Digital or acoustic? How to choose your first piano

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Have you decided to start playing the piano and are trying to figure out which piano to buy? Are you undecided between an acoustic piano and a keyboard or between different digital piano models? Here are some tips to help you decide which instrument is right for you.

If you want to learn to play, it is essential that you have an instrument at home on which to practise. It doesn’t matter if you have little time and only start playing for pleasure, without great pretensions. Having an instrument and practising, even for ten minutes or half an hour when you can, is indispensable.

Playing the piano only during lessons with your teacher is completely insufficient. Lessons are important but what really counts is the time you spend with your piano, at home.

Moreover, it is only by experiencing the difficulties of studying that you will be able to understand whether playing the piano is right for you. Unless playing the piano has been a lifelong dream of yours and you are absolutely certain that you want to learn, purchasing an acoustic piano immediately may not be the best choice.

So let’s start with this question: is it better to buy an acoustic piano or an electronic keyboard?

Buying an acoustic piano, second-hand can also be an idea

A piano is a wonderful, beautiful object to have at home. However, buying an acoustic piano requires a minimum investment of 1500 to 2000 euros, so if you have never played and still don’t know if you really like it, it might be a bit of a risky choice.

If you do want an acoustic instrument, a real piano, you may be able to find some bargains even at a lower price, but you will have to get advice and help from a piano tuner and repairer.

These professionals are normally called “tuning engineers” but they do not limit themselves to tuning the instrument, which is the easiest part, but are also able to repair and evaluate an instrument that has not been used for many years.

If you want to buy a second-hand instrument, especially from a private individual who will not give you any warranty, I recommend that you get an expert tuner to accompany you, who can immediately assess the expense of putting the instrument back into use.

An acoustic piano is definitely perfect to start with, every note you play will give you an incredible feeling, you will feel the wood vibrating under your fingers. Besides the certainly higher price, the acoustic instrument has a couple of drawbacks, however: it needs space and plays at a rather high volume.

Starting to play the piano: where do I put it?

An upright piano, even a small one, weighs at least two hundred kilos. It is therefore not an object that you can move easily; when you buy it, you have to decide where to place it. You will have to consider the space it takes up, but also pay attention to a few things:

  • the piano had better not be in a room where there are large temperature fluctuations
  • do not put it too close to fireplaces, pellet stoves, radiators
  • do not put it in an environment that is too humid or too dry
  • do not place it against an external wall of the house, especially if north-facing

These notes alone can drive one crazy when deciding where to put the piano, but that is not all. In fact, when placing the instrument you must also take into account that you will use it to practise and learn to play, so it must be in an area of the house where you will not be disturbed.

pianoforte dove lo metto

Try not to place the piano in the bedroom or near other rooms, because otherwise practising will disturb those who are sleeping. Placing the piano in the living room is a more natural choice, but it may present other problems: most likely, you will be disturbed by other people passing or staying in the living room. For example, if there is a TV in your living room that is always on, it is very difficult for the piano and the TV to coexist.

Finally, if you have decided to buy an acoustic piano to start playing, there is one last problem you might have: the piano disturbs the neighbours. If you live in a block of flats, you will have to abide by common, good-neighbourly rules to avoid disturbing them with the piano when you practice.

If you have a large flat, try to put the piano in an inner room, as far away from neighbouring flats as possible. If your house has several floors, look for the one furthest from your neighbours, perhaps an attic or basement… as long as it is not too damp or too dry!

All these considerations bring us back to our initial question: if I want to start playing the piano, which one should I choose? If price, space or neighbourhood issues make you think about buying a digital piano or keyboard, here is what you need to know.

Beginning to play with a keyboard

A digital keyboard has three major advantages over an acoustic piano:

  • it costs less: with 300-500 euro you can buy a keyboard just right for beginners
  • it is less bulky and can be moved easily, it is not subject to changes in temperature or humidity
  • can be played through headphones or at a very low volume, so you can play whenever you want without disturbing anyone

So, is it better to choose a keyboard to start playing? No, not at all. If you just try to sit down in front of an acoustic piano and play a few notes, you will discover that the magic of a ‘real’ piano is unique, no keyboard will ever give you the same excitement.

