I’m breaking this into two different blog posts because the more I wrote the more I thought of to say and it got longer and longer!  Broadly, there are two types you can choose from – electronic and acoustic.  Though there is a third choice which combines the two.  I’ll talk about those in a separate post.  At the end of this post I’ll put some keyboards and accessories that you can browse.

The main difference between electronic “keyboards” and acoustic (“real”) pianos is the feel of the notes when you press them.  Lower-end keyboards have no resistance and some medium-level ones have half the amount of pressure that I real piano has.  The top-end electronic keyboards have “weighted keys” and this gives them the feel of a real piano, and a much bigger price tag.  Also be aware that learning to play the “keyboard” is different from learning to play the “piano”.  The piano uses lots of independent left hand while the keyboard tends to use primarily right hand while the keyboard fills in the chords.  Pianists can play keyboard, but keyboardists can’t always play the piano.

If you’re just starting out, it’s quite a good idea to start with an electronic keyboard. You might know someone who wants to get rid of one, or perhaps will lend you one while you get started and see if you want to commit to a good instrument. However, I’ve known some adult beginners who just want to get the best to start with. If you can afford it, this is a great idea since I think playing an inferior instrument isn’t very inspiring. Practice can become an unpleasant chore if the keys rattle and the sound is tinny. The most important thing when buying a piano is: do you love the sound of it?

Electronic Pianos

Keyboards come with various numbers of keys.  61 is fine to begin with (include both black and white notes when counting the keys) but ultimately, you’ll want 88 notes, which is a full size piano.  Electronic keyboards usually come with any number of different “instrument” sounds – different piano and organ sounds and sometimes orchestral instruments too. These can be great fun and very inspiring.  One really good thing about the new generation of keyboards is that they invariably have record capability which is useful to listen back to a practice session. Or, more exciting than that, record something you’ve made up so you don’t forget it! They usually have a built-in metronome too (which helps you keep in time when you play).

They are also MIDI capable and can connect to a computer, making the creative possibilities pretty endless. For those interested in more complex set-ups, I’m going to do a separate blog post about these and other exciting tech gadgets!

A seat

Remember that you will need a stool that is the right height. Piano posture is very important. When you sit on the stool at the piano or keyboard, and place your hands on the instrument, your arm should make an “L” shape – not slanted down, and not bent upwards from the elbow. Some stools are height adjustable, but more expensive for that. If buying an acoustic piano, many music shops will include a piano stool in the price (and often delivery and first tuning as well). Some electronic pianos will also come with a stool, sometimes adjustable.  It’s not advisable to use a dining chair or similar as they are too low and encourage leaning against the back of it.  A chair with arms is no good either as it inhibits the movement of the arms.

A keyboard stand

Some more expensive electronic pianos come with built-in legs, or even a cabinet that looks like a traditional piano. But for those that don’t, you need a stand. There are “X” shaped keyboard stands that are height-adjustable and this is a good purchase to make.  If you put the keyboard on a table, it will almost certainly be too high, cause shoulder and neck ache,  and likely as not will have to be moved at mealtimes or for kids to do homework etc.  You want to put it somewhere where it can stay for easy access, and not have to put it away after each practice.

A music stand

Think about where you can put your music while you are playing.  Music stands are standard on acoustic pianos, but the lower-end of the keyboards often don’t have them. It’s easy enough to get a free standing music stand to put behind it but it’s not as stable as having a built in one.
Another consideration is light. You don’t want to be squinting at the music or blinded by the sun coming through the window in the morning. Ideally, your keyboard should be placed where the light is good, and a lamp is available if you need one. If not, there are various clip-on lights available on Amazon or eBay for this purpose.

A pedal

Many lower-end keyboards do not come with a pedal, but most have a “damper” input.  You can buy a pedal that you plug into the back of the keyboard and this works well.  Depending on what type of flooring you have, you might find that the pedal moves around – usually further away from you until you can’t reach it any more!  It might stay put on a thick carpet.  Otherwise, use some tape to stick it to the floor.  This usually solves the problem.

A light

It’s very important that there is a good reading light over, near or on your keyboard once you decide where to place it.  An overhead light with a low-watt light bulb might not be sufficient.  Consider aiming a reading light at the music stand.  Otherwise consider getting a proper music light which clips on if it has a built-in music stand.

Here are some keyboards and accessories that you can browse to get an idea of what’s out there.  Prices are correct at the time of writing on 03/01/2018

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions!  In the next post I’ll give you lots of info about acoustic pianos.

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