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The piano is one of the easiest — and most fun — instruments you can pick up. But if you’re a beginner who’s learning to read music for the first time, you might not be completely ready to commit to a full-sized instrument just yet (or have the space for one either). Enter the keyboard piano, a lighter alternative that can help you learn to play like your favorite composer or artist in no time.
What Are the Best Keyboard Pianos for Beginners?
Whether you’re learning new chords, how to read sheet music, or trying to play your favorite song from the radio, you can get by without a ton of buttons or unnecessary effects — a simple setup and a power source are all you’ll really need to start playing some tunes or scales. Here are a few features and accessories we think are the most important to think about when looking for the best keyboard for beginners.
Number of Keys: Keyboards come in different sizes, each with a different number of keys. In general, the most popular keyboards and digital pianos come with 49, 61, 73 or a full 88 keys, like a real piano. As a beginner, you should be able to learn the basics with fewer keys, but we like starting with more keys so your instrument can grow with you as you progress in your playing. That way, you can play everything, no matter which octave it’s in.
Weight and Portability: Our favorite keyboards and digital pianos have weighted keys, which mimic the feel of playing the actual piano. Those keyboard pianos will likely feel a little heavier than options that don’t have weighted keys. Whichever option you choose, keep in mind how much you’ll be moving your keyboard and how much you’ll need to carry it with you.
Cover: If you’re planning to commute with your keyboard, a keyboard cover can help protect your instrument from scratches and any damage that might occur, whether it’s sitting in the back of your car on the way to a lesson or a show, or you just want to keep it safe from spills at home. Some models come with covers, but you may need to purchase one on your own.
Music Holder or Music Rest: If you’re just starting to learn the piano, you’ll want to make sure that you can easily read your sheet music or lesson books and that you can prop them up with a music stand. Most digital pianos, including some of our picks in this guide, feature a built-in stand. We think it’s a useful attachment if included, but it’s not a make-or-break accessory.
Keyboard Stand: Where are you going to keep your keyboard? If it’s not on a table, you’ll probably need a stand to set it on when playing. Many beginner keyboards are sold along with stands, but if yours doesn’t include one, they’re easy to find and set up with most brand’s instruments — a foldable, X-shaped design will be able to easily hold up your keyboard and break down when you’re hitting the road.
The Best Keyboards for Beginners
From Yamaha to Casio, here are the top keyboards and digital pianos for practicing, recording music and playing your favorite songs.
1. Casio CT-S1 61-Key Portable Keyboard
We’ve played and practiced on Casio keyboards in the past, and this affordable 61-key model is a good fit for players of all levels. With its portable size, anyone starting out on the instrument will appreciate the approachable size and price tag. But just because it’s not a full size doesn’t mean it feels cheap.
The Casio’s keys feel closer to a standard keyboard piano, which will come in handy when sustaining notes and chords — or simply when you’re just practicing scales. It comes in three colors: black, white and red. It’s even lightweight at under 10 pounds, which makes it ideal for carrying to lessons or commuting. You can choose among 60 tones, including a can’t-go-wrong stereo grand piano setting. A metronome, meantime, makes sure you’re not rushing or dragging. While it delivers stellar sound thanks to its built-in stereo system, you can also connect a pair of headphones when you’re practicing around others.
2. Alesis Melody 61 MKII Music Keyboard
For a complete keyboard kit that includes a bench, stand, headphones and a mic, this Alesis model has 61 keys, though it’s also available in 32 and 54 keys.
It’s a super versatile and portable option that makes learning a little more fun in the process. Case in point: The keyboard has over 300 built-in sounds, so you can switch between playing the organ one minute, to playing drums or synths the next. There’s even a metronome to help you make sure you don’t rush through your songs.
Write the next iconic rock piano masterpiece? You can record what you play on the keyboard, too. And if you don’t know where to begin or you don’t have a teacher lined up, you can take advantage of the included three-month subscription to the lesson service Skoove.
3. Donner DEP-10 Beginner Digital Piano
Just because you’re learning a new instrument doesn’t mean you have to settle for a low-quality instrument. This Donner digital piano has 88 semi-weighted keys for a slightly more authentic playing feel to a standard piano. At about 19 pounds and measuring 52.3 inches wide, it’s also easy to carry with you and won’t take up as much space in your apartment, a small office or your home studio.
Like other models in our guide, this piano comes with a sustain pedal that you can connect to the keyboard and press down with your foot so every song you play won’t sound like “Chopsticks.”
Donner included eight different playing tones on this digital piano, so you can make it sound like you’re playing an acoustic grand piano, a church organ and even like you have a full orchestra in the room with you. You’ll need to purchase your own stand or set it on a desk or table when playing.
4. Yamaha P-45 Keyboard With Sustain Pedal
Yamaha makes some of the best pianos you can buy — and this 88-key portable piano is no exception. This keyboard bundle comes with all you need for starting out and then some, including a sustain pedal and a music rest for your lesson books and sheet music. Best of all, it’s a high-quality keyboard that’s suited for all playing levels.
The portable pedal plugs into the keyboard so you can practice sustained, drawn-out notes. Most importantly, the 36-pound keyboard itself has slightly weighted keys that will feel closer to jamming on the real thing. Reviewers say that this keyboard sounds closer to an acoustic piano, too.