If you’ve been thinking about learning to play the piano but feel intimidated by buying an instrument, you’re not alone!
The world of pianos can feel scary, especially when you’re not 100% certain about whether you will stick with it past a few months.
Acoustic pianos are enormous, nearly impossible to move on your own, and expensive.
It’s a lot to consider, and even more so when you’re thinking about teaching yourself rather than enrolling in formal piano lessons with a teacher, who can guide you in finding the perfect instrument for your needs.
If you’ve been putting off learning how to play the piano because you have no idea how to find a musical instrument, you’re in the right place!
Today’s post covers the differences between an acoustic piano and an electronic keyboard, why you might consider one over the other, and my top recommendations for adult beginners in 2023.
And if you want to jump right to the reviews, click the links below:
- Best Keyboard for Complete Piano Beginners
- Best Keyboard for Beginners Interested in Playing Classical Music
- Best Keyboard for Playing in a Band
- Most Budget-Friendly Keyboard
- Most Beginner-Friendly Keyboard
What Makes Me Qualified to Give You Advice About Electric Pianos?
There are millions of websites out there, many of them offering terrible advice.
So you may be asking yourself what gives me the authority to advise you on your piano needs.
I began playing piano at the age of 7 and continued playing through high school.
After graduation, I entered a baccalaureate music program. I continued my piano studies at the college level until graduation several years ago.
Although my career has led me down a different path, my musical journey continues through church playing, accompanying, teaching, and a passion for the instrument.
I love pianos and helping others discover the joy of learning to play a musical instrument!
Although I earn a tiny percentage from certain purchases facilitated through my blog, my main goal is to empower you with the information you need to make the best decision.
I always strive to offer the most honest and relevant information to enable you to make the best possible decision.
And for extra proof of my authority on the topic, check out this recent video recording of me playing a couple pieces off the ABRSM exam.
In the spirit of transparency, I give you my thoughts on your options for acoustic versus electric and the different models available in 2023.
What Kind of Instrument Do You Need?
As you may have already discovered, pianos come in all shapes and sizes. And similar to guitars, pianos come in either the acoustic or electric variety.
An acoustic piano is a traditional piano. Sound is generated from tiny hammers striking the string after a series of mechanical maneuvers.
Acoustic pianos require routine tuning and maintenance. And these full-size pianos come as either an upright or grand piano model.
In terms of sound quality, an acoustic grand piano is unmatched. This is the sound upon which electric pianos are based.
And in general, the longer the strings, the better the sound quality.
Upright pianos have strings that run vertically to the floor. The shortest pianos are known as spinets and have the poorest sound quality.
In contrast, the larger uprights can have decent sound quality if they are a reputable brand and have been well-maintained.
Grand pianos have strings that run horizontally to the floor, so they are longer than they are tall. The shortest grand pianos are known as baby grand pianos, and the longest are known as concert grands.
Depending on their length, baby grand pianos have a sound quality comparable to the larger uprights but less pure than a concert grand piano.
If you have the space and are serious about learning specific genres, such as classical music, an acoustic is your best option.
Whereas an acoustic piano produces sound based on tiny mechanical parts working together to produce sound, an electric piano makes sound based on replications of a real piano.
And because they don’t contain the same complex internal components, they don’t require regular tuning and maintenance.
A digital keyboard is also much lighter and easier to move around your living room than an acoustic piano.
Keyboards can have various advanced features, including demo songs, Bluetooth connectivity, and different sounds.
And some keyboards have a different number of keys than others. The 61-key keyboard and the full-size 88-key model are the two standard versions.
If you plan to travel and play gigs with your keyboard, the shorter version may be the best choice.
Smaller keyboards may also be a great choice if you want to learn chord playing or simply wish to play your favorite songs by ear.
But if you have plans to pursue piano more seriously in the future and are looking for a starter instrument at a reasonable price, stick with features that most closely resemble an acoustic piano.
Such features to consider include:
- Full-sized keys
- Realistic sounds that closely mimic the real thing
- Touch-sensitive keys
- Sustain pedal
- 88 keys
- Weighted keys
Your technique is crucial for preventing injury if you plan to learn technically demanding music, such as classical pieces.
This is one of the primary reasons you want to ensure that if you opt for a good beginner keyboard, it should closely mimic an acoustic, as you will need to switch at some point.
And if you get used to unweighted keys, you will have to re-adjust once you start playing on an acoustic.
Everyone has different goals when it comes to learning to play an instrument. Thinking about those goals before you begin your search is essential to ensure your goals match the instrument.
The digital piano is somewhat of a cross between an electric and acoustic piano.
They are designed to be an exact digital replica of an acoustic and are, therefore, not portable like electric pianos.
