Congratulations on the decision to purchase a digital piano! Adding music to your life is a wonderful choice, whether it’s for you or a family member.
Learning music is beneficial for your mind and a real creative outlet, especially as you progress.
If you’re new to music, or to the keyboard, keep reading for our guide to how to choose the best beginner keyboard, the best piano brands on the market, and reviews of some top models so you can find the best beginner keyboard for your needs.
- 2017 Digital Piano Buyer’s Guide: The Basics
- Best Digital Piano Brands
2017 Digital Piano Buyer’s Guide: The Basics
To start, like most people, you’re probably considering your budget when you start looking for the best piano keyboard for beginners.
Although it’s possible to find keyboards for less than $100, they are generally considered more portable keyboards and sometimes even “toy” keyboards.
Depending on the age and interest level of the intended player, these very inexpensive keyboards may not be able to grow with the musician.
That said, it’s also quite possible to spend $1,000 or more to get the best electric piano from the best digital piano brands.
It is absolutely not necessary to spend that much, especially when you’re just starting out.
If your budget allows for it, a high quality keyboard piano over $1,000 will last you for years and will often look similar to an acoustic upright piano in your home.
These “home digital” pianos aren’t meant to be portable – they’re designed to take the place of an acoustic piano. We’ll talk more about this later.
For now, know that wherever your budget may be, there’s a high quality keyboard piano that can meet your needs and your budget.
You’ll want to get the best digital piano for beginners your budget allows for, so let’s discuss what to look for in your search for a best buy piano keyboard.
How Many Keys
It seems like a simple question – how many keys do you want on your keyboard? Although you could say, “however many are supposed to be on it,” the answer actually varies.
A standard acoustic piano has 88 black and white keys. Digital pianos may have 88 keys, 76 keys, 61 keys, or even fewer for toy or synthesizer keyboards.
As you may have guessed, although a full-size keyboard with 88 keys will generally cost more than a smaller keyboard, it’s easy to find affordable 88-key keyboards from good piano brands.
A 61-key keyboard would be best suited for either a musician looking for a lightweight, portable second instrument, or a very early beginner just looking for a basic instrument to get started with.
As the player grows as a musician, they’ll encounter songs that require keys a 61-key keyboard just doesn’t have.
76-key keyboards are a good middle ground between the 61-key and 88-key keyboards.
They add enough range for just about any song a beginning or intermediate player will be playing, and the quality is often a bit higher.
These keyboards are still often marketed toward musicians needing a portable instrument.
A full 88-key keyboard is a great option for any level of player.
Professionals in need of a portable or second/backup instrument will enjoy the full range having all 88 keys offers, and beginners needn’t worry about outgrowing the instrument’s range as their ability develops.
Along with the number of keys, it’s important to consider the key size.
Many 61 or fewer key keyboards have “mini” keys or another type of key that isn’t quite as large as a key on a standard acoustic piano.
While this may be okay for a very young student (under age 6 or so) looking to have an instrument just for fun, the best keyboard for kids to learn piano has full-size keys, no matter how many keys it has.
Smaller keys mean that when a player sits at a standard acoustic piano, the muscle memory would lead to playing wrong notes as they won’t be reaching the correct key with their fingers.
Touch response is very important when shopping for the best keyboard for beginners.
If you take a look at nearly any piece of music, you’ll notice dynamic markings that tell the player how loud or soft to play a note.
A beginning pianist needs to be able to hear those differences when playing in order to learn how to play softly or loudly.
Many of the smaller or “toy” keyboards will not have touch response, and this means every key will sound at the same volume, no matter how hard it is pressed.
A good electric piano for beginners will have touch response to allow the player’s hands and ears to develop.
The action on a digital piano describes how the sound is made. Of course, on a traditional acoustic piano, sound is made by pressing a key, which moves a hammer to strike a string.
All of this movement together makes up the action on a piano.
With a digital piano, the action can be as simple as each key being connected to a sensor that plays the sound when the key is pressed.
Or the action can be more involved – even to the point where a real hammer action is included inside the piano.
Why would the type of action matter on a digital piano?
The answer lies in how the keys move. A digital piano that uses only sensors may have keys that are very lightweight, which won’t allow the player to develop finger strength.
The keys may not be able to bounce back to their original position as quickly as they don’t have a counter weight.
This also ties into whether the keys are weighted or not as an actual hammer action will, by design, have weighted keys.
A high quality keyboard piano will have some type of weighted keys. This means there’s not only a sensor but also a weight in the action.
It requires weight in the hand of the player to press the key down, and students will develop finger strength and flexibility by playing weighted keys.
All acoustic pianos have a “weighted” action as the weights hold the keys in place when they are not being played, but many digital pianos do not.
