Purchasing a keyboard

I’m often asked for advice in purchasing keyboards for young students.  There are bazillions of options out there, but in general I recommend even the youngest beginners start with a keyboard that includes the following features:

  • 88 keys (the same number of keys as a regular acoustic piano)
  • realistic piano action (this may be described as “weighted keys,” “hammer action,” or any number of other phrases—see this article for a dizzying array of options—for the first several years of piano study, any of these options will be fine)
  • “on-board” speakers (so the keyboard can make its own sound without being connected to external speakers)
  • sustain pedal (The little square pedals some keyboards ship with can creep away underfoot and be difficult to work with.  If that’s what you receive, you may find it easier to work with something like a Yamaha FC3A—though for some reason pedals are ridiculously brand-sensitive, so talk to your salesperson to be sure you buy a pedal that will actually work with your keyboard!)
  • headphone jack and headphones for practicing with more privacy (Sony MDR-7502‘s are a nice option)
  • music rack or separate music stand (the Manhasset Symphony Stand is the industry standard)
  • keyboard stand (my favorite is the On-Stage Double-X)
  • bench (there are lots of options, but the On-Stage KB8904B is a nice all-purpose bench)

Some keyboards will include all of those items in the same package, but generally you’ll need to check product listings carefully to be sure you’re not missing anything.  My best advice is to take the list above to a reputable vendor (JW Music is my favorite local vendor, and Sweetwater my preferred online source) and ask a salesperson about new releases and specials they may have available to you.  (As I’m writing this, Sweetwater has a great price on a Yamaha P-115 with keyboard stand, music rack, and pedal, for instance—you’ll just want to look for a bench and headphones.)