Need music gear? Get it at zZounds.com

ADVERTISEMENT

My First Keyboard: Buying a child’s first electronic keyboard instrument

December 9, 2007 by  

Updated 10th August 2013

The keyboard buyers’ guide I wrote a couple of years ago stands as a good introduction to buying a keyboard instrument for adults.

In this feature I will look specifically at buying a child their first “serious” electronic keyboard. If your child isn’t quite ready for this kind of keyboard yet, read ten toy pianos your child will love.

Introduction: My Story

Let me tell you a little of my musical upbringing to give you some ideas on the way forward for your child / potential musical genius. :)

I grew up in a home with an acoustic upright piano, which I started playing and picking out tunes on from a young age (3 or 4). From this my parents realised I had musical aptitude/talent, and I began taking classical-based piano lessons from around age 5.

If this article is useful you may also be interested in these:

I enjoyed this, and was incredibly blessed to have access to the piano (it’s probably why I love the acoustic piano, or as near as I can get to it, to this day). However, from the age of about 12, after seeing someone on stage playing some amazing synth lines and creating sound textures, I wanted to get into electronic music.

My parents agreed, and bought a fairly entry-level keyboard. However, it was enough to get me started in trying out new sounds, rhythms, and even doing some basic sequencing work on my computer.

The point to this is that, whether or not your child shows some interest and aptitude for music, and in particular a keyboard, it’s worth starting with a basic set up and building on that, rather than splashing out on an all-singing, all-dancing keyboard, digital piano, or even an acoustic piano, only for it to be a costly mistake.

Don’t Force Them – See The Interest

I fell in love with keyboard instruments because that’s what was around, but I wasn’t forced to play.

Fashions come and go. Guitars are cool, and many kids want to play them. Don’t force them to play one type of instrument they’re really not interested in. Having said that, if they show interest in a piano (I’ve seen a great many children who love to try to play things on the keyboard, and it’s (arguably) an easier instrument to begin learning/experimenting on than the guitar, especially for small fingers) then go for it.

Make It Fun!

Though you may pay a bit extra, or sacrifice a bit of sound quality, by getting a keyboard with plenty of features, it will make it fun for your child to play, experiment, and learn about music.

If they really get a taste for playing seriously, and when they’re a bit older, they’ll probably find out what kind of things they want their keyboard to do. In fact, if they’re anything like me, they’ll be down at the local music shop every Saturday eyeing up the next model, getting the specifications and the price, and working out how to introduce the concept of a new keyboard to you.

In reality, even today’s relatively inexpensive keyboards do absolutely amazing things, and sound fantastic.

Which Manufacturers Are Best?

While this is a rather subjective question, my personal belief is that Yamaha makes some of the best sounding, feature-rich, value-for-money electronic keyboards around. (View a range of Yamaha Keyboards on zZounds and Amazon.)

Casio also make decent enough keyboards, though for some reason they’ve always had a bit of a rough ride in the reputation stakes (at least, they were always joked about – maybe it’s because Casio makes calculators too, I don’t know). (View a range of Casio Keyboards on zZounds and Amazon.)

Other manufacturers include Roland, Korg and M-Audio (links go to ranges on zZounds), but they tend to lean towards semi-professional and professional musical instruments and recording equipment.

Features To Look For

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of features that can be found on modern electronic keyboards, with a brief explanation. Generally, the more features you have, the more expensive the keyboard. However, even quite basic keyboards have a large number of features.

For a more in-depth description of different key sizes, weights and features, read our feature article: How to choose the best keyboard size and weight

Number of Keys

Most home keyboards come with either 49 keys (4 octaves) or 61 keys (5 octaves). More keys equals more room for playing, or for splitting the keyboard between accompaniment and melody.

Type of Keys

Most home keyboards use thin plastic keys with a very light touch. This doesn’t mean they’re not durable, but they’re not heavy or hard to depress like the keys of a piano.

Touch Sensitivity

This determines whether hitting a key harder produces a louder and/or different sound. A lot of home keyboards do have some kind of touch sensitivity built in, though very cheap ones are “fixed velocity”.

The advantage of touch sensitivity is that it gives the ability to play with greater expression.

Sounds

Most keyboards come with a wide array of sounds, including real world acoustic and electric sounds, synthetic sounds, and sound effects.

Check the acoustic piano sounds if this is important – Yamaha in particular put a decent enough grand piano sound even on basic models though it will never sound as good as their thousands-of-dollars Clavinova.

