Instruments for Kids

Choosing An Instrument for a Beginning Child Student

PIANO

While a quality acoustic piano is a wonderful instrument and can never be matched by an electric/digital one, the maintenance and cost of a high quality upright or baby grand or grand is usually more than most parents of beginning students want to spend. I’ll address acoustic pianos in the future. For now, here’s some recommended electronic keyboards.

Portable Electric Keyboards Below $200

These are not full sized keyboards and may be appropriate for the earliest beginners if you’re not sure the child will continue beyond a few lessons. Still they are playable and can be inspiring and fun thereby creating more interest.

Yamaha Piaggero NP11 61-Key Lightweight Compact Portable Keyboard – This is very good for the money and size.  It even runs on batteries and can become a travel keyboard if you step up to a full size digital piano later.  The quality of sounds is quite good and I’ve had several students purchase this one and all have been very pleased.  About $160.

Casio CTK-2300 61-Key Premium Portable Keyboard Package with Headphones, Stand and Power Supply
– Casio is another well known maker of digital keyboards and the quality is quite high for the price.  Again, this is a smaller keyboard than a full size piano but can be useful to gauge your child’s interest before committing to a real acoustic piano or a full sized 88 key digital piano.  About $130 including stand, headphones.

DIGITAL  PIANOS – 88 Keys

When you know you are going to be playing real piano pieces I recommend you move to a full size 88 key digital piano or an acoustic piano. Here are a few of my recommended digital pianos and notes about them.  The stage pianos are more portable but can also be paired with a matching stand which makes it attractive enough for the family room.

 The big names in digital pianos are Yamaha, Casio, Kawai, and Roland.  These names are the ones you come across in most piano forums with Yamaha and Casio being the front runners.  

A note about Polyphony

You’ll come across this term polyphony which basically means how many notes the piano can handle in it’s digital memory before running out.  Most modern digital pianos are at least 64 notes which is pretty good.  The better ones have 128 and then 256 and even higher.  This becomes a factor if you are playing pedaled notes which keep ringing.  If you are using a low polyphony keyboard, you’ll start to notice how some of your notes will drop away as you add more.  Not exactly realistic, but it’s how they save on costs for the lower end models.

Lowest Price Digital Pianos With 88 Weighted Keys

These are entry level digital pianos that are suitable for students.
Yamaha P Series P35B 88-Key Digital Piano (Black) – about $450

This is a great first choice as it is not only great quality, has a weighted key feel, but also portable enough to move around the house or bring on a family trip.

My recommended first digital piano for students

Yamaha P35B – My recommended first digital piano for students

  • AWM (Advanced Wave Memory) sampling technology
  • Simple one-button operation
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) weighted piano action
  • Dual mode for layering two voices

Casio PX150 BK 88-Key Touch Sensitive Privia Digital Piano with Tri-Sensor Scaled Hammer Action

 Just under $500 – great value!

  • Keyboard: 88 keys, weighted scaled hammer action
  • Sound Source: AiR (Acoustic & intelligent Resonator)
  • Polyphony (maximum): 128
  • Tones: 18 Built-in tones, Duet Mode, Layer, Split, Octave Shift
  • Simulator: Hammer Response, Damper Resonance, String Resonance, Lid Simulator

Here are my recommended Digital Pianos Below $1000

Yamaha P155 Contemporary Piano with Mahogany Top Board; Black – This is the one I use for my students recitals and for my own composing and mixing.  It is lovely and combines the relative portability, high quality sounds, and touch that are perfect for just under $1000.

  • 88-note, GHE (Graded Hammer Effect) weighted-action keyboard
  • 128-note polyphony
  • Dynamic Stereo Sampling – 4 separate layers of stereo samples
  • Key-Off Sample plus Sustain Sample for acoustic piano realism
  • Emulates the soft/half pedaling and damper effects of an acoustic

Yamaha P Series P105B 88-Key Digital Piano – about $600
This one is the little brother of the P155 and yet adds some other features like a drum machine.  The touch action is a little less realistic than the P155 too.

  • PureCF-sampled piano: Sampled from Yamaha’s own acclaimed CFIII concert grand, no digital piano at this price point delivers recordings from such a high-end instrument.
  • Pianist styles: This built-In duet partner plays along with you in one of ten different playing styles.
  • Built-In drum patterns: Basic drum patterns put the “fun” back into practicing and is a practical alternative to a metronome. Or turn your solo act into a two piece band where the drummer is always on time.
  • 88-note, weighted GHS action: Heavier touch in the low end and lighter in the highs, just like an acoustic piano
  • 128-note polyphony: Even when using dual Voice and split mode with a drum pattern, 128-note polyphony ensures every note gets heard.

Casio PX780 Privia 88-Key Digital Home Piano, Black – about $1000 – This is a similar Casio to the Yamaha P155.  I preferred the touch feeling on the Yamaha, but the Casio is very similar in value and sound quality.  Also 128 note polyphony.

