20

May

Best keyboards for beginners and kids 2022: Get started with our expert pick of beginner keyboards for all ages

It seems that interest in keyboards has skyrocketed in recent years - hardly surprising when you consider all the exceptional content available for aspiring keyboardists and pianists online - it really has never been easier to start playing. Of course, to get started, you're going to need one of the best beginner keyboards. But with so many options available, it can be daunting to know where to start. Luckily we've put together this handy guide to the best beginner keyboards to help point you in the right direction.

If you or your child is considering learning the keys, you'll find a vast array of choices out there, from all singing all dancing home keyboards to more basic piano-like instruments and everything in between. To avoid confusion, we've selected some of the best keyboards for beginners that are sure to kickstart anyone's musical journey and hopefully lead to many years of enjoyment.

Best beginner keyboard for budding pianistsLaunch price: $299/£229/€229No. of Keys: 61Key Type: Full-sizeVelocity Sensitive?: YesNo. Of Sounds: 10No. Of Rhythms: 0Battery Operated?: YesBuilt-in Speakers?: YesConnectivity: Sustain pedal input, USB, PowerDimensions (cm): W104 x D26 x H11Weight (kg): 4.5+Available in two sizes+Super portable+Recording function-Limited sound options

Available in two sizes – the NP12 has 61 keys while the NP32 has 76 – the Piaggero series of Yamaha keyboards are no-frills, lightweight piano-style keyboards that sound fantastic and really look the part. These excellent beginner keyboard pianos are compact and supremely portable, feature built-in speakers, a velocity-sensitive keyboard and sounds sampled from a Yamaha concert grand piano.

Easy to play, they’re limited to just ten different sounds, but these are all very high quality and just the job if your primary focus is learning piano without distractions such as one-finger chord accompaniment and animal sound effects. There’s a simple onboard recorder that can be used to record and playback your performances to evaluate your progress.

All-new Yamaha keyboards now include a free, three-month Flowkey Premium membership, and this particular 61-key model is also available bundled with a 12-month Playground Sessions subscription, headphones, sustain pedal and USB cable from the playgroundsessions.com online store.

Read our full Yamaha Piaggero NP12 review

The 80s classic makes a comebackLaunch price: $299/£249/€175No. of Keys: 61Key Type: Full-sizeSensitive?: YesNo. Of Sounds: 61No. Of Rhythms: 0Battery Operated?: YesBuilt-in Speakers?: YesConnectivity: PHONES/OUTPUT jack: Stereo mini jack (3.5 mm); AUDIO IN jack: Stereo mini jack (3.5 mm) (Input impedance: 10 kΩ; Input sensitivity: 200 mV); USB TO HOST port: micro-B; USB TO DEVICE port: Type A; PEDAL jack: Standard jack (6.3 mm) (pedal sustain, sostenuto, soft, metronome)Dimensions (cm): 93.0 (W) × 25.8 (D) × 8.3 (H) cmWeight (kg): 4.5 kg+Fantastic sounds+Very playable keyboard+Great sounding speakers-No 1/4-inch audio outputs

In 1980 Casio released a revolutionary keyboard for beginners, that for the time, offered state-of-the-art sounds, full-sized keys, and eight-note polyphony - not to mention it was incredibly affordable. The original Casiotone was a monumental success, but it hardly holds up to today's standards. Well, luckily, Casio has brought the Casiotone into the modern-day, with the release of the CT-S1.

Building on the legacy of the original Casiotone, the CT-S1 is a fully portable keyboard with 61 built-in voices, 61 full-size, touch-sensitive keys and now 64 note polyphony. The simplified control layout results in a sleek, uncluttered look, while the range of colours - red, white or black - means you can find a keyboard to fit your personal style.

At the heart of the Casiotone is the AiX Sound Source. This sound engine delivers dynamic and expressive tones, perfect for beginners and professionals alike. The Casio Casitone is easily one of the best Casio keyboards on the market right now.

