Keyboard vs. Piano: What Do New Students Need?

keyboardPiano lessons are a great investment, but what if you don’t own a piano? Is it really necessary, or will a smaller, more manageable keyboard do the trick? If you’re asking these questions, we’ve got your answers. Consider the following as you make your decision…

How committed are you?
The first question you’ll want to ask yourself is how committed you are with your lessons. Obviously, a full piano is a big investment – in terms of both money and space. While some teachers or music programs may highly recommend a piano, it might not be a reasonable option for you. If it’s not, a keyboard can be just as effective for a beginner – just make sure you’re purchasing a quality model.

What’s your price range?
For pianos, you can expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 (and even upward of $50,000 for some grand pianos!).  Keyboards are less expensive, but you can still expect to pay $200 and up for a quality instrument – and in some cases up to $1,000, depending on how many “extras” you want (USB drive, special effects, internal metronome, etc.).

Do you want to be able to practice quietly?
Most digital keyboards have headphone jacks, so you can practice without disturbing anyone else. This is great for families who have multiple children taking lessons, or if your opportunities to practice are limited to late nights or early mornings.

Are you moving soon?
Moving a piano can be a huge hassle, and requires professional (and often expensive) help. If you anticipate moving anytime soon, you’ll want to wait and just stick with a keyboard for now.

Are you prepared for the upkeep?
As a general rule of thumb, a piano should be tuned twice a year. Depending on the area you’re in and the condition of your piano, this may cost you around $100 each time. Keep this in mind and mark it on your calendar, as an in-tune piano can make a world of difference!

For keyboards: Are the keys weighted?
You’ll definitely want a keyboard with weighted keys, which means they offer the same level of resistance that a real piano would. The resistance is what allows you to play dynamics (i.e. louder and softer), and makes for an easier transition to playing on the piano. Another thing to consider is how many keys your keyboard has – a full piano has 88 keys, whereas some keyboards only offer a limited range. This can be an issue when you progress into more advanced pieces.

Do you want the “real thing”?
Even with all of the advantages of a keyboard, it simply will never replace a real piano. Even the best quality keyboard won’t have the same beautiful sound that a piano has, and the keys inevitably feel different. Often the keys are a bit smaller on keyboards, which can be frustrating to students switching back and forth when they try playing on a piano. Ultimately, your personal preferences will come into play here.

It’s a big step, but purchasing a piano is a great investment for the serious musician.  In the meantime, however, there’s nothing wrong with starting out on a quality keyboard or digital piano. Do your research, consider your lifestyle, find yourself a great piano teacher and play those 88 keys with confidence!

- TakeLessons staff member and blogger

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Photo by danorth1.

3 replies
  1. learn piano ebook says:

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  2. george says:

    Hi!…george here. Great article,very complete. I think too that a piano always will sound better, but the problem is that not everyone can afford one. Anyway i think you can start with a medium-good keyboard, and if you like it and make progress ,then you can start to considerate to buy a piano. =)

  3. pianoman says:

    Hey geogre, look at the date of this post is at 2012, that piece of info is pretty outdated, and It’s not very accurate to began with, In general when we use “keyboard” as a reference in music, we are specifically referring to those home keyboard 61/73 light weighted key, the actual team and what I will recommend you is a digital piano, the certain difference type out there, for you cases, you may want to look for a stage piano(digital) 88 key, some are the top of line model comes with real grand piano wooden keys and they are better than some cheap upright now adays, pros ahd been using them on concert and studio, It’s not necessary to an acoustic to practice,

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