One of the most common questions we get when we sign up a brand new student for piano lessons is where to get a piano and how much to spend? The reason this has always been such a tough question for new students to research is that there are so many different pianos, different ways to buy them, and the range of pricing literally goes from free pianos on Craigslist to $100,000 grand pianos in piano stores. Every brand of electric and acoustic pianos claims theirs is the best and that you must buy theirs to get the ultimate experience and bang for the buck in the student’s musical growth. The reality is that it is much simpler than most new students may think and we at Music Lab are here to tell you how to pick a piano in this blog.

I am going to specifically focus on buying pianos as a NEW beginner student. First, you need to decide on whether you want an electric piano, an upright acoustic piano, or a grand piano. For the sake of our discussion here, I will only be focusing on electric pianos and upright pianos. Grand pianos are incredibly expensive so if you have an extra $10,000 to $30,000 laying around to spend on a grand piano, go ahead and buy one and you won’t be disappointed. But for those of you with brand new students on a budget, you definitely want something to do the job that won’t break your bank while you see if you or your child will stick around longterm in learning the piano. In this case, you want to consider two options: electric or upright acoustic.

  1. Electric Pianos – The biggest and most common myth in shopping for a piano is that learning on an electric piano is somehow very detrimental to a student’s musical growth in learning piano. The reality is that this isn’t true at all if you purchase a piano that was designed to replicate an acoustic piano for learning purposes. In fact, with the advancement in technology, electric pianos for a decent price can be much better than acoustic pianos that have a lot of wear and tear on them. A common issue with cheap acoustic upright pianos is that they have a lot of wear and tear on them so maintenance on them is very expensive. Upright pianos, in general, are rarely taken care of overtime as they should be. This is not an issue with electric pianos.

Another common myth that deters people from electric pianos is that they are cheaper. Electric pianos that are designed specifically for new students to practice on and mirror an acoustic upright piano are not cheaper. They are actually about the same price or more than good upright pianos. However, the upside is that you most likely will not have to hire a mover for a minimum of $200 to move it. You will also never have to worry about tuning it. Tuning usually runs around $100-$200 and upright pianos need to be tuned at least once every 2 years if used regularly.

Finally, I’m sure you are wanting a recommendation. The best electric piano I would recommend is the Yamaha P-115 due to the combination of mobility, quality, and price. This is an electric piano designed by Yamaha to specifically mirror the sound and feel of an actual upright piano and I can assure you will not be detrimental in any way to a student’s learning of the piano. The keys are nicely weighted with the same feel of ivory piano keys. The speakers built into the keyboard allow the low end to be nice and loud and will allow the high end to be nice and bright. These pianos sell for about $700 brand new but can be found used for hundreds less than that. Keep in mind that with this piano you don’t have to spend a minimum of $200 to move it as well as a minimum of $100-$120 to tune it each year or two as you would with an upright piano. Also, there are electric pianos that will do the job for as little as $200 such as the Alesis Concert 88-key digital piano that will do the job just as well. I just personally prefer the Yamaha due to their sound quality.

  1. Acoustic Upright Pianos – The reality with acoustic upright pianos is that there is nothing like the sound of the real thing. With all the benefits that an electric piano offers, the biggest advantage of getting an actual acoustic upright piano is that you are hearing the actual warm sound of an actual piano that is very hard to perfectly replicate in an electric piano. I would like to point out that this benefit of an upright piano does not hinder a student’s learning in taking piano lessons. This is strictly a benefit of the sound your ear hears. Although it’s a great benefit, shopping for an upright piano gets pretty complicated if you want to find and buy a good one on a budget.

There are two main types of upright pianos: uprights and spinets. Due to the structure and length of the strings inside of the piano, uprights and larger with a louder sound whereas spinets are smaller with a quieter sound. I personally have never been a fan of both the sound and quality of spinets. I personally would stay away from spinets as they are harder to tune, break easier, and just don’t have a great sound. The only way I would buy a spinet is if I’m really unsure if the student is going to stick around taking lessons. A spinet can be found for free on Craigslist(although it will cost $200 to deliver if you can’t do it yourself) and you can use it as a test run to see if the student will stick with learning the piano. That leaves us with getting an upright piano. As I stated earlier, upright pianos sold places like Craigslist range from free to $3,000. The great thing about finding an upright piano is that it’s not very difficult to find an amazing deal due to the amount of them being sold. I will first start out by saying that if a piano is listed as free or very close to free, as most of them are, most likely it will end up costing you an incredible amount of money fixing it once you hire someone to tune it. I am speaking from experience. I purchased an upright piano years ago for just $100 that seemed to play just fine. After purchasing it and spending $200 to move it, my piano tuner informed me that the hammers inside the piano all needed to be replaced as they were about a month away from completely falling apart. I ended up giving that piano away for free on Craigslist. So the next question is: how do I avoid this situation when purchasing an upright piano? The easiest way to insure yourself against purchasing a terrible piano is finding a local piano tuner and sending them a picture and description of the piano. Piano tuners with experience will tell you if it’s a bad brand or a good brand based on the brand itself as well as the year that the piano was built. Each piano has a serial number inside of it that will inform you of exactly when it was built. Once I started getting feedback from my piano tuner about different pianos I was looking at, he was able to tell me right away what was a great deal and what was a bad deal. I ended up purchasing a really nice high-quality Kawaii piano for $600. Keep in mind I also had to spend $200 to move it and $120 to immediately tune it. After pianos are moved, they have to be tuned right after they are moved.

Here’s a little summary of the pros and cons of electric pianos vs. upright pianos to help you make your choice.

Electric Pianos:

PRO’s

  • can be much more affordable in the range of $200-$800
  • extremely lightweight and do not require hiring a piano mover which requires time and money
  • do not need to be tuned
  • have the same exact feel as an actual upright/grand piano
  • brands such as Yamaha have an incredible sound that mirrors an actual piano very closely
  • can be resold easily

CON’s

  • cheaper brands won’t have a great sound(an actual piano sound is very difficult to digitally replicate)
  • usually doesn’t look great aesthetically in a room. It doesn’t demand the attention that the size of an upright usually does.

Upright Pianos:

PRO’s

  • Good upright pianos look great. Most of them are made of wood with glossy finishes.
  • Incredible sound: brands such as Yamaha have extremely warm sounds that can fill up an entire room. There’s nothing like the sound from the real thing.

CON’s

  • require more time and research on the brands/serial numbers when purchasing
  • require a minimum of $200 just to move unless you have a truck and are willing to move an extremely heavy object yourself with friends.
  • require a cost to tune each year if used regularly: approx. $120
  • Difficult to sell: the market is absolutely flooded with upright pianos and if you are trying to sell a good one, you are competing against hundreds of free pianos online and since most people are uneducated in buying pianos, they tend to want to buy the free or close to free pianos.