When someone decides to start playing the piano, the first order of business is buying an instrument. While acoustic pianos are fantastic options, they also tend to be pricey. For a beginner who isn’t sure if the piano is right for them, a high-end piano may be out of the question.
For someone just starting to learn the piano, you’ll need to consider the type of music you’re interested in, how long you’ll want to play, and how much you’re willing to spend to determine the best piano or keyboard for you.
Key Features of a Piano
Before deciding between a keyboard and piano, you need to know a few key differences. Pianos are acoustic percussion instruments. When you touch a key, a tiny hammer hits a string, creating a sound. Pianos generally have the full 88 keys and usually have three pedals (soft, sostenuto, and sustain pedals).
There are several types of pianos to choose from. Beginners will likely look at upright pianos or baby grands. Every acoustic piano is unique, so you’ll want to test out the piano before buying to see how hard the action is (how it feels to press down the keys) and if you like the sound.
Acoustic pianos are best for classical musicians since they allow for the largest range of sounds. However, you’ll need to consider the cost of purchasing, the space they take up, and the continued cost of tuning. If you’re not sure that you will continue with piano lessons (or if the pianist is a young child), you may want to start out with a keyboard and then upgrade in the future.
Why Choose a Keyboard
There are even more variations of keyboards out there than acoustic pianos, so you’ll need to do your research. This wide variety means that there are inexpensive options for you to see if the lessons stick.
There are many benefits to choosing a keyboard. Unlike acoustic pianos, they run on electricity. Because of this, you can use headphones when playing, which is an excellent option for busy households or apartment dwellers.
Keyboards also come with many backing tracks and sound options. For jazz and pop musicians, these options are fantastic. New pianists can also use some of these options to learn the names of notes.
As with acoustic pianos, there are several important distinctions between types of keyboards. You can choose ones with only 66 keys, which are usually smaller and lighter. There are also full-length keyboards with either weighted or unweighted keys.
For those learning classical music, weighted keys are a must. It will more accurately simulate the feelings of playing an acoustic piano, making it easier to eventually transition to an acoustic piano. At higher levels of classical music playing, all pianists use acoustic pianos. However, for those interested in jazz music, unweighted keys are fine.
Lastly, you’ll need to consider how portable you’d like your keyboard to be. Some keyboards detach easily from their stand, which is great for pianists who travel for gigs. If you plan on mostly practicing at home, a sturdier option will give you a better sound.
Keyboard or Piano?
For most beginners, a keyboard is perfectly adequate. They’re cheaper, meaning you can spend more on lessons – a great option being Pianoforall which you can learn more about here – and music books. They’re also smaller and have headphones, which family members and neighbors may appreciate. If in doubt, ask your piano teacher about what’s best for you. They’ll likely have recommendations about brands, styles, and where to purchase them.