If you’re looking for a complete guide to finding the best piano keyboard in 2018, you’re in the right spot!
In this comprehensive guide we cover the difference between a keyboard and digital piano; the best brands of piano keyboard, including the best piano keyboard for beginners, for kids, and on a budget; important tips for buying a piano keyboard and for learning how to play...
And – as they say in late night infomercials – so much more!
Let's dig in:
Difference Between Keyboard and Digital Piano
When it comes to keyboards and digital pianos, many presume they are the same thing. However there are a few key differences which are important to know so you don’t buy the wrong product…
The two instruments are designed to serve two different purposes. A digital piano is designed to replicate the sound of an acoustic piano. This is for ease of use, as there are quite a few barriers that would prevent someone from buying an acoustic piano.
One of the obvious barriers is that acoustic pianos are difficult to place in your home for a number of reasons. Not only are they expensive, but they take up a lot of space and not everyone who is learning the piano has that kind of room; they are also not easily transported from one place to another. Not only are they expensive, they don’t have a volume button which can turn them down or a socket for your headphones so you can play without disturbing others.
They also require a lot more maintenance than you’d need with a digital piano. While they are one of the most beautiful instruments, they aren’t the most convenient items to own.
What is a Digital Piano?
Digital pianos are clearly meant to be a bridge to help people overcome these obstacles. They allow any aspiring musician to practice playing on the likes of an acoustic piano from the comfort of their own bedroom.
The aim for the design is to try and make that experience as real as possible by having the same feel and functionality as an acoustic piano so that you can seamlessly transport your skills when you get your hands on the bigger instrument.
There is clearly only so much you can replicate and a lot of that depends on the type of digital piano that you can get. You do a good job of replicating that experience of the concert hall, but with all the benefits that come with having a more portable device.
What is a Piano Keyboard?
In contrast, keyboards are an instrument on their own and while they were developed originally to replicate the sound of the piano, they aren’t meant to be a training ground for something else. They can clearly be a way into playing an acoustic piano, but keyboards are associated with a varying degree of sounds and are generally used for a different type of music.
Given the difficult nature of acoustic pianos, keyboards were made to make the whole process easier by being smaller, lighter and easier to maintain. As the technology improved, they were able to make an ever-growing number of different sounds and voices that can be used in a wide variety of music; they can make sounds that are completely alien to the acoustic piano.
The synthesized sounds are what set the keyboard apart in this aspect, as you’ll hear them on a wide range of songs with sounds that don’t remotely relate to a more traditional piano. They can also come in a variety of different sizes, and not always the 88 keys that is the most familiar set-up for a piano.
Can You Learn Piano on a Keyboard?
Generally, playing the keyboard will give you good knowledge on how to transfer those skills to a piano, but there are a few important factors that can determine how effective it will be…
An electric keyboard can come in a range of prices with a range of different features. It can be hard to choose one which will give you the piano experience you are looking for.
As mentioned before, keyboards can come in all shapes and sizes. The reasons for buying a small keyboard may just be that you are a complete beginner and want to learn the ropes, but it’s always for the best to opt for a full-sized keyboard.
A piano will have 88 keys, separated into white and black, and if you want to learn piano on a keyboard then you need to make sure you’re getting an 88 key version. If you have a smaller keyboard, there’s no need to fear; the vast majority of piano music is played on the middle keys so there is plenty of music to be learned before you’ll be required to use all of those 88 keys.
One of the main differences between the piano and the keyboard are the actual keys themselves. When you push down a key on the piano, you are starting a mechanical process that ends with a wonderful note.
When you press the key down, the mechanism moves a hammer which then strikes a metal string which ends up giving you your note.
The more softly you press a note, the lighter the sound will be. The harder you press a key, the faster the hammer will travel and therefore the sound will be a lot louder and heavier.
This is an acoustic process to leave you with a new sound every time. The act of pressing down the key is a process to be learned and knowing how hard you should press certain keys only comes with experience.
