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/ Advice for a "beginner" digital piano around £400
Something I have been pondering for quite a few years, is getting myself a digital piano.
I used to play, lazily, when I was a child, but never reached any sort of decent standard, I think I finished up playing a few pieces around the Grade 3-4 borderline but no musical theory. I can still read music but am long out of practice.
A long time ago the received wisdom was "don't spend less than £1000" but I gather that things have moved on and you can do fairly well for around £400-£500. I don't know if this is true but in any case that's my budget. Lower is good! As it might be a phase, and I don't want to end up too much out of pocket if i don't really pursue this.
- "Weighted" keys so it feels similar to a real piano
- Not a "keyboard controller" - I want it separated from computers, it is meant to be a diversion from screens etc. I am not currently interested in "making music", it's just for a pastime.
- Can live without a stand for now, or just a basic "X" or "scissors" stand. Don't want a bulky "looks like a proper upright wooden piano" thing.
- around the £400 mark. Please don't advise "you are wasting your time if you don't budget £3000".
- purpose is to give myself some sort of mental exercise which is also tactile, as we (as a population) are said not to be using our hands as much as we used to. Consider this my knitting, or something, as I don't indulge in any handicrafts and I also don't do crosswords, Sudoku etc. I hope that playing music will be a nice brain stimulator, basically.
I always thought "got to be the full 88 keys" but I'd be interested to hear the pros and cons of losing the bottom and top octaves. I am not playing any fancy stuff that ever goes to those, and a space saving might be nice.
I Googled very briefly late last night and seemed to see a lot of "beginner" bundles at under £300, seems too good to be true....?
I have no rush on this, and second hand is fine but what do I need to look out for on second hand? Do the common keys start to wear out or are good digital pianos immortal?
PS I can budge a little bit on budget. I understand that I'll need to budget for a good stool - that is separate, the numbers I am talking about are for the keyboard alone. Having had a think, I think now that I would regret not having the full 88 keys. And I understand that really, if I know sort-of what I am after, I should just go to a couple of shops and try out some. I'm just a bit embarrassed that I am so rusty, it'll look like I have no idea, when I do a test-play
I have a cheap Casio, but my brother has a very good Yamaha (don't know the model), and on the basis of that, and everything I've heard from elsewhere, I'd say Yamaha is the make to go for. There seem to be a quite a few at around your price range.
I used to have a fine upright piano, but it was a bit anti-social to play in my terraced cottage, so I've lent it on a permanent loan to my local Ritz cinema. It's in the foyer and it's a joy to see some local talented people playing it.
You should be able to get a second hand Yamaha Clavinova for that sort of money. Theres a few on eBay to get you started looking. A lot of people won't post these (for obvious reasons) so you can sometimes get a bargain if it's local and easy to collect. They are great electric pianos to get started or practice on. All of them have headphone sockets too, so go to a music shop and try one out with the headphones on, then no one can hear your rusty playing!
My wife is a piano teacher and she recommends Yamaha for that sort of budget range.
Are you only interested in piano sounds? I would look at something like a second hand Yamaha P90, and some speakers to amplify (or some nice ish headphones). These have a lovely realistic piano sound and feel but some of the other sounds are not the best. I've found the older/cheaper clavinova style digital pianos sound fairly uninspiring.
Ive recently (about a year ago) been through this exact process. Constant recommendations for the Roland fp-30 and I did a LOT of research and trying out different options from other manufacturers. I, went with the Roland and I love it. The piano quality, sound and key feel is defo better than other similar makes but they've saved money by having no digital display. Although I don't find it hinders me you can Bluetooth your phone to it to get a screen.
Thanks, I remembered someone had been asking this about a year ago but failed to find the thread! Happy to manage without a display.
Thanks everyone for replies, all very useful and reassuring that my price bracket is "OK", which I think maybe was my main reason for posting.
Elsewhere a friend reminded me to check for polyphony so I'll do that.
Might start "physical" research in shops at the weekend (any recommendations Nottingham/Leicester/Derby? I can Google of course but if anyone knows a particularly good or bad one, let me know! I can't think of any pitfalls, they are just selling me a standard product after all!)
Seems sensible to stick to Yamaha, Roland or Korg, and to consider Casio.
My son went for a Yamaha and has been delighted.