Especially among cheaper or less expensive models, it may be difficult to find a keyboard with weighted keys.
It is possible to select an electronic piano without weighted keys that has a touch response, so keep in mind they are two different aspects of the instrument.
Lighter weight or more portable keyboards are less likely to have weighted keys because, as the name suggests, the weights in the keys make the keyboards themselves heavier.
Types of Tones
Acoustic pianos have just one tone: acoustic piano. One great feature of digital keyboards is they often have a variety of voices to choose from.
Some of the best piano brands focus more on emulating acoustic pianos and therefore have fewer tones to choose from.
These instruments are often selected in place of an acoustic piano and fall under the home digital piano category.
Many digital pianos offer a wide range of voices from acoustic piano tones to woodwinds and brass instruments, drums, and even vocal samples.
The types and number of tones a particular digital piano has don’t necessarily mean whether one is better than the other – it matters more for the player who will be using the instrument.
I’ve found young children and early beginners especially like to have different tones to play with because they feel like they’re playing a different instrument every time.
That said, a more advanced player will likely want to have fewer voices focused solely around the acoustic piano tone.
Most digital keyboards also have a variety of effects. Effects include not only basic features such as reverb that can help modify the tone of the keyboard, but also whether you have a metronome, a built-in educational program, or the ability to record directly onto the keyboard.
We could spend an entire afternoon reviewing the amount of effects on the market today, but as this is a general guide, that will have to wait.
I will discuss specific effects in the below digital piano reviews to help compare models.
Not every player is interested in effects, but they can make a big difference in cost and playability, depending on the player’s goals.
For example, the option to use reverb can help a digital piano in a small space sound much more full.
A built-in metronome can help a student learn a piece at the proper tempo.
Educational software can make a huge difference with a student who doesn’t have access to a teacher but wishes to further his or her musical studies.
Built-in Speakers/Headphone Input
Built-in speakers seem like a given, but this isn’t always the case. Many synthesizer keyboards do not have built-in speakers, and – on the other side of the spectrum – many portable higher-end digital pianos don’t have built-in speakers.
Synthesizers need to use software to create sound, so they’ll make sound through a computer program or a keyboard amplifier.
Portable higher-end digital pianos often require a keyboard amplifier as they are to be played in live situations where built-in speakers would not be loud enough.
It’s also worth ensuring the digital piano you choose has a headphone input jack.
This way, the player can practice at any time without disturbing anyone else in the household.
Cabinetry may not be a primary concern for a good beginner keyboard but it’s worth reviewing some possible options before deciding on a keyboard for your family.
Cabinetry refers to how the piano looks. Is the piano mostly plastic? What color is it? Is there a screen?
A home digital piano can be made of plastic but the plastic will often be designed to look more like wood and can be offered in a variety of finishes to mimic acoustic pianos.
This includes finishes such as ebony polish, rosewood, or black walnut – each of these finishes has a different sheen and color.
Home digitals may also include some wood veneer or components to truly capture the look of an acoustic piano.
Digital pianos that are designed more as portable instruments or in live settings often do not include much cabinetry.
They can be set on top of a folding or “X” style keyboard stand that will need to be purchased separately.
Portable digital pianos generally have a plastic body that often includes a screen.
The screen shows which voice is being used or, in some cases, even shows notes on a staff as they’re being played.
Again, there is no right or wrong choice here, as both options have their benefits.
Instead, it’s best to consider how and where the piano will be used, which brings us to the last of the major qualities to look for: portability.
Portability can be a big deal when looking for the best digital piano.
Everyone looking for a digital piano should consider whether they want the keyboard to stay in one place in their home or be able to come with them on the go.
Many of the best keyboards for beginners are portable, lightweight, and less expensive than a home digital piano.
Portable keyboards generally do not include a built-in stand, so you may end up purchasing a portable stand as well as a travel case if the instrument will be traveling often.
Portable keyboards are less likely to have weighted keys but more likely to have a variety of tones, special effects, and possibly even screens to help learn music or follow along.
Home digital pianos tend to look more like a standard acoustic piano and stay in one place in the home.
They often have a weighted – if not full hammer – action, meaning the keyboard itself is heavier.
The legs and cabinetry are generally part of the home digital piano and are not easily removed.
Home digital pianos look beautiful and help you avoid the maintenance required of an acoustic piano.
They require no tuning and no special considerations for heat, light, or humidity.
But their size and weight make them nearly impossible to carry around, so they would not be a good option for someone looking for a portable instrument.
When you’re looking for a high quality keyboard piano, you want to make sure you’re getting the most for your money.
Keeping the above factors in mind will help you get the best instrument for your situation.
As you can see, there’s no one correct answer for the best piano for beginners, so it’s important you know what your goals are.
