First-time piano buyer’s guide: Choosing the perfect instrument

We know that taking piano lessons is a lifelong skill. However, did you know that buying an acoustic piano or a keyboard is also an investment, as it doesn’t come at a low price? Many parents come to us seeking recommendations before enrolling their children in piano lessons. For beginners, selecting the right instrument is pivotal. We want to avoid students or parents purchasing an instrument that won’t be suitable for extended periods of piano lessons and necessitating an upgrade soon afterward. In this section, we will discuss which instruments you should consider based on your budget as well as your musical goals and offer some recommendations.

Choosing Between a Piano and a Keyboard 

As instructors, we always prefer to teach on an acoustic piano. Nevertheless, understanding the constraints of living in NYC, we acknowledge that fitting an acoustic piano into an apartment is no easy task. Therefore, we recommend starting with a keyboard. High-quality 88-key weighted keyboards typically range from $500 to $700, while pianos can be purchased used and new, with prices ranging from $4000 to up to a million dollars.

The key difference is that keyboards require less maintenance. However, being electronic devices, they have a limited lifespan. We’ve noticed that our students’ keyboards lose their tactile sensitivity over time, some keys may become stuck, or even emit clicking noises after a certain number of years. In contrast, acoustic pianos require a minimum of yearly tuning, which costs approximately $150 to $300 in NYC, to keep them in optimal condition. Due to the changing weather in New York, we always advise our students to place their pianos away from windows if possible.

So, which option should you choose? If you or your kids are showing much interest in piano and you have the budget and space in your apartment, we always recommend purchasing a piano. It doesn’t necessarily need to be new, as there are numerous stores selling used ones in good condition. If not, a weighted keyboard will also perform admirably, serving late intermediate or early advanced students well before an upgrade becomes necessary.

If I want to buy a keyboard, which one should I get? 

Unlike an acoustic piano, for a keyboard, we highly recommend that our students purchase a new one instead of a second-hand one, as we treat it as an electronic device. Many brands produce keyboards, and it’s important to understand the differences between these options before making a purchase.

Weight and Size 

Our recommendation is a weighted 88-key keyboard. You might think that the difference between 61 keys and 88 keys, or between weighted and unweighted, is not significant. However, in reality, it makes a huge difference. As we previously mentioned, purchasing an instrument is an investment. Wouldn’t you want to invest in the right product from the outset? While you might notice only a small price difference between the two, it becomes wasteful when you have to repurchase a different keyboard after just a few months. Students need to develop finger strength, and a weighted keyboard replicates the feel of an actual piano, making it an essential feature. As for size, most keyboards with fewer than 88 keys come in an unweighted version, and we have noticed that some of our students struggle to find their position during recitals when using a smaller keyboard. Therefore, an 88-key keyboard size is preferable.

Quality of Sound and Touch 

The more advanced you become, the broader range of sounds you need to produce. We have encountered 88-weighted keyboards that are incapable of producing the desired dynamics and sounds. While keyboards from certain brands might be slightly more expensive, we always advise our students to consider reputable brands such as Yamaha or Roland. Spending a bit more on a high-quality keyboard can extend its usability by several years. Some of our favorites include the Yamaha P-45 or P-71 and the Roland FP-10. Comparing these brands, the P-71 offers a wider dynamic range and a greater variety of sounds than the P-45.”

If I want to buy a piano, where should I buy it?

In New York City, there are numerous piano stores catering to various budgets. We always recommend that our students visit a couple of stores and try out different pianos before making a purchase. Don’t hesitate to ask your teacher for assistance in checking the condition of used pianos or even helping you choose one. We’re thrilled when our students consider upgrading their pianos, as it reflects their commitment to learning. As teachers, we’re eager to assist them in selecting the right instrument.

In conclusion, choosing the right instrument is a significant decision. Whether you lean towards an acoustic piano or a keyboard, what matters most is how the keys feel and the sounds they produce, shaping your musical path. We hope this guide provides insight into your piano shopping journey.