Some acoustic sounds may not be great (horns in particular usually sound awful, guitars are often dubious) but may serve as a good introduction to making music. Strings are usually fairly good, and synth/sound effects are fun.

Pitch Bend/Modulation

A lot of home keyboards have a pitch bend wheel, usually located to the left of the keyboard. This allows notes to be “bent” up and down in pitch.

Some have modulation, which changes the colour or effect of a particular sound, though this is less common on entry-level keyboards.

Sustain Pedal

Many home keyboards have a jack input for adding a sustain pedal, used to hold the sound of played notes. Not all do. Some come with a pedal, others it’s an optional extra. Worth having particularly when playing piano sounds.

Continued below...

Polyphony

Polyphony measures how many sounds the keyboard can play at one time. The higher the polyphony, the less risk of notes being cut off, and also the more detailed accompaniments can be played. Every note of every sound, including those being sustained, counts towards polyphony. 32 is a decent entry-level value to look for. [Read more about polyphony]

Drum Pads

Some keyboards come with extra drum finger pads, located above the keys. They’re fun for playing or sequencing rhythm.

Auto-Accompaniment

Most home keyboards have at least some kind of automatic accompaniment. This usually includes drums, bass, guitar, or other accompaniment instruments.

Some have different patterns for song intros, outros, bridge, verse, chorus, etc.

Others allow you to record your own accompaniments, though this is usually on more expensive instruments.

Often seen just as a bit of fun, they can be quite useful for developing an initial appreciation of rhythm, and playing with other instrumentalists, even though they’re all pre-recorded and can be rather “staid”.

Interactive Learning

Many keyboards now come with some kind of built in learning system which can teach beginning players how to play notes and chords.

Though this adds to the cost, it can be useful for getting kids to learn the basics without having to pay for tuition, which could be expensive and wasted.

Recording/Sequencing

Some home keyboards offer basic recording of notes, accompaniment, and so on. Sequencing (recording multiple tracks and being able to edit notes) tend to be found only on more expensive keyboards, though it is often possible to connect cheaper keyboards to a PC or Mac via MIDI or USB, and use computer software to record and edit music.

MIDI/USB Connection to Computer/Other Instruments

Most keyboards have MIDI connectors. MIDI is a well-established standard for connecting musical instruments to each other, and to PCs.

Some newer keyboards also have USB interfaces, allowing direct connection to a PC or Mac.

This can be great for using music software, updating sounds, downloading material from the Internet to play on the keyboard, and more.

Possibly not essential for a young child, but does open up more possibilities.

Buy New or Second-Hand?

My personal preference would be to buy new, even if you buy a slightly older “end of line” model at a discount. Though keyboards can last a long time, you’ll get the best technology and pristine equipment by buying new. [Find a new keyboard]

If buying second-hand, be very sure what you’re getting and paying for. If possible, check the instrument out for yourself. Ensure all the keys and buttons work, and there’s no damage to the casing. Remember that these instruments depreciate in value quickly, so don’t be tricked into paying significant money for a keyboard, even one that’s just a year or two old.

Try Before You Buy

Though you often get the best deals on the Internet, it really is worth checking out a selection of keyboards at a local music store so that you can hear them, play with their features, and decide which one you like best.

What’s Around Now?

Bearing in mind that music technology advances very quickly, here are some of the latest, entry-level keyboards available (August 2013).


Yamaha PSR-E233 61-Key Portable Keyboard

Yamaha PSR-E233

The PSR-E233 features nearly 500 natural sounding voices, including a Stereo Grand Piano, 12 drum kits and a sound effect kit. The PSR-E233 also has a large number of accompaniment styles and built-in songs. Use the Portable Grand button to instantly call up an authentic stereo grand piano sound. The instrument also has a rich Reverb effect that adds concert-hall ambience to any performance. The Yamaha Education Suite feature makes learning and practicing music more fun than ever before. Buy at zZounds.

Casio CTK-2100 61-Key Portable Electronic Keyboard with USB

Casio CTK-2100

The Casio CTK-2100 offers pure playing pleasure with 61 piano-style touch keys. Discover the instrument’s numerous features: whether you want to dive into a colourful world of 150 rhythms, use the sampling function together with the new Voice Pads or connect a CD or MP3 player via the audio input so that you can play along to your favourite song on the keyboard – the Casio CTK-2100 provides a huge range of features and functions. And the step-up learning system makes it easy to hear the progress made in your playing skills. Buy at zZounds.

