My eldest daughter just started taking piano lessons and we had a difficult time deciding which piano to buy. There seemed to be a dearth of piano reviews so I will share our decision making process with you and hopefully save you some time and money!
Acoustic or Digital Piano?
This is the FIRST decision you need to make!
Unless your are some kind of concert pianist virtuoso that MUST have an acoustic piano…The digital pianos with weighted keys are plenty good enough to learn how to play piano on.
They are a very heavy piece of furniture that once owned are not that easy to move or sell wear out and need to be maintained and tuned.
I’ve been playing keys for years and owned a few acoustic pianos in that time period. Though playing a REAL piano is always nice when they are in good condition and in tune, I play my Yamaha MOX8 that I bought used for $1000 almost every day…with headphones so I don’t disturb anyone else..
My 2 cents stick with digital at least a few years until you are sure you absolutely want a REAL piano. The digitals are also a lot easier to sell because they can be picked up and stuffed in the back seat of a standard car.
The 88 key weighted feel and great piano sounds.
The digital technology gives you the power to plug headphones and not to bother anyone, also you can easily record this via cables directly connected into the instrument and finally all modern digital pianos offer the power of not just one instrument – all of them come with at least 5 instruments bundled – so you have usually 2-3 types of pianos, organ and something else. finally many offer some kind of modulation, so like leslie cabinet emulation for the organ, draw bars emulation for the organ, reverberation for all the instruments etc. and finally there is the weight of the instrument, which is significantly lower than an acoustic piano.
So in short – the acoustic instruments are always best, but the digital technology provides functionality beyond the expectations and we live in a modern world.
There are also pros and cons to both the acoustic piano and digital or electronic pianos. Let’s start with the acoustic piano.
The pros are:
1. This is the genuine article. If you or your child ever become serious about playing the piano, there is no replacement for the acoustic piano experience.
2. Acoustic pianos are easy to find. Just do a search in the FREE section on the CraigsList.com in your area and you’re bound to find a few that folks are willing to give away if you come with a truck and 4 burly guys to pick it up yourself.
The cons are:
1. Acoustic pianos need to be tuned once a year. This costs anywhere from $50 – $100, depending on your area.
2. Real pianos are HEAVY. If you move around a lot, you will have to get 4 burly guys to move it for you. And unless they’re bonded and insured, they might do some damage. So, it’s best to have professional piano movers do this and yes, this costs a few hundred bucks per move (not including the re-tuning it will require after it relocates to its new home).
3. Depending on the style of acoustic piano you choose, it will take up a significant amount of floor space. Grand pianos require the largest square footage, while upright pianos aren’t quite as fussy.
Digital Pianos (sometimes called Electronic Pianos)
The pros are:
1. You can find digital pianos that have an excellent grand piano sound.
2. They are easy to move. Even the full-sized pianos can be carried by one person (or two wimpy ones).
3. They never need to be tuned.
4. If you are technically inclined, you can record songs that you compose on your piano and even connect the piano to your computer via a USB cable for more techno fun. They often have different “voices” meaning they can sound like a violin or a harpsichord instead of a piano.
5. Some digital pianos are dirt cheap. I saw one in the store for 20 bucks!
The cons are:
1. The cheap electronic pianos don’t sound much like a piano.
2. You have to pay more for keyboards with pedal action.
3. You have to pay more for keys that are weighted, so the “touch” is similar to an acoustic piano. This feature also gives you volume control – the harder you press, the louder the sound. Synthesizer keyboards are generally not touch sensitive.
4. It’s easy to get addicted to the extra technological features and want more and more of them!
Where to buy Acoustic Pianos
eBay is a great place to locate pre-owned keyboards and pianos at reasonable prices. Because of the cost associated with shipping pianos, you may want to just search for pianos available for “pick-up only” in your area.
My Piano Review
Because we aren’t planning to stay in our current home for more than one year, we decided that the portability of a digital piano suited us best. We will eventually invest in an acoustic piano if our daughter continues her enthusiasm for the instrument in the coming years.
The piano teacher suggested a digital piano with 88 weighted keys so our daughter would learn the same kind of touch required to play an acoustic piano. We also learned that a 30-note polyphony or more is best, so sustained notes wouldn’t be cut off while pedaling more intricate musical pieces. My daughter just learned “Hot Cross Buns” so it will be a while before she does any heavy pedaling, but it’s nice to know she has some room to grow!
Based on these recommendations, our choices became quite clear. We looked at the Yamaha P 125, Yamaha P-140, and the new Yamaha YPG-625.
The Yamaha P-125 fit the bill, boasting the “graded hammer keyboard” with 88 keys, 192-note polyphony and sustain pedal. It has EQ, drum patterns, 2-way speaker system as well as headphone connections and MIDI IN/OUT. I was pleasantly surprised by the sound – just like an acoustic piano! The P-125 also has 24 Sounds, so you can make it sound like an organ or a harpsichord or a violin. It weighs 28 pounds and 11 ounces. Not bad for $599.99
The Yamaha P-140 is the next step up. It can do everything the P 125 does, except better. It has a maximum of 64-note polyphony, 14 voices, a built-in metronome to help you keep the beat, and a recorder with 2 tracks that will record up to 11,000 notes (65KB) for you composer types. It weighs 39.2 pounds and has a heftier price tag of $1,099.
When we first walked into the music store, we immediately noticed the Yamaha Portable Grand on display – the YPG-625. This instrument is a beautiful marriage of technology and Yamaha’s acoustic heritage. In addition to the 88 weighted graded hammer keys, it also has a USB terminal to connect to a computer, a digital display screen, 500 voices including drums, song recording capabilities, and a handy song arranger. I thought the $749 price was quite reasonable for all of the extra composing, recording and technological features it had.
There was a cheaper Yamaha for $299 with “touch sensitive” keys, but it just couldn’t compare to the acoustic-like feel of the weighted graded hammer action of the others. We want our daughter to move seamlessly from her digital piano to the acoustic one she’ll be using during lessons.
And The Winner Is . . .
Although I was partial to the Yamaha YPG-625, I couldn’t justify the extra expense when buying a keyboard for a beginning piano student. She just doesn’t need all of those extra buttons to distract her right now. In the end, we bought the Yamaha P-125.
It meets all of her teacher’s criteria, it fit our budget, space and mobile lifestyle, it retains its value (did you check those eBay prices on used Yamahas?) and it sounds great – even when my daughter plays Hot Cross Buns.
Grab Your Own Digital Piano Now!
Since Yamaha electric pianos retain their value, it’s difficult to find a bargain on a used instrument. We bought a new one with a great warranty and are incredibly pleased with it. In fact, I love our Yamaha P-125 so much, I want to take piano lessons too!