Keyboard and Digital Piano Shopping Guide

Buying Guide: Best Keyboard for Beginners

Posted on November 19, 2021

Have you thought of learning to play piano, but don’t have the space, budget or interest to buy a full sized acoustic piano? Or maybe you already know your way around the keys by now, but want to upgrade your old instrument or buy one of your own. In that case opting for a keyboard is a great option.

Here we have collected the Yousician crew’s suggestions for beginner pianists and keyboard players when looking for a new keyboard. First, we’ll also give some things to consider when looking for a good beginner keyboard.

 

How to choose a beginner keyboard or digital piano

There are a few factors to consider when choosing a keyboard or digital piano, whether you’re browsing the local music store or surfing through online retailers such as Amazon, Guitar Center or some other store operating in your area. Consider at least the following important factors: size and number of keys, are the keys weighted, does the instrument use MIDI and is the instrument new or used.

Number of keys

Different keyboard models have a varying number of keys. In other words, the more keys your keyboard has, the wider the range of notes you’re able to play. The number of keys you should go for depends a lot on your experience of playing the keyboard as well as the space you have available.

A good starting point for beginner keyboard players is 66 keys, which is enough to play a wide variety of songs as well as learn the basics of piano and keyboard playing. However, you can do a wide variety of things even with a smaller instrument.

As we move towards larger and wider keyboards, these may contain 72 or 88 keys to play with. Go for a larger keyboard with 88 keys in case you’re already a bit more experienced with playing the instrument. However, remember that a larger keyboard is usually also more expensive than a smaller one with 66 keys or less. In addition, a larger keyboard or digital piano may not be as easy to carry around than a smaller portable option.

Full-sized vs compact keyboard

How big do you want your keyboard to be? If you are going to carry your instrument around a lot or have limited space for it, it’s better to take a look at some of the smaller digital pianos and keyboards on the market, or the so-called compact keyboards. A smaller keyboard is going to have less keys than a larger one, but allows for a lighter weight and portability. With some features, though, you can play the full range of keys even with a smaller compact keyboard. Larger full-sized digital pianos, however, usually contain more keys as well as a number of other knobs, sliders and other features for playing.

Compact Keyboard

A compact keyboard

Weighted keyboards

Weighted keyboards have keys that are weighted to resemble a true acoustic piano. These kind of keyboards that sound a lot like a real acoustic piano are often referred to as digital pianos. Playing with weighted keys may be a great choice in case you’re used to playing with a real acoustic piano and changing to an electric keyboard sounds like too big a change.

Weighted keys build finger strength and encourage better overall playing technique and habits. However, you can enjoy playing with a good beginner keyboard even if it doesn’t come with weighted keys. There are many different types of weights, which you can read more about here.

Voices and sounds

Voices, also known as “sounds” or “tones”, refer to the sounds your keyboard can make. In other words, the more sounds your keyboard has, the more different types of instruments it can mimic, for example a grand piano, electric piano, organ or even some completely different instrument. However, here you might want to focus more on sound quality rather than the number of sounds as a more realistic sounding keyboard will be much more enjoyable to play. Just be prepared to pay more for higher sound quality.

MIDI

MIDI (short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface) keyboards are an essential tool for any home studio. A great thing about MIDI keyboards is that they can be plugged into your computer or other device, either with a physical connection or even wirelessly with Bluetooth. MIDI keyboards also come in a variety of sizes and you can fit one in most budgets as well. Another great thing about MIDI keyboards is that they can usually be mapped or programmed to fit your needs and the sounds you want to produce with the keyboard.

Used or new

When thinking about the price of a keyboard, one important factor is whether the instrument is brand new or used. The good thing about used instruments is that they’re much more friendly for a smaller budget. However, make sure to check the condition of the instrument before making the purchase-decision, especially when shopping online or buying from a peer-to-peer service, such as Craigslist.

When buying a new instrument, however, it’s likely to come with a warranty and you’re definitely going to get what you pay for when buying a new keyboard or digital piano from a reliable reseller. Visit your local music store and you can test the instrument before buying or ask the staff for more information about which one you should buy.

 

Beginner keyboards: Recommendations from the Yousician team

Now you know what to look for in a beginner digital piano or keyboard. Next, let’s look at the top recommendations from the Yousician team’s piano experts. Here we’ve collected three larger 88-key keyboards from Yamaha, Roland and Casio. In case you need a smaller keyboard or a digital piano that’s easy to carry around and take with you, we’ve also picked four smaller compact keyboards for you to choose from. Check out the links for more details about our beginner keyboard recommendations.

