Purchasing your very first acoustic piano or digital keyboard can be daunting. With so many options to consider and the constraints of a budget, finding the ideal fit is difficult. Not to mention, if you don’t have any prior experience with the piano, how are you supposed to know which option to buy for your Orlando piano lessons?
Sound And Feel
Ultimately, the goal is simple: given the budget, find an acoustic piano or digital keyboard that you or your child will enjoy for play and practice. The sound and feel is crucial. A great instrument will make practice seem like more of a joy and less of a chore. We’ve all heard those out-of-tune upright pianos, with warped intonation that even a thorough tune-up cannot fix. And then there are those cheap plastic digital keyboards that sound hollow and thin – nothing at adill like the sound of an acoustic piano. Yuck. Could you imagine enjoying yourself if you had to practice with your Orlando piano teacher each day – even for only 10 minutes – on one of these? Maybe at first, but what about after several years?
Digital Keyboard or Acoustic Piano
Before going any further, let’s address the elephant in the room when getting your first piano: acoustic piano or digital keyboard? Which is best? Truth be told, there are advantages to each. On the one hand, there is nothing so bright, vivid or responsive as an acoustic piano. The technology for emulating a natural piano sound in the digital realm has come a long way, but it is still no match for the real thing. Same goes for the technology behind weighting a digital keyboard to match acoustic piano hammer action. Do consider going with an acoustic, budget and space permitting.
At the same time, digital keyboards have their advantages too. You never need to tune them. They’re smaller and easier to move. You can play them using a pair of headphones. Plus, they are fairly easy to resell. All told, they are simpler instruments to acquire, set up, and maintain while still sounding and feeling wonderful to play. If a digital keyboard sounds like the best fit for you or your family, then stick around for a detailed explanation of their features, as well as a few recommendations for affordable digital keyboards.
Weighted Action Is a Must Have
In the search for a digital keyboard, be sure to pay attention to the advertised “action.” You’re looking specifically for “weighted action”. These keyboards have weights affixed to the underside of the key that are balanced in such a way as to match the behavior and feel of a real acoustic piano. Steer clear of keyboards that do not have “weighted action” – it is virtually impossible to learn proper piano-playing technique without the weighting.
How Many Keys?
Digital keyboards are most commonly manufactured with 61 keys, 73 keys, or 88 keys (88 keys is the same number as an acoustic piano). For the beginner, 61 or 73 keys suffices easily. On the other hand, an intermediate to advanced student will soon begin to miss having the full 88 keys. Everything being equal, prefer keyboards with a full set of 88 keys. Furthermore, consider it a deal breaker if the keyboard has fewer than 61 keys, even a beginner needs several octaves of keyboard to properly learn to play.
Be sure to budget in a few additional costs when buying a digital keyboard. For starters, you’ll need a stand upon which the keyboard may rest. If you opt for the conventional crossing-”X”-style keyboard stand, it’s worth it to buy the sturdier double-”X” variety (such as the On-Stage Stands KS8291XX). Stands with only a single crossing “X” are too flimsy and wobbly. You’ll also need a keyboard bench for sitting. Look for a bench that can adjust to several different height settings. As a young student grows older, it is mighty convenient when the bench can adjust so that they may sit at the appropriate height for optimal piano posture. Finally, you’ll need a sustain pedal. Find one that looks and feels like the pedal of an acoustic piano looks and feels.
Digital Keyboard Recommendations
Now that you’re familiar with the features of digital keyboards let’s look at a few recommendations. Each of these recommendations comes either from personal experience or from the recommendation of a fellow piano instructor here in Seattle.
- Casio CDP-S150 Compact Digital Piano
This Casio keyboard covers all the bases: weighted with 88-keys, and it does a respectable job emulating the natural piano sound. Its form factor is compact, and it has some decent speakers built into the unit.
- Yamaha P-45 88-key Digital Piano with Speakers
Just like the Casio, this Yamaha keyboard covers all the same bases. I prefer the form factor of the Casio. However, in my experience as a keyboardist, Yamaha has a longer history of producing a better acoustic piano sound, which is a far more important consideration.
- Alesis Recital Pro 88-key Hammer-action Digital Piano
This Alesis board is quite comparable to the Casio and Yamaha boards above. Again, I’ll give a slight edge to Yamaha for sound, but if the Alesis board oftentimes clocks in at a slightly cheaper price.
Shop Used & Look for Deals
Good luck in your search! Now that you know what to look for, you can feel confident that you’ll find a great keyboard for your beginner piano student. Internet shoppers, keep your eyes peeled for deals at Sweetwater.com and Musician’s Friend, and don’t forget to search locally for a used keyboard as well!
As you search for a keyboard, you might as well search for an instructor too! Our teachers come right to your home for every lesson, plus we offer virtual music lessons, too. Our online music lessons are taught by local music teachers with live lessons tailored to your child! Contact us today to learn more.
By Rob Homan