One could, however, make the argument that they are more portable than an acoustic grand.
Some of the best digital pianos in the world so closely mimic a real acoustic grand piano that it’s tough to distinguish a difference in sound between the two.
Although digital pianos are an excellent choice for some aspiring pianists, they tend to be more expensive and less portable than keyboards.
They also don’t offer the range of sounds or backing tracks offered by keyboards.
Still, digital pianos can be the right choice for certain students.
Electric Keyboard Options in 2023
Now that we’ve covered the fundamental differences between acoustic and digital pianos and keyboards let’s get to specifics.
Keyboards are a great option for people who aspire to be part of a band. They’re also great if you’re on a budget and want to avoid having the recurring maintenance costs you would with an acoustic.
Keyboards don’t occupy the same amount of space as an acoustic or digital piano. They are, therefore, great for people with space limitations.
And if you want to change the sound of your instrument to mimic an organ, other instruments, or even sound effects, a keyboard is your best bet.
Here are my top picks for keyboards for people brand new to the instrument.
Alesis Recital Pro – Best for Complete Piano Beginners
The Alesis Recital Pro has a full 88-keys and a premium 3-month subscription to Skoove, one of the more popular online learning options.
If you’re completely brand new to the instrument, this may be your best bet when it comes to instruments, thanks to the features which closely resemble an acoustic.
The keys are hammer action and can be adjusted to achieve your perfect level of touch.
And if you plan to advance your piano studies, opt for the sustain pedal add-on. This will help you master the art of playing smoothly without excess tension.
You can also opt for headphones, which make your practice sessions 100% private, a nice feature if you have performance anxiety or simply have neighbors living above or below you.
This keyboard has 12 sounds, including bass and synth, so you can produce various sounds.
And at just over $400 for the keyboard, pedal, and headphones, this model won’t completely break the bank.
You can knock off about $75 off the final price if you get the keyboard on its own however, trust me when I say that, eventually, you will want a sustain pedal.
The Alesis Recital Pro is an excellent starter keyboard for people interested in serious piano playing but uncertain about which instrument to buy.
Yamaha P-45 – Best for Beginners Interested in Classical Music
When it comes to musical instruments, Yamaha is a legend. In fact, my current piano is a Yamaha, and I adore it!
The brand also makes a quality electric keyboard, as evident in the P-45.
With 88 weighted keys, this model closely simulates the sound and feel you would get from playing an acoustic grand piano.
The above price includes a sustain pedal, a headphone jack, and USB connectivity.
And the keys have a matte finish, which makes them less slippery and more closely resembling those on an acoustic.
Yamaha also prides itself on its Graded Hammer Standard (GHS), which translates to heavier touch in the bass and lighter in the treble, a feature more closely resembling an acoustic than an electric instrument.
This model features 10 voices, including some lovely string settings that enhance whatever you play.
All-in-all, the P-45 is a solid option for beginners considering studying piano seriously now and in the future.
Casio CT-X700 – Best for Band Playing
If you’re searching for portability on a budget, check out the Casio CT-X700.
Although this model features fewer keys than the Yamaha or Alesis Recital Pro, it packs a punch when it comes to sound variety.
This model has a whopping 600 tones and hundreds of built-in rhythms to enhance all your creative endeavors.
It also comes complete with a library of 100 pre-recorded songs.
This specific model is equipped with 6 weeks of lessons from Simply, a nice feature if you’re completely new to the instrument.
And if you don’t need the extra lessons, skip them and save approximately $60 on the total price of the instrument.
It’s a more budget-friendly option even if the keyboard features only 61 instead of 88 keys.
And if portability is your thing, it’s lighter than the Yamaha. It will also travel more easily than the Alesis Recital Pro.
This keyboard also features USB-MIDI port connects for seamless integration with other technology.
The Casio is a great option for people who need portability and are interested in joining a band or learning pop music.
Alesis Melody – Most Budget-Friendly Model
The Alesis Melody is another great option if you’re on a budget. This keyboard comes under $150 and features 61 full-size keys and 300 voices.
Similar to the Alesis Recital Pro, the Melody also comes with a 3-month premium membership to Skoove, so you can launch your piano learning off on the right foot.
This keyboard also features a headphone jack, so your practice sessions can remain private. You can also record yourself to easily track your progress.
Although this keyboard has many fantastic features, it does not have a sustain pedal. It does feature a sustain button; however, this would be functionally different than a pedal.
If you want to take your piano studies beyond beginner, you will need to learn how to incorporate a sustain pedal into your playing.
But this one might be an excellent option if you don’t care about classical music or just want to play around with the keyboard.
