The all too familiar question I get from almost everyone interested in learning piano for themselves or for their children: What should I buy?
Well, shopping for a keyboard is overwhelming because…there are so many choices, all in so many different price ranges. Weighted vs semiweighted? 88 keys or 61 keys? Or what about 49 keys? What is going on here?! Well, look no further. I will explain everything you need to know about all different types of keyboards and which will be best for your budget!
How many keys do I need?
Ok. Let’s start with the keyboard size. An acoustic piano (grand or upright) come in one size, and that is 88 keys. So right away, if you want to have a keyboard capable of playing everything that you can on a real piano, then you will want 88 keys. They are a bit pricier but will last you a lifetime of playing as you will never need to upgrade (depending on weighted keys which I will a bit below).
Now, you can learn on keyboards that have less keys. Just think of it this way, the less keys you have, the less music you will be able to play or create on your keyboard. To simply learn the concepts or piano, you can have as little as 25 keys. But you will be very limited in what you are able to play and you will not build the true technique you need to play a real piano.
So I usually recommend keyboards between 61-88 keys as they will last you much longer as you progress in your piano playing.
Weighted vs semi-weighted vs non-weighted?
This feature on keyboards is what really throws many people off. The weight of the keys is based off the feel of a real piano (grand/upright). The keys of a real piano have keys that are fairly heavy and require decent finger strength and training to press down and play with ultimate feeling and expression.
So once again, if you want to be able to play everything that you would be capable of playing on a real piano, weighted is the way to go. If you do not have fully weighted, it will not stop you from learning. Very young children may benefit from non fully weighted as their fingers are not strong enough to play a fully weighted. However, in the long run, fully weighted is always recommended. If you cannot get that, try and get at least semi-weighted! Most weighted keyboards only come with 88 key keyboards. Therefore, you will be spending at least $300 for a brand new fully sized/fully weighted keyboard.
DO NOT LET THAT TURN YOU AWAY!
If that is out of your budget, there are 2 options to make this more affordable. Many people sell used keyboards and pianos for much cheaper. I actually bought a used upright piano for $250 and it works great! So before spending on brand new, search your local area for used keyboards. Be sure to thoroughly check that the keys all work and everything is functioning.
The other option is to purchase through an online music retailer such as Sweetwater.com or GuitarCenter as they now offer interest free financing for most keyboards so that you can pay off a keyboard for as low as $20/month. I have bought plenty of gear from both of these places!
What about the knobs/faders and other features?
Now comes the part where your reason for getting a keyboard steps into play. Are you strictly looking to use your keyboard as a piano, or do you plan on using it to produce music one day as well as play live shows?
If you are looking to just play piano, don’t go for knobs/faders/sounds/etc as they will just add onto your price. These features are generally used for music producers or live musicians who need access to special effects as well as different sounds. I will not get into the full details as that is not the purpose of this post, but the more features your keyboard has, the more it will cost. Hence why you might find a 49 key keyboard for $2000.
However, additional sounds are a nice option to have to use your piano as an electric piano or organ. Many keyboards will come with a few different sounds so check to see before purchasing. Young children also love messing with sounds and I always strongly encourage parents to let them use the sounds as they please.
The other feature which seems small but many people look past are built-in speakers and a headphone slot. Most if not all keyboards will have a slot in the back for headphones (You will usually just need a 1/4 inch adapter). But many do not have built in speakers. I personally always prefer speakers as headphones can get annoying after long periods of time.
So what’s the verdict?
Well, unfortunately there is no 1 size fits all. If your budget is only $50-100 and there is no used ones available in your area, you may have to settle for 49 keys unweighted. But that is okay. You can still learn the concepts and learn to play songs. Once again, you will just be limited as to what you can play because you are using a smaller range. So don’t be expecting to play any Chopin or Debussy with only 49 keys. Also important to note, it does not matter whether you are buying a keyboard for a 4 year old or 40 year old, the same concepts still apply. Here are my recommendations in different size/price ranges.
88 Keys & Fully Weighted
Here’s a couple different keyboards and other materials in different price ranges. If you get the Alesis Recital Pro (1st link), it comes with a music stand but you’ll need to buy a pedal. The pedal will be in the 5th link. If you get the Yamaha P45 (2nd link), it comes with the pedal and music stand. However, the pedal that comes with this one is not great, so you’d probably still be better off buying the pedal in link 5. You still need to get a stand for either keyboard itself. The 3rd link is a stand/bench combo you can buy. You could always use a chair though instead of a bench. But if your chair has armrests that can get annoying, The 4th link is just for the stand by itself but it is a nicer stand that is more adjustable. The 6th link is an all in one. Pricier of course, but has all the bells and whistles and everything included (pedal, stand, music stand, and bench).
If you are not ready to get a fully sized/fully weighted, these are some other great options!
88 Keys – Non/Semi Weighted
61 Keys – Non/semi weighted
49 Keys & Below – Nonweighted
If you need any additional info or just want to chat more, please never hesitate to reach out to me. I love helping people get started learning piano as I know how overwhelming it can be. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (747) 201-7677.