  • 88 Note Scaled Hammer-Action Keyboard
  • AiR Sound Source
  • Ebony and Ivory Feel Keys
  • Hammer Response and String Resonance Simulation

Digital Furniture Pianos – Ones that Look Great In Your Living Room – and Sound Great Too!

As I always tell my student parents, please put your instrument in a central part of the living area so that it becomes a magnet to your child.  They will naturally want to practice and show off what they learned as you are there to hear them!  The worst thing is to put it in a hidden corner and then command your child to go practice by themselves!  That’s like banishment to the Practice Dungeon!

So with that in mind, why not invest in a piano that adds to the style of your living room?  Something that looks iike furniture, but has the added ability to turn down the volume, never need tuning and even use headphones for early or late practicing.

Most of the digital pianos can be purchased with a matching stand to make it fit more in with your furniture.  Here’s a few that  are more built out which also gives them room for bigger more realistic sounding speakers.

Yamaha ARIUS YDP-181 Electronic Piano with Bench ;Rosewood – about $1700

  • 88-key GH(Graded Hammer) weighted action keyboard
  • Dynamic Stereo Sampling AWM piano with 128-note polyphony
  • 2-track, 3-song recorder
  • USB TO DEVICE port
  • LED Display

Casio AP420 Celviano Digital Piano with Bench – about $1100

  • New Linear Morphing AiF sound source with 16 tones
  • New 3-sensor hammer action
  • Keyboard with matted “Ivory Touch” surface
  • New 2 x 20 watt speaker system
  • USB terminal, SD memory card slot, Line

Roland DP90-MC Digital Piano (Cherry) BUNDLE w/ Bench & Headphones

Roland digital piano

Other Options for Digital Pianos

Yamaha makes a line called Clavinova which are only sold in showrooms by piano dealers.  These are the same dealers who also sell acoustic pianos.  These are quite amazing and will cost usually over $2000.  I recommend you try them out if you are serious about a beautiful sounding and looking instrument.

Kawai usually sells only through showrooms as well but are beautiful quality.   Try them out!

What About Toy Pianos?

Not recommended for study – but great for it’s special sound

Someone recently asked me about the toy pianos made by Schoenhut.  While these are beautiful (and costly!) and have a distinctive bell-like tone, I do not recommend these for learning the piano.  I would love one of these just to have the special effect for use in say a toy commercial soundtrack or to add quirkiness to a pop recording.  For learning piano, I think it’s use is limited and may become tiresome after a few months.  For the same price, you can get a digital keyboard or digital piano above.

About this page

If you find this information helpful, I would greatly appreciate  that  you purchase an instrument using the links on this page for which  I get a small commission.  Every little bit helps augment my music teacher income which puts food on our table.

UKULELE

Because of it’s small size ,  only 4 nylon strings and it’s affordability, I think Ukulele is an excellent first choice for a beginner looking to play an instrument. This is the  one I have – $50 at Amazon and is beautiful. It’s a soprano size, which is the most common and the smallest. Kala KA-15S Mahogany Soprano Ukulele

STRUMSTICK

This is an interesting beginners instrument designed by a guy named Bob McNally.  It’s a kind of mountain dulcimer that sounds like a banjo and has 3 strings tuned to a chord, so it always sounds good.  The quality of the build is excellent and it always stays in tune!  I suggest getting the smaller sized one in the key of G.   $150 at Amazon:  McNally G-29 Standard Strumstick

GUITAR FOR KIDS

For older beginning guitar students, I recommend either a nylon string classical guitar in a smaller size or an electric guitar in half size.  The electric guitar is actually easier to play as the strings are usually closer to the fretboard.  The quality of beginner instruments has risen remarkably in the last decade and I am very impressed with all of these instruments.

Recommended Nylon String Classical Small Size guitars

The nylon strings are easier to press than acoustic steel strings. 1) Yamaha CGS 102 – great quality for the price. 2)  Hohner HC03 –  I had a similar Hohner many, many years ago when I was a  boy.  I think my mother bought in college and I loved it.

Recommended Small Size Steel String Acoustic Guitars

If you’re child is 7 or older and looking for the brightness of the steel strings used in much pop, rock and country, there is only one choice that I would recommend: Taylor Guitars Baby Taylor, BT2, Mahogany, Natural  – I compared this to several other guitars in the same size including Martin’s and there was no comparison.  This guitar is just awesome.  I have one and I’ve recommended it to all my guitar students.  It’s about $300 and comes in different finishes including a flowery Taylor Swift model, popular with the girls.

Ed Sheeran uses a small sized Martin which is also a great instrument.  One of my students had this it was rock solid, never seemed to go out of tune!

Have you ever wanted to teach a 4 year old piano but didn't know where to start?

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