Casio CTK-3200 61-Key Touch Sensitive Electronic Keyboard with USB

Casio CTK-3200

The Casio CTK-3200 employs Casio’s new AHL sound source technology, which enables the realistic reproduction of a wide range of tones from acoustic instruments like the piano and more. The maximum polyphony of 48 notes — an improvement from 32 notes — ensures that no sound drops out, even when playing complex parts with auto-accompaniment. These Casio keyboards also feature piano-style keys to satisfy more users. Buy at zZounds.

Yamaha YPT320 61-Key Touch-Sensitive Portable Keyboard

Yamaha YPT-320

The YPT-320 is a touch sensitive instrument that features 482 dynamic, authentic voices, with 361 XGlite voices, 12 drum kits and a sound effect kit. The YPT-320 also has 106 accompaniment styles and 102 built-in songs. Music database with 100 songs-for instantly setting entire instrument to match a desired music genre. Special two-track Easy Recording feature lets you record and save up to five of your original songs – great for composing and practice purposes. Buy at zZounds.

Casio WK-225 76-Key Electronic Keyboard

Casio WK-225

The Casio WK-225 Electronic Keyboard offers great tones, sampling, and lessons in one great keyboard! This WK-225 is amazing! Casio is showing how much they can fit in to this keyboard while offering at a price that makes it impossible to turn down. Buy at zZounds.

Free Updates


Get Social

Comments

52 Responses to “My First Keyboard: Buying a child’s first electronic keyboard instrument”

  1. rewsnat on December 11th, 2007 8:39 pm

    I definitely recommend buying a keyboard for your kids instead of an upright piano. For several reasons,
    1) kids love to try new things, a piano will bored them out really quick, whereas a keyboard have many features for them to play around with.
    2) a keyboard is most of time cheaper than a piano.
    3) you don’t need to tune your keyboard

  2. Andy on December 12th, 2007 12:09 am

    Agreed.

    While I enjoyed playing the piano a lot as a child, I went through a phase of being bored with it.

    Having the keyboard actually made we appreciate the piano more. Now I have a digital piano and some synths, and they both serve specific needs and styles.

  3. Kim Kinrade on January 7th, 2008 5:56 pm

    I think your site is great and I am using the info on keyboards to buy one for my daughter.

    Cheers,
    Kim

  4. Jonathan Loresca on August 13th, 2008 3:25 am

    I have the same experience as a child. My exposure to music was way back before I started formal school education.

    I also like the fact that you featured the keyboard I have currently, which is the CTK 800.

  5. Robert Springett on December 16th, 2008 6:17 pm

    Hi,
    I enjoyed reading your article. I have recently obtained a 49 key Stereo
    Electronic Keyboard, the only marking on it is : MC-5149 with no indication of make. It does not have an LCD display. Unfortunately I have no User’s Guide for it. Have you any idea where I can find one?
    Regards
    Robert

  6. Andy on December 17th, 2008 12:37 am

    Hi Robert.

    Sounds like the Victory Multimedia MC-5149, but I don’t know anything about the keyboard and I can’t find anywhere that still stocks it.

    Where did you buy it from? I’m not sure, is it a USB instrument that can be plugged in to your computer?

    Sorry I can’t be much more help. Hopefully it’s simple enough that you can get some good use from it by experimenting, even if there isn’t a manual. It can be tough to find manuals online, particularly for makes of keyboard that aren’t as well know as, say, Yamaha or Casio.

    Hope you get on OK with it.

  7. Robert Springett on February 2nd, 2009 11:32 am

    Hi Andy
    I got it quite cheap on French ebay but the bod couldn’t help me with a manual. It is not a USB instrument which can be plugged into the computer. What I like about it is that the keys are full size.
    Thanks for your help.
    Robert

  8. Andy on February 3rd, 2009 2:33 pm

    No problem, Robert. Finding manuals for slightly more obscure things (and even some not so obscure) can be very tricky.

  9. Alejandro on March 20th, 2009 4:48 am

    Sorry if my question is not directly related to the content of this blog entry, but it is somewhat related. I am a 40 year old man who never studied music, but always loved music if that makes sense. I am intending to buy an instrument and a friend of mine sells me an old Clavinova (10 years old, in good shape as far as I can tell) for about $300-$500. At the same time, I see some great keyboards for little more money like the Yamahas or the Casio Privia series. My question is then, would an older Clavinova be preferable (since it is a digital piano) to a new keyboard, specially considering that I am new to learning piano? Thank you for your help!