For keyboards, replicating this experience is difficult. The cheaper models simply don’t do it and just play the recording of a sound that they are programmed to do. Others are touch sensitive and will make a louder sound the harder the key is pressed, which is a lot more useful when it comes to learning how to play the piano. You’ll want to make sure your keyboard is at least touch sensitive, which all decent models will be.
The more advanced models take it a step further and try to replicate the feel and sound of weighted keys. You have the feel of pressing down on the weight of the hammer, and this gives you a much more rewarding experience. This false feeling of moving the hammer is the best possible way to replicate that piano experience on the keyboard.
While you’ll never quite get that feel of a real piano when you’re playing a keyboard, they can be very useful as a training ground for the real thing. The best keyboards do a very good job of replicating the experience of the sound and the weight of the keys. As your level of expertise grows, then you will want to grow the quality of the machine that you’re playing on.
So a good keyboard is good for learning to play the piano. You can never quite beat the real thing however, so it’s always best to mix in your learning with trying to find time to practice on an upright piano, be that at music lessons or elsewhere. If you’re starting on your journey, a good keyboard will be just fine.
Best Piano Keyboard Brands 2018
Yamaha Piano Keyboard
Yamaha and keyboards go hand in hand and they are as famous for their instruments as they are for their motorcycles. They offer keyboards for the whole range of levels and you’ll always find something that suits your level. They are constantly on the edge of technology, so you’ll always know that their models are up to date.
A lot of their sample sounds for their keyboard come from their famed acoustic concert grand piano, so a great sound is assured. The brand prides itself as being a market leader, offering great value and high quality.
Casio Piano Keyboards
Casio were once famous for good, cheap watches, but their reputation has increased over the years as they have been a leader in the manufacture of musical instruments, especially keyboards. Their respect in the industry has grown and have now become a trustworthy brand.
Casio’s Privia and Celviano ranges especially have received a high amount of critical acclaim with high-class hammer and sound technology. The keyboards that they offer are in the affordable price range and have a high level of reliability making them a sound investment.
Roland Digital Pianos
The sound of a Roland digital piano is taken from an acoustic Steinway concert grand piano. This means that they all have the warm tones associated with it. The sound is realistic and the keys have a realistic feel when compared to acoustic pianos.
Roland digital pianos are well-made instruments whose sound quality cannot be denied. They offer a wide range available for players with a wide range of abilities, meaning you’ll always find something for your needs if you choose a Roland.
Korg Digital Pianos
The range, durability and solid craftsmanship from Korg make them a very popular choice for musicians who regularly travel. For a like-for-like machine, you are looking at less cost than the likes of a Yamaha or a Roland, partly due to them being a lesser-known brand.
Korg digital pianos are of the highest quality and they have excellent sound, one of their specialties is in their weighted keys which rank among the best in the industry. They offer a classic sound with a contemporary look.
Kurzweil Digital Pianos
Kurzweil digital pianos are generally on the more expensive range of the spectrum, and they are designed for the more professional musician. While not being designed for beginners, a beginner wouldn’t take a long time to be comfortable with a Kurzweil.
Kurzweil digital pianos have the highest levels of craftsmanship, durability and quality. You get what you pay for, and the extra cost of a Kurzweil is found in that reliability as well as its incredible sound and numerous features.
How to Buy a Piano Keyboard: What to Look For
One of the most important things to consider is how many keys the keyboard has.
If you are a beginner or on a budget, then it may be appealing to buy one with less than the 88 keys that come with a full-sized piano or keyboard. As you progress, you will end up with an 88-key instrument, so the best advice would be to try and opt for the full 88 keys.
Using a smaller machine can be less daunting and more affordable than a full keyboard, so you need to find what’s most comfortable for you.
Before buying a keyboard, you have to know what you’re going to be using it for. If your plan is to be playing the grand piano in front of audiences, then you will most likely want to opt for a digital piano or not worry about a keyboard having any features or synthesizers.
Alternatively, if you are using it to make pop or electro music, you will want one with more features and extras that will vary the sound. It’s all about opting for an instrument that suits your needs.
The keys are a vital part of the quality and learning of the instrument.
