Last Updated 8/10/20

Best Piano for Beginners


Acoustic or Digital? What are "weighted keys"? Choosing your first piano can be a intimidating, and confusing, so we've created this to help you make an educated choice about your first instrument.

Skip to: 

  1. Acoustic, Digital or Keyboard
  2. Weighted, Unweighted & Semi-Weighted Keys
  3. Piano Tuning & Regulation
  4. Which Instrument is Best for you?
  5. How Much Does a Piano Cost?
  6. Best Beginner Acoustic Pianos
  7. Best Beginner Digital Pianos
  8. Best Beginner Keyboards

Acoustic Piano, Digital Piano or Keyboard?

Acoustic Piano
 Digital Piano
 Keyboard
Pros

✅"Real" acoustic action & sound
✅Direct connection between the fingers & sound source
✅Best for instrument for almost all piano players
✅Lifetime investment

✅Imitates the feel & sound of an acoustic piano at a lower cost
✅Headphone connectivity for silent practice
✅Typically includes electric piano, organ & string sounds
✅Other convenient features, like metronome, recording & MIDI connectivity

✅Huge range of sounds & connectivity options
✅Modulation switches for more diverse articulation & envelope options
✅Headphone connectivity for silent practice
✅Ideal for electronic music makers, composers & arrangers
Cons ❌Large initial investment
❌Requires ongoing maintenance
❌Large & heavy

❌Lacks dynamic range of an acoustic instrument
❌Not suitable for playing above grade 5
❌Requires electricity

❌Complicated interface can be confusing or intimidating
❌Unweighted keys & unsuitable for learning piano
❌Requires electricity

 

What is the Difference Between Weighted, Unweighted and Semi-Weighted Keys?

Acoustic Piano Action Weighted Digital Piano Action Semi-Weighted Keyboard Unweighted Keyboard Keys
Acoustic Piano
Weighted Keys
Semi-Weighted Keys
Unweighted/Synth Keys

Action: Genuine acoustic hammer action
Dynamics: Linear acoustic
Found On: Acoustic Upright, Grand & Hybrid Pianos

Action:Counterweight "hammer" action
Dynamics: 3-5 level optical sensor
Found On: Digital, Console & Stage Pianos. Some Arranger Keyboards & Workstations
Action: Heavy spring/lever action
Dynamics: 3-5 level touch or optical sensor
Found On: Electric Pianos, Some Beginner Keyboards, Arranger Keyboards & Workstations
Action: Light spring/lever action
Dynamics: Touch 3-5 level touch or optical sensor. Most likely to include aftertouch.
Found On: Most Organs, Beginner Keyboards, Arranger Keyboards & Workstations

What's the Deal with Piano Tuning & Regulation?

Piano tuning, regulation and voicing are vital parts of the preparation and ongoing maintenance of acoustic pianos. 

The sound of an acoustic piano comes from strings like a guitar, violin, or ukulele. Just like any other instrument with strings, the piano slowly goes out of tune over time as a result of changes in temperature and humidity. This is equally true whether you own a second hand upright, or million dollar concert grand.

Similarly, small shifts in the interior of the piano over time change the balance of the keyboard and hammers over time, creating inconsistencies in the sound and feel of the instrument. Regulation and voicing are the processes of correcting these problems by making small adjustments to things like hammer travel, key height, and the softness of the felt.

Tuning, regulation and voicing is extremely complicated and takes years to master. Even our head tuner, Geoff Logan says it took him a " about a thousand pianos" before he was any good at it. Tuning is something best left to the experts. We generally recommend using a Yamaha Certified Tuner, and only ever buying your pianos from a store that is both a reseller, and service centre.

You can read more about Piano tuning and Regulation here

Do I need to tune my Digital Piano/Keyboard?

No. Keyboards and digital pianos typically work by playing back recordings of an in tune acoustic piano, and therefore do not require any tuning.

Which Instrument is Right for you?

Above, we have outlined some of the factors that you will need to consider when choosing your first piano or keyboard. We suggest consulting a qualified teacher or one of our sales staff before making a final decision about your instrument to ensure it is fit for purpose.

The ideal instrument for learning to play the piano, you will not be surprised to hear is an acoustic piano. There is simply no other instrument that provides the dynamic range or expressiveness of the instrument. Additionally, as exams and lessons are generally performed on an acoustic piano, it usually gives the student more consistency in their learning experience, and reduces the adjustment period as they move from instrument to instrument. Finally, most teachers and the AMEB suggest you do most of your practice on an acoustic piano by grade 5, earlier if possible.

