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Buying a Piano or Keyboard: Advice for Beginners

by Bruce Siegel on December 16th, 2015

People sometimes ask me: Can I (or my child) learn to play on a keyboard, or do I need a real piano?

You can learn to play using a keyboard. Many of my students have done so.

Still, at some point, depending on your interests, you may find yourself itching to get an acoustic. Here are some thoughts on both sides of the divide.

Keyboards have a number of advantages. They’re usually less expensive, and, unlike pianos, they don’t require tuning (which can cost anywhere from $125 to $190 and should be done at least twice a year).

Many keyboards also boast a variety of instrumental sounds, and, if used with headphones, can enable late-night practice that won’t disturb others.

Despite all that, I myself usually prefer to play on an acoustic instrument, especially for the classical repertoire I so enjoy. While electronic instruments are getting closer and closer to duplicating the sound and feel of the piano, they still have a ways to go. For a nuanced sound with the most subtle dynamic shadings, the choice is clear. (See this post, though.)

But in the beginning stages, a keyboard will serve you well, assuming you get one with:

•Touch sensitivity. A keyboard with this feature enables you to vary the volume of sound of each individual note, just as you can with a piano. The more force that’s applied to the key, the louder the sound.

•Weighted keys. With a piano, you feel a certain resistance each time you play a note. (Because pressing a key does the work of raising a hammer.) This resistance is desirable because it makes it easier to control how loud or soft you’re playing. Keyboards with weighted keys strive to emulate the touch of a piano.

Often, you can save money by foregoing a multitude of digital sounds and options, and purchasing a keyboard that is primarily designed for piano lovers.

Two relatively inexpensive keyboards in the latter category are the Casio PX-160 and the Yamaha P115.

Don’t worry about making a perfect choice right off the bat. Buying your first instrument is tricky because to understand what sound and feel you’ll want to live with over the years, you need to actually start playing and practicing.

Fortunately, the instruments I just mentioned are in the $500 range, so your initial investment doesn’t have to be huge.


  1. Bob Gomez permalink

    I’ve wanted to play the piano for a long time but most lessons I’ve seen on the internet have been to difficult and time consuming to learn. Your lessons seem simpler to learn than what I’ve seen. I’m almost sure that I’ll be subscribing so I can learn how to play the instrument I love better.

  2. Bruce Siegel permalink

    Glad to hear it, Bob! Let me know if i can be of help.


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