hands on a gray keyboard

Tips For Buying Your First Piano

One of the most popular questions I hear from people who are interested in learning to play is: “What kind of piano do I need to have for lessons?”

I’m here to help with that! Whether you are hoping to buy your first piano or keyboard, or if you’re trying to determine if the one you have at home is right for you—you can get all the best information for your decision here.

Before diving further into different piano types and their pros and cons, here are a couple questions to consider for your selection.

Where will your piano live?

Will it be in a shared space or in a bedroom? Does it need to have a “wow” factor, or are you simply concerned with its functionality? How do you plan to take lessons? If online, make sure wherever you place your piano can access wi-fi.

How often will you move the instrument?

Are you ultimately hoping someday to play at church or somewhere with a group of friends or band? Do you move fairly regularly, or are you in a spot you’ll be staying for years? Weight and size are important aspects to consider depending on those answers.

Who will be using it?

Be sure that you have this conversation with everyone in your home that will potentially play it on a regular basis. Trust me, everyone will appreciate being able to offer their input.

What time of the day will it primarily be played?

If you or your budding pianist is typically planning on practicing late at night or early in the morning, it will be especially important to choose an instrument that offers the ability to use headphones.

What’s your budget?

Needless to say, if you are planning to purchase a new piano or keyboard, your budget is probably the first thing on your mind. Let’s take a look at the major variables involved to see how your piano options compare:

       Grand Piano        Upright Piano      Digital Piano  Electronic Keyboard 
Cost $6K – $150K $500 – $9K $500 – $6K $100 – $1K
Easy to move no no somewhat yes
Required Space     (5′ – 8′ x 5′) 5′ x 3′ – 4′ 4 1/2′ x 2′ – 3′ Sizes Vary
Headphones no no yes yes
Tuning yes yes no no
Electricity no no yes yes

Electronic Keyboards

Although having a full 88 note keyboard is
preferred, any keyboard with at least 5 octaves (60 keys) will work to start. Also, the keys need to feel like a piano versus an organ when you play them. That is usually called “weighted” or “hammer” action. You’ll find that some keyboards that can be found at discount stores (as opposed to music stores) come with narrow keys, which can be a real problem later on— so make sure your keyboard comes with standard width keys. If you are considering a keyboard, be sure to plan ahead and know what you are going to physically put the keyboard on. You might need to purchase a keyboard stand as well.

Some folks think they will be able to simply plop it up on a desk, but more than likely you will want to be able to adjust the height with a stand to fit your comfort level. One will probably be recommended for the model of keyboard you choose, which is important because different stands are more appropriate for a certain sized keyboards. If your keyboard does not come with a sustain pedal, you’ll want to make sure to buy one too as it will be a necessity once you get rolling.

Grand Pianos

If money is not a consideration, go for it! They are gorgeous and can also serve as a beautiful focal point of a room. Do remember though, an acoustic piano will require continued maintenance in the form of regular (twice a year) tuning and must be placed in an area with mild humidity and without excessive sunlight to protect the wood.

Upright Pianos

I’ll probably get a lot of heat for saying this, but in my opinion, a new upright piano is most likely not a logical choice in this day and age. I am of the belief that a digital piano is really a better bet if you are considering an upright piano. The technology has just gotten so good. A digital stays in tune, the sound qualities typically surpass those of your typical upright piano, and you can use headphones if need be. Beware of “free” or “cheap” pianos which can actually be quite expensive if the condition of the instrument will require rebuilding in order to be a playable instrument. Remember that they won’t come with a warranty. Buyer beware!

Digital Pianos

playing midi keyboard

With better feeling keys, built-in legs, more sophisticated sound systems, and headphones for private playing, digital pianos are my number one recommendations for first time buyers.  I personally feel that the vast majority of my students get the most bang for their buck with digital pianos. Before you swipe your credit card though, make sure your digital piano has 88, standard width keys, weighted action, and a sustain pedal! You can learn more about digital pianos here. 

Already have a piano?

Are you ready to start playing piano for fun? Test drive the Piano in a Flash Method, online environment, and get a feel for my teaching in an absolutely free Intro Course! It only takes 45 minutes and covers more ground than what traditional lessons cover in weeks!

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