  10. Karen on May 18th, 2009 8:23 pm

    Hi, I was wondering if anyone would be able to help me. My 10 year old daughter has a 54 key keyboard and is teaching herself to play it. She is already mastering the songs from Mary Poppins along with some current chart music using her own ear.

    My problem is that she wants me to be able to label the keys for her with the letters & numbers, but I know nothing about this and from what I have found on the internet it just confuses me further. I have spent a long time reading stuff on the notes & octaves but got no further.

    Any help on this is greatly appreciated.

    Thanks :-)

  11. Andy on May 18th, 2009 9:31 pm

    Hi Alejandro,

    Sorry it has taken me along time to reply. My advice would always be to buy a newer keyboard. Not only might the build quality be better but also the sound generation technology will have improved so you’ll get a more realistic piano sound.

    Having said that, the Clavinovas are very good, but I’d still look at getting a new one. Be careful with secondhand ones that they are in good and complete working order.

  12. Andy on May 18th, 2009 9:36 pm

    Hi Karen,

    It’s great that your daughter is so into playing and long may that continue. In my experience if she can play by ear she’s more likely to retain interest and experiment with songs even beyond learning to read and play from printed music.

    It’s hard to explain the layout of the keys here but I’ll try to cover this in an article very soon, hopefully this week. Labelling the keys can be useful. I presume she wants to learn to read from sheet music?

  13. Karen on May 18th, 2009 9:56 pm

    Hi and thank you for getting back to me so soon.

    My daughter wants them labelled so that she can write the keys down as she goes, that way she can keep track of where she has got to with the songs.

    So far she has memorised about 10 songs that she plays by testing each key til she gets it right herself then adds the notes together. But it would be easier for her to write them as she goes so to speak.

    It bugs her when she forgets the placement of a key and hits the wrong note. She has no sheet music to go by as her keyboard did not come with any. Everything is by ear.

  14. Andy on May 19th, 2009 4:17 pm

    Ahh, I see what you mean. Well, I’ll try to come up with something that will be easy for you and your daughter to use. Watch this space :)

  15. Andy on May 19th, 2009 6:15 pm

    Hi Karen,

    You might want to take a look at this guide: How to label and write notes on the piano keyboard: a basic guide.

    I hope it’s fairly self-explanatory, but feel free to leave a comment if you want any more clarification. I think it will be a good start for your daughter to be able to record what she is playing. It might spark her interest in learning more about ways of writing music down. At very least it should help jog her memory – if she plays a lot “by ear” anyway then this is often all that’s needed.

    Good luck! :)

  16. ac on May 29th, 2009 7:37 pm

    I was hoping this was actually useful article but alas it is not. Came to look for a comprehensive list of keyboards with more than 3 octaves, mini-keys and midi. You have none, this article is a god damn joke.

  17. Andy on May 30th, 2009 2:15 pm

    Actually you’re the “joke”, ‘ac’. I don’t usually get personal but you come here with an anonymous “name”, no way of contacting you, and completely insult an article that it took me a good deal of time to write and has helped a number of people already.

    If you’d contacted me looking for some information I would’ve happily helped you out, but as you’ve acted like a compete prat (toned down word used for the sake of politeness, not that you deserve any but the rest of my readers do) I won’t bother.

    You’re nothing but a sad little TROLL. In fact, if you take a look around you’ll see there aren’t any mass-produced keyboards with mini keys that also have more than three octaves. Casio comes the closest (as this article clearly states, though you obviously didn’t bother to read it properly.)

    Still, if you want to blame ME for something that THE INDUSTRY ITSELF lacks then fine. Continue to act like a self-righteous idiot. If you had left a proper email address then I’d have been a lot blunter in my reply, but as you’re too pathetic to even leave a valid way of contacting you, I can’t. At least if you’re going to be insulting, have the courage to do it as yourself. I know you’re in FInland somewhere.

  18. Karen on June 9th, 2009 12:33 am

    Thank you so much for this information. Have successfully labelled the keyboard using small round coloured stickers, using a different colour for each set of notes.

    Honestly, this guide makes it far more simpler to understand, the other ones I had read just added to my confusion. The diagram helped big time.

    I appreciate the time you have taken to help us in compiling this post.

    Regards,

    Karen

  19. Karen on June 9th, 2009 12:37 am

    AC – your post was out of order. T

    hese people have went out of their way to help me with my daughter’s keyboard problem.

    You could have asked for advice rather than slamming them for not knowing what you where looking for.

    It would have been quicker to actually ask them rather than type the nonsense you wasted your time spouting.

    My children are more respectful than that.

