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The best keyboards and digital pianos for beginners in 2021 aren’t always the most obvious choices. You have to understand what you want to get out of an instrument and its features/functions.
Some options will deliver short-term gains, some long-term, and the instrument’s value depends on the student, too. We are all different, so our top 10 picks include better choices for kids, some that are better for adults, and some fantastic all-rounders. We have everything you need to go from complete novice to a confident musician.
1. Yamaha YPT-260 – Versatile Keyboard for Beginners
The best Yamaha keyboard for beginners
The Yamaha YPT-260 is an absolutely perfect place for any learner to start. It’s not a keyboard that will last for years if you progress quickly, but it delivers more than enough to let you know if you are serious about learning or not, without breaking the bank. The sounds are great, it’s easy to use, it’s fun, and the tutorial content is awesome.
|Image credit: Yamaha Check Amazon||
The YPT-260 is an out and out beginners keyboard, it’s designed in every sense to take you from knowing nothing at all to playing songs. That’s why it tops our list as the number one best keyboard for beginners.
It’s got 61 velocity sensitive keys with a max polyphony of 32 notes, which isn’t much, plenty at this stage. The YPT-260 is packed with 384 voices including pianos, organs, and orchestral sounds plus 16 drum kits. The voices come from Yamaha’s AWM Stereo Sampling, which delivers high-quality across the board, but particularly the piano tones.
Along with all those voices it has over 100 rhythms to play over, meaning you won’t quickly run out of ideas. This lightweight portable keyboard is extremely versatile, and that means it can introduce newcomers to a wide range of sounds to help them develop their musical taste.
Yamaha has also added some nice interactive touches with lessons and tutorials from their built-in Education Suite (YES). Interactive lessons are a fantastic way to learn, especially for younger players. The addition of three months of free premium Flowkey lessons is another big plus point. Adding to the teaching side of things, you can also split the keyboard in the middle to create two identical ranges for side by side student/teacher playing. The YPT-260 is a great stepping stone for any learner.
2. Casio LK-S250 – Beginner Keyboard with Key-lighting
The best key-lighting keyboard for learners
The LK-S250 is all about making music fun, and that’s the best way to learn. It doesn’t have the same sound quality as the Yamaha YPT-260 and might not age as well either. But, Casio’s LK-S250 will have you playing and having fun faster than most, and that’s worth a lot. The key-lighting alone makes it one of the best learning keyboards.
|Image credit: Casio Check Amazon||
It has 61 velocity-sensitive keys with two levels of touch response. The keys aren’t just velocity-sensitive; they also showcase Casio’s Key Lighting system. When you press a key, it will light up red, which is particularly handy when using the Chordana Play app. The max polyphony is 48 notes; as we say often, it’s low but sufficient for beginners.
The LK-S250 has 400 voices, ranging from acoustic pianos to organs and orchestral sounds. It even has some vocal samples and effects that you can trigger via the keys to introduce composition/songwriting to beginners. There are 77 different rhythm styles and 60 onboard songs that you can learn. Dance music mode will add a further 50 rhythm styles.
The onboard effects feature 10 reverb types. Everything is really easy to get to; the top panel is very minimalist. Large buttons activate the main functions like tempo, start/stop, and so on. A central wheel/knob next to the LCD screen is how you make further selections.
This keyboard has USB MIDI connectivity, so you can use it with a computer/DAW as you progress. It even has a microphone input for the complete aspiring singer/songwriter package. Some built-in lesson songs utilize the key-lighting, but that really comes to life with the Chordana Play app.
3. Yamaha P-45/P71 – Most Realistic Keyboard for Beginners
The best keyboard piano for beginners
The P-45 or P71 (Amazon Exclusive) is the perfect introduction to the digital piano world. It has a realistic feel and one of the best grand piano tones you will hear under $500. The optional wooden stand creates an upright piano experience without losing the convenience of a portable keyboard. It’s arguably the best digital piano for a beginner.
|Image credit: Yamaha Check Amazon||
We are starting our digital piano picks off with an instrument that gives you the best of both worlds. The Yamaha P-45 is a digital piano keyboard that comes with an optional upright wooden stand. With the stand, it looks and feels every bit like a proper upright digital piano.
