Can I learn piano on a keyboard?

Learning to play any instrument brings with it a lot of uncertainty. Are you going to enjoy it? Will you have time to practice? Will it be harder than you thought? You can only answer these questions by taking the plunge – buy the instrument and take lessons.

But for most people money doesn’t grow on trees, and whether you are considering buying a piano for yourself or your child, the expense could be out of your reach. A second hand acoustic piano can cost anything from £600 to £1,000, and a brand new one will push you to around £2,500. This is a huge amount of money for a beginner to pay, and the problem for most is that the motivation to learn quickly evaporates when the cost is realised.

So what is the solution, and is there a cheaper option?

Consider a keyboard

Electronic keyboards are the cheapest option if you are looking to learn how to read music and figure out what the notes are. Take the Alesis Melody 61 for example – this keyboard is only about £100. There is obviously a huge difference of hundreds or even thousands of pounds between this and an upright piano.

The notes on a keyboard are of course the same black and white key as they are on a piano, except for the fact that a keyboard typically has 61 ‘non-weighted’ keys when compared to a piano’s 88 ‘weighted’ keys. The action of the keys is one of the main differences and one which could hinder your piano tuition. But is it really a problem?

In the short term a keyboard is perfectly fine for learning to play the piano. As a beginner you will not need to use the sustain pedal (holds the notes) which will come with an acoustic piano. You will also not need to worry about the difference in the weight of the keys or the fact that a piano typically has 27 more.

Some would argue that you would be missing out on the strengthening aspect when using a keyboard because of the lightweight keys, but if you’re faced with the choice of either buying a cheaper keyboard to learn piano on or not at all, then this is clearly a great option.

Keyboard trial

If you are a parent who’s interested in providing piano lessons to their child but are worried if they will stick with it, then a keyboard is the perfect solution. When you can buy great keyboards like the RockJam RJ761SK for around £120, the decision on whether or not to pay for piano lessons becomes much easier.

But how long should you wait until you decide to buy a real piano?

If you or your child enjoys playing the keyboard and wants to progress onto a real piano at a later stage, then at least you haven’t wasted too much money. If you’ve bought a keyboard for around £100 or less, you can either keep it for someone else to play or sell it and recuperate some of your costs. A keyboard that’s in great condition and is only a year old would likely sell for at least 50-60% of its original cost. So over the course of a year you have only paid about £50 for a keyboard to see if you or your child enjoyed it.

Buying a piano just to see if you or your child enjoys learning and practising is a very costly exercise. Spending hundreds or even thousands of pounds on an acoustic that never gets played is heartbreaking. It would also take a lot longer to try and sell an acoustic piano because some people are put off by the transportation costs and the hassle that’s involved in organising it. You are of course going to lose a lot more than £50 when you sell it on as well.

Consider a digital piano

Throughout this article I have constantly been comparing keyboards to acoustic pianos, but there is something else that could be an option if you are still unsure about buying a keyboard. Digital pianos are much cheaper than acoustics, and although are naturally more expensive than keyboards, could provide a perfect alternative middle ground to your problem.

Digital pianos start at around £200, and one of my favourites is the Alesis Recital which is only around £230. This would be a great place to start as a beginner, and this would last a lot longer than a keyboard. And of course, if you do decide to sell it if it isn’t getting used you wouldn’t lose too much money. As long as you kept your digital piano in great condition it would be snapped up very quickly online. Second hand digital pianos are in much higher demand than acoustics because of the price and transportation costs.

If you wanted to spend more on a digital piano then you may consider looking at the DP-6 by Gear4music. This piano is only around £320 and comes with the proper stand, music rest and stool. If your budget was to stretch even further I would highly recommend one of the best digital pianos that exists today – the Yamaha Arius YDP-144 which retails for around £660.

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