Choosing an Instrument- Piano Edition

Choosing an Instrument- Piano Edition

Choosing an Instrument- Piano Edition


I’ve been asked this question a lot lately and figured it would be easier if I just laid it all out right here.

For many people, and parent’s especially, they’re concerned with making sure the student (or themselves) are going to continue to have an interest in learning to play the piano before they fork out thousands of dollars for a piano. This makes sense, and I will never argue it, but please be fully aware of all of your options before you plunk down $99 for that cheesy keyboard with all the “Bells and Whistles.”

I’d say, from having worked in retail (yup, at one of those chain music stores), that 75% of the time you most definitely get what you pay for. Not unlike purchasing a safe and reliable car, you’ll find the student’s satisfaction with their study and their willingness to get anywhere with it is going to be greatly determined by how much they have to struggle with the instrument itself.

If you’re interested in buying a piano please consider these options-

Acoustic Pianos-

Acoustic pianos (the kind that are big, heavy, made of wood and have strings) are the absolute best type of instrument to learn on.  Why? Because they are a real piano.  The keys have a weight and response to them that many electric pianos can’t quite match and keyboards don’t even try to.  Plus they sound fantastic and can really hold their resale value, if you’re patient.

These come in a few different forms which have not much to do with how well you’ll learn to play, but should be considered when you’re thinking of how it will fill the space in your home.  Acoustic pianos are just as much a piece of furniture as they are an amazing instrument and can have the welcoming effect of bringing a group together, or can act as a place to stack your laundry. Choose something you like the looks of that will fit in your home appropriately.

Cons of buying an acoustic piano.  They can be EXPENSIVE! They will have a continual cost over time as they ideally should be tuned once a year. They are also difficult to move because they’re so heavy, and if you do move it, you’ll need to have it retuned (Piano tuning in California due to all the earthquakes is likely a HUGE business, I’d imagine).

Everyone knows when you’re practicing.

Some ways to get around acoustic piano expense?  Keep your eye out on craigslist or the newspaper, as they’ll often have people advertising to give them away if only you’d move it yourself.  You can also take a look at the State Salvage yard.  The pianos are not in the best shape, but it IS a piano.

Electric Pianos-

Electric pianos are a fantastic middle ground and here’s why. They are lightweight (you can move them yourself), they have weighted keys, and are moderately expensive. $450 on up for something decent. Most also come with a number of built in sounds and functions such as metronome and recorder. Also, most electric pianos allow for midi input into the computer, have a full 88-key keyboard, and a moderate resale value.

Huge points for being able to be played with headphones!

Cons- Not a super fantastic looking piece of furniture. Some don’t come with stands and have foot switches instead of foot pedals. These are things that must be bought a la carte. And yes, they must be bought.


Not my favorite, and I try to discourage whenever I can parents from purchasing keyboards.

Cons- Non weighted keys mean that the student will never develop the proper muscles for playing piano. They are often not touch sensitive disallowing the player to make different dynamics (an essential ability for musicians). Usually have shortened keyboards (not full size keys), and less than 88 keys. Thinking of reselling this thing? Think again. You won’t get much, if anything. If the student decides to continue, you’re going to want to purchase something better down the line.

Pros-Super inexpensive! You can get a decent KEYBOARD for $99. They also have more sounds, songs, and functions than you’ll ever need. Can be played with headphones. You can also plug these things into computers.

Remember that you’ll also need a stand, bench and real damper pedal for a keyboard as well.


So, I hope this little guide can help shed some light onto your decision.  I know that when I was teaching out of my tiny apartment in NY where space is a PREMIUM, I loved that I could put away my electric piano and pull it back out again for lessons. Remember, this is something that has to fit your lifestyle and budget as well as be a useful tool for the musician.


Happy shopping!


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