The P-45 has 88 graded hammer-action keys, which feel incredibly realistic and are very expressive with 64-note max polyphony.
One of the best things about this piano is its simplicity, 10 voices, 10 songs, easy to navigate, and it sounds great. Its flagship piano sound is incredibly luxurious, and that’s ultimately the most important thing about a digital piano. The sound is so good, thanks to Yamaha’s Advanced Wave Memory (AWM) sampling. Four reverb types add depth to your sound.
The P-45 comes with a feature that some other Yamaha models have, the dual split, giving you two identical ranges that are perfect for student/teacher playing. USB connectivity gives you access to a host of interactive content like tutorials and lessons from Yamaha.
4. Alesis Virtue – Best Beginner Keyboard for Money
The best budget digital piano
The Alesis Virtue is a surprising example of value for money. It takes the best things about a starter keyboard, like loads of voices, rhythms, functions, and wraps them up in a digital piano body. The non-weighted keys will be a significant downside for some players. But, if you want the light touch of a keyboard while feeling like you are sat at a real piano, the Alesis Virtue is for you.
|Image credit: Alesis Check Amazon||
The Alesis Virtue is the digital piano for beginners who aren’t quite ready for the weight of piano keys. The price and ease of use make it one of the best starter pianos around.
It has 88 velocity-sensitive, non-weighted keys with 128-note max polyphony and the traditional three-pedal setup. The easy-build wooden stand feels more like a console/cabinet with a lid and music stand.
The Alesis Virtue has 360 voices, with the grand piano tones being particularly nice. Voices can be split or layered to create new sounds (2-voice max). There are 160 accompaniment styles and 80 demo songs to learn. As you learn new songs, you can record your progress with the built-in recorder. If you get past the onboard demo songs, you can play along with your fave songs via the USB thumb drive port. It also comes with three months of free Skoove premium piano lessons.
There are some basic built-in effects, including reverb, chorus, and pedal noise. All of your selections are displayed on a nice LCD screen that also shows notation and chord names. The icing on the cake is that it comes with a piano bench, so you feel like a real pro.
5. Yamaha PSR-E373 – Best Yamaha Sound for Beginners
The best new beginner keyboard
The only potential pitfall with the PSR-E373 is that it has so many sounds, they could become a distraction for younger kids. But, if used correctly, this keyboard is outstanding and a real surprise at under $200. Yamaha’s decision to include a grand piano voice from their higher-spec arrangers is brilliant. The PSR-E373 will be a big hit; it’s already one of the best beginner keyboards around.
|Image credit: Yamaha Check Amazon||
The PSR-E373 is a new arranger keyboard from Yamaha that offers some awesome features at a budget price. It has 61 touch-sensitive keys and a max polyphony of 48 notes. The touch/velocity can be adjusted between soft, medium, hard, and fixed, depending on your playing style.
Like most arranger keyboards, the PSR-E373 comes with a massive library of sounds, 622 in this case. The thing that sets it apart from the competition is that Yamaha has taken the live grand piano sound from their more expensive models and put it in the PSR-E373. So, now for under $200, you get a piano sound that would previously have cost $400-600.
There’s also 154 preset songs that you can learn to play at your own pace. You get some built-in effects, with 12 reverb types and five chorus types. Your favorite sounds and songs can be stored for faster recall.
The PSR-E373 has a built-in 2-track recorder that can record five songs or a maximum of 10,000 notes. If that isn’t enough recording power, you can plug it straight into a DAW via USB. Yamaha included their YES Education Suite, which offers beginner lessons on a range of piano essentials. Touch Tutor mode monitors the velocity of your playing to help you control your dynamics. The last of the newbie features is Duo mode, which splits the keyboard equally for student/tutor playing.