All of that said, Many of our customers are understandably reluctant to invest in an acoustic piano immediately. While unquestionably the best option for piano learners, they are also very big and hard to move around, can't typically be played with headphones*, and have ongoing maintenance costs. If these are concerns for you, the goal for a learner should be to get something as close to an acoustic piano as your budget allows.

Most Piano teachers recommend a beginner instrument has the following qualities:

  1. 88 Keys - "Notespelling" is identical to acoustic piano
  2. Full Sized Keys - Develops flexibility, and sense of touch from day one
  3. Fully Weighted Keys - Ensures the development of correct finger technique and strength
  4. Touch Responsive - For development of dynamics, and touch

Fulfilling all of these basic requirements will ensure that piano students will have an instrument that performs in more or less the same way as an acoustic piano, and ensure the development of good technique. 

Even if you aren't interested in playing an acoustic piano in the long run, we'd still recommend something that fulfils these four requirements to help you develop a technique that will translate more easily to other types of keyboard instrument. 

If you are approaching piano/keyboard specifically for the purpose of songwriting, composing or creating electronic music, you may be less interested in the development of your technique than you are in having a wide pallet of sounds and connectivity options to work with. In this case, we recommend a keyboard, with touch responsive keys, and USB Midi Connectivity.

*= Many Yamaha Pianos are available in "silent" models, that allow for quiet practice through headphones. You can view our range here

How Much Does a Beginner Piano Cost?

It really depends on you, but Logans generally advise you budget at least $800 if you want something that is going to fulfill the above requirements for learning the piano. If you want something "middle of the range" of beginner instruments, like the ever popular Yamaha Clavinova Series, prices start from about $1999. 

Student acoustic pianos starts from $6499. While we are aware that there are cheaper acoustic pianos on the market, buying a piano under this price is a risky endeavour. The total value of preparation (i.e tuning, regulation & voicing) work on a new acoustic piano comes to roughly $900 - $1200. It is a virtual certainty that acoustic pianos under this price have not had the necessary preparation work done. 

Of course, there are some exceptions to this, such as the smaller upright pianos made by Yamaha or Kawai, but we generally advise against these, as they are only marginally cheaper than a full sized upright, and like a digital piano, are only appropriate for players up to grade 5 level. 

Best Beginner Acoustic Pianos*

Pros ✅Based on the best selling Yamaha U1 design
✅Excellent value for money
✅Seasoned for the Australian climate

✅World's best selling upright piano
✅Made in Japan from professional quality parts
✅Rich, full sound and professional standard action
✅Seasoned for the Australian climate

✅Acoustic design the same as Yamaha U1J
✅Silent Piano system allows for practice through headphones
✅Built in sounds & connectivity give users the best features of acoustic &digital pianos

Cons ❌None at this price

❌Limited availability of colours other than black

❌Silent system requires power
❌Some technicians may be confused by how to service the silent system

Best Beginner Digital Pianos*

Pros

✅Lightweight, portable design ideal for small spaces
✅ GHS Graded Hammer Action keyboard
✅Pure CF sound engine
✅Exceptional value for money

✅Yamaha CFX Piano sample
✅Includes cabinet & 3 pedal unit
GHS Graded Hammer Action keyboard

✅Yamaha CFX & Bösendorfer Imperial piano samples
✅ Suprisingly Clear, balanced speakers for a portable
✅NWX "Natural Wood" Keyboard with Graded Hammer Action and Escapment
✅ Modular setup works well as a home & stage piano


Cons ❌Doesn't include stand
❌Many advanced features are hidden, or not unintuitive
❌Keys can get slippery in hot weather


❌Built in speakers are lacklustre for a Yamaha product
❌Key action could be heavier

❌Stool not included

Best Beginner Keyboards*

Pros ✅Wide range of sound and accompaniment options
✅Intuitive user interface
✅Can run on batteries

✅Good quality piano sound
✅USB connectivity
✅Lightweight & portable, ideal for classroom lessons
✅Built in record & metronome functions 

✅Wide range of sound and accompaniment options
✅Onboard learning tools
✅Advanced features, navigable through a large LCD display
✅Good speakers, and plenty of connectivity options

Cons ❌Dynamic response could be better
❌Synth based piano sound
❌Limited sound options
❌You will either love or hate the semi-weighted keys

❌None at this price

 

*= If we appear biased towards Yamaha products in our recommendations, it is only because we believe they represent the best value for money in virtually all entry level piano & keyboard categories. Yamaha Music had no involvement in the writing of this article, and all instrument recommendations were chosen by staff consensus.

Further Reading:

 

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