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How To Choose A Piano or keyboard

Congratulations! You are about to buy your first piano...

Choosing the right piano to purchase can be thrilling, though somewhat intimidating. Within our ‘Beginner’s Guide To Learning Piano’ series, this segment aims to assist you in beginning your musical journey on the right note.

How To Choose A Piano Or Keyboard

Things you should know before buying your first piano

To decide what piano is best, you’ll need to think about what you intend to do with it. Now, I know you’ll be thinking “what a stupid thing to say! I intend to play it!”, but choosing a musical instrument is based on a series of choices that include:

  • What sort of budget do you have? Remember, as with most things in life; you get what you pay for – so try to have the largest budget you can afford
  • What type of music do you want to play? Having a £90,000 Steinway Grand Piano is probably not the best instrument for you if you’re only interested in playing a four-chord pop song!
  • What space will the instrument be going in? If you live in a studio flat, a small instrument will be necessary. If however, you live in a palace, then perhaps that’s not such an issue… or so Mrs Queen tells me…
Choose A Piano

What sort of piano should I buy?

Digital Piano vs Acoustic Piano. That’s the first thing to think about.

This is one of the most straightforward choices to make. If the piano will be in a small room, and if you need to be able to play with headphones, then a Digital Piano is the only option. If you have a larger room and don’t need to be able to play with headphones, then you have to choose based on the next step…

Type of music

Classical Music

Classical Music

If your primary genre of piano playing is classical, then no digital instrument can ever replicate the touch, feel and sound of an acoustic piano. For me, speaking as a pianist, if you have the space for an upright or grand piano, you’ll progress further and play better. End of story!

Having said that, if you don’t have space or budget for an acoustic piano, then a Digital Piano – not a keyboard, is what you need.

So zoom down to the Upright VS Grand Piano section below.

Popular Music

Popular Music

This is where the decisions can get a little blurry. I imagine if you ask Elton John to play a keyboard or digital piano, he will not so politely decline. 

However, for most pianists who want to play pop/rock, then a digital instrument is a great option. They are less expensive than their rival acoustic, are smaller, and once again, you can plug in your headphones and play away through the night knowing that no-one is being disturbed.

Take a look at our Digital Piano VS Keyboard section below.

Digital Piano VS Keyboard

Digital Piano

Digital Piano

Digital Pianos are precisely that; a piano that is digital. It specialises in getting as close to a real piano as possible. It does this by:

  • 88 notes – all Digital Pianos should have the full-size keyboard of 88 keys.
  • Hammer action and weighted keys – they feel more like a real piano. On an acoustic piano, there is resistance when pushing down a key, and a bounce-back when the hammer inside hits the string.  Digital Pianos try to mimic this to give a more realistic view.
  • Piano Samples – the sound a Digital Piano makes is the closest you’ll get to an acoustic piano. The manufacturers spend a considerable amount of time on the sound samples. They usually have a minimal number of sounds, but the ones they do have are generally excellent. 
  • If you intend to use headphones then a high quality, noise cancelling over-ear type will not only help you zone in on your performance, but also be comfortable for long sessions.
  • The pedals are usually built in, and act the same as the pedals on an acoustic piano.

You may check out our recommended digital piano the Kawai CA49 below:

Kawai Ca49 Review 1
Best for Professionals

FEATURES: Elegant Digital Piano with Sound and Feel to Match

INCLUDED ITEMS: updated control panel features a modern OLED graphic display

COLORS & DIMENSIONS: Satin black, satin white, rosewood, polished ebony 53" x 18" x 42"

9/10

Kawai CA49

When you check the price above, you’ll see there are loads of great places to buy this item.  Our personal favorite is Gear4music.

It is the largest music retailer in the UK and fast becoming the most respected online music shop in the US too.  Their customer service is excellent, they have competitive prices, really fast shipping, and usually have the longest guarantee.

Most professional musicians use Gear4music, so there is no reason why you shouldn’t too!

PROS
CONS
The TedScore™ is our unique system of scoring products.
The professional musician who wrote this article combined many things,
from the product build, manufacturer’s reputation through to feedback
from other users, to create our famous TedScore™.

Keyboard

A keyboard isn’t trying to mimic a piano; its specialism is that it can produce 1,000s of sounds – and even more creatively, you as the user can manipulate those sounds and turn them into other, personalised sounds. 

Unlike Digital Pianos, a Keyboard doesn’t necessarily have:

  • 88 notes – many varieties exist with 49, 61 or 76 keys
  • Weighted keys are not so crucial for keyboards. They are not pretending to be a piano – and therefore keyboards tend to have a lighter action. 
  • Pedals are never built in, and quite often you’ll need to purchase them separately.  And don’t forget to buy a stand too!

The keyboard we really love is the Donner DEP-20 below which is also perfect for beginners.

Roland Fp 30 Review
Best Lightweight Portable Keyboard

FEATURES: Lightweight with synthetic ivory feels keys, it can be upgraded with a three-pedal unit and the KSC-70 stand

COMES WITH: Music rest, owner's manual, damper pedal, power cord, and AC adapter

COLORS & DIMENSIONS: Black and white / 51″ x 6″ x 11″

9/10

Roland FP-30X

When you check the price above, you’ll see there are loads of great places to buy this item.  Our personal favorite is Gear4music.

It is the largest music retailer in the UK and fast becoming the most respected online music shop in the US too.  Their customer service is excellent, they have competitive prices, really fast shipping, and usually have the longest guarantee.

Most professional musicians use Gear4music, so there is no reason why you shouldn’t too!

PROS
CONS