  20. FB @ FabulouslyBroke.com on June 11th, 2009 7:37 pm

    THANK YOU! I am considering going from acoustic to digital and your guide has made it so much easier to make the leap. Now I just have to go and try out the brands in person but I shall keep all your tips in mind.

    @ ac? Suck it.

    FB @ FabulouslyBroke.com

  21. Paolo Morganti on November 11th, 2009 12:01 am

    I am considering the purchase of a Yamaha PSR-E313 for my grandson,9 years old. For almost two years he has expressed the desire to learn how to play a piano. I would appreciate your opinion on which model is reflecting best the piano acoustic and any training book. Nahum is very intelligent,caring and shy.Your reply would be appreciated.Thank-you

  22. Paolo Morganti on November 11th, 2009 10:03 pm

    I have sent a e-mail yesterday seeking some advice on best model for my grandson. Please could you reply as soon as possible. Thank-you.

  23. Andy on November 12th, 2009 1:28 pm

    Hi Paolo,

    Sorry for the delay in replying to you.

    If you are after an entry-level keyboard with a good enough acoustic piano sound, then the Yamaha models such as the one you suggest will do the job.

    It’s worth bearing in mind that there are a number of factors which determine getting the most authentic piano experience from a digital instrument. It’s not just the sound, but also the feel of the keys.

    You won’t get the feel of an acoustic piano with the sort of keys found on these smaller keyboards, though they do offer touch response (absolutely essential).

    If, after a while, your grandson really takes to playing the piano (above playing the keyboard in general), it would then be worth investing in a proper digital piano — you’ll get a very similar feel to an acoustic piano, and the full range of keys (88 notes). Again, Yamaha is a good make, easily available, with a wide choice, but also worth looking at is Roland or Korg.

    However, it’s probably not worth investing much money in that until you’re sure whether he takes to it.

    I hope that helps, but please come back to me with any other questions you might have.

  24. Rochelle on December 1st, 2009 11:45 am

    Hi Andy,

    My parents-in-law want to buy our toddler a keyboard for Christmas. We don’t have room for an acoustic piano in our little flat, but want to give him the opportunity to play a ‘real instrument’ instead of the silly ‘my first keyboard’ gimmicky numbers that they sell in children’s toy stores.

    Our toddler loves playing with pianos when we happen upon them at friends and relatives houses.

    I will have a thorough look at the links above, but I wondered if you could recommend anything basic and inexpensive, that would not ‘date’ too quickly.

    Our toddler is only 18 months – so we are hoping he will get many years use out of this keyboard!

    Many thanks,
    Rochelle

  25. Andy on December 4th, 2009 1:08 pm

    Hi Rochelle,

    Personally I would look at one of the lower end Yamaha keyboards. They have full-size keys (which might be a bit big for your 18-month-old now, but that’s what I started on, and saves transition later when hands do get bigger), touch response, a good piano sound but also lots of fun features as well (rhythms, other sounds).

    Perhaps see if you can get one with Yamaha’s educational system built in, as it can then teach how to play simple songs.

    Keyboards have moved on in the last two years since this article was written, but the basics are still the same.

    I would take a look at Yamaha Entry Level Portables (direct link to Yamaha’s site).

    The PSR-E223 looks like a very capable instrument. It looks like a professional keyboard rather than a child’s one, which may or may not be an advantage for your child. You could always decorate it with coloured stickers and the like…

    I’ve seen the PSR-E223 sold on Amazon US for around $90. I don’t know what budget you are looking for. I wouldn’t advise going for anything cheaper especially if you think there’s a good chance he’ll enjoy playing it. If you want to spend any more, just work down the list of entry level keyboards on the Yamaha site.

    I hope that helps for now. The keyboards are light, fairly compact, and so can be stored away when not in use, and they can be used on a tabletop or a proper keyboard stand.

  26. Bob Wall on March 30th, 2010 7:15 pm

    I’d like some information on a electronic keyboard for a small child. I want to be able to insert a CD, have the keyboard play the CD, and have the corresponding keys move. I think my great-grandchild may have some musical talent.

  27. Andy on April 6th, 2010 1:23 pm

    Hi Bob,

    Do you mean like a modern equivalent of one of those pianos that played from punched rolls of paper?

    I’ve never heard of a keyboard that can do exactly what you ask. The closest I’d think of is a keyboard that can download songs from the Internet or from a USB stick, and then light up the keys that need to be played.

    If anyone else has heard of a mainstream instrument that can do this, please leave a comment here.

