Many of our customers ask us about digital pianos they found on the Internet. In nearly all cases, we have never evaluated their selections, and can’t recommend them.
At worst, they are low-quality off-brand instruments. As far as digital pianos are concerned, they may be prone to electronic failures. Since off brands are unlikely to have local support, as is the case with name brands, the repair or return process may be costly and inconvenient.
At best, these pianos lack the realism of key response and tone of those we recommend. As a result, they limit the student’s technical and artistic development once they advance beyond the beginner stage.
To help our customers avoid these situations, we’ve spent many hours evaluating instruments available locally, and have listed our top pick for beginners below. Their success and practice-motivating musical satisfaction requires a home instrument that rises to an reasonable standard of quality,
Our minimum recommendation is a Casio PX-870 digital piano (~$1000) with an attachable frame and pedals.
It’s realism of tone and key response are extraordinary considering the price, and it’s vastly preferable to an old, inexpensive vertical. It also has a half and full damper pedal functions*.
If you don’t want to buy the Casio PX-870, when shopping for another model, note that the terms “starter” or “beginner” digital piano are used to market cheap instruments that delay or impede development of important keyboard skills.
A digital piano that’s acceptable for productive lessons must have:
- 88 full-sized keys. Why? The most common alternative is 61 keys, making it impossible to play the numerous piano compositions that use the 17 missing keys. In addition, the student’s keyboard spatial orientation will be thrown off when they finally use an 88-key piano.
- Velocity-sensistive keys that allow changing the volume of individual notes. Why? No meaningful study or performance of music can occur if the student can’t play at different volume levels.
- A built-in, fixed damper pedal, not a wired “gas pedal”. Why? A wired pedal moves about the floor while the student plays, and responds much differently than a fixed pedal in terms foot technique. In turn, the student will have difficulty controlling the fixed pedal of a recital or other pianos.
- A “soft” (una corda) pedal. Why? Use of this pedal, which mellows tone and reduces volume, is indicated in piano music or is employed at the player’s discretion.
- A built-in or attachable frame with vertical legs. Why? This feature is needed to support fixed pedals.
- A music desk. Why? In order to easily and clearly read printed music, it must be tilted and centered in front of the student.
*Damper pedaling in general allows blending the sound of multiple notes that can’t be sustained by the fingers alone, and makes the piano sound louder and more resonant. In the case of the half pedal feature, the intensity of the resonance effect can be decreased by limiting how far the pedal is moved downward. This is similar to how an acoustic damper pedal works.
An acoustic piano or digital with an acoustic action (hybrid) is are better than basic digitals, regardless of the student’s level.