Best Beginner Piano Review in 2017

The piano is a wonderfully fulfilling instrument upon which many of the most beautiful pieces of music are composed. However, few of us are born with the natural talent of Mozart and must start somewhere. Unfortunately, the market is flush with pianos and figuring out which one is right for a beginner can be a challenge. That is why we have put together a list and buyer’s guide to help you navigate through the rest to find the best beginner piano available.

Value Section:

Best Beginner Piano

As someone who has played the piano for over two decades, I can assure you that the factors which determine the best beginner piano are few. However, that does not necessarily mean you should look for the rock bottom bargain either. Many beginner pianos that are $100 or less will have long-term functionality issues that will simply force you to purchase a new piano sooner should the player develop a legitimate interest in the art. That is why we have put together this helpful guide to assist you in determining which product and what suite of features are relevant for you purchase.

Key Count:

There are two lines of thought on this, both equally valid if a bit contradictory. The first states that beginner pieces are simplified and will rarely use more than 3-4 octaves, if that. Being 12 keys an octave, digital pianos for a beginner can eschew the full 88 key count and still provide an adequate tool to learn the fundamental skills. When the time is appropriate, a full-sized key count can be purchased with a more advanced digital piano to reflect the player’s advancing skill.

On the other hand, the other argument states that if the player will eventually need to work with a full 88 keys at some point in their development, it serves the player best to become familiar with that arrangement early rather than have to readjust at a later date. In reality, both arguments have their merit, but neither really disproves the other. So long as your beginner piano has at least 5 octaves of keys, you should be fine.

Key Quality:

This may be the most important feature on a beginner piano. In fairness, it is often one of the most important features on any piano, regardless the player’s skill level. The reason is quite simple: if you practice well, then you will play well. However, the quality of your practice will definitely be improved or hindered by the quality of the tools you use to practice on. With a beginner, the primary concern is that practice teaches the fundamentals: learning scales, chord progressions, time signatures.

Still, the ultimate goal is to eventually be able to transfer all of those skills onto an acoustic piano and play in front of a live audience--whether big or small. This is where touch comes into play. Pianos are a precise and tactile instrument, and slight differences in the feel can have big effects on the performance. If you want to one day play an acoustic piano, you would do well by practicing on a digital piano that most accurately replicates the feel of the real thing.

Extra Features:

Like many features on this list, you should not overthink it. Beginners are unlikely to know for what or how to use these features let alone run into a scenario where they are actually necessary. However, there are a few features that can be incredibly useful for beginners to learn the basics. A metronome will provide assistance with beginners learning how to keep time. Despite how it may seem, pianos are percussion instruments and rely more on rhythm than anything. One of the more difficult skills to pick up is timing.

Other features can help, but they may hinder learning the fundamentals more than assist. The Alfred brand of instructional manuals can be helpful, but be careful about instructionals. Lighted keys or other follow along features may teach a song that the player can then show off, but they do not actually teach the skills required to play music in general.

Price:

This should not be seen as primary concern and determined more by the player’s level of commitment at this point. However, the floor for a solid beginner piano should not drop below $300. On the other end of the spectrum, there is almost no need to go above $600 unless you are purchasing a second piano for a beginner who is about to graduate to the intermediate level.

Keep in mind, if the player is a child who is just as likely to drop interest in the piano two weeks later, you should not feel bad about buying a cheap $50 model. Still, for any player that has just started but already become hooked, cheaping out will only force you to purchase another one sooner rather than later.

Five Best Beginner Piano

Casio Privia PX-160

Casio Privia PX-160

One of the best qualities of low-end pianos that Casio provides are the same basic features from their mid-tier markets. The voice quality of the PX-160 is the same as the PX-760 for hundreds of dollars less. Using their patented Acoustic and Intelligent Resonator technology, Casio can bring concert quality acoustic voice replication to the beginner at a fraction of the price.

Another factor that you can find across Casio’s digital piano sales line is their Tri-Sensor Scaled Hammer Action. For this price point, you will be hard-pressed to find another digital piano that provides as much sensitivity and precision with each keystroke. This key weighting system not only reproduces the feel of an acoustic piano with surprising accuracy, its three sensors also allow you to play various degrees of volume based on the pressure and speed of the stroke.