6. Roland Go:Keys – Best Beginner Keyboard for Creating Music
The best Roland keyboard for beginners
It’s an excellent keyboard for beginners who are not only interested in learning to play but also interested in songwriting and production. The price is higher than others on our list, but it’s reflected in a step up in sound quality and more professional features. It comes in a bright red color that somehow makes it more fun. Finished off with the ivory feel keys, this is a top keyboard for beginners if you don’t mind the price.
|Image credit: Roland Check Amazon||
The Roland Go:Keys is near the top of our price range as a beginner keyboard. But, it does justify the extra money with some great features. The 61 velocity-sensitive keys have an ivory feel finish that just adds a more professional touch than most beginner keyboards.
Roland has included a whopping 500 voices in the Go:Keys model, but more importantly, they are very high-quality sounds. The Go:Keys has Bluetooth connectivity, which means you can use smartphones to stream music straight to the keyboards built-in speakers. This feature isn’t just useful for listening to music; you can jam to your favorite tracks and use Roland’s interactive online content like tutorials and play-along lessons.
One of the things we like most about this keyboard is the Loop Mix function; that’s a great starting point for beginners learning about song structure. Using the keyboards touchpads, you can trigger and alter programmed samples in real-time, which is a useful performance tool and a great production aid.
7. Korg EK-50 – Best KORG Keyboard for Beginners
The most versatile keyboard for beginners
Let’s start with the biggest downside of this keyboard; it doesn’t have the same level of hand-holding when it comes to learning. It doesn’t have key-lighting or onboard tutorials, but the EK-50 will let you go so much further when accompanied by a tutor or online lessons. It’s a bit pricey, but the quality of the sounds and effects makes it a worthwhile long-term investment.
|Image credit: Korg Check Amazon||
Korg’s EK-50 is the most expensive keyboard on our list, but the extra expense is justified when you get into the features. That’s why we think it’s the best Korg keyboard for beginners.
It’s got 61 velocity-sensitive keys with adjustable touch control: light, standard, heavy, and fixed. On the left side of the keyboard, you’ll see a pitch/modulation stick that you won’t see on most beginner keyboards.
Korg has included over 700 voices and 41 drum kits. More astonishing than the number of sounds is the surprisingly high quality. There are over 280 styles, each of which offers multiple intros, outros, and other variations.
As the EK-50 is an arranger keyboard, it comes with some fantastic songwriting and performance features. Starting with the built-in audio player and onboard sequencer. It also has a more sophisticated effects engine than most beginner keyboards. There are four stereo multi-effects processors, offering 34 effect types and a vast 148 variations.
Once you are ready for your first performance, you can use Set List mode to store all of your sounds and styles for quick recall. It has USB/MIDI connectivity, plus a USB port for connecting a flash drive or controller.
Despite some advanced features, it’s still easy to use thanks to a simple layout and LED buttons to complement the LCD screen.
8. Casio PX-770 – Best Keyboard for Adult Beginners
The best digital piano for adult learners
You might think you don’t need to spend almost $800 on a starter piano, and you don’t. The argument for buying the PX-770 is that it will last you for many years without outgrowing it. There’s nothing better than learning on a realistic piano; you just need to have the dedication to make that financial commitment. Any Privia will always be one of the best digital pianos to learn on.
|Image credit: Casio Check Amazon||
The Casio PX-770 is at the high-end of instruments that we’d suggest for a newbie. It’s a more significant investment than our other picks, but if you are sure about learning piano, it will serve you well.
It comes with 88 scaled hammer-action keys with simulated ebony and ivory textures. The PX-770 has a max polyphony of 128 notes. Casio’s AiR processing delivers some stunning sounds (19 in total), with a gorgeous emulation of a 9ft concert grand. There are 11 built-in effects, including multiple reverb, chorus, and brilliance types.
