Many students who come for their first lessons have never owned a piano or keyboard and are considering purchasing one. So to make things easier, I’ve decided to dedicate a few blog posts to the subject. In this part, I will be discussing the necessary considerations when deciding whether to purchase a piano or a keyboard. In later parts, I will discuss what to look for when you begin to shop around.
Keyboards v. Pianos, Considerations:
- Maintenance costs: Pianos must be tuned roughly twice per year (sometimes more in humid climates) at a cost of around $100/tuning. Keyboards do not need tuning.
- Moving costs: If you move often, the cost of moving and transporting a piano can be prohibitive. Piano movers are a specializing group of movers that have the tools and skills to properly move your instrument without injuring themselves or your piano. Last time I moved, it cost me $350 to hire piano movers to move my upright down one set of stairs and up another set.
- Life of instrument: Pianos, if cared for properly, will last hundreds of years and if any part breaks (rare), they can be replaced. Pianos are made today largely the same way they were made 150 years ago, so we’ve pretty much got it all figured out. Keyboards, on the other hand, will break and will probably won’t be fixable. Perhaps you can purchase a keyboard with a warranty, but in all likelihood, you will have to buy a new keyboard every decade or so, depending on the quality of the brand that you buy.
- Accessories and costs: Pianos tend to be sold having everything needed to be functional. Generally, the price of the piano will include a piano bench or stool and the piano itself will have a music stand. This may not seem like a big deal, but keyboards generally do not come this way. For keyboards, generally everything is sold separately – the sustain pedal (if available at all), the music stand, the bench, and the amp or headphones. All of this can add up to a surprising amount that might catch you off guard if you aren’t aware of it when you begin shopping. So remember to factor this in.
- Space constraints: Do you have plenty of space? Or do you need to be able to put your instrument away on occasion? A keyboard can be stored in an attic or slid under a bed; a piano stays where it is and unless you have it on rollers, cannot be budged.
- Your planned use: Keyboards are for the most part, transportable. Pianos are not. If you plan to be playing gigs with bands or taking your instrument everywhere, you will probably need a keyboard, at least as a second instrument. If you plan on learning classical music, you need a piano. Classical music is just not played on electronic pianos, so if you want to be “legit,” go with a piano.
- Aesthetics: Pianos, to many people, are a piece of art in themselves. You could almost consider them a highly functional piece of furniture, in that way. I have known people to own grand pianos in their homes even though no one has any intention of playing them, simply because they like the way they look and like what they communicate to visitors (I’m artsy! Cosmopolitan! Rich! etc . . .) So if you think you might like something that looks nice in a room, pianos tend to look better than keyboards for the most part. They also have an added benefit of not requiring electrical outlets and won’t cause a jumble of cords all over the floor. I guess you could say they are more green that way.
Bottomline: I would always recommend an acoustic piano over a keyboard, but I realize that it takes considerable financial and spatial commitment for which new students (or their parents) might not be ready. And one can always decide to purchase later if it turns out that the desire to play is more than just a fleeting interest.