This succinct one-stop guide is the first in a series of articles we’re publishing in order to give you a starting point to making the best informed decision for your child’s future in music – a transparent document helping to understand:
- What impact different price points have on quality
- Whether it affects sounds
- What functionalities suit your child’s interest best
- How advanced the technology needs to be
- Types of tuition and basically finding the very best suited option for you and your child
We have a very broad range of instruments which can appear daunting – but with the right advice and expertise you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for.
Firstly, here are some quick-fire points which you might want to consider before digging deeper:
- Consider your budget first. There are a lot of ways you can go and it can be overwhelming if you don’t know what price range you are looking at.
- Consider the space you have – if you want something just for beginning keyboard you may only need a few octaves as opposed to a full length keyboard – which you may not need till much later in your child’s learning.
- Functionality – is it important your child learn just the basics of keyboard playing and upgrade to a more complicated keyboard later to experiment with different sounds or would you prefer they begin exploring the wide world of different keyboard genres now?
- Compatibility – many keyboards now have multiple outputs which you can use to hook up to your computer or tablet to gain libraries of sounds, record your playing or at the least be able to listen to backing tracks and play a long without disturbing the whole household. Be aware of what connectors you need for your hardware.
- Headphones and/or speakers – many keyboards will have a headphone output so your child can play to their hearts content without everyone in the home hearing Greensleeves 30 times a day – but whether or not you go for something with speakers will depend on whether you do want to hear the odd performance and/or whether you can connect it to a computer for sound as mentioned in the previous point. We have a great range of affordable, high quality headphones to browse here.
- Accessories – other things to consider that are essential to keyboard playing: a good keyboard stand – if the keyboard is small and light then the sturdiness of the stand is not so much a problem, but the bigger and heavier the keyboard the better it is to have a solid, trustworthy stand; a bag or case – you want something that Jimmy can carry his keyboard to lessons or rehearsal in, strong materials but think about weight as well; headphones – in-ear, on-ear or around-ear, all have different fits and better for different purposes, your child may already have some in which case any headphone jack will work but you may need a converter (big/small or small/big). Around-ear will usually provide the fullest sound with little noise pollution or ‘bleed’; various leads – if you want to connect the keyboard to another source such as speakers or a computer you will need instrument cables. As discussed in the ‘functionality’ point above, different keyboards have different outputs which can range from USB to Midi to left and right or mono jack outputs, make sure you get a few spares of whatever cables you need.
Perhaps it’s appropriate to start with the following questions in regard to your child’s musical intentions:
Is your child interested in playing the keyboard as a hobby?
Is your child learning the keyboard in group music classes at school, and wants to practise at home?
Are you looking for a basic, entry-level keyboard?
If the answer to any of these is ‘yes’ then:
You don’t need to buy a large or expensive keyboard, and you don’t need anything that looks or feels identical to a piano. You’ll want a minimum of about 48 notes, but that’s your only real requirement.
You will probably want a keyboard that has a good selection of instrument sounds and rhythms. Be aware that the cheapest keyboards have mini-keys, (e.g. Casio SA-78), and these are not recommended for anyone who has a serious interest in playing, or for children older than primary school age.
Bargain basement: Casio SA-78 (44 mini keys) – N.B. this is fine for very young children, but is not really a ‘serious’ keyboard, and not suitable for ages 11+
Midrange: Yamaha P-115B (61 notes)
Top of the range: Yamaha PSR-E343 (61 notes)
Is your child studying for a piano grade exam?
Is your child taking private lessons?
Are you looking for a substitute for an acoustic piano?
You will want a keyboard that sounds, feels like and has a similar number of notes to a ‘real’ acoustic piano. Your keyboard should have weighted or semi-weighted keys, and have a minimum of 61 notes (Grades 1-4) or 80 notes (Grades 5-8).
Bargain basement: Yamaha NP11 (61-note keyboard)
Midrange: Yamaha P105 / Casio CDP-120 (88-note keyboard)
Top of the range: Yamaha Clavinova (these are excellent 88-note electric pianos – there are many types available and you are advised to try one out in a music shop before buying).
Check the dimensions of the keyboard, and make sure that you have the space to accommodate it.
Make sure that your keyboard has inbuilt speakers – all ‘consumer’ keyboards have speakers, but some professional keyboards do not.
Most electric pianos (but not Clavionvas) will require a keyboard stand. Keyboard stands are relatively cheap, but you’re best off avoiding the cheapest stands – find one that looks relatively sturdy.
Is your child interested in music production?
If you are looking for a keyboard with the sole purpose of connecting it to a computer, you may want a controller keyboard. These keyboards are used specifically for music production, not for live performance, as they have no sounds or speakers built into them. There are a huge number available – below are two options:
Bargain basement: Korg: NanoKey 2 USB Controller – Black
Midrange: Novation: Impulse 25 Controller Keyboard
Top of the Range: Yamaha: S90 XS Synthesizer – 88 Note
Please note that almost all keyboards and electric pianos (of any description – not just controller keyboards) can be connected to a computer through the USB port.
Have a look at the Musicroom site for an expansive range of keyboards, keyboard beginners books, tuition guides and introduction guides to give you and your child the best start with this versatile, exciting instrument.
Have a look here for our article on starting the Ukulele and keep your eyes out for more articles like this on more instruments.