Read our fullCasio Casiotone CT-S1 review

The best beginner keyboard for innovationLaunch price: $349/£255/€319No. of Keys: 61Key Type: Full-sizeVelocity Sensitive?: YesNo. Of Sounds: Over 500No. Of Rhythms: 672 Loop Mix patternsBattery Operated?: YesBuilt-in Speakers?: YesConnectivity: Sustain pedal input, USB, Power, Aux input, BluetoothDimensions (cm): W88 x D27 x H8.2+Great brand reputation+Full-size keyboard+Loads of sounds-Sounds are adequate but not brilliant

Casio has a solid pedigree when it comes to portable keyboards for beginners, and their current lineup doesn’t disappoint. We’ve chosen the CT-S300 for the way it balances features and price. With a full-size, velocity-sensitive 61-note keyboard, convenient built-in carrying handle and three colour options (black, white or red), plus a library of over 400 sounds, 77 rhythms, built-in reverb, dance music mode, aux input and compatibility with Casio’s Chordana teaching app, there’s more than enough here to keep newcomers busy – you even get a 60-song songbook thrown in!

If you don’t need a velocity-sensitive keyboard, you can go for the slightly cheaper CT-S200 model instead, or you can plump for the top-of-the range LK-S250 version which has the illuminated key teaching function.

The best keyboard for beginners if you have tiny fingersLaunch price: $99/£85/€85No. of Keys: 37Key Type: MiniVelocity Sensitive?: YesNo. Of Sounds: 42No. Of Rhythms: 21Battery Operated?: 4xAABuilt-in Speakers?: YesConnectivity: USB, Power, Aux inputDimensions (cm): W51 x D20 x H5.4Weight (kg): 1.2+Great for small hands+Plenty of quality sounds+Affordable-Not so great for grown ups

With its 37 mini keys for little hands to get to grips with, Yamaha’s highly-portable PSS-A50 is great for the younger aspiring pianist. Although it’s often easy to dismiss keyboards of this size merely as toys, the A50 manages to appeal to the younger student while also offering sounds of sufficient quality to actually be of some use to older, more advanced players, so it will continue to be useful as your learning progresses.

The velocity-sensitive keyboard is derived from Yamaha’s Reface series of reimagined classic synths, feels great and is easy to play. The 42 sounds definitely favour quality over quantity, and there’s a USB MIDI port, headphone socket, motion effects, a phrase recorder and a built-in arpeggiator with 138 patterns to keep you interested. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something even more kid-friendly, you could also check out the A50’s sister keyboard models, the PSS-E30 and PSS-F30.

Read the full Yamaha PSS-A50 review

88-key masterpiece from one of the industry’s best namesLaunch price: $529/£387/€451No. of Keys: 88Key Type: Semi-weightedVelocity Sensitive?: YesNo. Of Sounds: 12No. Of Rhythms: 12Battery Operated?: NoBuilt-in Speakers?: YesConnectivity: USB, Power, MIDI I/ODimensions (cm): W131 x D33 x H11.6Weight (kg): 9.2+Great sounds+Simple to use-More sounds would always be welcome

When you first sit down at an 88-key piano or keyboard, it can be intimidating. Put simply, they’re huge, especially to younger learners or those with smaller hands. A more welcoming route may be to look at something with smaller keys, like the Yamaha Reface CP. The Reface has just 37 keys – and mini ones at that – but focuses its attention more on the included sounds.

For our money, there are few keyboards in this bracket which sound as good as the Reface models, especially when you factor in the onboard effects which help shape your tone. It also has plenty in the way of connectivity, so you could feasibly continue to use its sounds by hooking it up to a larger MIDI-enabled keyboard in the future, making the Reface something you’re unlikely to grow out of any time soon.

Read the full Yamaha Reface CP review

The best keyboard for beginners if you want online lessons tooLaunch price: $160 (including 1 month Playground Sessions membership)No. of Keys: 61Key Type: Full-sizeVelocity Sensitive?: YesNo. Of Sounds: 5No. Of Rhythms: 0Battery Operated?: YesBuilt-in Speakers?: YesConnectivity: Sustain pedal input, USB, Power, Aux inputDimensions (cm): n/aWeight (kg): n/a+Includes Playground Sessions membership+Handy slot for your tablet+Semi-weighted keys feel great-Speakers are a little weak

If you’re taking out a Playground Sessions membership, why not consider a keyboard piano specifically designed to be used with the service? This 61-key, five octave keyboard has semi-weighted keys, built-in speakers for practicing and an audio input so you can connect your computer or tablet’s headphone output and hear the app’s sound through the speakers as you progress through the lessons.