  28. Mancong on May 28th, 2010 9:58 pm

    Andy,
    The article is a couple of years old and I hope you are still answering questions.
    We’re looking for a digital keyboard for our daughter’s 10th birthday. It will be a surprise but I think she is going to love it.
    She has been learning piano for almost 3 years from a teacher and we’d like to see her continue. She generally likes piano except the daily practicing part. We have an upright acoustical at home. We’d like to give her a keyboard so she can 1) make parctice more fun (e.g. playing duet by herself) and boost her interest in piano; 2) practice on the weekends when we are at our cabin (no more excuses); 3) help her to start another instrument next year (required in middle school).
    My budget is around $100 (up to $200, not strictly, but prefer to stay within budget). I don’t think it needs to be big, fancy and complicated. Do you think 61-key or 76-key would work? What features do you recommend?
    Would you recommend a few models? There are stores near us selling keyboards and we can try them out.
    Thank you!

  29. Andy on May 30th, 2010 8:00 pm

    Hi Mancong,

    Thanks for your question, and it’s great that your daughter is keen to play.

    If I am being totally honest with you, I think you are going to struggle to find a 76-note keyboard with $100. You might just do it with $200.

    Now, a 61-note keyboard is much more likely, from someone like Yamaha. However, from a playability point of view, if piano is the main area of interest, there is the potential to ‘run out of notes’ very quickly with just 61 notes (that’s 5 octaves).

    From a sound point of view, the Yamaha’s in particular are very good because the basic sound technology is the same on these portable keyboards and the entry-level digital pianos (as far as the average pianist is going to notice, at least).

    If your daughter is likely to be playing primarily classical music, it is going to be difficult to do that successfully on a 61-note keyboard.

    What is absolutely essential is that you pick a keyboard that has touch sensitivity built in. Most keyboards (even the cheaper ones) do now, but you must check, because not to have that feature would make playing expressively impossible. Also, find one that will accept a sustain pedal, at least, as this is also important for good, authentic piano playing.

    Ok, as to recommendations.

    Well, the entry-level PSR keyboards from Yamaha are very good for the price, I would say:

    Yamaha 61 note keyboards

    The 76-note YPG-235 at the top of this page is also good, but I don’t think you are going to get that for even $200, unless you can find one second-hand, and you do need to be careful doing it that way.

    I hope this is of some help to you. Perhaps your local dealer might have some second-hand models you can try, or ex-demo, or you can strike a deal with them.

  30. Mancong on June 4th, 2010 8:11 pm

    Andy,

    You have very good points. I didn’t realize how small 61-note is. She will be growing out of it quickly. There seems more 61-note models available than 76-note ones but I’ll definitely consider 76-note.
    I’m glad to know that touch response key is more common now. I thought it used to be a feature only in higher end models.
    You have convinced me to upgrade the budget since we want something she can use for a long time. Apparently, I was not in touch with the market. We usually try not to give her “expensive” presents so she’d take it for granted. but this is special.
    Thank you so much for your help! I really enjoy you article.

  31. Robert on July 27th, 2010 2:47 pm

    Hi Andy. Hope this is where you pose questions! I really regret never learning to play the piano which we had. I taught myself to read music and crudely play the recorder – but if I can help my grandaughter, then I want to. She will be two and a half at Christmas. Her Dad plays the penny whistle etc and a cool harmonica. Mum has the basic piano. I can buy a Yahama PSR-E323 with my credit card points, but am I pushing her too far ahead of her age? Really enjoyed reading your site. Many thanks.

  32. Andy on July 27th, 2010 4:51 pm

    Hi Robert,

    I don’t think you will push your granddaughter too far by getting one of the Yamaha keyboards. I am sure she will play in the way she wants to to begin with, depending on her musical aptitude, and grow from there.

    I first learned to play, even before formal lessons, on my parents’ upright acoustic piano, which of course has limitless possibilities yet can delight even the keen beginning player.

    The features on Yamaha’s keyboards could be used to aid her in learning to play music. The on-screen education system may be a little advanced for a two-and-a-half year old, but perhaps that’s something she will learn to understand as she starts to read and develop further.

    Of course, the only other thing is that most portable keyboards have standard sized keys, which might seem quite big for little fingers. Then again, I started playing on full-sized keys from age 3 and it hasn’t deterred me. If anything, it gets children used to full-sized instruments.

    Hope that helps a little, and that your granddaughter enjoys playing. Perhaps she will be able to duet with her mum. :)

  33. Robert on July 28th, 2010 2:09 pm

    Hi Andy. Thank you. You said exactly what I wanted to hear!!!

