wise or a “portable digital piano” which means that it is lighter in weight, more mobile.

Keyboards on the other hand are lightweight and may have a smaller number of keys. They usually do not have “weighted” keys and they have features that allows you to add other instruments like a band to back you up while playing.

Which is best for a beginner student? In my opinion, a digital piano because it responds more closely overall to an actual acoustic piano. Later on, if a student wants to “gig” they will have plenty of options to choose a professional keyboard that does what they want it to do in a professional setting.

Digital Pianos

Suggestions: Around $400 or so and up would get you into a pretty good quality digital piano. There as of course, cheaper options, but these are good starting instruments all of which depends on your budget. Please check for current prices. Don’t forget the pedal, quality stand, and bench.

Roland FP10: $500

Yamaha P125: $650

Yamaha P45: $500

Alexis Recital Pro: $380

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