I’ve had some people ask what beginner keyboards I recommend when starting out with the piano. With the caveat that I have not personally used any of these, here are some recommendations within various budgets!
In addition, you can also look at local music stores, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and ask friends who may have one they don’t want to find used deals.
Factors to consider
Ultimately, having a piano is better than no piano! But there are some things to be aware of if you buy a cheaper digital piano.
For context, the first piano I learned on was a real upright piano, but it was never tuned and had a few broken keys. Once a bullet fell out of it when movers turned it sideways to fit it through a door – apparently it used to be a player piano in a bar before it was converted to a regular piano and we got it (we haven’t fact-checked this but the bullet provides evidence). I was still able to learn even though it wasn’t perfect, and then I bought myself an 88 weighted keys keyboard for around $400 used in high school.
Learning to play a beginner-level instrument is better than not learning to play at all! So if you have a lower budget, I recommend one of the cheaper models below and the student should still be thrilled to have a keyboard and start learning.
Here are some things to consider.
At these low prices, you aren’t likely to have super realistic or pleasant sounds as you play. Since these digital pianos play based on speakers rather than a hammer hitting strings like in an acoustic piano, you are at the mercy of the sounds that come with the instrument. When you buy cheaper, then the sound won’t be as realistic.
This limited sound quality, combined with a lack of fully weighted keys (see below), may also hinder the development of understanding dynamics. There is a musicality that comes from being able to control subtle aspects of playing.
This all is okay when a student is just starting out, but be aware of this! I find it rewarding even when learning to be capable of making pleasant-sounding music, and the student will be somewhat hindered in this by the quality of this piano. But ultimately giving the student the opportunity to learn at home within your budget is valuable.
Another thing to consider is the lack of weighted keys in the cheaper models, which means they would be learning on a keyboard that didn’t feel the same as a real piano.
So if a student moves on to playing on weighted keys, they would have to adjust to develop the right touch needed to accomplish dynamics on weighted keys. In addition, you just can’t get the same level of dynamics on unweighted keys.
As a result, with the keys and cheaper sounds of cheaper keyboards, their playing will not sound as good as it could on a more expensive keyboard.
Here are some digital pianos (keyboards) you could consider in order of cheapest to most expensive between hypothetical budgets of $200-$500.
Note that the costs were when I originally created this list and are subject to change.
$190-$260 Vangoa 88 Key Folding Keyboard
$190 for the piano, case, sheet music prop, and sustain pedal (add around $70 if you also want a stand and piano bench)
Note: I recommend you do get a stand and leave it out, because it will likely be played less if it needs to be taken out and unfolded each time it’s played.
Pros: Cheap, MIDI bluetooth connection (so you could use it to record in something like Garageband if you have an iPad), full 88 keys, semi weighted keys, portable
Cons: Not the best sound, keys do not feel realistic, charge separately from use (4 hours charge to 12 hours playing), keys light up as you play until you turn that off (which isn’t realistic to a real piano)
$200-$320 Yamaha PSR-E373 61-key
$200 for the piano
$320 bundle with piano, stand, chair, headphones, sustain pedal, and power cord
Note: If you want to pay $70 more, you can get basically this same model but with more keys below: PSR-EW310
Pros: Cheap, MIDI recording (if you want to record songs to a computer or iPad over time)
Cons: No weighted keys and less than 88 keys
$230 – $330 Alesis Recital – 88 Keys, Semi Weighted Keys
$230 for the piano (add around $100 more if you need a stand, sustain pedal, and bench)
Pros: Cheap, full amount of keys, MIDI output
Cons: Semi-weighted isn’t fully weighted but is better than nothing, sound quality may be a bit inferior to other models
$270 – $385 Yamaha PSR-EW310 76-key
$270 for the piano
$385 bundle with piano, stand, bench, headphones, sustain pedal, and power cord
Note: This is the same as PSR-E373 but with more keys
Pros: Cheap, close to full amount of keys, MIDI recording
Cons: Non-weighted keys
$350 – $450 Casio CDP-S100
$350 for the piano (add around $100 more if you need a stand, sustain pedal, and bench)
Pros: Full keys, weighted
Cons: Higher cost than some on this list, no MIDI recording
$450 – $550 Casio CDP-S350
$450 for the piano (add around $100 more if you need a stand, sustain pedal, and bench)
Pros: Full 88 keys, weighted, MIDI recording
Cons: Higher cost than some on this list