What Kind Of Piano Should I Get?

By: Shoshana Coodin Bernstein

3 Options For Buying Or Renting Your First Piano

The first step a beginner needs to take when starting to learn to piano is to have a piano at home to practice on! Without this your lessons every week are for naught.  It can be overwhelming choosing the right piano to purchase or rent for the first time, especially because there are so many options! In this article we will go over the 3 main types of piano/keyboards that might be good for you, and the advantages and disadvantages of each for your particular needs.

Acoustic Pianos

The acoustic piano is probably what comes to mind when thinking of a traditional piano. There are many advantages to learning on an acoustic piano such as the great sound and touch they are capable of. However they may require a larger financial commitment. You may be able to find an attractive piano for free on a buy/sell site such as Kijiji or Craigslist, but be weary as it may require a lot of maintenance to get it into shape. It’s important to speak to a qualified technician to make an accurate diagnosis!

Buying a new piano from a reputable dealer ensures that you won’t have any surprises (like “oops, didn’t realize the felts and hammers need to be replaced, there goes a couple grand!”). Be prepared to spend at least $3-$4 grand for a basic model.

Whether you decide to go used or new keep in mind that an acoustic piano requires regular maintenance by a piano technician which can be between $200-$500 per year for regular tuning and repairs.

Keyboard (unweighted keys)

The advantage of a keyboard is that it is much cheaper than an acoustic piano and is smaller and lighter. Keyboards have many sound options and can usually be hooked up to a computer. If your thinking of renting to keep the cost down at the start, know that you can usually get a decent resale value if you don’t wait too long. These are all great advantages for a beginner piano player interested in starting up fast and not putting out too much money right away.  A decent keyboard for a beginner can range from $200-$500. The downside to a keyboard versus an acoustic piano is that it can be difficult to develop a good touch on hte keys. Also it does not sound exactly like the real thing no matter how hard it tries. However, it can come pretty darn close and can be very versatile when it comes to emulating your favorite sounds (strings, organ, harp or helicopter sounds).

The one thing I would be most wary of, is buying a keyboard that is too low end, like the ones you often find at bargain or department stores (usually under $200).  These can sound really bad and be terrible for a beginner to develop their keyboard skills on. Although this may not be the ideal instrument, for many, it can be a good accessible option for the first 3- 6 months or more.

Electric Piano

Electric pianos are like acoustic piano wannabes. They range in quality from an approximation of an acoustic piano sound and touch to a very very accurate impersonation. They are lighter, more portable and take up much less space than an acoustic piano. For many the advantage over acoustic pianos, is that they can be much more affordable, ranging from $500- $3000+. The advantage of an electric piano over a keyboard is the weighted keys which help develop good touch.

Your options range from an instrument designed for your living room (nice built-in stand, built in speakers), to portable stage keyboards that may or may not require a separate speaker and stand. An electric piano is great option for a beginner looking for a mid-range instrument.

These three beginner piano options are a good starting point to buying the right piano or keyboard for you. Think about what you require in terms of quality, price, and if you are thinking of upgrading in a few months or years. These are all important things to keep in mind when heading into your local music store to start the buying process.


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