Practice is an essential part of learning anything.
Yet, it is common to make excuses not practice music: “I couldn’t find my music.” “I was busy with _______.” “I had too much homework.”
The most surprising excuse? “I didn’t have an instrument to practice with at home.”
Sometimes this is because the student left the instrument at school. Occasionally, it is because the instrument broke or ran out of battery power. It is even sometimes because the student simply doesn’t have an instrument to use at home ever.
I can’t fix the “busy” excuse and I don’t want to compete with homework, but I hope this post might begin to fix the problem of not having an instrument.
Below are a range of decent and extremely affordable keyboard options, starting with one that is just the cost of a single lesson. If you or your child takes piano lessons and doesn’t already have a piano or keyboard to practice on at home, this is a great place to start. All students should have a convenient instrument to practice on every day of the week.
In the future, I will put together similar lists for more advanced piano options and other instruments.
Please Note: I have not tested all of the instruments and options recommended below. I have chosen these recommendations mostly based on three factors: included features, overall perceived value, and word-of-mouth/online reviews. I encourage everyone to do their own research before making a purchase.
If you indeed choose one of the options listed below, please use the links in this post to make your purchase. A small portion of the purchase amount will go towards a budget for improvements and upgrades to the instruments used during private lessons.
The Ultimate Starter Keyboard
If you are currently taking lessons and don’t already have a piano or keyboard at home, this is the perfect place to start. Currently priced at just $40, it is at the far opposite end of the piano spectrum from a Steinway grand. But, it is lightweight, has an impressive 61- keys, and is extremely easy to store just about anywhere, such as under a bed.
The Lowest Cost Full Keyboard Set
For most keyboards, you will need to either set them on your own furniture or purchase a stand separately. This keyboard set comes with it all: keyboard stand, music stand (for books and sheet music), bench to sit, and even headphones so you don’t bother your family. All for $119.
The keyboard itself is a step up from the Plixio above, but is definitely not the quality of the Casio below. All in all, it is a good middle ground between the two and has all the accessories you need in the same box.
Want the package that also includes a sustain pedal for jus $30 more? Click here for the upgraded kit.
The Most Affordable Touch-Sensitive Keyboard
It’s rare that you’ll see a Casio piano/keyboard used professionally. But, Casio is a solid brand that has been around for more than half a century. Their keyboards make for great, affordable instruments for beginners to practice. And, they usually have quite a selection of additional features built in.
At $179, this keyboard is no exception. In particular, it has touch-sensitive keys. The softer you play, the quieter it sounds. This is very helpful for beginner and intermediate students learning to play with dynamics.
Mastering 88-Keys on a Budget
Few beginner students need 88 keys on a keyboard. This is the size of a full piano. But, this is not only the most affordable 88-key option currently available, it is also from a very trusted brand. Alesis is will known for making quality electronic instruments such as keyboard, synthesizers, and even electronic drum kits. My personal keyboard is an Alesis and it is currently one of the two keyboards I use with the students at school.
At $210, this will definitely cost more than the Casio and will likely have less of the “fun” features. But, the real advantage of this keyboard is that it will play and feel a lot more like a piano. It won’t quite be as good the “real thing”, but it may very well be the only keyboard the student will ever need.
Clearance & Used Items
There are many places to get used keyboards at a steep discount. The most important things for a beginner keyboard are:
1) at least 61 full-size keys
2) built-in speakers (you don’t want to have to pay extra for an amp or external speakers)
3) a power supply (batteries are expensive and are a pain to replace)
A step up is touch-sensitive keys for changing volume as you play. And, semi-weighted or weighted keys will give a better feel of piano. Anything that says “digital piano” is a usually step in the right direction.
The best brands are Roland, Korg, Yamaha, and Casio. Alesis keyboards are nice too, but do not have built-in speakers.