Thinking of using your lockdown time to learn the piano? Read on for our ranking of the best keyboard pianos you can buy. Having the ability to play an instrument can be a huge game-changer for your mental health, cognitive abilities and general happiness – no matter how old you are. And with many of us facing more time indoors than usual right now, there is no time like the present to start on the path to learning the keyboard, or pick it up again after however long a hiatus.
If you're brand new to piano, it's a great first instrument. The piano is a relatively easy instrument to learn, with a pretty shallow learning curve – although of course, like anything, to be really great you need to put in the hours eventually! There's also a ton of great learning resources out there for people of all ages and abilities.
Compared to string instruments where you have contort your hands into all sorts of unnatural feeling positions (at first) to create the sound, the piano keyboard does a lot of the ‘heavy lifting' work for you. (Although if you do decide you fancy that, we have guides to the best acoustic guitar for beginners, and the best electric guitar for beginners, to set you on your way.)
- Wrong kind of keyboard? Here's our ranking of the best computer keyboard
- Browse the best wireless headphones
The best keyboard piano: What to look for
If you're just getting started, you're probably not going to want to shell out the £3k+ needed to buy a decent acoustic piano, even if that's your eventual end-game choice. The ideal instrument to learn on is a weighted digital piano with full-size keys, as opposed to a keyboard with lightweight or smaller keys.
Unweighted keyboards are good for learning the notes and theory, often have tons of sounds and features, and are undoubtedly easier to push down, they don't give your fingers the workout they need to build technique, strength and accuracy.
It's imperative that finger strength and dexterity is taken seriously (even for young beginners). The more exercise you give your fingers, the fitter they will become and the more capable they will be for every musical task you set them in the future.
Aside from that, it's important to work out what you really need feature-wise in order to make learning fun and engaging. The first consideration is price/budget. Expect to pay £200-£400 for a decent unweighted portable keyboard and upwards of £500 for a weighted digital piano.
Action-wise, keep in mind some like a heavier feeling keyboard whilst others prefer lighter-feeling keys. Again, it's ideal if you can get to a store (after this present lockdown has ended) that has several of the leading brands on display so that you can make an informed choice.
Thankfully, the leading brands in keyboards/digital home pianos (such as Korg, Yamaha, Casio, Roland and Kawai) generally have nicely balanced, weighted actions that feel very piano-like, so if you have to buy unseen we'd recommend going for a long-established brand from a respected retailer with good warranty and aftercare, and pay heed to customer reviews. Many of these bigger manufacturers also have learning/support apps that work in sync with their digital keyboards/pianos via Bluetooth or USB.
Always try to get a height-adjustable stool which can accommodate two people included with your keyboard piano. One big problem amongst keyboard players is bad posture, often caused by sitting at the incorrect distance or height from the instrument. This can lead to all manner of back and neck problems, and ultimately to poor technique. It's worth making sure, too, that the keyboard piano has an adjustable music rack to put sheet music or an iPad on – not all options include this.
The best keyboard piano: Sound and audio features
Make sure not to overlook the speaker system onboard. Is it loud enough? Does it sound warm and lush or horrible and tinny? You have to decide these points for yourself but you'll know when your ears are smiling when you test in person or audition sound clips. In addition, you have to make sure that any keyboard/digital piano fits within its surroundings – thankfully, most manufacturers offer a variety of finishes, from gloss black and white to wood.
In terms of the sounds, a broad range of bread and butter sounds is important (organ, strings, guitars, woodwinds, brass, clav and so on) but the most important thing is a great piano sound. Eq and reverb are also great for customising sounds and the ability to layer two sounds is handy too.
In addition, a pair of audio outputs is necessary if you want to record or connect to a mixing desk/PA system, and having two headphone sockets means you'll be able to play together with another person at any time of day or night.
