People need to know what to look for when buying an instrument, but first things first. How do you know if you should get a piano or keyboard?? As great as they make digital pianos these days, in my opinion, nothing will compare to a nice acoustic. That being said, a piano still may not be the best choice for everyone, especially at first.
Do you have the space? A piano will clearly take up more room than a keyboard!
Do you have the budget? A nice piano will be more expensive than most keyboards, but the initial ticket price isn’t the only factor here. You’ll also need to be prepared for continuous maintenance fees, such as tuning or repairs and on top of that, you’ll probably be paying for lessons.
What are your goals? Did you decide to learn piano on a whim, or has it been a lifelong dream? Are your learning goals casual or more serious? Are you ready to make a long-term investment? If you’re sure it’s something you want, and will continue to enjoy into the future, then you might decide to purchase something quality that you’ll love to play.
Taking all that into consideration, I say if you love the piano and can afford one, go for it! Like I said, no keyboard will beat the sound quality of a real piano, but in the end you need to be smart. Make your choice based on what will work best for you.
- have a limited budget?
- have limited space in my home or apartment?
- want to test the waters, see how I like playing?
- want to make a long term investment?
- have the budget?
- do I have the space?
- do I have serious goals for my (or my child’s) learning?
Once all that is figured out, you should follow some guidelines when purchasing your piano or keyboard.
Choosing the right PIANO:
The absolute number one way to purchase a piano, is to bring along a piano technician (that you trust!) to help you. Now, you can always go take a look at the piano first, to see what you think. You have input into whether you like the look, feel and sound, but once you think you’ve found something, bring in your piano guy. 🙂 You don’t want to end up being that person who buys a piano, and then learns there’s a million things wrong with it. Don’t try to become an expert overnight, it’s more than worth it to bring someone who knows their stuff.
Prices are going to vary greatly here. Do you want an upright or a baby grand? Can you find a free piano (yes they’re out there!) and if so, how much will it cost to get it in good playing condition? Have the piano tech determine the piano’s value so you know if it’s worth the asking price, and make sure you find out how much work (if any) needs to be done to bring it up to par. Factor in all the service costs before you make an offer to the seller.
In the end, you should buy the best piano you can afford. Making good music on a quality instrument is a great way to keep a young pianist (or any beginner for that matter) interested.
Choosing the right KEYBOARD:
A digital piano or electronic keyboard can be a good substitute for an acoustic piano. Just ask yourself this question:
“Am I going to use this for a while, or is this only a short term instrument while I look for something better?”
If your answer is short term, I’d try not to spend too much since it’s like a “quick fix” just to get started while you search for a piano, but if you plan to use it as your primary instrument you need to make sure you have the features below.
Touch Sensitive and Weighted Keys: Weighted keys will be similar to the feel of a real piano and touch sensitivity means they will play loud and soft depending how hard you press. This is important to develop not only musicianship, but dexterity and muscle strength in your hands.
Key size: You need standard size keys. Mini-size piano keys are NEVER a good option. It’s not a toy, it’s an instrument. Even a small child should be playing on standard size keys.
Number of Keys: A full-sized piano has 88 keys, but there are models with 76, or the most common, 61. If you’re serious, you’ll need 88, but if it’s only short term, beginners can get away with 61 keys for a while. If you plan to upgrade, I suggest getting 76 if you can find one. It’s a good bet because you won’t spend as much as a full set of 88 keys, but you will be able to use it longer in the event you don’t find a piano replacement as quickly as you’d like.
Pedal: Sustain pedals are important to have as you learn piano. If you’ll be keeping your first keyboard for a while, you need to make sure if you don’t already have a pedal, that you’ll be able to get one! (Beginners can go a little while without, so if your plan is to upgrade quickly, it may not be necessary.)
Sound Quality: You’ll want your keyboard to sound similar to a real piano. Like I said, are you getting a toy… or an instrument?.