However, the Casio is a bit of a mixed bag beyond the beginner stage. This is not really a beginner piano you can grow into. While the interface is clean and easy to navigate, the Casio provides a fairly low number of features for the player as they advance in skill.

Pros

  • Well-weighted keys provide an excellent feel for beginners and advanced players alike
  • The Casio plays with an authentic piano voice, making use of their Acoustic and Intelligent Resonator
  • The interface layout and general piano design allow extra features to be easily accessed

Cons

  • While the piano voice is laudably replicated, the short pedal effect may constrain practice as the player develops
  • There is no easy way to put it: the Casio is short on features and will not grow with the player past the beginner stage
  • The non-piano voices are inauthentic, often sounding electronic or otherwise distorted, which further limits the Casio to a beginner designation

Korg B1SP

Korg B1SP

To provide that all-important authentic voice, the Korg utilizes servo-assisted MFB technology so the tones are rich and pure without losing quality from the audio compression. This features also allows the Korg to enable a 120 note polyphony without suffering from muddled or distorted voices. This is nearly at the level one would require an intermediate or advanced piano to provide and almost double what some of the other entries on this list offer.

For the second, all-important quality, key action, Korg once again checks all the boxes in both types of feel. First, the weighting is a thing of beauty. The standard Natural Weighted Hammer ensures that you can play precisely without having to worry about how your skills will transfer to the real thing. Even better, the weighting is adjustable, so you can progress in that skill at your pace, rather than an all-or-nothing flow.

This may seem like a minor advantage, but the Korg also comes with a sturdy furniture stand. Moreover, this model comes with a quality single pedal peripheral to help you replicate the various dampening and layering effects that upper level beginners need to develop to move onto the next stage of their instruction.

Pros

  • Korg’s Natural Weighted Hammer provides great key weighting as well as customization options, so your precision skills become refined and transfer well to an acoustic piano.
  • The Motional Feedback technology ensures that you hear the authentic voice of an acoustic piano without distortion or muddling.
  • A good polyphony lets you practice or play with another person simultaneously without any voices or keystrokes getting lost in the mix.

Cons

  • This is a relatively barebones model noted for its lack of features; though, beginners generally do not require a plethora of features to develop fundamental skills.
  • The non-piano voices are not nearly as good and their replication is of limited quality in the highest and lowest registers.
  • In a world quickly synchronizing, the Korg’s inability to connect with other devices or instruments seems like an odd feature to leave out.

Yamaha YPG-535

Yamaha YPG-535

The lower budget market for digital pianos is where Yamaha provides some of the best value for pianists at every level of skill. Still, there is a gap between the features you need in your digital piano--especially at the fundamental level. For instance, Yamaha uses a Graded Soft Touch key weighting for this model. While different Yamaha models provide different key mechanisms, they all one thing in common: they are simply not true to form compared to acoustic pianos. Granted, Yamaha’s flagship keyboards may not suffer this drawback, but they are also over $1000 and not really suitable for beginners.

As a form of compensation, Yamaha seems to take pride in the cosmetic and somewhat superfluous features that may not necessarily help beginners learn their art but will certainly keep them interested long enough to develop a true love. The user interface is both easy to read and simply to control. This makes changing from one feature to another a breeze--something that higher quality digital pianos often omit in favor of a minimal design. Moreover, this Yamaha comes equipped with excellent instructionals, so you player can practice through all levels of skill set.

Pros

  • Large list of features will provide plenty of entertainment and experimentation for players who may not yet have become hooked.
  • Great and easy-to-use UI makes switching different voices, arrangements, and layouts simple.
  • Amazing instructional features may perhaps make up for substandard fundamental qualities by providing the player lessons for every skill.

Cons

  • Substandard key weighting leaves a lot to be desired and will absolutely not transfer comfortably to an acoustic piano.
  • The keys themselves are also made out of a somewhat flimsy plastic and clack when the score demands quick, firm keystrokes.
  • None of the voices are truly authentic, and while this may not technically prevent the development of beginner skills, it limits it to home practice exclusively.

Alesis Coda Pro

Alesis Coda Pro

The Coda Pro is a solid reentry that signals a potential rise in Alesis as a manufacturer of digital pianos, regardless the skill level. In order to produce an authentic voice, Alesis has incorporated AIR Music Technology and SONiVOX into their audio reproduction so the sounds are clear, albeit still inauthentic.

In a previous model, the keys offered little to no resistance and made beginning level practice almost impossible. This is where Alesis put the most improvement into the Code Pro, opting for a Hammer Action that feels fairly close to an acoustic.

Alesis still has a ways to go before it can truly compete with the big players of the low end piano market, but has come a long way. It offers a large list of features that allow beginners at various stages of their skill level to experiment and aid in their instruction. With basic connectivity, you can even install instructional material onto the Coda Pro--though, it will cost extra.

Pros

  • A large number of extra features will keep novices interested long enough to develop basic skills and provide beginners ample room for experimentation.
  • Well-weighted keys allow the skills you learn practicing on this instrument to transfer to an acoustic piano.
  • With USB and MIDI ports, the Alesis provides solid, standard connectivity that is missing on better beginner pianos.

Cons

  • The unimpressive polyphony is not terrible, but it will prevent maximum utilization of the decent connectivity at higher levels.
  • Inauthentic voices definitely limit the ability of this piano to transfer to intermediate play where subtle recognition of tone is important.
  • The plastic keys provide a poor tactile sensation and are somewhat slick, leading to fingers slipping off during quick play.

Williams Rhapsody 2

Williams Rhapsody 2

The trouble with the Williams really sits in the piano voice. However, the Williams’ voice suffers from a subtle quality that will not immediately be obvious to the casual listener.The problem arises from a lack of tonal control, which might seem to be an issue with the keys’ weighting, but is actually a function of the voice reproduction. The keys themselves are actually fairly well-weighted, though they are not true “hammer action,” instead using the “graded action” which mimics, but does not reproduce, the genuine feel of an acoustic key stroke.

Likewise, the voice’s actual sound is a fairly good quality, comparable to many of the Williams’ competitors at this product tier. The issue comes with the key’s sensor having little precision based on the strength of the stroke. Whether you hit the key hard or softly, the tonal quality will vary little. Ultimately, this means that practicing some of the finer points and skills of the piano are impossible, and you absolutely cannot advance to an intermediate stage with this product. Still, if you want a digital piano that looks great and can serve functional purposes, this is an attractive option.

Pros

  • The well-weighted keys and authentic voice provide the basic necessity of any decent digital piano.
  • One of the nicer looking models that comes with a furniture stand that incorporates three pedals
  • The Williams provides solid connectivity with both USB and MIDI ports as well as a ¼” output port.

Cons

  • Easily the biggest flaw with the Williams, a lack of tonal control seriously impedes its ability to provide use beyond the beginner level
  • While you do not necessarily look for a wide range of features in a beginner piano, the Williams’ lack of features is still surprising
  • Substandard speakers means you will either need to hook up headphones or use the ¼” output to hook up external speakers

Conclusion:

In a surprising discovery, neither Yamaha nor Korg took the top spot. As manufacturers of professional grade equipment, you would expect one of those two to nab the title. However, it is the unsung, though no lesser known, Casio that provides the best value and experience for the beginner learning the ropes on a new piano.

With features that comes standard on even its higher-end models, the Casio wows with its replication of an authentic piano voice and provides one of, if not, the best key actions out of any beginner piano. If fact, the key action is so good, it can even stand up to competition at the intermediate level. Granted, the Casio is not perfect.

Once the beginner skillset has been mastered, a lack of features prevents this model from growing with the budding pianist. Moreover, the pedal effect does not sustain nearly as much as one would prefer--though, in fairness, that may be a bit nitpicky. Still, for the modest investment, you can learn the fundamentals on a great instrument whose dedication to excellence will allow those skills to transfer fairly effortlessly to an acousti once you have reached the intermediate stage of skill progression.

Stephanie Su
 

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