Piano or Keyboard for Beginners! Making the Big Decision

I often hear people debate whether it is best to get a piano or keyboard for beginners. For many folks the question is asked with finances in mind, however, there are many reasons for the debate. In todays post I would like to look at the various options available focussing on the pros and cons of each. I will not tell you what instrument you should buy as everyones situation is different, but I will give you the information you need to help you make the an informed decision. Todays post will cover:

  • Why People choose the piano
  • Features of the piano to consider
  • Your options

Why People Choose to learn the Piano

Playing the piano

Although there is a large variety of instruments available, an abundance of people choose to take piano lessons over any other instrument. Each and every person has their own personal reasons for choosing the piano but the one big perk is that is can be a stepping stone to other instruments in the future. Playing the piano requires the musician to learn all the notes of the bass and treble clef. It also requires them to play these notes together, allowing them to create harmony without the need for other instruments or musicians.

Another huge reason for choosing the piano is that it is a great solo instrument. While the piano is found in many types of ensembles, it can and is often played in solo situations. A solo piano recital or concert can be enjoyed without the addition of any other musical instruments.

The piano provides the player with an abundance of career options if they become great piano players. Many piano players continue on to post secondary education where they can receive degrees in education, performance and music theory and composition.

These are just a few reasons that people have for choosing the piano. It is one of the most popular instruments to learn as it is usually pretty easy to find a good piano instructor.

Features of the Piano

features of the piano

As a solo instrument the piano boosts a number of features that are required to enhance the playing experience. Many of these features have been a part of the piano long before the invention of digital and electronic keyboards. However todays technology has made it very easy for these features to be added to all types of pianos/keyboards. Below you will find a list of the most common features.

  1. Number of Keys
    • The standard piano has 88 white and black keys. In order to play all of the repertoire written for the piano it is crucial to have a piano or keyboard that has all them. In my early years I played on a electronic keyboard that did not have 88 keys. For the most part I could play everything I wanted to but sometimes had to leave notes out or play them an octave lower or higher depending on which clef the note were in.
  2. Weighted Keys
    • Weighted keys allows the player to play loud or soft depending on how hard they press the keys. This is an extremely important feature to look for when purchasing an piano or keyboard. Weighted keys will be a most when a player starts learning about dynamics.
  3. Pedals
    • An authentic piano is equipped with pedals that allows the player to dampen or sustain the notes by pressing the pedals with their feet. This is another important feature to look for when purchasing a piano or keyboard.
  4. Extra Features
    • With the invention of the digital and electronic versions of the piano came an abundance of extra features that is not found on the more traditional piano. These features include different voices, metronomes, the option to transpose, demos and a variety or rhythmic beats or tracks to play alone with. All of these features may be of interest to a player depending on the genre of music they choose to play.

Your Options

Acoustic Piano

Acoustic Piano

The acoustic piano will provide the most authentic playing experience of all the choices available as it is the real thing. within an acoustic piano you will find strings, hammers and a large sound board. These features are held within a large wooden body. They also have the pedals, weighted keys, and all 88 black and white keys.

Within this category you can choose between an upright, baby grande or grande piano. The upright being the most affordable of the three. You will definitely need a generous budget to purchase a new acoustic piano.

Pros

  • Provides an authentic experience
  • Has all the features of a real piano (Obviously since it is the real thing)

Cons

  • Acoustic pianos can be quite pricey
  • They require regular maintenance such as tuning, string  replacement  and hammer replacement
  • They are often quite heavy
  • They require a significant amount of space

Do not let the short list of pros deter you from this choice. These are the best pros an instrument can have. The cons will really depend on an individuals personal situation.

Digital Piano/Keyboard

Digital Piano

A digital piano/keyboard will have many of the perks of the acoustic piano but have extra features depending on the model you buy. The digital piano/keyboard is designed to emulate the sound and feel of an acoustic piano. While it may not be exactly like the real thing, todays models are pretty close. I have been playing a digital piano for 6 years and can honestly say I am extremely happy with the experience.

Pros

  • A good model can provide an experience that closely resembles that of an acoustic piano.
  • Weighted keys
  • All 88 black and white keys
  • Built in pedals
  • Selection of sounds/voices other then the traditional piano sound
  • Some have the ability to transpose
  • Many models have a built in metronome
  • Less costly then acoustic pianos
  • Volume control
  • Does not require tuning or string replacement

Cons

  • Does not contain the same mechanisms as the acoustic piano (No strings or hammers)
  •  Depending on the model the keys and pedals may not feel the same as an acoustic piano.

