Frequently Asked Questions
Does my kid even need a keyboard to take lessons?
This may seem like an obvious question but given how often I hear it tells me that many people are honestly not sure if they need a keyboard to successfully take music lessons. The answer is absolutely yes. Music lessons are different then other activities such as sports. A child can very successfully go to recreational soccer once or twice per week without ever practicing in between. Theoretically, you wouldn’t even need a soccer ball at home. Music lessons on the other hand depend a great deal on regular daily practice in order to produce any positive results.Therefore, you must have an instrument at home in order to practice on in between lessons. Taking weekly lessons without practicing in between would very quickly lead to frustration for both the student and the teacher as no progress would be made from week to week.
What’s the cheapest keyboard I can get for my kid to take lessons?
Oh boy .. if I had a dollar for every time that I’ve answered this question :) The literal answer would be, a no name, non touch sensitive keyboard from a box store for approx. $79. The more practical answer would be approx. $189 for a brand name, touch sensitive keyboard from your local music store. I’ll be bold and say that any proper teacher would agree that a bare minimum would be decent quality and most definitely a touch sensitive keyboard.
Should I spend more on my kid, who knows if they’ll stick with it?
Yup, this is another question we get almost every day. I have kids, and I certainly understand the feeling a parent gets every time they buy yet another item for their child. It makes you question the many other items that you have purchased in the past that may or may not be being used to their full potential. That said, the short answer is yes. While you don’t have to jump right into the multiple thousands necessarily, every level you jump into improves your kids playing experience and in turn improves their chances of success. Now, I’d be lying if I were to suggest that simply spending more on an instrument would guarantee more success. However, think of it in terms of sporting equipment. An awesome bat doesn’t create an instant home run hitter. Regular practice and hard work combined with good equipment does that. Can a kid with a crummy bat overcome that and become a great hitter, yes of course, it is just a lot harder. You get the idea, good equipment helps provide good feedback to someone who is putting in the hard work necessary to learn anything. Better feedback provides motivation which in turn encourages harder work which produces better results and so on .. the equipment matters.
I would suggest that you either purchase an inexpensive non weighted keyboard or jump immediately into the weighted key instruments. I would suggest to you that more expensive, non weighted instruments are a bit of a waste of money for the application of learning to play. Having weighted keys would be of more benefit. That said, the better quality weighted key instrument you feel comfortable purchasing, the better.
Any purchase for your kids is going to come with an element of risk, they’re kids after all. Better instruments offer better results but do not guarantee success, it only improves their chances. Your kids success depends on many things including your child’s disposition, their teacher, how involved you are at home as a support to them in their piano as well as the equipment. In the case of better equipment, especially the instruments in the $1000 price range, resale values and opportunities are quite good. If you need to resell an instrument in that price range you stand a very good chance of doing so through your local music store or privately and you will likely get as much as 40-50% of your money back in the first few years.
Are the Home Style, more expensive instruments really worth it?
Yes .. definitely. The home style or console type digital pianos feel much better then portable weighted keyboards. They also tend to sound a lot better too because of their larger, more elaborate speaker systems. Also, because they look so much more like a real piano, they tend to be placed in common spaces in the home such as the family or living room. This central location definitely promotes more regular play as well as allows parents to monitor practice sessions while doing other tasks, such as preparing dinner or getting ready for school etc. I would say they are worth all of their extra expense and then some.
I saw a non weighted keyboard in my favourite big box store for less then my music store, is it a good deal?
