Piano Lessons for Kids: should I buy a Keyboard or a Piano?

One of the most frequent questions we get about piano lessons for kids, is whether a keyboard will suffice to start, or if a real piano is needed. We will seek to answer this question and expand on the subject to help parents get educated and make the right decisions from the beginning.

Usually, the answer is yes to a keyboard. In many cases, it’s smart not to make a huge upfront investment in lessons before you see how well your child takes to the instrument. A keyboard can be purchased for as little as $100 on the low end, while a quality piano costs thousands.

Should I buy a full sized keyboard or a 61 key keyboard?

If the difference in price is nominal, then go ahead with a full size.  In starting piano lesson for kids, a 61 key keyboard will suffice for probably for a year or so. In the beginning of piano lesson, a very limited range of the keyboard is used. Overtime this expands, but it could take a couple years to get to the level where a kid needs those extra keys.

How important is a weighted key keyboard?

Weighted keys are heavier and harder to press down, compared with the thin plastic keys of most keyboards. Weighted keys more closely resemble a real piano. The advantage of weighted keys is that your child will have an easier time transitioning to a real piano, if that eventually happens. Because this costs more, we often advise parents to start with an inexpensive small keyboard without weighted keys, then after 6 months if everything is going well, adjust to a better weighted keyboard or just go for a real piano.

Is a real piano always better?

Usually yes. However, if it’s really inexpensive, (a few hundred dollars), or even a give away, it may not be worth taking. The expense of moving and tuning it may cost more than a keyboard, and it’s possible that it’s condition will make it an obstacle for the child’s progress. We always advise checking with and objective friend that plays the piano before making the investment in any instrument.

Is renting a piano a good option?

Yes. It’s pretty amazing today you can rent a very nice new piano for about $40 per month. Be sure to check the contract and make sure that the terms are something you’re comfortable with. If you have no idea how your child will respond to piano lessons, and don’t have another use for the piano, jumping into a two year lease contract might not be the smartest way to start.

Should I buy an expensive keyboard like a Clavinova to start?

Usually this is not a great idea. The simple reason is because these often cost the same as a real piano, and if the student does well they will eventually need a real instrument anyway. Buy a real instrument instead of a high end keyboard.

Buying a quality piano to start

If you love the aesthetic value a piano brings to your home, and your not especially concerned with how far your child gets with the piano, go ahead and invest in something great if budget allows. Again if you don’t know anything about the sound quality of these pianos, ask an objective friend or instructor who does to try these instruments before you buy.

Piano lessons for kids:  a conservative start

1.  Purchase a $100 keyboard to get started.
Give 6 months to determine progress.  Make the next step up, a reward to help create goals for your child.
2.  Rent an upright. Once you see progress, a rental might be a great next step. Some companies allow trade up on contracts and possibly even rent to buy.
3.  3-4 years into lessons, it might be time to upgrade to a grand piano. This is if the student has progressed to the point that a grand is really needed for the next steps.  Your instructor will know when it’s time.

Why students will eventually need a grand piano if they are advanced


In beginning piano lessons for kids, students can learn notes, rhythms and some dynamics quite well on most uprights. As the student develops however, there comes a time when he or she will need an instrument capable of more subtlety. In most cases, a grand piano has a wider range of dynamic potential, (loud or soft), and has a richer, bigger bass. Generally, the more expensive the piano, the greater it’s range of expressive potential. A quality grand is really a necessity for the advanced student, especially if further education such as university training is planned.

What is the difference between a $10,000 grand piano and a $100,000 piano.

Simply put the more expensive pianos offer more control to the performer and higher quality sound. While a grand piano from 7,000 -30,000 is adequate for most advanced students and music majors, there is usually an advantage for advanced students found in the more expensive instruments. Certainly an expensive instrument, 30,000-100,000 is a necessary expense for a real performing artist.
This quality of instrument will match with what is found in most concert halls.

An example of probably the number one brand in this category would be Steinway and Sons http://www.steinwaylosangeles.com/

As we mentioned this is probably the most common question we get about piano lessons for kids.  If you have any other questions, please post a response and we will be happy to answer.  You also may email us at info@angelesacademyofmusic.com


For more info about beginning piano lessons, please read this blog about

what age to start piano lessons:

piano lessons for kids