Other must-haves include a metronome (which can provide an audio and/or visual click on screen for practicing timing and scales) – solid rhythmic support will help no-end with your timing in the long term. Alternatively, if the digital keyboard/piano has built-in beats and auto-accompaniment then this can serve the same function, and in a more fun way than just listening to a boring click! Beats and auto accompaniment will improve your timing, get you listening and improvising (and on the path to jamming with real humans) and allow you to work on your harmonic language/ideas too.
Finally, the ability to record your performances to internal memory as audio, to an external memory stick, or to an onboard sequencer is very handy. These features all allow you to record yourself and then listen back and hear where you are going wrong or improving – this will only aid and speed up the learning process. And as a bonus you can show off your awesome performances to your friends and family too!
The best keyboard piano right now
Offering a ton of useful functionality at a fair price, the Roland FP-30 is our pick for the best piano keyboard right now. This high quality machine offers much of the functionality you should be looking out for. First off is Roland's full size 88 key 'Ivory Touch' keyboard, which adds a grain to the surface of the keys for a more piano-like feel.
Coupled with 2 x 11 watt speakers, 35 decent 'bread and butter sounds' from Roland's well-respected Supernatural sound library (found in its more expensive pro synths and keyboards), Bluetooth connectivity for connecting to apps, an ideas recorder, keyboard split and layer, 8 rhythms, playback of audio files from USB stick to jam along with, dual headphone jacks and a microphone input, there's a lot to work with. Roland digital pianos are a great brand to look for in general, particularly as they often have a nicely piano-like touch too.
No list of the best keyboard pianos would be complete without a Korg product. This brand produces high quality machines full of great sounds, and the Korg SP-280 is no different. It certainly looks the part and is a little more dynamic and exciting looking compared to some other home digital piano designs. It's also fairly portable too.
The keyboard has 88 notes with a hammer action and the loud 22 watt speakers face you, giving you a nice immersive sound. There are 30 layer-able sounds onboard too (including pianos, electric pianos, clav's strings, organs and more (as you would expect) from Korg's well-respected sound library and there's a hardwired line input for playing other devices through the speakers. What's also great about this model is it's very fairly priced, especially when you consider it comes with a stand, music stand, pedal and has two headphone sockets. Oh, and there's a metronome too!
Kawai is known for its excellent feeling hammer action keyboard pianos and the ES 110 keeps that tradition. 88 graded hammer action fully-weighted keys will allow you to develop your piano technique and there are plenty of built-in sounds too, including 8 high quality piano sounds plus 11 further sounds that can be split and layered. You'll find concert and studio grands, electric pianos and organs and strings, bass and vibes.
For practicing your chops, there are other key learning features onboard including a metronome as well as 100 beats to spice up and keep your practice sessions fun. Not only this, there is a song recorder onboard with 15,000 note capacity and Bluetooth MIDI connectivity for wirelessly connecting to apps. There's also a built-in lesson function that allows you practice along to built in songs, along with a pair of quality speakers and two headphone connection jacks for duets.
Casio may be a name you associate more with watches, but this brand also makes great keyboards and digital pianos too. Its weighted actions are generally excellent and nicely balanced and the Privia series is well liked too. The Casio Privia PX-S1000 has plenty for beginners and more experienced players to work with, offering some nicely high quality sounds onboard and an easy-to-use, streamlined interface.
It's fairly light at 11.2 Kg, so you could take it on gigs easily enough. It also has a scaled hammer action keyboard (acoustic pianos feel heavier at the low end and lighter at the top, which is emulated here), 18 sounds onboard, split and layer functionality, two front-mounted headphone sockets (for duets etc), Bluetooth, Metronome, 60 built in practice exercises, a chorus to thicken sounds, brilliance control and an optional stand too. Also available in white. Thankfully it won't break the bank either!