  34. Lou on September 9th, 2010 1:20 pm

    This page still active?

    Anyway, that is a nice article you have there. Lots of good info. Thanks!

    May I ask your opinion as to how many keys a beginner should have? And will learning be affected (easier/more difficult) if I were to start with fewer, lets say 54 keys then move on to 88?

    Any input from anyone who knows would be much appreciated! ^^

  35. Andy on September 10th, 2010 8:59 am

    Hi Lou,

    Yes, still active and very popular, though it could do with an update to highlight some of the newer keyboards available today.

    The number of keys issue will depend to some extent on what you intend to play and how you will be learning. I would suggest that a minimum of 61 keys is required. In fact, many popular keyboards have 61 keys (5 octaves). This gives you room to play with both hands and not easily ‘run out of notes’ unless you are trying to play pieces with a very wide range.

    In my opinion, there’s a greater issue with the feel of the keys, rather than the number of them. If you are trying to learn to play the piano, I’d suggest your playing strength will improve if you can obtain a keyboard with weighted keys similar to that you’d find on a real acoustic piano. This is not essential, but I believe it can help with technique.

    Having said that, if you are trying to learn the keyboard in general, rather than specifically the piano, then many modern keyboards with 49+ notes will serve you well. At the end of the day, it’s as much a personal choice, so try a few keyboards out and see which one feels and sounds right for you.

  36. Lou on September 11th, 2010 6:25 pm

    Thanks a lot for the info, Andy!

    I think I might go for the “cheap” keyboard first. It is almost impossible to buy a brand new piano here from where I live. The 2 music stores here only sell those 54 and 61-key keyboards.

    The only way is to buy it from the outside. I already placed an order for a Yamaha DGX-620 (or higher if they can find one and I can afford it).

    So, in the meantime, just to get a hang of the key placements, I may be getting a local brand 54-key keyboard that sells for about $100.

    Anyway, thanks for your reply. Appreciated it! :)

  37. Kit on November 8th, 2010 8:12 pm

    Hi Andy! Great article – exactly the kind of information I was looking for as I start a search for a keyboard for my interested 5 year old. I was just wondering if you might be able to update your product recommendations to current models. Any advice or recommendations are much appreciated!

    Kit

  38. Andy on November 14th, 2010 5:53 pm

    Hi Kit,

    I have just updated the list with some currently available keyboards from Yamaha and Casio, which I hope you find useful.

  39. Andy on November 14th, 2010 5:56 pm

    Hi Mancong,,

    Not sure if you will return to read this, but the Casio WK-200 is a 76-note keyboard available for around $200. This might be worth looking into.

  40. Kit on November 15th, 2010 6:24 am

    Thank you very much Andy! Another question – what do you think about the use of lighted keyboards vs the incorporated Yamaha education suite or Casio’s step-up program for learning to play? Again, I have an interested 5 year old with no training. It seems like you get a lot more features without the lighted keyboard system, but would that be valuable in aiding a youngster to learn to play? Thank you again -

    Kit

  41. Andy on November 20th, 2010 12:52 pm

    Hi Kit,

    Sorry for the delay in answering, I was away last week.

    To be honest, I haven’t investigated in depth the different educational software built in to each instrument. I’m not sure that the lighted keyboards offer a huge advantage, though perhaps they might be useful for younger children.

  42. joan on November 30th, 2010 2:41 am

    Andy,

    This is a very helpful website. I am looking to buy a keyboard for my 7 year old who seems to be very interested in piano, but I’m confused! Can you tell me what the difference is between the PSR323 and the YPT320? They seem to be the same but the price is slightly different. Can you also explain the education feature further?

    Thanks so much…

  43. Andy on December 1st, 2010 2:26 pm

    Hi Joan,

    You’re right. These two keyboards are near identical. In fact the only difference I can see (from looking at the specifications) is that the PSR-E323 is silver and the YPT-320 is “champagne gold” in casing colour!

    As to the education features, I haven’t actually tried out Yamaha’s latest system directly, but here’s what Yamaha says of it:

    Song Lesson feature “Keys to Success”

    You can practice the preset Songs using these lesson functions: “Keys to Success”, “Listening, Timing, Waiting” and “Phrase Repeat.” Keys to Success helps you master a Song, whereas Listening, Timing, Waiting helps you first master the timing then playing the correct notes. Phrase Repeat lets you select and repeatedly practice a specific phrase in the Song. In the “Keys to Success” mode, you can practice individual phrase separately. Each time you finish a specific Step, your score is shown in the display. Passing one Step (with a score of 60 or better) lets you go on to next one automatically.”