As a beginner, it’s good to have some demo songs to learn; the PX-770 comes with 60 of them. It also comes with a 2-track MIDI recorder to capture and playback your progress. If you are using the piano for private lessons, Duet mode creates two equal split zones for student/teacher playing.
To look at the PX-770, you can see where your extra investment is going. It comes set in a sleek wooden stand complete with a sliding key cover.
9. Korg B2SP – Beginner Keyboard with Most Options
The best digital piano all-rounder
If you want something a little more serious to learn on, the Korg B2SP could be the one. It has piano tones to rival any in its price range and the convenience of being a lightweight keyboard piano when needed. The electric piano and organ sounds are so good; they might be the reason you choose this piano over another. No harm in adding some organ chops to your CV!
|Image credit: Korg Check Amazon||
The B2SP is an entry-level digital piano from Korg that comes with a lovely wooden stand and three-pedal unit. It can also be used as a portable keyboard piano without the stand. Technically that makes it one of the best keyboard pianos for beginners, too.
It has 88-keys (120-note max polyphony), using Korg’s natural hammer-action technology to deliver real piano-like resistance. The B2SP is the successor to the B1SP, and it comes with added sounds and features. You now get a total of 12 sounds, including some of the best grand piano tones in the entire price range. The B2SP features stunning grand pianos from Germany and Italy, covering a range of suitable tones from classical to jazz. Korg has gone the extra mile with the additional sounds, too; the electric pianos and jazz organs are beautiful.
It comes with 12 built-in songs, without the onboard tutorials that some pianos offer. But, Korg makes up for it by providing three months of free Skoove premium lessons, along with some Korg sound-design and production apps. You can play along to any music you like using the provided audio input. Furthermore, you can record your performance to your smartphone, although it requires an additional Lightning-USB camera adapter. There are some built-in effects, albeit very minimal, including reverb and chorus.
10. Yamaha PSS-F30 – Best Keyboard for Youngest Beginners
The best first keyboard for kids
The PSS-F30 isn’t a long-term instrument; it’s a fun way to get younger kids into playing the keyboard. It’s the first step in a longer journey, and at its price, it’s the ideal place to start. The sounds are surprisingly good, relatively speaking. Kids will outgrow it physically before they ever get bored of it; there’s lots to do! Our pick as the best first keyboard for kids.
|Image credit: Yamaha Check Amazon||
The cheapest of the bunch comes from Yamaha, the PSS-F30. It might be the cheapest (under $60), but it still has a lot to offer.
The first thing that we should say is that it has mini keys, so it’s primarily aimed at kids. It has 37 mini keys, and it has a look of the Yamaha keyboard of yesteryear. It has a layout that lists the song, voice, and style types like a menu or TV channel guide on the front panel – simple but effective.
There are 120 voices, from pianos to brass, and lots more. It also features 114 accompaniment styles and 30 onboard songs. The onboard songs are very child-friendly and perfect for the younger student.
One of the things that kids struggle with most once they learn the right notes is timing. The PSS-F30 has a built-in metronome that ranges from 11-280 bpm to help keep perfect time. Yamaha’s Smart Chord feature lets you trigger chords from a single key. It makes it easy for small hands to play more complex chords, and it lets kids get used to how these chords sound.
It’s super portable and has a headphone jack, which means your child can practice anywhere, anytime.
What’s the difference between a keyboard and a digital piano?
When people talk about keyboards and digital pianos, it can get a bit confusing for a newbie. You think you understand, then you start to hear terms like keyboard piano, and you are back to square one.To keep things simple, let’s start with the most obvious difference. Keyboards are portable instruments, and digital pianos are often stationary because they have a wooden stand or cabinet.
It’s important to know there are exceptions; a digital piano might come with a detachable wooden stand, turning it into a portable keyboard. But, at a basic level, one is portable, and one is stationary.
The next difference is that a digital piano will almost always have 88 keys just like a real piano. However, a portable keyboard can have anything from 25 keys to 88 keys. Digital pianos usually (not always) have weighted keys to simulate the feel of a real piano. Keyboards tend to have non-weighted, velocity-sensitive keys until they start going beyond 61 keys, then many are weighted.
