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Hit All the Right Notes with the Best Keyboards for Beginners in 2022


Whether you’re an adult looking to pick up some jazz chops, or you’re shopping for a great keyboard for your child’s practice sessions, keyboards for beginners offer remarkable tool sets for learning piano. Most keyboards come with multiple voices that will let you flip from baby grand to harpsichord, as well as midi connections that can sync your keys with your digital audio workstation if you’re interested in recording your music.

Some great beginner keyboards distinguish themselves with affordable prices and easy headphone in’s and out’s. Others come with advanced features like light-up keys that help you follow along, or keyboards that are easy to split into two zones and make it easy to play along with your instructor. Read on for a look at some of the best keyboards for beginners for all types of players.

Best Overall: Casiotone LK-S450
Best Budget: Alesis Melody
Best for Adults: Yamaha P45 88-Key Weighted Digital Piano
Best Midi: Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 Mk2
Best Full Size: Kawai ES110

How We Picked the Best Keyboards for Beginners

A lot goes into making a keyboard special. Some of those qualities are universal and some are personal preferences. When researching this list we looked long and hard at keyboards from all across the market, diving into the specs, testing them out ourselves, and stacking the various benefits of each one against the next. Along the way a few criteria emerged.

Keys, Voices, and Polyphony: While traditional pianos have 88 keys, our picks varied somewhat, including a few 88-key picks, along with some slimmer keyboards. We prioritized graded weighted keys where possible, as these feel the best and make for a better learning experience for those who are looking to segue to piano. We also considered polyphony, which refers to the amount of notes that can be played simultaneously. That measure varies somewhat across our picks, but 64-note polyphony is a good standard. We also looked for keyboards that feature at least a few voices. While keyboards with hundreds of voices can be appealing, we think that a few good voices are better for the average student, as larger voice libraries can be easy to get lost in.

Learning Tools: These features can improve beginner pianos dramatically. Some keyboards for beginners feature innovative solutions, like keys that light up along to the music, giving you visual patterns to follow as you learn tunes. Built-in tunes to play along to can also be helpful for learners. Another useful tool is split keyboard settings which allow you to divide your keyboard into two zones, that can sometimes be equipped with different voices, allowing you and your instructor to play along together on the same melody, or to create harmonies with different voices.

Connections: Any good keyboard for beginners should have a headphone jack; two can be useful for working with an instructor. Quarter-inch headphone jacks can also be used to send signals to an amplifier, mixer, or pedals, though some keyboards also include la ine out for this purpose. Generally, the signal that runs through a headphone output is boosted to drive headphones, where a line out connection isn’t, though the specifics can vary on different hardware. A midi connection can be make-or-break for some users, as they enable you to use your keyboard to control your computer’s digital audio workstation. Midi signals can be equipped with various synths and samples on your computer to build electronic music. We specifically looked for keyboards that have  good connection options. 

Best Keyboards for Beginners: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: Casiotone LK-S450

Tones for Days. Casiotone

Why It Made the Cut: The LK-S450 makes learning piano as fun as “Guitar Hero,” with light-up keys that walk you through lessons, a vast library of customizable tones that can be layered, light up chord books, and midi connectivity.

Specs:
Keys: 61 keys
Polyphony: 48 notes
Voices: 600, with 200 rhythms
Connection: Headphone jack, microphone in, pedal, midi, bluetooth
Weight: 10.14 pounds

Pros:
— Incredible library of tones and rhythms
— Lighted keys are very useful for learning songs
— Easy to navigate the keyboard’s library
— Sounds and feels good with semi-weighted keys

Cons:
— Does not include midi adapter and proves more difficult than some to connect
— No quarter-inch line out for recording

While it’s certainly not a traditional electric piano, the Casiotone LK-S450 brings piano lessons into the era of “Guitar Hero” and wavetable synths. This keyboard features innovative light-up keys that glow, cueing you to your next move through a wide songbook of piano classics. But that’s not all; the LK-S450 is also a working library of voices, with 600 customizable voices that include everything from sine waves to string ensembles, as well as built-in rhythm settings with multiple parts, and a record function. 

The LK-S450’s sound library is surprisingly replete for the price. When testing it out, I found a sine wave I loved, added sustain, and then used the layering function to pair it with strings for an ethereal synth tone. Then, dialing in a rhythm, I was pleased to find that as I played bass over the dance beat, I could trigger an intro dance beat or add a fill from the menu controls with my off hand. 