Starting with a keyboard has its advantages, however; it can also be a good idea to find out if studying music appeals to you. You can always switch to an acoustic piano at a later date.

Buying a keyboard to start playing: what you need to know

The world of electronic keyboards is extremely vast and if you have never played, you may find yourself lost among thousands of models, not knowing which piano to choose. The right keyboard to start playing must have one fundamental feature, more important than all the others: it must have a weighted keyboard.

Instruments that have this feature are also called digital piano or electronic piano, and have a keyboard that emulates that of the acoustic piano.

Other types of instruments such as organ, synthesiser, workstation, controller etc. are similar in appearance but have a softer keyboard and are therefore not at all suitable for starting to play. If you want to buy a digital piano to start with, make sure it has a weighted keyboard.

How much does a digital piano cost to get started?

The price of a low-end digital piano is between 300 and 500 euros. You can hardly find a cheaper instrument that has a weighted keyboard. If you see advertisements that say “piano for beginners”. , ‘perfect instrument for beginners’ etc. but at a lower price, it is certainly a bad instrument. Advertising is made to sell, after all! Don’t even trust the wording semi-weighted keyboard because even that is not good enough for beginning piano players.

If you are sure you don’t have room for an acoustic piano but can spend more money, there are more expensive digital pianos that have a wooden keyboard.

After you have chosen the right instrument for you, you may be interested in our video course on learning to play the piano. It is the most popular course on this site, already many have used it and are using it to take their first steps on the piano. LEARN MORE

Want to spend less?

Starting to play while spending very little is difficult, especially it is not a good idea to save on the instrument. If, however, you want to start playing the piano but even an expense of 300-500 euros is too much for you, you can still fall back on a third, entirely temporary and transitory option: buying a toy keyboard.

Some will think I have gone mad, especially fellow music teachers: how can one learn to play on a toy keyboard? The answer is very simple: if you absolutely cannot afford to buy a digital piano, then don’t be tempted by cheaper, perhaps beautiful instruments with lots of functions. It’s just wasted money.

To learn to play, a piano with a weighted keyboard is indispensable. If you can’t have one, you might as well make do for a few months with an instrument that is as cheap as possible. Don’t spend money on intermediate, 200-300 euro instruments, get a 50 euro keyboard, in a supermarket at Christmas you can find them in the toy department.

With a toy keyboard you can learn where the notes are, start reading music and do your first exercises. You won’t get far, but at least you won’t have spent money for nothing. The toy keyboard only needs to have one characteristic: to have normal-sized keys. So don’t get keyboards with small key.

Conclusion: which piano to choose? Choosing the right piano is important

We therefore answered the question of which piano to choose, proposing three different solutions:

PLAN A Choose an acoustic piano. You will spend over 1000 euros and have to choose carefully where to place it, but an acoustic piano is better than any keyboard, it will give you unique emotions. If you can choose a piano to start with without budget and space problems, look towards an acoustic instrument without hesitation.

PLAN B If for reasons of cost, space or neighbourhood you choose to start playing on a digital piano, choose one that has a weighted keyboard. It is an indispensable feature, more important than everything else (brand, functions, design, etc.). A digital piano is fine to start with, it also has some advantages. However, it does not have the magic of an acoustic instrument.

PLAN C If you really can’t buy a digital piano with a weighted keyboard, get by for a while with whatever you can get at minimal cost: borrow or buy a keyboard as cheaply as possible. If it doesn’t have a weighted keyboard, you will have to change instruments within a few months anyway.

Write to me or leave a comment if you would like help choosing an instrument or if you are interested in my private online piano lessons. I hope you find these tips useful, thanks for reading!

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