1. YAMAHA P-45

The Yamaha P-45 is a great sounding instrument. It’s one of the cheapest 88-key digital keyboards available with Graded Hammer Standard weighted action for the keys. One pianist of our Yousician team owns the Yamaha P-45 and loves its sound and sound quality. The Yamaha P-45 has two “Grand Piano” voices sampled from a Yamaha grand piano. It also comes with 10 different sounds in total as well as some effects to play with. On top of that, the Yamaha P-45 has a built-in headphone jack and USB connectivity. It’s one of the cheaper digital pianos on this list, but certainly doesn’t play like it.

Yamaha P-45 Piano Keyboard

You can find it at Guitar Center here.

2. ROLAND FP 30

This beginner keyboard was recommended so many times, we lost count! Check out Sweetwater’s video review and you’ll understand why so many people gravitate toward this instrument that truly sounds like a grand piano. The Roland FP 30 and its 88 keys feel great, and help you build your finger strength as you play. It has a great speaker, meaning it delivers impressive sound, but also has headphone output for quieter sessions. One feature we love? “Twin Piano” mode lets you split the piano in two, perfect for a teacher and student playing side by side in the same octave. The Roland FP 30 is also lightweight, making it easy to move around from one room to another or to piano lessons, for instance.

Roland FP-30 Keyboard Piano

You can find it at Guitar Center here.

3. CASIO PX-S1000

Another great 88-key option, the Casio PX-S1000 features keys with hammer weighting, key resistance, damper position and key release time. Boiling that down: it simulates a real piano extremely well, allowing full expression of every note. This digital piano also features bluetooth playback, USB connection and a touch panel that turns dark when not in use. The Casio PX-S1000 weighs under 25 pounds, takes 42.7% less space than previous keyboards of the same model and is much smaller than similar keyboards of some other brands. Despite this, you don’t have to compromise on quality or a convincing piano sound.

CASIO PX-S1000 Keyboard Piano

You can find it at Guitar Center here.

 

COMPACT KEYBOARDS

If you don’t have space or money for a full 88-key instrument, or you want something that’s more lightweight and easier to travel with, there are a few compact options available. However, these smaller compact keyboards aren’t a compromise when it comes to sounding great or being able to play your favorite songs.

1. ROLAND GO:PIANO

Here we have another recommendation from Roland. The new GO:PIANO is lightweight, has built in sounds and speakers, and connects wirelessly to your mobile device with Bluetooth connectivity, making it a worthwhile alternative for the full sized Roland FP 30. Concetta Abbate, a musician based out of Brooklyn, recommends this if you tend to travel for gigs.

ROLAND GO:PIANO Keyboard

You can find it at Guitar Center here.

2. YAMAHA PIAGGERO NP-12

The Yamaha Piaggero NP-12 has 61 keys instead of 88, but does have an octave shift mode which will allow you to hit those higher or lower registers. In other words, despite its smaller size, you can play a wide range of notes with the Yamaha Piaggero NP-12. Some other features of this compact keyboard we like include the auto power off mode and the ability to play with batteries or power adapter (this is not included, so be sure to add one to your cart if you go with this model!), making this a great portable keyboard. This keyboard has MIDI output as well, but you need a USB adapter to connect to your phone. Our team says: “very nice sound and I love the feel of the keys – similar to real piano.”

YAMAHA PIAGGERO NP-12 Piano Keyboard

You can find it at Guitar Center here.

3. YAMAHA P-121

The Yamaha P-121 is a compact digital piano with 73 keys that combines incredible piano performance with a user-friendly minimalist design. Easily portable and extremely accessible, this instrument allows you to experience the joy of playing the piano on your terms. The Yamaha P-121 also comes with a feature called “Stereophonic Optimizer” that promises a sound similar to a real acoustic piano. Use this feature when playing with headphones for an immersive acoustic piano experience.

Yamaha P-121 Keyboard Piano

You can find this at Guitar Center here.

4. IK MULTIMEDIA iRig Keys I/O

For a truly compact, lightweight and easily portable keyboard we can recommend the IK Multimedia iRig Keys I/O with 49 keys. This small MIDI-keyboard is an affordable option with an integrated audio card, so you can connect a guitar or mic to it as well. This keyboard comes also with touch sensitive and programmable sliders, knobs and multicolored pads. The IK Multimedia iRig Keys I/O is also great together with mobile devices, such as the iPad, as well as your computer. You can get an even smaller and more compact version of this keyboard with 25 keys.

IK MULTIMEDIA iRig Keys I/O

You can find both the 49 and 25-key version of the keyboard on Amazon or the official IK Multimedia page.

 

Learn to play keyboard with Yousician

Once you’ve picked the best beginner keyboard for you, it’s time to start playing. Whether you’re a beginner or a more experienced keyboard player already, Yousician is the best place to play and develop your piano or keyboard skills. Download the Yousician app on your computer or mobile device on iOS and Android.

Check out our other beginner instrument guides as well where we introduce some great picks for beginner guitarists as well as ukulele and bass guitar players.

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