Electronic Keyboard

electronic keyboard

By YamahaKeyboard.jpg: Moribuntderivative work: Atlantictire (talk) – YamahaKeyboard.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15154052

The electronic keyboard is the most affordable of all three choices. They are based on the same idea as the digital piano but are often much smaller. The electronic keyboard can come in all sizes. It is possible to get an electronic keyboard with all 88 keys but the keys may or may not be weighted. The features found on an electronic keyboard depends greatly on the brand and model that you choose.

Electronic keyboards are most often intended for home use. They are not meant to be used as a musicians primary instrument. Many young piano students will start on a small keyboard and eventually move up to a digital or acoustic piano. When I was a child I had a very small keyboard to start on but quickly grew out of it. When I went to University I was given a much larger keyboard which was perfect for my small apartment. I soon grew board of that keyboard as it did not have all 88 keys, which led me to purchase the digital piano I currently own.

Pros

  • Takes up very little space
  • Easy to move
  • Tons of features to choose from including:
    • Weighted keys
    • The number of keys
    • different voices, demos, and rhythm settings
    • metronome
    • Transposition
  • Very affordable
  • Does not need tuning  or any other maintenance
  • Pedals and other accessories can be attached

Cons

  • May not contain all 88 keys
  • Some models will require you to purchase a stand for the keyboard and music
  • Many models do not come with weighted keys.
  • Does not provide an authentic experience (Compared to an acoustic or digital piano)
  • Will need to be replaced if player progresses beyonds its capabilities

Piano or Keyboard for Beginners?

As you can see all of the options would be a great choice for a beginner. I am a firm believer of always providing authentic experiences but unfortunately for the piano the budget may cause some limitations. However, please don’t let that deter you from making a purchase. It is not necessary to go out and spend thousands of dollars on an acoustic piano right away. After all, the beginner may decide that the piano just is not for them.

If your budget allows you to purchase a good electronic keyboard, then I say go for it. Everything that is learned on a electronic keyboard can be transferred to a digital or acoustic piano in the future.

My personal choice is the digital piano. I have been playing a digital piano for 6 years and just love it. I get to enjoy all the perks that come with an acoustic piano but at a fraction of the price. It doesn’t take up a lot of space and is easy to move. If you are interested in reading about my favourite digital piano stay tuned as I will be raving about my beloved digital piano in a future post.

Now it’s your turn!

What are your thoughts or preferences. Perhaps you have a favourite brand or model that you would like to share. Please feel free to leave your questions or thoughts in the comment section below. I look forward to hearing from you!

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6 thoughts on “Piano or Keyboard for Beginners! Making the Big Decision

  1. I have been itching to learn the piano for the longest time but kept postponing it, mostly, for budget reasons.

    I am glad that you have explored more economic options in your article.

    I will bookmark your website and come back for your post on your favourite digital piano. Maybe this will strengthen my decision to finally get at it.

    1. Glad you enjoyed reading and as you can see many folks face budget issues when purchasing a piano. Please stay tuned for my post. I believe you will find my choice to be an affordable alternative to the more expensive acoustic piano.

      I will be sure to update this post when the my new post has been posted.

  2. It’s interesting to go over the differences between a piano and keyboard. When I was younger, I studied piano and I loved it. It’s unfortunate that I stopped at a certain point, and now I can’t even remember anything. How sad is that? I loved hearing the sound. My mom got me a fantastic Yamaha acoustic piano that occupied a good amount of space in our living room. On the other hand, I remember my youngest sister requested for an electronic keyboard. Despite the difference in sound, you can obviously play with it more given its features and it was more portable. Looking back, wish we didn’t stop learning and playing the piano.

    1. Well it’s never too late to start playing again. You will surprised as to how much you actually remember and your fingers touch the keys.

      And yes the choice of instrument can be related to a persons interests just as much as their budget. Their are some great electronic keyboards out there that have fantastic sound and options. It is also affordable that one can decide to upgrade later. Even I wouldn’t mind have an electronic keyboard with all the beats, voices and demos available.

      Thanks for stopping by! :)

  3. Hi, I just recently accidentally discovered your blog, and I really like it. It seems that you really want to help people, and I appreciate it!

    I’ve always wanted to learn how to play the piano. It’s sad that I still don’t have enough time for it. But when I finally find some time, I think I’m going to buy an electronic keyboard.

    Thank you for the nice article!

    1. That’s Awesome Julius! It’s never too late to start and it sounds like you already know what you want. You can get some really great keyboards for great great prices. Good Luck!! And let me know how it goes when you finally make the big decision.

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