Maybe, but probably not. In many ways, big box type stores are fantastic. They allow shoppers to buy larger quantities of things at reduced prices. Where they sometimes come up short is on specialty items like keyboards and guitars. In order to maintain their discount price status they often make deals with manufacturers to purchase a bunch of an older model or a model that the regular music dealers are not interested in (usually for good reason). What they end up with is, one or two either old or unwanted models at a slightly cheaper price then the local music store. Nothing wrong with them but quite possibly not the best option. Sometimes, this model will suit you and you may be fine. Most often however, what you gain in convenience you lose in selection and professional guidance. Box stores generally only carry one keyboard per price range while there are usually two or three to choose from on the market. Box stores rarely have the most current models and they definitely don’t have anyone on staff who can answer any questions about the instruments. Do yourself a favor, resist the temptation to purchase a keyboard the first time you see one at your local box store. Instead, do a bit a research, call or drop into your local music store to compare. In the end, you can always go back to purchase the keyboard that you saw initially if it turns out to be the best value. My guess is that it won’t turn out that way.
I saw a home style weighted keyboard in my local box store and it seemed like a good deal, is it?
Again, maybe but most likely not. Box stores only sell digital pianos at Christmas time. Beyond the fact that they are only interested in the digital piano customer for 45 days per year, they almost always make a deal with certain manufacturers for their cheapest home style piano. If you have read the rest of this guide you know that in this category of instruments, there are a lot of choices. Box stores are only interested in a particular price level so they have to focus on the lowest quality product in this category to achieve a price of around $999. Now, I’m not saying that you can’t buy a good keyboard for $999. On the contrary, for that price you can buy one of the best weighted key portable digital pianos, just not at a box store usually. What you can’t buy is a good quality home style digital piano, they start in and around $1500-$1700. So, again, resist the temptation to buy these instruments simply because it is convenient, you’re already there, you could just haul one of these suckers into your giant shopping cart and be done with it. Do so and you will be very likely guaranteeing that you will be getting the worst possible option for your hard earned money. Instead, take the model number and do some research. Go online, read a bit, call your local store and talk to a human or two. You will quickly find out that there are many options and that one at the box store may very well be the worst of the lot. Either way, armed with a bit of research you will know one way or the other. If the box store has what seems like the best value for you then you should buy it. If not, you will have done yourself a big favor by doing a bit of research.
Can I start with a less expensive keyboard now and then trade up to a better one later?
Yes, of course. Music stores all over the world offer some sort of trade in program that would allow you to trade in your existing keyboard towards a newer more elaborate version. There are pros and cons to this approach. The pros include being able to cautiously spend a lot less money initially on music lessons, taking a measured approach and freeing up funds for other things. The cons are a bit more compelling on paper. Less expensive instruments provide a less enjoyable playing experience from day one. When it comes time to trade you will be looking at approx 25-50% of your original purchase price as a trade. While this is not bad, this will cost you more money then just buying the better instrument initially. If you wait too long, your instrument will have lost most or all of its value making it impractical to trade.
What you gain in security or risk management by starting slow you lose if you actually upgrade. So, the answer is yes, you can trade in and upgrade but I would only suggest taking that approach if you are simply unable to purchase the more elaborate instrument initially. I say, go into music lessons believing that the student will stick with it, enjoy it and excel at it with the help of his/her family. If you approach it that way you will feel more confident with a more expensive purchase. Again, there are no guarantees but if you go into it with the right attitude and expectations your chances of success are much higher and in the worst case, your local music store can always sell the instrument for you to recoup some of the expense.
There seems to be a lot of opinions about various models online, should I trust them?
Well, that’s a tough yes or no question. On one hand, the online community is among the most un-biased groups anywhere with valid, honest opinions. On the other hand, online forums tend to be a gathering place for un-happy customers or people with strong, unsubstantiated opinions and no other outlet for them. The other potential issue with online opinions is that it is often difficult to find opinions on current models.
That said, I suppose my answer is: use your best judgement when reading online reviews. My rule of thumb is if I see the same negative review more then a few times from a few different people, I start to believe it. Same goes for positive reviews, I only start to trust them after I see a lot of them on a lot of different forums. I am a lot more trusting of reviews from humans in the field. I often call many different stores to ask the salespeople for their opinions. People inherently love to assist if they can. Same rule applies for human reviews, I need to hear the same thing a few times before giving them credibility.
Bottom line, I tend to use the internet for technical data on products and prefer to speak with people in person (or on the phone) about their real world opinions.