Pianos vs. Keyboards: What Does Your Child Need?


Piano lessons are a great investment in your child’s future, but what if you don’t already own a piano? Is purchasing a brand new piano really necessary for your child’s success in music, or will a smaller, cheaper, and more manageable keyboard do the trick? Although a piano and keyboard may look similar to each other, there are many differences between them. When deciding between purchasing a piano or a keyboard for your child, you should consider their construction, maintenance requirements, your child’s interest in the instrument, and the musical style your child will potentially play.

What’s the Main Difference?

The main difference between a piano and a keyboard comes down to its construction: a piano is an acoustic instrument with weighted keys, while a keyboard is an electric instrument with lighter keys. Each instrument has its own unique features, and specific drawbacks. For example, the weighted keys on a piano are great for building finger strength, but pianos need to be tuned regularly which can be expensive. Keyboards, on the other hand, don’t need to be tuned but won’t help your child improve their finger strength and won’t provide the same full, rich sound that you’ll get from a full-sized piano.

How Committed is Your Child?

The first question you’ll want to ask is how committed your child is to learning the piano. Obviously a piano is a huge investment, in terms of both space and money. Although pianos provide a better sound and are often recommended by music teachers or programs, it might not be worth the investment if you’re unsure about your child’s interest in the instrument. If you’d like to evaluate your child’s commitment while still enrolling them in piano lessons, you can always purchase a quality keyboard first and transition to the piano at a later point in time if their interest in the instrument sticks.

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Do You Want Authenticity?

For some, having the “real thing” is the most important factor. Unfortunately, a keyboard will never replace a real piano. Even a top-of-the-line keyboard won’t have the same rich, beautiful sound produced by a piano. For those who are just starting to learn how to play the piano, a keyboard may set them back a bit, as a keyboard has less keys. Additionally, the keys on a keyboard are smaller in size, which can be frustrating for students who practice on a keyboard but take lessons and perform on a piano. If you do purchase a keyboard and are worried about “missing” something, there are plenty of keyboard packages to choose from- complete with everything your child will need to play the keyboard.

What’s Your Price Range?

If you’re on a tight budget, purchasing a piano likely won’t fit into it. In most cases, you can expect to spend at least $2,000 on a base model piano. For grand pianos, it’s not uncommon for the price tag to exceed $20,000. Although keyboards are less expensive, the price can quickly add up depending on how many “extras” you want. In many cases, internal metronomes, USB drives, and other special effects aren’t automatically included in the price of a keyboard. Depending on how many keyboard accessories you add, keyboards can range from $200 to $1,000+ in price. Similar to the previous point, you can always purchase a base model keyboard until you can save up for a piano.

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Is There a Move in Your Future?

Depending on the size and type of piano, moving a piano can be a huge hassle. In most cases, it requires professional (and expensive!) help. If you anticipate a move anytime soon, you may wish to consider purchasing a keyboard until you’ve arrived at your new home. With that in mind, you should also prepared for the upkeep and maintenance of a piano. Most pianos need to be tuned at least twice a year and, at a price tag of about $100, this can add up over time. If you do purchase a piano, mark your calendar every time it’s tuned- keeping up with the six-month schedule can make a world of difference in its overall tone.

What About a Digital Piano?

Digital pianos are full-size, touch-sensitive keyboards with a pedal. These are typically a better choice than keyboards for a few reasons: they have 88 keys and pedals, similar to a piano, and many have the advanced technology, such as headphone jacks and built-in metronomes, that keyboards offer. Although digital pianos are a decent alternative, traditional pianos yield the best results in controlling tone and building finger strength. If you can’t decide between a digital piano or a keyboard, most experts would recommend choosing the digital piano.

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Which One Retains its Value Over Time?

If you’re thinking about a piano or keyboard as a financial investment and are curious about which one retains its value better over time, the answer is a piano. Since most keyboards come with add-ons, including metronomes, various sound options, and background percussion, this technology will gradually become dated over time. Similar to a cell phone, new technology is added to keyboards each and every year and what may seem advanced now may feel outdated only a few years from now. Pianos, on the other hand, won’t lose much value over time. As long as you maintain the appearance of a piano and keep a keep a routine tuning schedule, you’ll be able to sell your piano for a decent amount down the line.

Did you decide on a keyboard? Check out our Keyboard Buyer’s Guide.

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