Think about whether you want the piano to be more like a replacement for an acoustic instrument, or a fun, portable electronic instrument.
My personal recommendation for how to choose the best electric piano would be to consider, in priority order:
- Your budget
- Playing level of the student
- Touch response
- Weighted keys
- Number and size of keys
- Types of tones
- Built-in Speakers/Headphone Input
Prioritizing factors in this manner ensures you’ll stay within your budget while focusing on what’s most important to the student when you choose a best digital keyboard.
However, some musicians may care more about the tones and effects than the weight of the keys, so this priority list does come down to personal preference (which is why considering the playing level of the student is so important).
Keep reading for a roundup of some of the best piano brands along with digital piano reviews!
Best Digital Piano Brands
How do you know how to find the most popular piano brands?
We’ll break it down for you in the following reviews as we discuss options for the best digital piano for beginners.
You’ll want to look at a brand’s reputation to see what other players have said.
Asking friends or neighbors who play can also help guide you toward the top piano keyboard brands.
Personal recommendations are great, but what if you don’t know any piano players?
Look for a brand with many positive electric piano reviews online. The more reviews, the more happy players there are.
Also, a larger catalog usually means the brand understands the different needs of musicians at various playing levels.
The top digital keyboard brands today include Yamaha and Casio.
Both have proprietary music education software built in, both have a variety of instruments for all price points, and both offer state-of-the-art technology.
We’ll discuss models from Yamaha and Casio for any budget below.
There are many more great digital keyboard brands without quite an extensive catalog. Some brands you may have heard of include Korg, Kawai, and Alesis.
We’ll touch upon some digital pianos from each brand and discuss the brands as a whole.
Finally, you’ll find some brands marketed as piano brands for kids. These instruments, while inexpensive, may not be able to grow with the student, so it’s important to consider musical goals should you choose a brand designed for beginners.
Read on for in-depth reviews of the best keyboard piano brands at all price points.
Yamaha, by far, takes the cake as one of the best digital piano brands on the market.
Yamaha has an extensive catalog of both acoustic and digital instruments, a proprietary educational software suite, and a long history of providing quality instruments to musicians at all levels.
Not only do they offer some of the best piano keyboards, they also cater to beginners.
Here’s a guide to Yamaha electronic keyboard reviews for instruments at all levels and price points.
Casio is another one of the best digital piano brands on the market.
Although in the past they focused mainly on portable, lightweight, effects-heavy keyboards, they’ve recently stepped up their offerings and now offer a huge variety of digital keyboards at all price points.
From a basic best electric piano for kids to a beautiful home digital piano, keep reading for our Casio piano keyboard reviews.
Kawai is another well-known brand that, unlike Korg, has historically has focused more on acoustic instruments.
They’ve entered the digital piano brand game with a catalog of professional-level keyboards and home digitals.
Alesis currently offers a variety of budget-friendly digital pianos with built-in lessons, headphone inputs, and different numbers of keys.
Their 61-key Melody beginner keyboard is a great digital keyboard for kids and other beginners, and it’s wallet-friendly at under $100.
They also offer a full 88-key keyboard for just over $200 – the Recital.
Alesis Melody 61
Although the Alesis line doesn’t include as many top-of-the-line instruments as Yamaha or Casio, it’s worth considering for those who are new to piano.
Finally, as mentioned before, we’re at the RockJam brand keyboards.
RockJam takes the 61-key keyboard a step further and offers even a 54-key keyboard, with 54 full-size keys in a compact portable keyboard.
RockJam 54-Key Portable Electronic Keyboard
The RockJam line includes built-in speakers, onboard lessons, and headphone jacks.
These instruments are geared toward beginners – especially kids – who are new to learning piano.
Although they are not my personal top choices for keyboards, they are an economical choice and packed with features for those just beginning to learn music.
Whew! You’ve made it this far – now you know what to look for when choosing the best digital piano from the best digital piano brands.
While many factors go into creating a quality instrument, you’re now armed with the information you need to make the best choice for your family.
Remember to start with your budget, then review the following features:
- Playing level of the student
- Touch response
- Weighted keys
- Number and size of keys
- Types of tones
- Built-in Speakers/Headphone Input
No matter your price point, it’s possible to find a quality instrument. Make sure to prioritize the needs of the player in your house.
As you can see from the above digital piano reviews, a higher price may be related more to the features and less to the “style” of the piano – it’s possible to find a good home digital for less than a top-level portable keyboard if you know what’s important to you.
Thankfully, technology has made it easy for a variety of top piano brands to offer tons of options for new musicians.
A maintenance-free digital piano is an excellent alternative to a standard acoustic piano and they’re often packed with great features an acoustic piano just won’t have.
Now that you know which brands to look for and what to consider, you’ll be on your way to playing in no time!