Not everybody wants the heavier touch of weighted keys and the Go:Piano range offers a fair compromise in feel, falling somewhere between lighter feeling unweighted keys and fully weighted piano keys. There's more resistance when playing compared to unweighted keys but also standard pianos key spacing which helps with technique. The 88 notes also allow you to explore the full piano range of notes. If you don't require such a long keyboard there is also a 61-note option too.
Onboard is a metronome, four main sounds (piano, electric piano, organ and strings,) 10 internal songs, powerful speakers, Bluetooth (which allows you to stream audio through the onboard speakers for practicing) and Bluetooth MIDI for wirelessly connecting to MIDI enabled apps such as the included Piano Partner 2 tuition app. Also to enhance the portable nature of the GO: Piano, there's battery power too.
Whilst technically classed as a stage piano, the Korg SV2S is a great home piano due to its built-in K-Array high quality speaker system, which can really kick out some serious volume! The SV-2-S has a very high quality weighted RH-3 action (in 73 and 88-note versions) and a truly professional sound bank, both of which are taken from Korg's flagship keyboard product the Kronos. You can split and layer and there's an editor app so you can build your own sounds too. The interface is very direct and intuitive (with no menus) and there are lots of great pianos, electric pianos, strings, organs and classic effects. A great digital piano for having at home but that can also be taken on gigs as a pro-instrument. It also has an optional stand.
Like the Roland Go:Piano, Yamaha's NP32 Piaggero works for those that don't like, or who might struggle with, the heavier weight of fully weighted keys but that still want to develop good technique on a standard keyboard with full size keys/standard finger spacing. The 76 keys here aren't weighted, but have enough resistance for practicing and accurate playing.
In addition, there are enough features onboard for beginners too. This keyboard is particularly a favourite of buskers, due to its very lightweight form factor. There are 10 good-sounding basic sounds onboard, split and layer, a metronome for timing practice, it's battery power-able, has a built-in recorder for recording and playing back ideas and it has a very easy, intuitive operation with no menu-diving. The built-in player facing speakers are handy too. A great learning keyboard piano on the way to fully-weighted keys.
For those younger learners out there and for those that don't want a weighted keyboard, then the Yamaha YPT-260 has lots to offer. It has 61 lightweight synth-action keys (so not weighted) but along with that, it has a learn function that includes several songs (with downloadable sheet music) for improving your skills. You can practice hands separately by muting out parts in the songs and the keyboard will wait until you play the correct notes and timing too, plus you can record the results to hear your progress.
In addition, you'll find speakers onboard, it's very light and portable, it has a partner mode which splits the keyboard for two players and there's loads of backing styles with beats, bass lines and other parts to jam along to. You can also plug in other external sources (such as an MP3 player) and listen to the music coming through the internal speakers.
Here's another keyboard piano aimed at those starting out. Made by Casio, the LK136 has an easy-to-play 61-note keyboard with a trick up its sleeve: the keys light up and the chords/notes you play are shown in the display to help you learn quickly. This may sound gimmicky but it certainly beats the old-favourite trick of adding stickers to your keys so you can remember the notes!
Included onboard are speakers, music stand, a decent sized display, battery power, 120 sounds, 70 rhythms with fills and 50 backing tracks that you can rearrange and remix yourself. There are also 100 practice pieces onboard and the lesson function shows you exactly which notes to play and when. Neat! You also get free access to the Casio Music Academy that has loads of online resources for learning.
Every kid should have a toy piano to mess around with, as it encourages them to start playing from an early age without any pressure. However, not all toy or kids pianos are created equal – many have sounds that aren't at the correct pitch and have keys that feel horrible. Basically, if you are going to have a toy piano in the house for your kids then at least have one that works like a mini piano and sounds like one too.
Hey Presto – the tinyPIANO from Korg! It has 25 high quality sounds onboard, it's battery power-able has a built in speaker and is available in black, white, red and pink to suit. Whilst the keyboard is short at two octaves and the keys are small, the keys are the same as found on Korg's huge selling MicroKorg XL and they do feel surprisingly decent.