As discussed earlier, on an acoustic piano you press down on a key and a hammer hits a metal string as harshly as you pressed the key. The lighter you press the key, the softer the note. On a keyboard, a digital note is played; you want this note to reflect how hard you pressed the key and you want that key to have a resistance to help you control the note.
If you want to learn how to play correctly, then you need to buy a keyboard that has touch sensitive and weighted keys.
If you’re just starting out or on a budget, then the temptation is always there to opt for a cheaper model.
If you go down this route, then you will probably find yourself getting a more sophisticated machine when you start to progress, and this adds to the cost when you could have purchased the right instrument at first.
Buying one secondhand is a good way to get around this. For children this is less important, as you wouldn’t want them overwhelmed and they could be too small for a full-sized keyboard.
There are three major reasons why someone wouldn’t be able to have an acoustic piano in their home: space, cost and transport.
Even the smaller acoustic pianos take up a lot of space, as they generally require a dedicated area on which to be played and unlike a keyboard, they can’t be put away for future use. There are digital piano’s that sit on a stand and can act like a regular piano. These do well to replicate the feeling of playing an acoustic piano.
Keyboards don’t have the cost or transport issues associated with a piano. The variance between different keyboards can be quite vast, and finding one that can adequately cover for a piano can be tough.
There are a few features which can make your keyboard feel like a realistic piano experience. One of these ways is with pedals. If you don’t buy a keyboard that comes with pedals, it would be important to find one that accommodates the use of pedals for that authentic experience.
Weighted and touch-sensitive keys are also important and should come as standard on all good models. Not just that; if you want to have a keyboard that can mimic a piano, it will have to have 88 keys – not only 88 keys, but they need to be fully sized which is a shortcut that can be found in some models.
Another thing to consider is the piano sounds as the best models will be perfectly sampled and give you the feeling as if you were in a concert hall. If you don’t have a digital piano with its own sound, then you’ll want to make sure you have an adjustable stand to give you a comfortable playing experience. If you want to be able to transport your skills easily from one to another, then it’s important to factor in all these aspects so that you can easily adapt between the different instruments.
Best Piano Keyboards in 2018 (Overall)
In this section we briefly cover our picks for the overall best piano keyboards in 2018. In the following sections we cover the best piano keyboards for beginners, kids, budget, and with weighted keys.
Here we go:
When Yamaha releases a new digital piano, you can expect the best, and that’s what you get from the YPG-235. It markets itself as a portable grand piano, but with 76 keys.
These keys are fully sized and have a graded soft-touch feature that will give you the feel of the real thing. The sound quality is predictably brilliant, and it offers the ease of use that is synonymous with Yamaha.
Professionals will be happy with it, and it’s friendly enough for beginners. It is full of technology, including the ability to download songs to play along to.
The Williams Legato offers the full 88 keys, which are semi-weighted. This is on the cheaper end of the scale so is a great route in for those looking for an affordable piano keyboard. The sound can be layered to produce two sounds at the same time, and it has a high degree of functionality.
It provides great sound and proves to be a very tempting option away from the well-known brands.
The Yamaha P115 is another keyboard with 88 keys. They are weighted in a way to match an acoustic piano as they are heavier in the low end of the scale and lighter in the higher end of the scale. Its sound mimics that of Yamaha’s own CFIIIS 9’ grand piano so you know you are doing to get an incredible sound from the machine.
It has many features and Yamaha have moved along with the times by creating an app that will let you control many of the features from your phone or tablet.
The Yamaha DGX-660 is a keyboard piano that will let you bring out your inner pop star, or dream of playing in the concert halls. It has 88 weighted keys but also includes a microphone so you can sing along to your playing. It is a fully immersive digital keyboard that gives you many features that will transport you to all types of venues in your mind.
Recording performance sound is easy and also its LCD display can show songs you have written yourself, as well as a host of others.
The Yamaha DGX650B is great for when you want to take your piano playing to the next level, the digital grand piano has 88 weighted keys that mimic an acoustic piano.
With the use of pedals you can really get a feel for what playing an acoustic piano is like and is a great option for those wishing to pursue a career; it is well made and easy enough to use for any level of player to be able to enjoy the experience.
