If you’re looking for a complete guide to finding the best piano keyboard in 2018, you’re in the right spot!
On this page we provide a quick buyer's guide for newbies, explaining the difference between digital pianos and keyboards; learning piano on a keyboard; cost of piano keyboards; the best brands; how to choose the right model for your needs; and reasons to get started now!
OUR TOP 9 PIANO KEYBOARDS:
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A DIGITAL PIANO AND A KEYBOARD?
There are a few key differences between a piano keyboard and a digital piano that are important to understand so you don’t buy the wrong product…
The two instruments are designed to serve two different purposes:
Digital pianos are designed to replicate the sound and feel of an acoustic piano.
Acoustic pianos tend to be expensive, heavy, and big, which means they're just not practical for a lot of people to buy.
Digital pianos usually have a full 88 keys (the same number as an acoustic piano), and their keys are "weighted" (which means they spring back after being pressed), also like an acoustic piano. here...
Piano keyboards are often cheaper than digital pianos, and also tend to be lighter and more portable.
Piano keyboards aren't necessarily designed to sound and feel like a digital piano (although there are certainly some higher-end keyboards that feel and sound like a proper acoustic piano).
CAN I LEARN PIANO ON A KEYBOARD?
Yes, you can definitely learn to play the piano on a keyboard. BUT if your goal is to be able to eventually play on an acoustic piano (or any "full" 88-key keyboard), there are some important things you need to know:
Maybe you're buying a small keyboard because it's for your young son or daughter, and you just want a cheap keyboard they can play around on. That's fine - that's a great way to get young kids into piano.
But also keep in mind that the 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.
When you push down a key on a piano, a mechanism moves a small "hammer", which then strikes a string which ends up giving you your note.
The more softly you press a key, 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.
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.
Other keyboards are "touch-sensitive", which means they make a louder sound the harder a 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.
If you'd like to watch a video that simply explains weighted keys, check of the great video by Roland Pianos below:
HOW MUCH ARE PIANO KEYBOARDS?
The cost of a piano keyboard depends on a bunch of factors (see the list below), but here's a quick-and-dirty range of prices:
$40 - $230 will buy a good starter piano keyboard. Keyboards at the higher end of this range ($120 and above) have at least 61 keys, which is a good amount for a beginner who would like to move on to playing the piano.
$250 - $400 will buy an intermediate piano keyboard with 76 or a full 88 keys and many useful features. This is the "sweet spot" of prices, because for this investment you can buy an excellent keyboard that you can grow into and will last for years.
$600 - $800 will buy a solid intermediate-to-advanced piano keyboard. At this price range you'll get a keyboard with a full 88 keys, lots of advanced features, excellent sound quality and speakers, and often a stand to put the keyboard on.
$1,000 and above puts you in the "premium" range, where you get either a professional-calibre piano keyboard or an elegant-looking "console" digital piano that looks (and sounds) just like a traditional acoustic piano.
The cost of a piano keyboard depends on these factors:
BEST PIANO KEYBOARD BRANDS
YAMAHA PIANO KEYBOARDS
Yamaha and keyboards go hand-in-hand, and the company is as famous for their instruments as they are for their motorcycles!
Yamaha offers keyboards for the whole range of levels, so you’re guaranteed to find something that suits your level. And the company is constantly on the cutting-edge of technology, so you know their models are up-to-date.
What separates Yamaha from its competitors? Specifically:
For an overview of Yamaha, check out our Yamaha keyboards page for info on their different series and our top 9 Yamaha keyboards.
Here's a video created by Yamaha with their top 5 reasons to own a digital piano:
CASIO PIANO KEYBOARDS
Casio were once famous for cheap watches, but their reputation has greatly improved over the years, and now they're known as as a leader in musical instruments, especially keyboards.
Casio’s Privia and Celviano ranges especially have received a high amount of critical acclaim with high-class hammer and sound technology. The keyboards they offer are in the affordable price range and have a high level of reliability making them a sound investment.
What separates Casio from its competitors? Specifically:
For an overview of Casio, check out our Casio keyboards page for info on every Casio keyboard series and our top 9 Casio keyboards.
AMAZON PIANO KEYBOARDS
If you're looking for a great beginner keyboard, there are some inexpensive, good quality models that we call "made-for-Amazon" keyboards that you should definitely check out.
These keyboards aren't made by the established instrument manufacturers like Yamaha or Casio, but are produced by companies that specialize in producing good quality instruments at cut-rate prices.