With a slot for a tablet built into the top panel, a USB connector, sustain pedal input and five of its own onboard sounds, it comes bundled with membership to Playground Sessions starting at $160 for a month’s subscription, rising to $400 for a lifetime membership. Since it’s been designed with online lessons in mind, it’ll not only work brilliantly with Playground Sessions, but with any other online lesson provider too.

How many keys do you need?

Keyboards come in numerous sizes, with the standard being 88 keys. Smaller keyboards are available with 76, 61, 49 and even 25 key options out there. When starting out, it's best to go for something that can accommodate two-handed playing straight away, or you'll be wanting to upgrade sooner than you think. For this, you'll need at least 49 keys or four octaves.

For this reason, we've made sure all of the beginner keyboards in this guide have a minimum of 49 keys, except for one – the Yamaha PSS-A50, which has 37 mini keys making it suitable for small children or players with small hands.

As a general rule - bigger is always better. Go for as many keys as you have room for, or your budget will allow. Buying a full-sized keyboard piano at the beginning means your new instrument has room to grow with you as you progress on your keyboard-playing adventure.

Best keyboards for beginners and kids 2022: Get started with our expert pick of beginner keyboards for all ages

Keyboard action explained

The action describes how easy or hard the keys are to actually press down to produce a note. Real pianos have weighted keys and, therefore, quite a heavy action, so for beginners, a more lightly-sprung ‘synth action’ keyboard is more likely to fit the bill to start with.

A light action is often better for small hands in particular, but don’t be too tempted by mini-size keys – little hands can quite easily handle full-size keys as long as the action isn’t too heavy, and learning on full-size keys will remove the need for switching from mini to full-size at a later point, which can be difficult once you’ve got used to small keys.

Number of sounds

The number of sounds that your beginner keyboard should have comes down to what you want to use it for – you don’t necessarily need hundreds of sounds if your main interest is simply learning piano. There are plenty of options out there that offer little more than 10 high quality sounds.

That said, if you’re buying a keyboard for kids to learn to play their favourite songs on, a wide variety of tones is arguably more likely to keep them interested in the long term, plus it will make the keyboard more entertaining for when they’re playing it outside of lesson time.

Keyboard vs digital piano

So what is the difference between a keyboard and a digital piano? Dedicated digital pianos are aimed more at people who want an alternative to an acoustic piano, with full 88 weighted keys. Keyboards, on the other hand, are generally loaded with extra features and sounds. Keyboards are also more portable, with some having the option to be battery powered.

Some sort of acoustic piano sound is nearly always top of the list of sounds that a beginner keyboard comes with. Still, the quality of this sound will be an important consideration – generally, the cheaper the keyboard, the less realistic the piano sound is likely to be.

Keyboards will usually have some sort of rhythmical accompaniment section with preset drum rhythms built-in, and many even feature onboard tuition features such as illuminated keys, a metronome and built-in songs to play along with.

Velocity sensitivity

Velocity-sensitive keyboards respond to how hard you hit the keys while playing, emulating the response of an acoustic piano - the harder you hit a key, the louder the note that comes out. It’s important to learn how hard to press the keys from the off if you’re seriously considering making any kind of progress as a player, so velocity sensitivity is an important item on your wishlist. It will also give you more accurate feedback for monitoring the development of finger strength and independence when practising.

Sound quality

When you’re starting out, your first keyboard piano probably isn’t going to sound as good as the ones the professionals use – after all, you wouldn’t shell out hundreds on a top-end keyboard if you’re not 100 percent sure that you or your budding pianist are going to persevere beyond Frere Jacques. Because of this, keyboards for beginners and kids can often skimp on sound quality, promising hundreds of tones that are all really just endless variations of one or two basic sounds.

Our advice would be to go for keyboards with fewer, better quality tones. This will help you to achieve a better sound right from the start, inspiring the confidence to help you progress with your lessons. In our opinion, if it actually sounds like you’re playing a piano while you’re learning, you’re much more likely to stick with it!

Traditionally, if you wanted to learn the keyboard, your first port of call would be a stack of sheet music, books and one to one lessons. Now, this is still a valuable way to start your musical journey, but with giant leaps forward in technology, there are certainly more convenient ways to learn.