Keyboards usually have many more sounds/voices than digital pianos, covering a far wider range of instruments. Digital pianos tend to have a handful of sounds but focus mainly on a strong piano tone.
Everything about a typical digital piano, from the sound to the look, is meant to create the impression of sitting at a real piano. If you hear terms like keyboard piano that bundle both together, you can think of it as a portable keyboard that focuses mainly on a piano sound and feel (weighted keys).
Otherwise, just think portable and not so portable for now!
Should I buy a keyboard or a digital piano?
As we covered above, one is much more portable than the other. Your decision might be based entirely on when and where you can practice. If you are limited by space or live with family, a portable keyboard is likely the solution. You don’t want to have a digital piano that looks stunning in the sitting room, but you are scared to practice because others are watching TV, etc.
If you have a space where you can play undisturbed, then a digital piano is the choice. Nothing prepares you better for moving on to a real piano. You also develop expression in your playing that you can’t without weighted keys.
More often than not, your budget is the dealbreaker. If you are serious about learning, then, by all means, put your money where your mouth is; music is a wonderful investment. If you aren’t 100% or don’t have regular time to practice, start with a cheaper keyboard and see how it goes before dropping big money.
- The best cheap keyboard pianos (portable instruments with fully-weighted 88 keys under $300-500)
How to choose for a child learner vs. an adult learner?
For beginners of any age, learning to play the piano should be fun. If it’s fun, then you will get more out of it and become a far better player. But, if you are buying an instrument for a child, I think fun should be closer to the top of the list.
For kids, interactive learning is a great way to go. So, keyboards with built-in tutorials, game-style learning, and online lesson subscriptions are good places to start. Even more obvious choices like keys that light up can be excellent for kids.
You have to think of the size of their hands, too. Maybe 88 keys is a stretch too far, which is another reason to favor a keyboard. We have all seen little kids on YouTube playing real pianos like the next Mozart or Bill Evens, but not every child learns the same way. Apart from the size, weight, and number of keys, learning on a digital piano feels a little more formal, and only a parent will know when their child is ready for that step.
As an adult, it’s more straightforward. A beginner digital piano will always be better preparation for playing a real piano. If you have space and cash, go for that. If you don’t have space, commitment, or the money, go for a keyboard until you are ready to move on.
Ultimately, the best instrument for a child is the one that they have the most fun with and helps them digest information more easily. Things like high-quality sound and expression can be secondary concerns until they reach a certain level. As a serious adult learner, you can focus more on the weight of keys, expression, and sound quality right from the start, keeping in mind the above suggestions.
How much to spend on your first keyboard/piano?
Your budget depends entirely on what you can afford to spend, obviously. What we mean is that we are the last people who will tell you that spending a lot of money on a high-quality musical instrument is a bad thing. It’s just about common sense and understanding what you want to get out of the instrument.
If the instrument is a tester, in other words, you want something to see how serious you really are about learning, then don’t spend too much.
If you know you are serious about learning and want something that you won’t outgrow quickly, then spend more. That applies to buying keyboards or digital pianos for both kids and adults.
Our top 10 best beginner keyboards and digital pianos have instruments close to $50 and some not too far from $1000. Every single one of them is an excellent choice for a beginner; you just need to decide which one is right for you.
There are 10 instruments on our list, and each one of them has a lot to offer for the right student. The great thing about music is that it’s so personal; your music is everything about you that you can’t say with words. It starts from day one, as a beginner. We don’t all learn the same way, and we don’t all play the same way. The instrument that you choose as your first will help shape the musician you become; choose wisely.
James is a writer and musician with a passion for audio production. He is a lover of all things tech, especially the latest keyboards, synths, DAW’s, virtual instruments, and effects plugins. Musical interests include jazz, funk, hip hop, blues, and rock.