These keyboards can be excellent an starter instrument for young children, or if you're just looking for a good cheap keyboard.
For information on these manufacturers, as well as our list of the top 5 best-value models, please check out our page on Amazon piano keyboards.
HOW TO CHOOSE A PIANO KEYBOARD
By choosing the right piano keyboard you'll be saving yourself money and time.
But here's an even more important reason to match your needs with the best keyboard: the wrong keyboard can be discouraging, which reduces the player's motivation to practice and improve (this is especially the case with children).
We've put a lot of thought into the things you should consider when shopping for your first keyboard. Here are the most important ones:
Budget. If you have a small budget (for example, less than $100), your choices will be limited to introductory-level keyboards with fewer keys and features than more expensive models.
Use. What will you be using the piano keyboard for? Here are the most common uses:
If you’re buying a keyboard for a child (or an beginner adult, for that matter), you’ll want to buy a model that meets these criteria:
Size. How much space do you have in your home for the keyboard? Also, if you have a small budget (for example, less than $100), your choices will be limited to introductory-level keyboards with fewer keys than more expensive models.
Portability. Will you need to transport your keyboard anywhere, like to piano class or relative's house. Then make sure you look for a keyboard that is light and portable.
Experience Level. How much do you know about playing piano? If you’re a complete newbie, you’ll want to look at models that have built-in instruction systems (like pre-recorded songs and lighted keys that show you exactly which keys to press).
Number of keys. How many keys on your keyboard do you need? Digital pianos and piano keyboards range from 25 keys to 88 keys (traditional acoustic pianos have 88 keys). The more keys, the greater the range of sound. But fewer keys can be easier to play and less confusing for new players.
Weight of keys. Do you need “weighted” keys?
“Weighted” keys are keys that spring back up by themselves after you press them (like an acoustic piano). This makes them easier on the fingers, but also makes the keyboard heavier. Again, if you want to eventually be able to play on a traditional acoustic piano, you’ll need to learn on a keyboard that is as similar to the “real” thing as possible - which means you’ll need a keyboard with weighted keys.
Related to this, consider buying a keyboard that has “touch-sensitive” keys, which means they respond in volume according to how hard or softly you play them.
Sound quality & variety. What sound quality are you looking for?
A common word used to describe the tonal range of a keyboard is “polyphony” - which means the number of tones a keyboard can play at the same time. Cheaper keyboards can play 16 tones at once, while higher-end models can play as many as 128 tones at once (which results in a richer sound).
There are two other type of sounds that you should consider when buying a keyboard: “voices” and “styles”.
A “voice” is simply any kind of sound (piano, guitar, a singer, or even sounds like birds chirping or drills); a “style” is a type of back-up accompaniment (like a jazz band, rock band, etc).
The more expensive a keyboard the more (and better) voices and styles it will have. One of the neat things about styles is you can choose - for example - a jazz band to back you up while playing the keyboard. This can be HUGELY motivating for a new player, because it makes them feel like they’re a professional pianist!
The video below has a great overview of voices and styles on a keyboard:
Accessories. Some piano keyboards come as "bundles" with accessories like headphones, a microphone, and more.
At a minimum, choose a keyboard that comes with an adjustable stand. Putting your keyboard on the dining room table might seem like a good way to save a little money, but correct posture and arm position is extremely important in learning to play the piano properly.
Compatibility with other devices. Do you want your keyboard to be able to communicate with other devices, like your computer?
If you by a keyboard with “MIDI output” (which stands for “Musical Instrument Digital Interface”), you can connect your keyboard to your computer. Why would you want to do that? If you would like to go beyond just playing songs on your keyboard and want to get into creating your own music. But if you’re a beginner and just want to learn how to play the piano, this feature won’t be necessary.
WHY SHOULD I PLAY A PIANO KEYBOARD?
Over the past ten years there's been an explosion in scientific research into playing an instrument...
(If you're interested in learning how the piano benefits your brain, improves children's academic achievement, and much more, make sure to check out our article on the benefits of playing piano.)
Here are just a few reasons why you should consider taking up the piano keyboard (and if you have children? Definitely get them into it!):
Easy Instrument to Start
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 play a simple tune, and then you can build on that.
Improve Brain Health
Piano playing is sometimes used on people recovering 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 connections in the brain, which helps in many aspects of life, from memory to attention span to language skills.
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 grades. 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.
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 anxious thoughts 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.
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 and boosts self-esteem.
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!