There are a wealth of piano learning apps out there that can show you everything from how to sit at your instrument, how to play scales and chords and even how to master your favourite songs. Most of these apps will charge a monthly subscription fee to access a full course of lessons, with nearly all offering a free trial of some description. To find out more, check out our in-depth guide to the best online piano lessons.

Really, there is no optimal age for learning the keyboard - if your child shows an interest in learning, it's worth giving it ago. That said, there are a few things to consider.

Very young players can have problems with overly large keyboards, so it's worth sticking to 49 or 61 keys and progressing to the full 88 notes when you feel they are ready. Similarly, children can find it challenging to navigate fully-weighted piano keys, so they should start on semi-weighted or synth-like keys. Older beginners won't have this issue, so they can learn in any keybed.

So, once you've decided on the best beginner keyboard for your needs, the next step is to kit yourself out with all the essential piano accessories that will make your learning experience a lot easier.

Keyboard stand:One of the first and most crucial accessories to grab is a sturdy keyboard stand. Make sure the stand you go for is appropriate for the size and weight of the keyboard you have. For non-weighted keyboards, you will most likely get away with a single braced stand, but for instruments with weighted keys, you are better with a double-braced stand for added security.

Bench: A solid and high-quality piano bench will not only ensure you are comfortable while sitting for hours and hours practising, but it will also ensure you play in the correct position, with the optimal posture.

Now, benches come in various styles, and which you choose is dependant on your specific needs. The most popular types are adjustable benches, which allow you to set a particular height to ensure the player is comfortable and storage benches with a hidden compartment for housing your books and learning materials.

Headphones: A good set of studio headphones will go a long way to helping with your practice. Not only will you be able to practice in relative silence, but you'll also get to hear your new keyboard piano in all its glory.

Sustain pedal: While some keyboards come with a sustain pedal, they aren't always the best. We highly recommend upgrading to a piano style pedal. If your keyboard didn't have a pedal included, then it's worth investing in one - you can't play modern pop songs without it.

Music Stand: Got lots of books and sheet music? Well, it's worth picking up a good quality music stand to keep all your pages in order.

You can't go wrong with the big guns, such as Yamaha, Casio, Roland and Korg. These brands not only make some of the best keyboards for beginners in the world, but they also produce professional products that the biggest names in music use on tour and in the studio. So if in doubt, go with one of the big four, and you're sure to get a great keyboard that will last.

Really you can't go wrong with any of the keyboards on this list. We firmly believe that every entry here offers fantastic value for money and, more importantly, the best foundation to start learning the keyboard. That said, there are a couple of stand-out options that we would highly recommend checking out first.

The Yamaha Piaggero NP12 is number one on this list for a reason. This sleek keyboard may not have all the sounds of the others on the list, but for many budding pianists, that's its appeal. Gone are the rows and rows of unnecessary voices and features, in favour of piano-like full-sized keys, excellent built quality and ten fantastic tones.

We also have a couple of options from budget keyboard heavyweights, Casio. The first is the ever-popular Casio CT-S300, which features 61 velocity-sensitive keys, 400 sounds and even comes complete with a 60-song songbook - what more do you need? A relatively new addition to the growing Casio catalogue is the wonderful Casio Casiotone CT-S1. This new wallet-friendly keyboard builds on the legacy of the original 80s icon, bringing it into the modern-day with 64 note polyphony and the incredibly expressive AiX Sound Source.

When working out how much to spend on your new keyboard, you must first think about what you want to get out of your new instrument. If you are simply looking for an inexpensive way to tinker around with some chords, learn scales or see if it is the right instrument for you, then you don't need to spend a fortune. You can easily pick up a well-made keyboard for around $/£150 - $/£200.

For many, the humble keyboard is merely a stepping stone to learning the piano. Now, while it may be tempting to go for a basic option, you may want to consider looking for a keyboard with full-sized keys to ensure you don't pick up any bad habits that may hinder your progress on the piano. Of course, this will cost you a little more, but it will be worth it in the end.

If you're looking for a keyboard that will grow with you, then you'll want to look for something around the $/£300 - $/£500 mark. This will ensure you don't need to upgrade your keyboard unnecessarily, ultimately saving you money in the long run - providing you stick at it.