    I hope that helps a little.

  44. Navin on December 18th, 2010 6:57 pm

    Hi Andy,
    You are indeed doing a great service here.
    Wish you a merry Xmas & a very Happy new year in advance.
    May god bless you.

  45. Alison S. on March 18th, 2011 1:02 am

    Hi Andy – our 4 1/2 year old son has been taking piano lessons for the past two months and we would like to get him something to practice on. I’m not sure I understand the difference (if any) between digital pianos and keyboards. Regardless, we live in NYC and want something that will fit in our son’s room. I was under the impression that it if the goal is for him to learn to play classical piano at some point, then we need a full size keyboard (88, correct) and properly weighted keys? I would like to spend under $300. Any advice?

    Much gratitude,
    Alison

  46. Andy on March 19th, 2011 8:38 pm

    Hi Alison,

    When most people talk about a digital piano, they’re referring to a keyboard with at least 76 keys and some kind of weighting in those keys.

    Conversely, many digital keyboards feature non-weighted keys (they are very light to the touch in comparison to a real piano). Many have 61 keys or less. They do often have many more functions on them, such as accompaniments, bigger range of sounds, and so on.

    Having said that, the lines are constantly blurring.

    I think it might be difficult to buy an 88-key weighted digital piano new for $300, though I did see some heavily discounted new on Amazon, so it could be done.

    Longer term, and particularly for classical, jazz and some other styles of music in particular, an 88-key weighted digital piano would be very useful. At the moment, a 76-key version (which might be slightly cheaper) would suffice.

    How does your son get on with whatever keyboard he is currently playing on? The weight does vary considerably between keyboards (as in fact it does between traditional acoustic pianos). While he is still quite young, it might be worth buying a keyboard that doesn’t have a very heavy feel to it. Having said that, I started playing real pianos with fairly heavy keys at a very young age.

    Of course, if you want to get something you and your son like the feel of, then you will have to go to a dealership rather than buying online. This could be more expensive, or you could always negotiate a deal or just find the instrument you like and then buy online later.

    My personal preference for digital pianos is Yamaha, though Roland and Casio also have decent offerings.

    I hope that helps a bit. You might also like to ask his piano teacher what they recommend.

  47. Alison S. on March 21st, 2011 5:50 pm

    I think we are going to buy the Casio Privia PX 130. I’m just trying now to find an adjustable bench. Thank you very much for this forum. I’ll let you know how it goes!

  48. Andy on March 22nd, 2011 1:29 pm

    Good to hear Alison. The Privia PX 130 looks like a good one. (For anyone else that’s interested, the product page is here: http://www.priviapiano.com/products/PX-130. I hope you all enjoy it.

  49. Yamaha intros PSR-E423 home keyboard on May 11th, 2011 11:35 pm

    [...] instrument.Most Popular ArticlesMastering Christmas Carols on the Piano and Keyboard: Silent NightMy First Keyboard: Buying a child's first electronic keyboard instrumentHow to label and write notes on the piano keyboard: a basic guideSongs to help you learn note [...]

  50. Felipe on September 28th, 2013 6:00 pm

    Hi Andy, I stumbled upon this page while looking for a guide in children’s pianos.

    I’ve been mulling about Lighted (Casio LK280) and normal keys (casio and yamaha). My daughter is 3yo and my son is less than 1. I reckon both of them will play with it.

    In your opinion, which is better to start learning with, Lighted or normal keys? Do you have an article about such?

    Thanks a lot.

  51. Andy on October 7th, 2013 5:45 pm

    Hi Felipe,

    Apologies for the slow reply.

    I think having some kind of lighted keys can be a useful way to help children learn to press the right keys, although by itself it may only encourage copying rather than learning about the notes on the keyboard themselves.

    That said, the lights are a nice feature to have and you can turn them off, so if you think it will help your children, then go for it.

    A number of Casio and Yamaha keyboards have tutorials on board, regardless of whether the keys light up or not, so this might be useful as your children get older. In particular, look for Yamaha keyboards with Y.E.S. (Yamaha Education Suite).

    I hope that basic answer is useful to you.

  52. amy on December 8th, 2013 5:52 am

    i am getting my daughter her first keyboard/synthesizer; a korg ms2000 on ebay, it appears to just be the ms2000 and power cord. what else does she need to play it? i don’t know anything! cables/speakers/amp….???? Help!

We love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below...