> Might start "physical" research in shops at the weekend (any recommendations Nottingham/Leicester/Derby?
> Seems sensible to stick to Yamaha, Roland or Korg, and to consider Casio.
I was in exactly the position you're in a while back and went for the Yamaha P-45, which I really like. It's VERY bare bones, but if you just want an electric piano that has a decent keyboard and sounds like a piano then you could do a lot worse. I bought the better pedal recently and am very glad I did as the one that comes with isn't brilliant.
With respect, I'd suggest you might want to try as many as you can, hands-on, before you start to narrow down your search as weight and feel can be a very personal thing.
> With respect, I'd suggest you might want to try as many as you can, hands-on, before you start to narrow down your search as weight and feel can be a very personal thing.
Oh, sure! That's why I was so surprised to find myself this afternoon looking at two!
I will definitely try a few in the range, and am certainly not ruling anything out just because my initial "sweep" of opinions (here and elsewhere) didn't flag them up.
Am seeing a fascinating variation in pricing, by the way, on the same models in different shops very near each other!
Pricing seems to be all over the place on instruments! The piano world forum is good for reviews there are some good comparison threads. Try fp30 vs casio privia. There will defo be threads comparing them
I chanced upon pianodreams which is like a review blog sort of thing. The chap writes very well, well enough to convince me. But yes I'll check that forum. Of course it can be easy to get caught up in reviews. I think I am going to visit a shop in Lincoln on Saturday which is priced at the high end but he has a couple of the Casios listed on eBay (one ex-display with some marks) and more importantly has both the Casio and the Roland in stock. If I like the Casio well enough I might buy on the day. If I prefer the Roland I may have to negotiate (he is £130 dearer than PMT which admittedly seems like a "Go Outdoors" kind of business model - pile them high and all that - but still....). I'll try other stuff in store too, there may be sale stuff that is not on the websites. May also go into one of the bigger "warehouse" type shops in Nottingham and try a few more out.
eBay and a well looked after Yamaha dgx might suit. Half your budget if you are lucky.
Tbh I'd expect you'll be fine with any of them. If any of them were crap you'd have picked up on it by reading the reviews by now. Probably best to just try a load and see which one feels/sounds right.
I can't walk past mine without having a little play, and I still have a lesson every week. I thought I'd have packed but pretty sure I'm a lifer now!
Now looks like, instead, a trip to Bonners in Milton Keynes!
The Casio seems to mostly have been superseded by another model which amongst other things is only 9" deep, which is attractive. Bonners also have the Roland FP30 and the Kawai ES110 in stock, amongst loads of others.
This is good, saves me an awful lot of busking around between towns! I'll just bed in at Bonners for the day and play lots of pianos badly
I had similar thoughts recently. I wanted a real piano really but due to not knowing what to look for I ended up going for digital upright as a safer bet. I got a Yamaha arius ypd 143 on Ebay for around 400 pounds. It plays very similar to a real piano and sounds similar/ identical to me too. I don't use any of the features, I think having the full range of keys is a must but not sure what you want to play. It sounds very nice when my piano teacher plays it!
Good luck in your search, I found a couple of real piano refurbishers around Nottingham but not anyway particularly awesome for digital keyboards. Second hand made sense for me as I'm pretty sure resale would be easy ( unlike a real piano)
Thanks Philip. Sounds like you are happy enough with your purchase! Did you have a lot of time of not playing, and are you now playing regularly?
I thought this was going to be a gentle quest over several months. It now looks like I will be choosing between three specific ones, plus having a look at whatever Yamahas are in range, on Saturday, and buying one (maybe even coming home with it if I can fit it in the car!). Which is a nice surprise. Usually I overthink and procrastinate, you should have seen me choosing a wrist watch in 2016, ridiculous!
I've used a Casio Privia(helping my daughter to learn) And I also have a Casio Celviano at home. Not much of a player but I think they are value for money with a reasonable action.
Thanks. Some criticism of the Casio I am planning to look at, is that the keys are a little stiff if you try to play near the pivot. However I don't think I'll be playing such difficult pieces as to require that; and I am sure that if I do get to such a level, I'll adapt especially as I'll have known nothing else. This criticism does not apply, I guess, to your models. It's specific to the shallow depth of the PX S1000.