Best Piano Keyboard for Beginners (2018)
The Axus Digital AXP25 is a fantastic entry-level keyboard which will be able to educate and engage any player. It has 61 keys, which are touch sensitive and boasts 300 voices in 200 styles. It is ideal for a beginner who won’t be too intimidated by the instrument.
It looks good, is easy to play and has a high level of features. Two of these features are a chord dictionary as well as a lesson function for easy learning.
The Casio CTK-1500 is a great keyboard for the young beginner. Trying to get a child interested in anything can be difficult, as they are unlikely to like playing keyboard just for the sake of playing; there has to be a fun element, and that’s what this Casio provides.
It has an LCD, numerous tones, rhythms and songs, and a headphone jack that will enable silent practice. It was built to teach and has lesson songs and well as other useful features to get someone playing for the first time.
Yamahas are never the cheapest instruments, but the PSRE363 is a very affordable keyboard for beginners. Again, it comes with 61 keys which is great for a beginner and they are touch sensitive.
It has an inbuilt 9-step lesson function which is great for learning. It’s a keyboard that you wouldn’t grow out of quickly due to the quality of its keys and sound. You can easily switch from fun, creative sounds to a beautiful grand piano.
Another great beginner keyboard from Casio is the CTK-6200 which will easily take you on the path from complete beginner to an accomplished level in no time. It has an LCD screen with 61 keys that are in the piano style and are touch sensitive.
It has the ability to connect to an audio device as well as having a recording system. It is a versatile instrument that can easily switch modes for when you want to be serious, or have a bit more fun.
For a beginner who is seriously committed to learning how to play the keyboard, there is the Yamaha Piaggero NP32. It has authentic piano tones that can be played with its 76 graded soft touch keys.
It has USB to Host, a headphone socket, a power adaptor connection and sustain pedal connectivity for all your technology needs. This is a more classical model for a beginner with serious ambitions to play the piano.
Best Budget Piano Keyboard (2018)
If you’re looking for a budget piano, then the Yamaha YPG-235 would be a great starting point. With budget keyboards, it usually means you might have to sacrifice. With the YPG-235 that means not having weighted keys, but this also means that the keys are light and easy to play, which can be great for beginners.
It comes with pre-programmed songs and the Yamaha Education suite which is great for those just starting out.
The Williams Legato is another great budget keyboard. Its keys are semi-weighted which strikes a nice balance between being easy to play and meaning you can more easily transition to an acoustic piano.
It has all the settings you need with piano, electric piano, organ, synth, and bass modes. Full-length budget keyboards aren’t easy to find, and this is a great entry keyboard to a lifetime of playing.
The Yamaha NP32 is another keyboard that has graded soft touch keys which means that it’s very easy to play. It has a compact size, so to transport it from one place to the next place is very easy.
It has a recording function which means you can record your practice session and record your improvement. It connects to Yamaha’s new app platform, which is a great new feature from the well-known brand.
For a budget keyboard, the Williams Allegro 2 packs in a lot of technology with some great sound. It has the full 88 keys, which are weighted, and features an impressive LCD display. It is very easy to use and is great for both of those on a budget as well as those looking for a great beginner instrument.
It’s a fun machine what will keep you on engaged and coming back for more.
The NP12 61-key Entry-Level Piaggero Ultra-Portable Digital Piano from Yamaha sells itself in its name. It is designed to be a shorter and more portable keyboard on account of it only having 61 keys. The keys are non-weighted and are made to be easy to use as an entry level model.
Due to its size, if you have piano ambitions then it may be best selecting another model, but this is a great keyboard for those starting out with the instrument.
Best Piano Keyboard for Kids (2018)
The Yamaha PSR-E263 is a great keyboard for kids. It has 61 keys which is a great number for being able to have a great understanding of octaves and scales, but not too big to be overwhelming. Yamaha’s Education Suite Lesson is a wonderful feature from the brand that makes learning easy.
This keyboard is a fantastic keyboard teacher in itself as well as having over 400 instrument sounds as well as having a ‘duo mode’ so that a child can split the keyboard and learn with a friend or teacher.
