SELECTING THE RIGHT KEYBOARD
A very common question from parents of students who want to learn to play the piano is whether they need to start with an actual piano or if it is sufficient to learn on a keyboard or an electric piano. When getting kids into piano lessons, one major consideration is the fact that kids like to try things but sometimes do end up changing their mind. For this reason we always recommend starting off with a more affordable option than a piano, at least until they have demonstrated that they plan to play piano for the long term. With this in mind, there are two major options for what to purchase to learn on: Entry level keyboards or electric pianos (often referred to as digital pianos).
THE BENEFITS OF ENTRY LEVEL KEYBOARDS
Entry level keyboards have a few advantages over electric pianos. The obvious advantage is cost. When a student is very young we always recommend this option. It is an easy way to get started with piano lessons and if the student does not continue learning for the long term then it is not such a big deal since the keyboard was inexpensive in the first place. But even with the low cost, entry level keyboards will still allow students to learn how to read music, learn technique, and have fun in a way that is virtually identical to learning on a piano.
Additionally, entry level keyboards take up little room and can easily be moved out of the way if the space is needed. They can run on batteries if you like, which allows them to be taken out of your home to be played if desired.
One thing to keep in mind is that entry level keyboards are usually referred to as "portable" keyboards. This is very intentional from the manufacturers because they use this as an excuse to not include a power cord. We highly recommend purchasing a power cord (make sure you get one that fits the keyboard you are buying) if you purchase an entry level keyboard.
THE BENEFITS OF ELECTRIC PIANOS
There are also some benefits to electric pianos over entry level keyboards. Electric pianos typically sound much better and have a more "natural" tone to them. The speakers are also higher quality and can be turned up to louder volumes without getting distorted. To younger students this is not usually much of a concern, but to students who are a bit older and who can easily tell the difference in sound quality this may be a worthwhile difference.
Probably the most significant advantage is that digital pianos usually have "weighted keys," which feel much more like playing on a real piano. As students become more advanced this benefit becomes more and more important as it allows you to really "feel" the keys in a more musical way. If a student is becoming a little bit more advanced, or if a student is a beginner but they are a little bit older, this may be an excellent option.
The major downside to electric pianos is that they are much more expensive than entry level keyboards. It is possible to spend thousands of dollars on them, though they can sometimes be found for less than you may think if you find a good deal on a used one. Craigslist is always a great place to look.
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