I saw a nice offer on a used Celviano but that was a full-on fixed upright, a heavy and "serious" thing. Looked lovely though!
Another vote for a second-hand Clavinova. It is in a totally different league to the cheap budget stuff, which will never satisfy you.
What is your definition of "cheap budget stuff", please, John?
I paid about £400 few years back for one from Gear4music.com (their own branded ones) and it has been brilliant.
I had played keyboard a little bit before as well as self taught guitar, bass, banjo, etc. I saw it as an opportunity to get some lessons and learn "properly" I play most days now 3 months on. Probably 4-5 hours a week. Have made more progress than expected and really enjoy having a good teacher!
Thanks. I had not really properly thought about getting a teacher when I started this thread yesterday (aside from the notion of getting some refresher lessons from an acquaintance who I’ve learned has long ago moved away from the area!) but now I am considering it
Its excellent but would consider a second hard FP30 as it has more sounds.
interestingly the second hand prices on the sort of models I am considering, are barely much different than the new ones! It looks like I’ll be buying new unless something comes up that is fairly convenient and worth the “bother”
How did you get on at the weekend?
I am pretty much in the same boat as you are -- also a lapsed pianist, having played RSM grade 4 as a teenager, in school, and barely touched a keyboard for at least 20 years -- but my budget is much much higher so not so much of my research is relevant but perhaps you might find some of it to be useful.
On the sounds:
I actively don't like the Roland sound. I don't know if this statement holds for their older approaches but their newer products are not sampled like most digital instruments but rather simulate the physical piano and produce sound signals from that simulation. As a computer scientist, I find this approach to be fascinating and undeniably "cool" but, as a musician, I find the result to be underwhelming, uncanny and awfully "boring" and "clean". (Your mileage may vary.)
Both Kawai and Yamaha produce world-respected concert grands and both of them know a fair amount about sampling their concert grands and using those samples to produce mind-blowing digital instruments. Choosing between them is a matter of taste -- they're both brilliant.
On the actions:
Between Kawai and Yamaha, I find the Kawai actions to be the better. The Yamaha actions just aren't as smooth and linear at the very beginning of the key depression -- particularly if you're playing white notes near the back of the key.
Apart from this difference, they're both fine. Both makers can produce realistic imitations of proper piano keys, both of them do a good job of emulating the escapement mechanism and, certainly, I've played real uprights in school music rooms that were far nastier than these digital facsimiles of today.
Plenty of better pianists have NO issues with the Yamaha feel. My preference is certainly for Kawai but your mileage may vary.
On internal speakers:
Digital pianos without internal speakers are annoying in the extreme. Internal speakers can also be annoying, poor quality or the cause of buzzes. There's no way to win, here -- just be aware that internal speakers both are and aren't a good idea.
If you only intend to play for yourself, just go with good headphones and waive the requirement for any speakers at all. If you already have a sound-system or speaker setup in the room in which you intend to play, consider just using those. If neither of the above apply, you'll probably need internal speakers within your budget range -- test them thoroughly for misbehaviour, particularly if you're buying a second-hand instrument.
On the topic of "furniture" digital pianos:
These look pretty. They also sound pretty -- they have a lot more mass to resonate with the sounds they emit from their internal speakers so I suppose that that plays a part. However, I'm pretty damn sure that I don't want to be carrying these -- or even bits of these -- up and down stairs.
I also question how well they retain their pretty good looks after one or two house moves.
If you're buying a digital instrument and it isn't portable, I can't really see the point anymore. (Disclaimer: this opinion might be influenced by my planned, upcoming house-move requirements.)
My personal opinion is this: buy a military-grade metal job and put it on a bomber stand. Robustness over aesthetics.
I have a Yamaha P95 which I bought from a friend, so I'm not sure what it cost new as they don't make them anymore (I'd gess a few hundred pounds). But I've been happy with it. It's relatively narrow so doesn't take up too much space, and has a good key action and a lovely sound (even better when played on headphones). It doesn't have a digital display which doesn't bother me in the slightest. When it comes time to upgrade I'll likely stick with Yamaha. For your price range you can certainly buy something that should keep you happy.
Very interesting points. Funny that it was the Roland sound that I liked best, and also their key action. As you say - mileage may vary, and this just shows how subjective it can be!