The Piaggero NP12 is another great offering from Yamaha for kids, especially those who are more interested in a classic piano sound. This is a keyboard that is great for learning but won’t be obsolete when the child becomes more advanced and wants to play more complicated pieces.
It has great recording features and the ability to connect to apps, meaning the young leaner has a vast resource of teaching, but also fun as well.
Casio offers the CDP-130 which has the full 88 weighted keys which allow for a dedicated young musician to have the advantage of having the feel of an acoustic piano from an early age. It has 10 different tones, so your child will be able to play with various styles and add a bit more fun to their playing.
However, this keyboard is one for those who have serious ambition to play piano music as it requires more attention and focus.
Compared to the Casio, the Roland Go: Piano GO-61P is a smaller keyboard with 61 keys. It has the usual Roland piano sounds, but also fun electric piano, drum and organ sounds as well. It’s a very portable instrument, with a lot of features that make it very easy for beginners. You also get access to their Sloove platform for a limited time, which is a great learning tool. It’s a keyboard that was made for learning.
The Yamaha P-45 is the best piano keyboard for beginners but is it the best digital piano 2018? It’s an all-round great instrument and can give you any experience that you’re looking for whether that is classical, pop or fun. Its keys are weighted, but easy to play and it can be easily transported. It has a vast array of sounds and your child will be able to grow with this keyboard from beginner to expert.
Best Piano Keyboard with Weighted Keys (2018)
The Yamaha DGX-660 88-Key Graded Hammer Action Digital Piano is a fantastic piano for numerous reasons, but its weighted keys are at the top of the range. Yamaha has different names that it gives to its different type of key actions and this has ‘Scaled Graded Hammer’ action meaning that it mimics the action of an acoustic piano but the keys matching the feel of both louder and softer notes.
This is in addition to its phenomenal sound and capability.
The Casio Privia PX-770 Digital Console Piano is another that has fantastic weighted keys, and Casio have made improvements to an already impressive range of keyboards.
The improvements come in the form of actually having hammers under the keys to replicate that mechanical action and having their ‘Tri-Sensor Scaled Hammer Action’ which has three sensors under each key so that you don’t have to release a key to its original position to play a note.
Another great offering from Yamaha is the P-115 88-Key Weighted Action Digital Piano with GHS Action which has keys that are very hard to differentiate from a real acoustic piano and also has the kind of sound that will blow you away.
It features Yamaha’s ‘Graded Hammer Standard’ (GHS) on a keyboard that also has plenty of function and sound which easily transforms from an acoustic replica to an effects keyboard.
Korg also offers one of the best keyboards with weighted keys with their LP-380 model. They also strive for a realistic playing experience and achieve it with this model. It plays dynamic and well-rounded tones with a volume control that is very similar to an acoustic piano.
That realism with the keys is matched by its realism in sound and this keyboard has that signature Korg sound that they have become famous for.
The Kawai ES110 Portable Digital Piano is another heavyweight in the world of weighted keys but is an interesting option as it’s also light and very portable. Its keyboard has beautifully weighted keys which are great value when compared to more expensive models.
They have a high level of sensitivity and this keyboard would be a great choice if you’re looking for a world-class keyboard that is also easy to take from one place to another.
How to Play Piano Keyboard: 5 Tips to Speed Up Your Progress
It’s easy to look at world-class musicians and be fascinated about how quickly they can play notes. You may want to copy your favorite songs and copy its rhythm right away. It’s important however to slow down and instead focus on your accuracy.
It’s much more important at the start to play the notes 100% accurately, and the speed will eventually come to you in time.
Watch and Learn
Learning the piano, as with anything, takes time and understanding. Watching a pianist, picking out notes and seeing the technique they have is a great way for you to feel comfortable about the way you’re going to play.
Once you have the listening mastered, you’ll be able to hear a piece of music and automatically be able to play it back, but that requires years of practice.
Learning the piano requires a lot of practice and there are no shortcuts. If you’re struggling however, it can be easy to put off playing for a little while. This may mean however that when you come back to the piano, you can’t pick it up where you left off.
Consistent practice is the best way to keep yourself motivated and to make sure that you never go backward in your learning process.
