Buyer’s Guide: Your First Digital Piano

Learning to play the piano is one of the most rewarding musical endeavors you can embark on. It’s never too late to start, and with the advent of digital pianos it’s never been easier to learn. However, with so many models it can be difficult to decide between price points and features, especially for beginners. Luckily, we’ve put together an overview of what to look for in a beginner digital piano and included a few examples of what you can find here on Reverb.

Features to Consider

Most piano teachers will recommend a full-length 88-key keyboard, the same number of keys as on a grand piano, as this will allow you to play almost any piece of music. You also will want the keyboard to have “weighted action,” which simulates the feel of an actual piano key activating hammers to strike the strings. In addition to a more authentic feel, weighted keys help build finger strength which will help with your technique and playing stamina.

Beyond these basic features, there are many other options to consider depending on your interests and needs.

  • Do you want to play more than just piano sounds? Look for keyboards offering multiple sounds or presets, as well as the ability to split or layer the keyboard between two different sounds.
  • Don’t own a keyboard amplifier? Buy a digital piano with onboard speakers.
  • Don’t want to annoy your neighbors? Seek out digital pianos with a headphone output, or with multiple headphone outputs if you practice with a teacher.
  • Want to compose music as you start to get better at playing? Make sure your digital piano has MIDI or USB ports to interface with your computer, as well as an audio output should you decide to perform live.

New or used, there are many very good digital keyboards in the $500 to $1000 range. Here’s a look.

Recommended Digital Pianos

YAMAHA P-115

The Yamaha P-115 is an excellent choice for beginners. The P-115 keeps it simple by sticking to the essentials: 88 weighted keys, a high-quality piano sound engine and onboard speakers. It also offers split and recording functionality, as well as different outputs for USB, a sustain pedal, stereo audio, and up to two headphones.

YAMAHA DGX-650

The Yamaha DGX-650 builds on the characteristics of the P-115, but adds a large LCD display and emulates the damper resonance of an actual piano. It also offers the ability to record audio or MIDI to a USB flash drive, and features a “style recommender” that offers backing tracks based on what you are playing.

CASIO PRIVIA PX-160

Featuring a redesigned speaker system, two headphone outputs, stereo audio output, USB output, and multiple piano and string sounds, the Casio Privia series is a great digital piano option, and the PX-160 offers incredible value for any beginning piano player.

KORG SP-280

Along with the standard digital piano features, the Korg SP-280 offers a “partner” mode that splits the keyboard into two identical parts for playing along with a teacher or friend, as well as a mode enabling you to layer two sounds. It comes with multiple sound types, ranging from strings to electric organ, and its 22-watt stereo speakers are powerful enough for a small gig.

ROLAND F-20

What makes the Roland F-20 special is that it offers iOS integration with Roland’s Air Performer and Piano Partner apps, a port for connecting a damper pedal for a more realistic acoustic piano feel, and a rhythm feature that follows the way you play in real-time. All of these features are combined with Roland’s high-quality weighted keyboard and acclaimed SuperNATURAL piano sound engine.

Accessories and Effects

As a beginner you’ll probably need some accessories, like a sustain pedal, stands for your keyboard and music, a piano bench, headphones and cables, so plan ahead and budget effectively by thinking through what you want to play and where, and shop smart.

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