Taking my ethereal key tone with me, I started up a lesson, cueing up Nocturne 9-2 on easy. The rhythm counted off, and B-flat glowed red. Once I pressed it, the lesson commenced. With every note change on the right hand, the next key glowed red, allowing me to follow along at my own pace, with the left hand accompaniment firing off when I got to the correct part. I found myself enthralled, following along slowly, as the piano did half the work. With the glowing lights and the accompaniment playing at the right times, the experience made the piano lesson into something as addictive as a video game. 

The LK-S450’s glowing keys make it a wonderfully compelling keyboard on which to learn music. Not only does the keyboard teach you all the songs in its library, but the settings menu features a chord library that works in the same way. A turn of the dial quickly illustrates the difference between a Csus4 or a C-diminished chord, and cycles between different keys, with all the standard chords provided for each. I had hoped that the LK-S450 would provide a way to turn on lighting for all of the notes in a scale to facilitate learning different keys. Though I wasn’t able to find this feature, the chord book still achieves some of the same results, helping students learn theory, and visualize how chords combine different notes in a scale or mode. 

That said, I was a little let down by the connections on this keyboard. It has a midi connection, but it doesn’t ship with the proper midi cable. The standard midi cable I had didn’t connect to the device’s USB-A midi slot, and when I tried two other USB-A cables, neither connected the device to my computer so it could be found in the musical product software Ableton Live. There’s also no quarter-inch slot, so I wasn’t able to connect the keyboard to my computer this way either. Still, with troubleshooting I’m sure it can be made to connect. The keyboard also features a Bluetooth connection, as well as a sustain pedal, audio in, and mic in. 

All in all, I think the Casiotone LK-S450 is one of the best beginner keyboards out there. The light-up keys are not a gimmick, rather, they’re an exceptionally useful tool for learning piano, making the process addictive and fun. As far as its basic performance, the keyboard’s sound library is vast and fun enough to get you excited about experimenting with synth tones and effects, and its record feature works well. While the connectivity isn’t perfectly set up for recording, there are workarounds. For a true beginner keyboard, this is one of the best (and most fun) options you can buy.

Best Budget: Alesis Melody

All You Need. Alesis

Why It Made the Cut: With a bench, stand, and mic included, this 300-voice and 300-rhythm keyboard features a medium-length set of keys, and free lessons and learning supplements that will show your fingers the way. 

Specs:
Keys: 61 keys
Polyphony: Eight notes
Voices: 300, 300 built-in rhythms
Connection: Headphone jack, microphone in
Weight: Nine pounds

Pros:
— Huge library of sounds and built-in rhythms
— Microphone for singing along
— Included stand and bench
— Great software gets you playing along

Cons:

— Not full length
— No midi out
— Doesn’t have the feel and musicality of higher-end digital pianos

The Alesis Melody is one of those all-in-one instruments that just has everything a young musician wants. With a wildly large arsenal of voices, pre-recorded tracks to follow along to, and built-in beats, this is a keyboard that’s chock-full of fun. Load up a synth, start up a pre-loaded samba and you’ll be blaring down the Miami strip like it’s ‘88. Switch over to organ and find yourself jamming right along to New Orleans funk. The Alesis brings all the sounds.

However, the Melody isn’t just a massive sound-bank. This keyboard also comes with some serious learning tools, including three free months of Skoove Premium and two free months of Take Live — two different approaches to music lessons that both give you real value learning tools. 

Altogether, the Alesis Melody is a true value pack for keyboard learners that’s crammed full of musical potential. The keyboard is missing a few features you’ll find on more premium keyboards, like weighted keys, wide polyphony, and midi, but for the price it’s  still a lot of fun rolled into one. 

Best for Adults: Yamaha P45 88-Key Weighted Digital Piano

Serious Full-Length. Yamaha

Why It Made the Cut: With scaled weighted keys that are heavier on the low end, premium samples from classic Yamaha grands, a midi connection, and some useful learning tools, this is an excellent digital piano that looks good enough for central placement in your living room, and sounds good enough for a prime spot in your mix. 

Specs:
Keys: 88 keys with a graded, weighted action
Polyphony: 64 note
Voices: 10
Connection: Midi, ¼ inch headphone jack
Weight: 33 pounds

Pros:
— Keys feel great
— Dual mode allows you to play two voices at once
— Duo mode enables two players to play together

Cons:
— Large size

When you think “beginner keyboard” and a classic digital piano comes to mind — albeit with a few handy features for starters — then the Yamaha P-45 is just what you’re after. This beautiful digital piano is a great choice for serious players, and is a great choice to learn with for anybody. With a full range of 88 keys that are weighted, and graded so  that lower keys are heavier, the P-45 plays like a real acoustic… just with a few tricks up its sleeve. 