Whether you’re learning a new sport or an instrument, it’s tempting to be heavy handed, but that’s never the way to be. It’s always better to stay relaxed. With piano playing this is especially important with the keys as slamming down on them will cause a more unpleasant sound. Not only that, but your fingers could get sore and uncomfortable.
Relax your hands and let the keyboard work for you.
Position and Movement
It’s generally thought that the best way to play is starting with the right hand and using two hands to play can take up a lot of practice. Learning on each hand first is a lot easier and will advance yourself more quickly than trying to battle through with both hands.
Once you are comfortable with each hand, you can then moving to both hands to perfect your piano playing.
Benefits of Playing Piano Keyboard
Playing a piano or keyboard is a wonderful way to spend your time, but there also a key number of benefits that come from sitting down and playing beautiful music.
There have been quite a few studies however that have shown that it can also positively influence you in many different ways.
One of the key areas where playing can be of great benefit is with stress relief. Playing the piano can be calming as the rhythm of the keys helps take any anxious thought out of your mind. The modern, fast paced world we live in can be stressful, taking the time to sit down and play can change the pace of your life and soothe your soul.
It’s often been found that playing instruments can have a positive impact of the crippling mental health issues of anxiety and depression. It can improve your self-esteem too and the benefits aren’t just mental, having less stress will also reduce your blood pressure.
Playing the piano to a high standard isn’t easy, and teaches you to do multiple tasks all at the same time as you try and concentrate on numerous different aspects. Not only does playing the piano require both hands to be used simultaneously, but you are also reading the music, listening to what you’re playing and using your pedals.
There are a lot of multitasking skills needed in life, and the expertise needed with them will be helped by piano playing.
While playing the piano to virtuoso level will take many years of practice and experience, the base level of skill required to enjoy the piano is very low. It also doesn’t take a physical toll on the body.
A new guitar player may get very sore fingertips, a brass or woodwind player has to build up strong facial muscles. With a piano you can just sit down and play. After a short time you’ll be able to a simple tune, and then you can build on that.
Improves Brain Health
Piano playing is used a lot of times with people returning from brain injury and also to help people with conditions like attention disorders. There is a reason for that as piano playing has a very positive impact on the brain. It helps strengthen synaptic connections which will help you in all aspects of life. It will help to improve your memory, improve your attention span and helps develop language.
If you’re looking for an instrument to improve your brain, then look no further than the piano.
Improve School Performance
There is a link between being able to play a musical instrument and having higher grade scores. This is most likely due to the increased levels of focus and concentration that you would develop from learning the piano. Beyond school age you can take those same skills into any tests that you may have to complete in later life.
That ability to retain information like you would with retaining musical notes can only help you in everyday life.
Improve Physical Health
As mentioned before, playing the piano can help to reduce your stress levels. Not only does stress have a negative impact on your mental health, it can also manifest itself in numerous physical symptoms too. As well as helping with this, playing the piano will also improve your dexterity and hand-eye coordination.
Not only will your motor skills be strengthened, but playing piano will also improve the strength in your hands and arms as well.
Help Your Aural Ability
Aural ability is your ability to hear and pick notes. Whether you naturally have an ear for music or constantly being laughed at for being tone deaf, playing the piano will improve your ability to pick out sounds. It will help you identify different pitches and tones that will not only help you when you are playing the piano, but will also help you in everyday life as your hearing improves.
It has been shown that better aural awareness can also make picking up a foreign language a lot easier.
The Value of Constructive Criticism
The ability to take criticism is important in many areas of life. No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes, it’s the ability to learn from your mistakes and improve that defines us.
When playing the piano and being taught how to play, you have to take on a lot of constructive criticism. This will help build you as an individual and teach you that constructive criticism is there to help you and not to knock you down. You can then take that attitude into school and work life.
There are many great advantages to playing to piano. It will leave you happier while also improving both your physical and mental health, and also teaching you some great life lessons along the way.
And on that positive note, we hope our guide helps you find the piano keyboard that’s right for you, so you can enjoy the many benefits of playing this wonderful instrument!