You’ve decided to take piano lessons, but you’re not ready to invest in an acoustic piano. A digital piano is much less expensive, much more portable, and full of features that are great for pianists of all levels (hello, headphones for silent practice sessions!). Plus, it requires no maintenance – it never needs tuning.
We like digital pianos with:
- 88 keys: Although some digital pianos are smaller, modern acoustic pianos have 88 keys, and as your study of piano progresses, you’ll need them all. Better to buy a full-size keyboard right off the bat than a smaller keyboard that will only last you a short period of time.
- Weighted keys: On acoustic pianos, when a key is depressed, a series of levers attached to the key causes a hammer to strike a grouping of two or three strings. On higher quality keyboards, weights are added to keys so that it mimics this acoustic system. Play the key gently, and you’ll get a soft sound. Play the key with more force, and the sound will be louder and brighter. Find lots of great info here.
- At least one pedal: While acoustic pianos have three pedals, beginning players won’t need all three at first, but you’ll be limited if you don’t have at least the damper pedal, which allows notes to sustain even after you’ve stopped depressing a key.
- Internal speakers: With onboard speakers, you don’t need to connect to anything to sound great. Turn the piano on and go!
And if you’re someone who really wants to play piano, we don’t recommend a small, beginner-level keyboard. Beginner-level keyboards usually cost $100-$300 and have 61-76 keys, which are either not weighted or semi-weighted. They are often assumed to be a good starting point since they’re affordable and lightweight, but they sound and (most importantly) feel totally different from playing a real piano, making an eventual switch to an acoustic piano very difficult. We love that the digital pianos/keyboards we will highlight intentionally mimic the feel and sound of an acoustic piano. For a comprehensive guide to the difference between a digital keyboard and an acoustic piano, check out this article.
Thankfully, there are dozens of strong digital piano options to choose from at varying price points, and so below, we will help guide you through some recommendations.
NY Times Wirecutter senior staff writer, Brent Butterworth, is an audio journalist and musician who tested an array of digital pianos and made a series of recommendations. His top pick for beginners is the Roland FP10, an 88-key, weighted, portable keyboard that sounds like an acoustic piano and even simulates escapement, the feeling you get on an acoustic piano when the hammer drops away after striking the strings, all for less than $600.
Another beginner option at the same price point is offered by Yamaha. Forte Teacher Richard Bosworth uses several Yamaha P90 keyboards in his studio to complement his Yamaha and Fazioli acoustic pianos. The P90 is discontinued, but the comparable alternative is the Yamaha P-125a.
If you’re after a digital piano that looks and plays more like an acoustic piano, check out the Yamaha ARIUS series.
With a powerful grand piano tone, 88 weighted keys, and three pedals in a console design, the Yamaha ARIUS digital pianos have everything you need to set yourself up for success, making them a great choice for beginning and experienced students alike.
You might already know how to play piano, but you’re interested in taking lessons again for your own enjoyment or to take your craft to the next level. If you’re an advanced student who wants a more comprehensive, ambitious option that will allow your skills to really blossom, the Yamaha Clavinova series can’t be beat. Yahama’s industry-leading console digital piano for over forty years, Clavinovas delight with authentic acoustic action (with graded weighting, so the lower keys feel heavier than the higher keys), elegant design, and gorgeous tone. Forte Teacher, Anna Fagan, loves her Yamaha Clavinova CSP, which travels with her across the country as she teaches online lessons in her motorhome. For students, we love the entry level Yamaha Clavinova CLP-725.
Whatever route you decide to go, a digital piano/keyboard that fits your budget and feels right to you is always the best choice. If you’re able, visit a local music store to try a few before buying so you know what you like and don’t like. And remember, there’s nothing like the guidance from a great teacher to help you consider options, make progress, and reach your goals. Forte’s revolutionary music education platform paired with the perfect teacher makes all the difference! Find your perfect teacher for online piano lessons at Forte.