Changing between functions on the P-45 is easy. The top left of the keyboard features a few small buttons: a power button, volume slider, and a function key (labeled as Grand Piano / Function). Holding down the function key allows you to change the keyboard’s voicing with simple key presses, moving between grand piano tones, organs, electric keyboards, and even a pleasing harpsichord tone. This same function key easily activates some of the keyboard’s more advanced features, like a dual mode that loads two different voices, or another mode that splits the keyboard for two players. It also features a programmable metronome, some pre-loaded tunes, and pitch fine-tuning. 

The P-45 features a handy midi connection that will appeal to piano players who like to record on a computer. The midi function works flawlessly; I loved using the Yamaha as a midi controller within Ableton Live. The piano controlled my Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) with no fuss, providing a huge range of notes that were organically responsive to play with. Electronic musicians who wish to learn piano as they create will get so much out of this instrument, making it a great keyboard for electronic music beginners as well as beginner pianists.

With its stately looks, the P-45 is a solid keyboard that will make a wonderful practice piano anywhere in the home. With a headphone jack and adjustable volume, you’ll have all the privacy you need to master that fugue, and all the tone you’ll need to play it after. 

Best Midi: Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61 Mk2

Hands-On DAW.  Native

Why It Made the Cut: Designed for total control of your DAW, this keyboard comes with a vast library of sounds, as well as a free copy of Ableton Live 11 Lite, which can be tweaked and controlled via two color screens, numerous nobs and control wheels, and a 61-key Fatar keyboard. 

Specs:
Keys: 61 keys, semi-weighted, Fatar keyboard
Polyphony: N/A
Voices: N/A
Connection: Midi in / out, quarter-inch TRS for sustain and expression pedal
Weight: 12.12 pounds

Pros:
— Incredible control over DAWs and digital instruments
— Huge bundled library of synths and voices + Ableton Live 11 Lite
— Fatar keyboard with semi-weighted keys
— RGB light guide-along keys
— Two high res screens

Cons:
— No speakers, requires midi connection

Total DAW access starts with a simple buy: the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61. This exceptional midi keyboard is made for those who want to jump right into electronic music. Shipping with a massive pack of over 50 GB of downloadable instruments and sounds, as well as a free copy of Ableton Live 11 Lite (which is one of our favorite DAWs), this keyboard gives you just about everything you’ll need to begin making electronic music — except for the computer.

The S61 features two high-res color screens that communicate with your DAW and digital instruments. With a vast array of nobs, control buttons, and two rubberized wheels, you’ll easily find yourself controlling filters, portamento, pitch, and Low Frequency Oscillator (LFO), at the same time you play melodies on the premium Italian brand Fatar-designed, semi-weighted keyboard, which has the tactility you’d expect from a traditional piano. 

As a beginner keyboard, the S61 suffers from a lack of speakers — you can’t simply power this on and play some Bach — but for beginners who want to work on electronic music, it’s about as good as it gets, even including RGB lights that can be programmed to help you stay on key. With so much software bundled inside and such a slick feeling keybed, we think this is the best midi keyboard for beginners.

Best Full Size: Kawai ES110

Full-Length Mastery. Kawai

Why It Made the Cut: An 88-key premium digital piano, with grade-weighted keys, split playing, Bluetooth connectivity to iPad and computer, midi, and more; what’s not to like?

Specs:
Keys: 88 keys, grade-weighted
Polyphony: 192 notes
Voices: 19
Connection: Midi, two headphone jacks, line out, Bluetooth
Weight: 37.95 pounds

Pros:
— Springless hammer action with weighted keys that feel beautiful
— Bluetooth connects to multiple devices for learning apps, recording, and effects
— Built-in Alfred piano lessons

Cons:
— Pricey

At the premium end of our beginner picks, the Kawai ES110 offers some spectacular features. The Kawai uses a proprietary Responsive Hammer Compact system to deliver true springless hammer keys to a digital piano. These grade-weighted keys get gradually lighter as you move to higher octaves, and feel wonderful to play on, modeling premium Kawai piano voices with resonant aplomb.

The piano features both midi and Bluetooth connections. Its Bluetooth-midi tech allows it to hook up to iPads, phones, and computers to pair with learning apps, recording suites, and effects. Paired with the included Alfred piano lessons, these iPad features give you lots of learning tools for different stages in your lessons. With a split mode thrown into the mix and two included headphone jacks, the ES110 is an excellent learner’s piano that can support you across all skill levels. 

Things to Consider Before Buying a Keyboard for Beginners

Before you invest in a beginners keyboard to learn on, take some time to figure out just what sort of keyboard that should be. Some mimic the sound and feel of grand pianos, while others include lots of digital forward features, huge sound libraries, and built-in lessons.

