KEYBOARD/PIANO BUYING GUIDE - BY AMIR KHAN
I am often asked to recommend a keyboard/piano for my students. While purchase decision depends on your budget, I am listing here keyboards and pianos that are in various price ranges (see links to various models below the article). My decision is based on either my personal experience using these instruments or knowing enough about the features and industry feedback.
Here is an simplified explanation of main features you should consider when making a purchase decision:
1. Number of keys: Only consider purchasing keyboards/piano that have at least 61 keys, 76 keys or best 88 keys. Most portable keyboards are full-size 61-keys and they are perfect for beginners. They are not only small, but portable enough to move around the house. In my experience, beginner students outgrow 61-keys keyboard/piano in about a year. Therefore, if you feel you're not sure whether your child will stick with piano lessons for a year, purchase a 61-keys, touch sensitive keyboard from the list below.
A 76-keys keyboard/piano is more suitable for a student (1 + years of lessons). Not only are these keyboard/pianos bigger, they have much better sound and key feel. Another reason why this is more appropriate for students (1 + years of lessons) is because they are able to play more complex musical pieces that require a wider keyboard range than 61-keys.
Full size keyboard on a grand piano is 88-keys. Therefore, most 88-keys instruments are more sophisticated and better sounding pianos rather than keyboards. They sound incredible and this is a more long-term purchase as they are more expensive. This is recommended for students who are at least intermediate level or have sustained interest in playing piano.
2. Touch sensitivity: Not all portable 61-keys keyboards are touch sensitive. Touch sensitive means that the harder or softer you press down the key, the louder or softer the sound will be. On the other hand, a "non-touch" sensitive keyboard would have the same amount of loudness no matter how hard you pressed it down. This is an important feature and is recommended for all level students. All my recommendations below (except one) are touch sensitive keyboards.
3. Key types: There are three main types of keys on a keyboard/piano. Most portable and lower priced keyboards and even pianos have thin plastic keys. These are furthest from the real-feel of a piano. The second type keys are called weighted keys. These have a more piano like feel, they are harder to press compared to plastic keys. Students who use these types of keyboards/pianos develop better control over their dynamics.
The final type keys are graded hammer action keys are designed to play and feel like the keys on an acoustic piano. Which means the bass keys are a bit heavier while the highest keys are a bit lighter to the touch. This is available on more expensive keyboards and pianos. This allows students to express more balanced dynamics. Students playing on graded hammer action keys would play better and sound better.
4. Additional features: While most other piano teachers would not even mention this, I feel this is an extremely important element in helping your child develop more interest in music and explore their creativity. Additional features on modern keyboards/pianos include hundreds of additional tones (sounds) in addition to piano sound. There are also rhythm section and song banks with hundreds of styles and dozens of songs. The rhythm feature alone is a valuable tool to help students learn to play song with a steady rhythmic beat.
While these features may not seem directly related to your child learning to play the piano, it certainly motivates them to explore the instrument more and experiment. While it could be distracting at times, this is how I learned to play and compose music at an early age.
Casio CTK 3200 (or 3500)- 61- keys, touch-sensitive
We use these in our small group
Yamaha DGX650B - 88-keys, Weighted Keys
FULL-SIZE (88 KEYS)
We have one of this
model in our studio
Yamaha YDP 162 - 88-keys, Weighted Keys
FULL-SIZE (88 KEYS)
Several of my students have this fine piano in their homes
Other Fine Full-Size (88-Keys) Mid-Price Range Pianos:
Recommended Accessories for Your Keyboard/Piano: