So your child just started piano lessons at Dave Simon’s Rock School and you’d like to buy a piano to practice, but you’re overwhelmed by the choices out there. If you’re looking at acoustic pianos, there are fewer things to consider:
-Upright vs Baby Grand/Grand Piano: do you want the piano to be a centerpiece of a room? Then get a baby grand. If you want to tuck it away somewhere, then an upright is much more compact
-Age: soundboards actually get better over time, so don’t be afraid of an older piano
-Key condition: with any used piano, the keys can be chipped or get stuck in places. You should try playing the keys.
There are a lot of great local places to buy acoustic pianos. You can also find great deals on Craislists. Sometimes, people just need to get rid of a piano so you can get one for free!
If you want to join the modern musicians, there’s lots of new technology being added to digital pianos/keyboards. Here’s several things that I think you should consider when looking at digital pianos/keyboards:
-Full 88 key vs smaller 76 or 61 key: I actually have all 3 sizes. I’ve found that I typically don’t need a full 88-key piano, so you can get by with the smaller ones. You pay for every feature with a keyboard, so I’d say you don’t need the full size unless it’s something you really want
-Weighted vs non-weighted or semi-weighted: this gives your keyboard the feel of an acoustic piano. I’d probably get at least semi-weighted keys
-Sound banks: Is the keyboard for just playing piano sounds, or do you want the ability to sound like different instruments? Having synthesizer, organ, brass, strings, etc. allows for a lot more versatility in what you’re playing. This is where you see the difference in what is called a “digital piano” and a “Synthesizer/workstation.” Digital pianos focus on just a few piano sounds, whereas a synthesizer will get you hundreds of options. Some even allow you to upload sounds through a USB drive.
-Recording: do you want the ability to use the keyboard with a computer? Most have this capability nowadays, but some are better than others. Look for a MIDI output or USB output.
-Built in speakers vs amplified: If you’re using the keyboard by itself, you would want built in speakers. If you plan on playing the keyboard in a band setting, then you’d want a keyboard amplifier. The obvious benefit being how loud you are.
For suggested brands, I’d say the following:
Digital pianos: Yamaha and Casio. Yamaha makes acoustic pianos, so you get a lot of the good signs from their acoustic pianos. You can get good deals on Casio’s. Both brands have very low end introductory products as well as high end. You can spend under $100 to over $4,000. You can find these with built-in speakers if you’re looking for that.
Synthesizers/Keyboard Workstations: Roland and Korg. Both brands make some of the best sounds out there. Wide range of products depending on what type of sound you’re looking for. A lot of professional musicians use these. The low end probably starts closer to $300 and rise up pretty quickly. You will need an amplifier to use most of these products, which can run you an additional $200+
For new keyboards, Guitar Center, Amazon, and Sweetwater are all good places to look. If possible, I’d bring the kids in to try playing a few. I’ve had good luck finding gear on Craigslist as well. Musicians like to continuously upgrade gear, so you can find a lot of really good deals. Feel free to send me any links of instruments you might find, and I’d be happy to give you my opinion!