Fugues or Funk: While there are lots of great keyboards that will work just as well for Satie’s Gnossienes as they will for park gigs with a zydeco band, at the sub-$1,000 price point, most great digital keyboards will nose more one way than the other. If you’re looking for a digital piano to learn on that will feel marvelous and sound beautiful for jazz and chamber music, it’s usually a better idea to pick a digital piano that offers a few top-quality voices, and distinctively well-made keys and action. If you want to experiment, then there are ample options with hundreds of voices and deep rhythm and record features.

Replacing Music Lessons: In-person piano lessons can be expensive. Though no prepackaged digital lesson can match the real value of in-person lessons from a master player, they could be enough to get you started. Some keyboards for beginners come with highly capable built-in lessons, or facilitate digital piano courses via your iPad. If you’ve already committed to working with a piano instructor, then these features could be redundant. However, for many, they’re extremely useful. Consider how the built-in lesson component of the keyboard you’re considering could benefit you.

Connectivity and Expansion: In this article we highlighted the connectivity of every keyboard we reviewed. If you’re just starting out, then whether a keyboard features midi, or a -quarter-inch out might not seem so important. However, consider that developing your skills on a piano gives you new possibilities. After a year of playing you might find yourself wanting to perform at a coffee house, join a jazz band, or record electronic music. That’s why good connectivity is important whether you’re working on those projects now or later. Connectivity allows you to continue to use your keyboard (even when you’ve moved on from constant scale practice) for your own musical creation.

FAQs

Q: Should I get a 61- or 88-key keyboard as a beginner?

Whether you buy a 61- or 88-key keyboard as a beginner should depend on your goals. If you’re looking to master piano, and wish to play full accompaniments with your left hand as your right picks out melodies, then an 88-key keyboard gives you the room and format you need to ready yourself for real acoustic pianos. On the other hand, 61-key keyboards are attractive for their lower price, smaller footprint, and portability. If you’re just getting your fingers strong, then a 61-key keyboard will be large enough for easy-to intermediate pieces.

Q: Is it okay to learn piano on a keyboard?

If you’re curious if learning piano on a keyboard is okay, then fear not. Keyboards have come a long way. Many keyboards do a wonderful job at mimicking the touch and tone of a real acoustic piano while offering lots of digital perks, like multiple voices, metronomes, a headphone jack, and the ability to control the volume. Because of this, in many ways a keyboard is the best choice for learning piano, as you’ll be able to practice without disturbing others.

Q: How much should I practice piano?

If you’re just learning piano it’s a good idea to practice at least six days a week. When you’re starting out, 30 minutes a day is a good start. However, moving up to 45 minutes to an hour of practice will give you the best results.

Q: Which is the best keyboard for electronic music?

If you’re getting a beginner’s keyboard for electronic music, then there are a few roads you could go down. Most of the time it’s a good idea to get a keyboard with a good midi connection. Some keyboards, like the Native Instruments Komplete Kontrol S61, are built specifically for midi and offer lots of ways to control your digital audio workstation on your computer. Others, like the Yamaha P45, are digital pianos that also feature solid midi connections. This option will allow you to learn, practice, and perform on your digital piano without needing to connect it to your DAW. Another route you could go is to find a great arranger keyboard with lots of built in synths, rhythms, and recording features, which you can record through an audio interface. If you’re a beginner and you’re equally interested in learning piano as well as using it to control a DAW, then the P45 is our favorite pick, with its excellent real-piano feel and its midi port.

Final Thoughts on Keyboards for Beginners

The piano is one of the most impressive instruments out there. With its keys perfectly mapped to standard musical increments, and all of the scales and modes laid out before you, the piano finds a home in nearly any type of music. As digital interfaces, today’s keyboards are more powerful than ever, giving you control of millions of digital sounds and samples. Whether you’re learning Haydn’s piano sonatas, or studying Aphex Twin arrangements, a good piano for beginners will give you access to the world of music. 

If you’re looking for a great digital piano with traditionalist flair, excellent key feel, and beautiful tone, the Yamaha P45 is our top pick for adults. We love it for how well it plays, and for its ability to sync with a DAW. The Alesis Melody is our favorite budget keyboard for beginners; it offers a huge library of sounds and enough tools to take you from novice to intermediate at an affordable price. In the end, the Casiotone LK-S450 is our pick for the very best keyboard for beginners overall. Its library of tones is vast, fun, and customizable, its recording options will let you try your hand at composition, and its handy glowing keys prove to be a truly revolutionary tool for learning to play piano without spending a ton.

Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.



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