Playing keyboard

When beginning a child in keyboard/piano study, it is acceptable to begin on a keyboard before making the larger investment of a piano. Listed below are price ranges of keyboards that are suitable for beginners.

Since most keyboards suitable for beginners are very similar, the brand name is not particularly important.

The prices often drop about 10% during the Christmas season.

About Keyboards

Most keyboards have a number of different settings to select various instrument sounds and combinations of sounds and rhythms. Many have "demo"songs, which are inspiring to kids: particularly boys. The number of "bells and whistles" is not important, since most have at least 100 different sounds and rhythms.

Assuming your child has hands that are the size of an average sized five year old or larger*, the following keyboards are suitable in ascending order of cost: 

SizeGreat priceNotable FeaturesIn addition to music stores, look in these national stores:
49 full sized keys $50.00 or less suitable for 6 months or less Target
61 full sized keys $99.00 to $199.00 largest low end keyboards available, Best Buy, Guitar Center and see above
61 full sized keys w/ touch sensitivity + $120.00 & up simulates a piano by increasing volume w-harder touch Costco and see above
88-key digital piano $500.00 or less Weighted keys
Casio Privia is our favorite
Costco, ebay
  • + Touch sensitivity means that increased pressure on the keys increases the volume.
  •  Mid sized keys are available for smaller fingers and/or younger learners at slightly lower costs.
  • Synthesizers digitally synthesize actual sounds instead of simulating them  

About Pianos

Black piano

Pianos come in various sizes. The most common types are (in order of size and length of string): spinet (the shortest), studio, console, upright grand, baby grand and concert grand. The first four are strung vertically and allow the sound to come out "in your face". The baby grand has the same length strings as the upright grand, (48" or more), but is strung horizontally, and spreads the sound over a slightly larger area in front of the performer. Concert grands have minimum of 6' strings and can be as long as 20 or 25 feet long for use on the concert stage. Learn about different sizes of pianos.

Rental vs. Purchase  

If you prefer to use an acoustic (non-electric) piano immediately, we suggest purchasing as opposed to renting when possible. Many people are intimidated by the high cost of new pianos or the fear of selecting a faulty or damaged used piano. The cost of rental is usually a minimum of $65.00 for delivery (which does not always include tuning) and a monthly cost of $25.00 to $45.00 depending on the size of the piano. A few months of the cost of rent is, however, often applicable to the purchase of any piano of comparable or higher cost.

If you decide to purchase a piano, we suggest looking in the paper, or asking around for someone who might be selling an unwanted piano. Usually a very nice piano can be purchased for under $1000.00 and often between $500.00 and $800.00.

When you are ready to purchase, please look for the following things when going to look at the piano:

Inside a pianoTechnical issues:

  1. The hammers, the felt oval shapes parts that hit the strings, should not be worn down more than one third of the original size. String shaped grooves are okay.
  2. The strings should not look or feel rusted or brittle, although they will probably be discolored.
  3. Most importantly, the sound board must be inspected for any cracks. The sound board is the curved piece of wood over which the strings vibrate, and can only be seen in an upright piano by removing the base board above the pedals. This is very simple to do. Inspect the board for even the smallest hairline crack. Avoid any piano with any cracks, particularly if they are covered or seem to be intentionally obscured.
  4. The pins around which the strings are wrapped should not be loose or movable.

Personal issues:

  1. If you are also purchasing the instrument as a piece of furniture, you should like the case of the piano. If you are purchasing a "disposable" practice piano (for less than $450.00), you may not care how ugly it may be. Many fine pianos are hidden under layers of ugly paint or "antiquing".
  2. The sounds produced by pianos vary a great deal, and are often a matter of personal choice. The darker more muffled sounding piano will eventually become a little brighter sounding as the hammers get older and more dense; however, a bright sounding older piano will only get brighter sounding with age.
  3. All pianos also play a little differently: i.e. they have "hard" touches or "soft" touches. Choose what is most comfortable for you or your child.
  4. If you are still unsure, or would like professional help, call a reputable  piano technician and leave a message that The Music Place gave you his number. He may be able to inspect your potential piano for a small charge. 

If there are obvious, but not major problems:

Piano tuner

  1. Keys that don't play are often a result of a broken pin and can be repaired quite inexpensively.
  2. Keys with missing ivories are a little harder to deal with, but all new ivories can often be replaced with plastic shiny or matte finish keys for under $200.00.
  3. Try the San Jose State University Music Department for a repair technician. We use Roberts' Piano Service for all of our piano tuning and repair. closer to Santa Cruz, we are also using Russell Brown for tuning and repair. (831) 345-6500. Please let these fine technicians know we referred you!
  4. Keys that are chipped on the edges can be sanded by hand very easily to form a nice straight end to the key. 

Moving pianos: We use Adagio Piano Services: 408) 781-1559. Owner Craig should be contacted by text as he is hard of hearing.  He also often has used pianos to sell.

Well, if all of this isn't enough, let us know, and we'll see if we can help you in some other way. By the way, we are always on the lookout for good used pianos for ourselves and for our student's families. Let us know if you come across any good buys that are not quite right for you! Thanks!