Yamaha YPT270 – Most Beginner-Friendly Model
If you want the Yamaha reputation at a slightly more budget-friendly price, check out the YPT270.
It features a 61-key keyboard and can add accompaniment instruments to your playing.
Complete with a headphone jack, the Yamaha YPT270 also comes with a 3-month subscription to Flowkey, one of today’s most popular music-learning platforms.
This model also features a quiz mode, which plays a random note and allows you to determine which note was played.
It also has a smart chord feature that assists in playing larger, more complex chord structures.
Like the other models featured on this list, it includes a record function to playback and enjoy your musical creations.
And at 12.5 pounds, it’s tough to beat the portability of this quality, beginner-friendly keyboard.
Given the nice keyboard features and price, it also has relatively high Amazon ratings, a reassuring sign regardless of what you’re purchasing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a digital piano?
A digital piano differs slightly from an electric keyboard in that although the sound is digital, it is less portable than a keyboard.
Digital pianos are not designed to be moved around your house frequently or packed in your car for band practice.
A digital piano is an instrument that produces a sound similar to an acoustic without all the tiny internal components found in an acoustic.
They don’t require the routine maintenance of an acoustic and are less susceptible to the wear and tear placed on acoustic instruments.
Although more expensive than keyboards, digital pianos can be an excellent option for people interested in learning to play piano but not in paying for routine maintenance on their instrument.
What’s the difference between a keyboard and a digital piano?
Although digital pianos and keyboards have electronic representations of acoustic grand pianos, keyboards are more portable than digital ones.
Keyboards also offer more sound variety than a digital piano, designed to be an acoustic piano’s digital representation.
Digital pianos often don’t have backing tracks or other recorded sounds because those features are not inherent to acoustic pianos.
But digital pianos and keyboards often both have headphone jacks and recording features.
Aside from those basic features, extra features vary considerably among keyboard and digital piano models.
Can you teach yourself to play the piano?
Yes! There are many fantastic resources, including in-person and online, for learning to play the piano.
Scroll to the bottom of this post for a series of helpful posts I’ve assembled for aspiring pianists.
Whether you’re interested in classical, jazz, band, or pop playing, you can find resources to teach yourself to play the piano.
What are the best resources for learning to play the piano?
One of the first steps in learning to play the piano is identifying your goals.
Do you want to learn to play for fun? Or do you want to eventually play in a band? Do you love jazz and improv? Or would you rather play lyrical songs for an audience of one?
Once you’ve identified your goals, you can search for resources to start your journey.
Scroll to the bottom of this post for helpful content on launching your piano journey!
Do most keyboards come with a bench?
No. But most benches designed for use with keyboards come at a fairly reasonable price.
An adjustable bench is nice because you can incorporate better body mechanics and reduce unnecessary tension while playing.,
Do you need a real piano to learn to play?
No. You can learn to play piano on a keyboard.
But if you want to learn to play technically demanding music, you will eventually want to transition to an acoustic piano.
And although you can start out on a keyboard, you will want to find one with features that closely mimic an acoustic.
Such features include weighted, touch-sensitive keys, a full-size 88-key instrument, and a sustain pedal.
But if you’re interested in chord playing or learning your favorite songs by ear, a keyboard will likely be all you need to learn and have fun with the instrument.
Regardless of your goals for learning to play the piano, I hope this post has been a helpful guide in determining the best instrument for your needs.
Buying a keyboard can be confusing, but once you understand the features you’ll need, it’s so much easier!
Trying the instrument out for yourself before purchasing it is also helpful. Still, it can be challenging to find a store selling keyboards.
If you cannot “try before you buy,” check the return policy before purchasing to ensure you can return it if it’s not your ideal instrument.
It’s crucial that you’re delighted with the piano; otherwise, practice will be a drag, and you might as well not have purchased the keyboard in the first place.
And if you’re wondering about the next steps in your quest to learn the piano, check out these helpful resources. If you love and find them helpful, share them with a friend!
And if you have questions, please reach out! Playing the piano has given me so much that I love giving back to others interested in learning the instrument!
- How to Stay Motivated to Play Piano: Practice Tips
- 8 Best Books for Adult Beginners to Learn Piano
- 13 Piano Tips for Adult Beginners: 2023 Beginner’s Guide
- Baby Grand vs. Upright Piano: Which is Right for You?
- How to Practice Piano with Modacity: The Ultimate Guide
- Playground Sessions Review: Waste of Time or Worth the Hype?
- Acoustic vs. Digital Piano: Which is Right for You?
- Can You Learn to Play Piano by Watching YouTube Videos?
- The Best Ways to Learn Piano in 2023
- Can You Really Learn Piano Without a Teacher?
- Your Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Piano Practice Routine