Ever wondered, what’s the best piano for beginners?
Before starting your musical journey, it’s important to select the right instrument. But choosing the right instrument can be challenging with so many options available.
For example, should I buy an upright, digital, or grand? Do I need a piano with all 88 keys? What brands are actually reliable? And what about weighted or semi-weighted keys?
In order to answer these questions, let’s take a look at the different types of pianos, each with their pros and cons.
Piano Type #1: Digital Pianos
Digital pianos are a convenient and affordable option for students just starting out and can offer many benefits that are lacking from regular acoustic pianos.
For example, digital pianos don’t require tuning or repair, are easy to transport, and are generally cheaper than regular pianos.
They’re also sold with many options ranging from all 88 keys with a fully-weighted action to 61 keys or less with a semi-weighted action and some with a no weighted-action option.
I’ve been teaching piano now for over 25 years, and I think a great start for beginners is a keyboard with a minimum of 61 full-size keys and touch sensitivity features.
What is touch sensitivity or touch response?
Touch sensitivity is simply the ability to express notes louder or softer based on how hard you press the keys.
This is a very important feature.
Without it, students won’t learn to control dynamics, which is essential to learning how to play expressively.
Fortunately, most digital pianos on the market today have this feature.
Other important general considerations when purchasing a digital piano:
Make sure the keyboard includes a sustain pedal or at least has an input to accommodate a pedal.
Even beginning students need to use the pedal.
Pedals can be purchased separately as long as there is a plug-in for the pedal.
Remember the Keyboard Stand!
Some keyboards do not include a stand, so be sure to purchase one.
An adjustable stand is preferable so that it can be situated properly for the student’s height. Here is an example:
Recommended digital pianos:
If you happen to have a super eager learner who is very young, be sure to make it fun and purchase a simple keyboard that can be easily accessed on the floor.
Yes, the floor – for toddlers!
Toddlers absolutely love to explore keyboards, and I can remember like it was yesterday at being surprised that our two year-old son, immediately became drawn to the keyboard.
He learned by pressing buttons and turning dials to find his favorite pre-recorded songs and sounds.
Let your children explore and do not become overly protective of the keyboard.
Most keyboards are virtually indestructible and if you start with a super inexpensive version when your children are young, you won’t even think about the keyboard being “ruined.”
You can usually find one at a thrift store or pawn shop.
Here is an example:
With 400 tones, 77 rhythms, and 60 songs, the Casio Casiotone, 61-Key Portable Keyboard with USB, Black (CT-S200BK), is around $139 new and I’m certain a similar version could even be found at a thrift store or online marketplace for even less.
For Ages 6 and up
For beginners ages 6 and up, the Yamaha PSRE373 is a great option. It features a 61-key touch sensitive keyboard with variety of high-quality sounds and effects.
- Good for beginners
- Touch sensitivity
- Over 600 sounds
- Ability to record
- Only 61 keys
- Non-weighted action
Another great option and a step up is the Casio PX-S1100WE digital stage piano.
This stylish looking digital piano features a full-size 88 note keyboard with smart-scaled hammer action keys. This more closely mimics the natural touch and feel of an acoustic piano.
- Great sound
- Full 88 keys
- Weighted action
- Higher Price
- Smaller effects library
I think this piano is especially great for students that want a more realistic experience with a premium sound.
Yamaha Clavinova CLP-775 Digital Upright Piano with Bench
The Clavinova is widely known as one of the best digital pianos money can buy. It features cutting edge technology that allows the player to more closely experience what using a grand piano is like.
- Highly responsive
- Amazing sound quality
- limitless tonal variation
- Higher Price
- Not as portable
If you are planning to commit to music learning, this is a fantastic option that will serve your family for many years to come.
Piano Type #2: Acoustic Pianos
Acoustic pianos offer the best experience for students more serious about learning and certainly should be considered for more advanced students.
They have real hammers and strings that allow the player to produce a more expressive sound.
In addition, acoustic pianos are generally more durable and can last a lifetime.
And with so many people moving to new locations, an acoustic piano can often be purchased for a reasonable price.
Be sure to check online resources such as your neighborhood social media sites, ebay local, or any online marketplace.
It’s best to find a piano that is ideally no older than 15-20 years. Otherwise, it is very unlikely that anything older will maintain proper tuning, and will probably need additional repairs.
Also, unless the piano is free or ridiculously cheap, be sure to hire a piano technician to provide an opinion about the piano’s overall condition.
Piano technicians can often be referred by local piano companies, or by doing a quick search on the internet.
However, do not let perfection prevent you from buying a piano that will work for your student even if only for a year or two.
I actually learned to play piano on an antique grand that was passed along from my grandparents that was originally owned by a concert pianist. This makes it even even more interesting to talk about.
The piano had real ivory keys, but some were broken, and some keys could never be tuned properly.