You've confirmed my thoughts about "furniture" pianos although the bespoke stand for the Roland FP-30 doesn't look too intrusive.
One more thing, in my OP I mention maybe making do with a slightly shorter keyboard ie not the full 88 because I thought I would t play pieces that go to the extreme octaves. Well guess what, that old standard that is just about grade 3, “Bagatelle Fur Elise”, dips into the top octave. And if that does, then I bet plenty of “easy” pieces do!
I have a real piano and a Korg sp280 digital for practicing on when everyone else is sick of hearing me. My real piano is an octave short, half an octave missing from each end. I'm Currently playing at about grade 7 standard and so far I've only had one piece which I ran out of keys for. Fur Elise is within range of my piano with half an octave missing.
For me I've always preferred the sound of Roland or Korg. However, you cant beat the sound and feel of a real piano, especially playing anything pianissimo.
> Fur Elise is within range of my piano with half an octave missing.
I think perhaps it just reaches the bottom half of the top octave, i'll check later when i'm in front of the piano. From memory the high part is just before the last section. a rising set of arpegios followed by a descending chromatic scale back to the classic fur elise riff. Great piece of music! It's one that I learned on returning to the piano after a 30 year gap.
I had pretty much the same experience as you. Spent about 3 hours trying the keyboards and the fp-30 repeatedly drew me back to it. Mainly the 'feel' of it as I couldn't play much more than Three Blind Mice back then but as the shop was quiet the guy gave me lots of demonstrations.
I initially bought just the keyboard but upgraded to the stand, then the pedals on my birthday and Christmas. The pedal supplied with the fp-30 is crap so if you're at a level where you use a pedal bear this in mind.
I paid around £600 for a Roland F50 in 2003. It's still working now, although gets fairly infrequent use.
It was a basic digital piano then in the sense that it had a very simple stand (now disposed of as we have built a shelf for it in an alcove), no real internal recording capabilities just a midi output, and separate pedals, but it did have fully weighted hammer action keys, and as a Roland piano the note sounds are sampled off a Steinway.
When I got it I was playing music from the grade 8/ diploma syllabus and it was totally adequate.
> Very interesting points. Funny that it was the Roland sound that I liked best, and also their key action. As you say - mileage may vary, and this just shows how subjective it can be!
Indeed. In the end, music is about taste and expression so buy (and play) what YOU like.
> You've confirmed my thoughts about "furniture" pianos although the bespoke stand for the Roland FP-30 doesn't look too intrusive.
My wife's a massive fan of the "furniture" or "cabinet" design but even she agrees that even the best looking wooden box is going to look properly shite as soon as it's scratched or dinged a few times -- fine for a permanent fixture in a sedate living room but not at all appropriate for close-quarters city living in the "gear staging area" cross "war zone" that ours really is. And that's not to mention the probability of ruining it in a move.
> Great piece of music!
> The pedal supplied with the fp-30 is crap so if you're at a level where you use a pedal bear this in mind.
Today’s “well DUHHH” revelation is that a boxed new Roland FP-30 won’t fit into the passenger seat of a Nissan 350Z. Who’d have thought it?!
(sorted by unboxing and repackaging more ergonomically!)
Piano safely home and currently sitting nicely on a big desk.
This thread is virtually finished but one thing I've learned in the last couple of days with respect to "let's see if we can at least at first get on without a stand and stool" is that all standard pianos have the top of the white keys between 28" and 29" off the floor, and you adjust the stool to accommodate this.
I am of average build and height.
All of my "make do" options are about 2.5" too high and to be honest I already felt this on my first practice session last night. I will be investing in an adjustable stand and adjustable stool as I intend to spend time sitting at the piano and I don't want to get bad posture and even back ache, from it.
I would factor these items in to any budget. Your mileage may vary, and one could argue that maybe I should just fashion some sort of little platform for my chair and pedal to make all the relative heights OK, but that's a mess TBH.
This is what I have, it's cheap and available mail order. It's a little fiddly to change the height, but easy enough and has a good range of adjustability.
Thanks, hopefully I am sorted for everything now !
Base Jumper Tom Erik Heimen and trail runner Kilian Jornet "race" up & down the iconic Romsdalshorn (1550m) in Norway.