The Simplest Guide to Buying a
Digital Piano or Electronic Keyboard

The Simplest Guide to Buying a Digital Piano or Electronic Keyboard

Marc Levesque - About Us - Lesson With You

Marc Levesque   12/28/21 updated 11/12/21 • 3 min read

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Our Digital Piano Recommendations

Here are our recommendations for digital pianos, updated for spring of 2021. If you would like to explore more options yourself, scroll down to learn what to look for when buying a digital piano in order to get the most out of your piano lessons.

The Best Overall Option: Yamaha P71

The Yamaha P71 is our best overall pick for 2021. It has everything we look for in a digital piano, including good sound quality, 88 weighted keys, and includes a music rack and a sustain pedal. For the price, you won’t find a better option.

A similar option is the Yamaha P45, which is available from Walmart. Alternatively, the Yamaha P125 is an even better version at a slightly higher price.

The Best Option Below $300: Donner DEP-10

If you’re looking for an option below $300, the Donner DEP-10 is fine for beginners. It has 88 keys, which is a must, and it includes a sustain pedal. However, the keys are only semi-weighted, which means that the touch is artificial feeling and does not match the feeling of an upright or grand piano. This will be problematic for intermediate or advanced pieces.

The Best Option Below $150: Donner DEK-610

Sometimes price is the main factor in buying a piano, and this is the absolute cheapest piano that will work for beginner piano lessons. It only has 61 keys, not 88, and the keys are not weighted. The sound quality is also not very good. It would be necessary to upgrade soon after buying this piano, so it is best suited for children who are beginners and are not yet sure if they want to take many piano lessons.

The Three Things to Look For when Buying a Digital Piano

When buying a digital piano, there are three main things to look for:

  1. 88 Keys
  2. Weighted Keys
  3. Good Sound Quality

88 Keys
No matter your level, whether you’re a beginner level keyboard or one for an advanced pianist, you will want to get a piano that has at least 88 keys. This is the same number as an upright or grand piano, and it is essential in order to get a proper piano experience. Some “beginner” pianos come with 61 keys or fewer, and these should be avoided. Not having access to the full number of keys can hinder your progress, so you should aim to get a piano with 88 keys.

Weighted Keys
The second most important thing to look for is weighted keys. Weighted keys just means that the keys have some resistance to them, just like acoustic piano keys do, gives them much greater touch sensitivity and dynamic range. Even beginner pianists will want to be able to play expressively, and having weighted keys allow pianists to shape their playing in a musical way. You may also come across some “semi-weighted” options. This is better than non-weighted keyboards, but it will still limit your expressive abilities. For beginning children, semi-weighted keys might be fine, but if you’re looking to keep the piano for multiple years without having to upgrade, then it is better to go for fully weighted keys.

Good Sound Quality
Once you’ve found a piano with 88 weighted keys, you’ll want to aim to get as good sound quality as possible. Sound quality is difficult to tell through online listings, so the best place to look will be the reviews of the keyboard. However, by having found a piano with 88 weighted keys, chances are that the sound quality will already be decent as the ones with very poor sound quality tend to have less than 88 keys and are not weighted.

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Features that Don't Matter

Given the number of options available, some pianos will have 1 or 2 of the features that we look for, and many other features that really don’t matter in terms of becoming a better pianist. These include:

Extra sounds: Assuming this piano will be used for piano lessons and for becoming a better pianist, extra sound options on the pianos such as synthesized strings or organ sounds, can be fun but are not really relevant. It is more important that the keyboard has a good piano sound than that it has many other sounds.

Recording and playback features: Just like the extra sounds, recording and playback features can be a nice bonus but they’ll have little effect on your piano studies. Any live performances you do will likely not need recording capabilities, and being able to play along with yourself has limited value when practicing. Plus, you can always record yourself on your phone, so recording directly into the piano has little benefit.

Teaching modes: The best teacher for you will be a live one, so any pre-installed teaching software will only get you so far. Most pianos with teaching modes built in will likely have less than 88 keys, so you’ll want to avoid them even if just for that reason.

Demo songs: Demo songs that you can have the piano play just by clicking a few buttons are entertaining, but there’s no actual benefit to them and it’s just as easy to find and listen to songs through YouTube, Spotify, or similar options.

Additional Piano Accessories to Consider

In addition to the keyboard itself, you will also need a music stand, keyboard stand, sustain pedal, and a bench.

The pianos we have recommended above already come with a music stand and sustain pedal, but just in case you’re buying the items separately, here’s what to look for:

1. Keyboard Stands:

Most stands will work with most keyboards. Just make sure by reading the reviews that the stand will be strong enough to support a full sized keyboard. The reason you need a stand is because you need room under the keyboard for the pedal, and you’ll want to be able to adjust the height of the stand so that the keyboard is at it’s proper height. Here are our top two recommendations:

2. Sustain Pedals

The sustain pedal allows notes to keep sounding after you let go of them. If this is new to you, don’t worry, your teacher will be sure to cover it in your first lesson. Just know that it is a significant part of piano playing, and so you’ll definitely need a sustain pedal to make good progress. Most well-rated sustain pedals will be fine. Just make sure they have a 1/4” plug which will be compatible with most digital pianos. Here are our top two recommendations:

3. Piano Benches

Piano benches are different from standard chairs as they don’t have a back, and the height can be adjusted. It is important that the height is adjustable because even beginning pianists need to sit at the right height so that they can develop the proper posture and technique. Other than being adjustable, the main differences between benches are how they look, how comfortable, and how long they last. Here are our top two recommendations:

SONGMICS Adjustable Piano Bench with Sheet Music Storage

Greenpro Adjustable X Style Padded Keyboard Bench

4. Music Racks

Most digital pianos will come with a keyboard music stand, which sits on top of the piano and holds your music. (This is different from a conventional music stand, which stands on the floor and does not fit on top of a piano.) If you happen to buy a piano that does not come with a music stand, you can buy an affordable one that either sits on the piano or rests against the wall. Here are our top two recommendations:

Where to Buy Pianos

All the pianos we have recommended are available on Amazon since that is an option that works well for most people. Some other good places to look are Guitar Center (despite the name), Sweetwater, and Musician’s Friend. Those three sites will tend to have good quality options, so as long as the reviews are okay and the piano has 88 weighted keys, you’ll probably make a good purchase.

Buying an Acoustic Upright or Grand Piano

If you don’t want an electric option, and you have room in your budget, we would recommend getting an upright or grand piano. Yes, they have to be tuned regularly and they’re not portable, but nothing beats the experience of playing on a good acoustic piano. To find a good upright or grand piano, you will want to visit a store in person and try out the pianos. Each of those pianos will have it’s own sound quality and touch feel, so you should try it out yourself and see if you like it before purchasing it. Based on how long you intend to keep the piano, and what level you’re hoping to reach, store employees should be able to help you make a selection.

Need Help Deciding on a Piano or Have a Different Question?

If there is a piano that you’re interested in but we haven’t recommended, let us know about it, and we’ll help you decide if it’s a good choice. We’ll take into account your budget, your level, and what sort of quality you are looking for and determine whether the piano is a good deal or if there is an alternative that suits you better.

We’ll respond very quickly!

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