However, I loved learning music at an early age, and I am so thankful that I had an instrument to practice on at home.
Thankfully, my older brother surprised me when I was a teen by giving me his own grand piano!
Although he wished he had continued learning piano, he didn’t have much time to play or practice, and he knew I desperately needed an upgrade.
My family and I still use this same piano today!
What’s the difference between an upright and grand piano?
An upright piano is also known as a vertical piano, because the strings run vertically in a rectangular case.
They may not look as sophisticated as a grand piano, but the upright piano, including the “lowly spinet”, can function just fine for beginners. Salespeople will often disagree because like any good salesperson, they would rather you purchase a new or gently used piano from them. However, it is better to purchase a piano that will work for you both financially and with the available space in your home. You will most likely find a fantastic deal on an upright piano from a private seller since they are more common in many households.
A grand piano is a large piano whose strings are run horizontally in a large case. Advantages of learning and playing on a grand piano include an upgraded sound (as long as it’s in tune), an inspiring feeling of playing on a more elegant instrument, and the ability to express a wide range of dynamics due to the inclusion of one or two pedals besides the usual sustain pedal.
Acoustic pianos normally have at least two pedals: soft and sustain.
Sometimes, there is a middle pedal, called the sostenuto pedal, which allows the pianist to selectively sustain notes played when pressing the pedal, without affecting other notes that follow.
There are many very well-made and functional pianos available on the market. Below are just some examples of well-made acoustic pianos, and are great considerations for any student regardless of age or level:
Considered the “Cadillac of pianos,” Steinway is synonymous with one of the finest piano manufacturers in the world. Of course, this craftsmanship comes with a hefty price tag.
However, if it’s in your budget and the piano is not more than 20 years old, you may find a “grand” deal in your own local community.
Even a Steinway upright piano is a great option with a wonderful sound.
Many musicians and audiences alike enjoy the rich sound of the Baldwin piano.
This American-based piano company began in 1862, founded by a well-respected pianist in Cincinnati, Ohio, Dwight Hamilton Baldwin.
The hand-made artist grands are still considered among the finest and more affordable options in the market.
Even their upright pianos are generally well-made and very durable. Fans of the Baldwin piano tend to love the rich, bass sounds of this brand.
Famous musicians who prefer playing on the Baldwin piano include Dave Brubeck, Aaron Copland, Liberace, Ben Folds, to name a few.
Mason and Hamlin
The Mason Hamlin company began in Massachusetts in 1854. These are considered wonderful pianos in terms of durability and sound, and are favored by many concert artists.
Kawai was founded in Hamamatsu, Japan, in 1927, and the company built its first grand piano in 1928. In 1995, Kawai established a manufacturing center in Lincolnton, North Carolina. In 2004, Kawai introduced a revolutionary Millennium III action, which utilizes ABS carbon components.
The K-3 Professional Upright Piano won MMR Magazine’s Dealers’ Choice “Acoustic Piano of the Year” award in four consecutive years, beginning in 2009.
Kawai has continued to develop award-winning pianos, including the hybrid model, KAWAI CS10, which won the “Editor’s Choice” Award at the 2014 NAMM Show (the 2nd largest music products industry trade show).
Finally, Yamaha is a great consideration for an instrument that produces beautiful and beautiful-sounding pianos.
These pianos tend to have a brighter sound and are more readily available from both private sellers and music stores.
From the traditional upright and grand models, to its modern disklavier system, Yamaha continues to innovate and produce hybrid systems that allow more flexibility in recording and even streaming performances.
The new disklavier system enables two patented systems to work together to capture each performer’s unique style of playing.
It’s definitely worth considering, especially as your child progresses and becomes more excited to learn.
In fact, I think this entire system makes it exciting for both the students and the parents!
If you can, buy both a keyboard and an acoustic piano!
Since keyboards are very affordable, I would encourage families to start with a keyboard that has a built-in record and play function, and then add an acoustic piano to the mix. Your children can then benefit from recording a song, even if it’s just a melody, and then play along on the piano simultaneously. Before you know it, you will have a budding composer and arranger!
What about a Piano Bench?
Whether you are buying a keyboard or an acoustic piano, the piano bench selection is very important, especially for young children. Although most acoustic pianos include a bench, your child may need a different bench if they are still very young and/or short. I highly recommend an adjustable bench that can “grow with the student.” Examples are:
A deluxe piano bench option for duets or that will accommodate both parent and child when playing piano together:
Additional online resources to consider for keyboards and pianos (both new and used):
guitarcenter.com (huge inventory of used instruments)
Even a very old piano, or a very small keyboard will work at the beginning if your budget simply does not allow for anything more. Buy the best you can afford and don’t worry if you need to get a new instrument in a year to two. It’s more important that children have the opportunity to learn. The sooner the better!