What to Consider When Buying Your First Keyboard
An interest in learning piano does not necessarily mean you need to own a piano. There are great keyboard or digital piano options that make excellent choices to get started with and transition well to an upright or grand piano. There are a few things to consider when purchasing your first keyboard. Let’s cut through the noise to give you the basics on purchasing a new keyboard, what to look out for, and what you should be considering in your decision.
Shopping For Your First Keyboard?
Here Are a Few Basic Questions to Ask First…
What is your budget, what features do you need, how much space is available and what is the purpose (learning, performing, etc.) are all questions that will ultimately inform your best decision. Are you just starting out? Is this keyboard for a small child? Are you looking to upgrade, but not ready for an acoustic piano yet? Do you want portability or a combination of sustain pedals? Renting pianos and keyboards is not often recommended as it tends to be less cost effective in the long run. In many cases, it’s cheaper to purchase a beginner model than it is to rent one for a few months.
Piano vs. Keyboard. What’s The Difference?
This is a simple answer with a complicated follow-up. A piano is an acoustic instrument which produces sound without electronics. A keyboard is an electric instrument that requires electronics in order to produce sound. Simple enough, right? The question becomes, what is right for me?
That’s a difficult answer, since we all have different reasons for our purchase. Some keyboards are great for young kids just starting, or for adults looking to jam with friends. You’ll find some are great for portability, some better for keeping in your living room. And some keyboards you will want to plug into an amplifier and make sure your neighbors can hear you. There are 88-key, full-size keyboards, 76-key, 61-key, synthesizers, MIDI controllers, upright digital pianos, and many more! Here are a few pointers and some guidance that may be helpful.
Should I Consider a Beginner Keyboard or Piano?
The majority of beginner keyboards you will find may not be full size and may not feel like a real piano. Before making a purchase, consider your ultimate goal with the keyboard. Do you intend on upgrading to a more expensive keyboard or piano at some point? This may influence your decision about what features are important to you. In addition to the number of keys, consider weighted keys as an important factor. Different manufacturers will describe their weighted key technology similarly, some with Graded Hammer Action or Sensor Scaled Hammer Action, for example. It means the “heaviness” or weight to each key requires pressing with force similar to a piano in order to achieve sound. Also, many beginner keyboards will lack features like metronomes, sound libraries, or programmed songs.
Do I Need a Smaller Keyboard For Smaller Hands?
If you’re not interested in a full-size keyboard, you’re in luck. Keyboards come in various shapes and sizes, with a varying degree of features associated. It’s rare to find smaller keyboards with weighted keys. Most smaller keyboards will come with a standard, non-responsive feel that does not feel anything like a piano. Smaller keyboards will often come equipped with extensive sound libraries, effects, and loops. But keep in mind, these are decidedly not piano-like. They can often have wonderful play-a-long options and familiar, programmed songs as well.
76-key and 61-key pianos can be a great starter instrument, but will likely limit the student after a short amount of time. In addition to the lack of realistic piano feel, the keyboard does lack a full octave or more of notes to explore.
What’s The Benefit of Full-Size Keyboards?
Full-size keyboards have 88-keys and over seven octaves of notes. For the piano student aspiring to actually learn the instrument, it’s technical attributes, and grow with the purchase, it’s not recommended to get anything smaller. While full-size keyboards are recommended for the serious student, some beginner keyboards will feature 88-keys as well. You don’t have to be experienced to play or benefit from a full-size keyboard. All ages and skill levels can benefit from a full size keyboard and it’s great preparation for the transition to an acoustic piano. Many models will come with a sustain pedal, but quite a few do not. When making a purchase, look closely at what is included. Get to know the full capabilities of the instrument, it’s sounds and polyphonic nature with all the octaves available to you.
What’s the Difference Between Upright Digital Pianos and Regular Pianos?
Upright digital pianos/keyboards have the approximate look of a nice upright piano and will closely mimic their piano relatives. These are great options that may be far less expensive than upright pianos with an excellent sound system and feel that resembles their acoustic counterpart.
While many keyboards will not come with a sustain pedal, upright digital pianos will come with the three pedals found on acoustic pianos. The pedals include the soft pedal, sostenuto pedal, and sustain pedal. It’s common to find recording mechanisms and more realistic sound capabilities with these enhanced technologies on upright digital pianos as well.
Consider whether pedals make a difference for your music, your learning, and your development when making your purchase. Not only do these models sound great with upgraded sound systems, they make excellent home furnishing additions!
Ready to Buy Your First Keyboard?
Before making your investment into a new keyboard or digital piano it may be a good idea to discuss these considerations and musical goals with your piano teacher as well. They have the knowledge and experience to help guide you in your purchase. Check us out when you’re ready to get started with lessons and jam with one of our awesome teachers! And when you’re ready to finally take the plunge there are plenty of places online and locally that are sure to have exactly what you need: