Interest in keyboards has skyrocketed in recent years - not all that surprising considering the amazing content available for aspiring keyboardists and pianists online. As a result, it has never been easier - or cheaper - to start playing. Of course, to get started, you'll need one of the best keyboards for beginners. Now, with the sheer amount on offer, it can be daunting to know where to start and where to spend your budget. Luckily we've put together this handy guide to the best beginner keyboards to help point you in the right direction.
If you or your child is considering learning the keys, you'll find a vast array of choices out there, from all singing all dancing home keyboards to more basic piano-like instruments and everything in between. To avoid confusion, we've selected what we believe are the best keyboards for beginners that are sure to kickstart anyone's musical journey.
If you just want to check out our top picks, you can head straight to the full round-up below. If you need more guidance to help you select the right beginner keyboard piano for your needs, keep scrolling to get to our comprehensive buying advice section.
Why trust MusicRadar? Well, we've spent hours testing each and every keyboard in this guide to ensure they are worthy of their place in our round-up. We take our recommendations very seriously and will only suggest a beginner keyboard if we fully believe it's worth your hard-earned cash. Read more about how we test beginner keyboards.
Daryl is a Senior Deals Writer at MusicRadar and is responsible for writing and maintaining buyer's guides on the site as well as testing out products for reviews. Before writing for MusicRadar, Daryl worked for many years in music retail, helping musicians of all ages find the best gear for them. Whether it was a beginner's first keyboard or a top-of-the-range digital piano for the pros, Daryl was there to help steer players in the right direction.
Dave is an expert in all things keys, from beginner keyboards, to digital pianos, synths and beyond, and has been a music technology writer and product tester since 2007, contributing to the likes of Computer Music, iCreate, MusicRadar and Attack Magazine. Dave has also programmed and played keys on recordings by a range of world-renowned artists including George Michael, Kylie and Gary Barlow.
Best keyboards for beginners: The quick list
Best for learning piano
The highly portable Yamaha Piaggero NP15 has to be our top pick for anyone looking to learn piano or keyboard for the first time.
We’ve chosen the CT-S300 for the way it balances features and price. With a full-size, velocity-sensitive 61-note keyboard, this is ideal for newbie players.
Best for looks
Building on the legacy of the original, the CT-S1 is fully portable with 61 built-in voices, 61 full-size, touch-sensitive keys and 64 note polyphony.
Best for portability
This compact, 61-key digital keyboard features Bluetooth connectivity, is battery-powered and contains over 500 piano, electric piano and organ sounds.
Best on a budget
With its 37 mini keys for little hands to get to grips with, Yamaha’s highly-portable PSS-A50 is great for the younger aspiring pianist.
Best for semi-weighted keys
To us, the B2 looks, feels, and – most importantly – sounds like the real deal and is perfect for budding pianists.
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Best for features
This keyboard offers superb value for money. With 300 sounds, in-built rhythms and accessories, the Alesis Harmony 61 MkII is the complete package.
Best beginner arranger keyboard
For us, the Casio WK-6600 does a pretty good job of making the multi-layered workflow for an arranger keyboard accessible for players of any ability.
Best with lessons
If you’re taking out a Playground Sessions membership, you may want to consider a keyboard piano specifically designed to be used with the service.
Best with weighted keys
If you've got your heart set on learning the piano and want plenty of accompaniments and voices, the CDP-S360 is the instrument for you.
Best for learning piano
Available in two sizes – the NP-15 has 61 keys while the NP-25 has 76 – the Piaggero series of Yamaha keyboards are no-frills, lightweight piano-style keyboards that sound fantastic and really look the part. These excellent beginner keyboard pianos are compact and supremely portable and feature built-in speakers, a velocity-sensitive keyboard and sounds sampled from a Yamaha concert grand piano.
We found this keyboard very easy to play and while they’re limited to just 15 different sounds, the voices are all very high quality and just the job if your primary focus is learning piano without distractions such as one-finger chord accompaniment and animal sound effects.
There’s a simple onboard recorder that can be used to record and playback your performances to evaluate your progress and the 2.5W built-in speakers are certainly loud enough for home practice.
Read our full Yamaha Piaggero NP-15 review
- The best Yamaha Piaggero NP-12 deals online right now
Casio has a solid pedigree when it comes to portable keyboards for beginners, and their current lineup doesn’t disappoint. We’ve chosen the CT-S300 for the way it balances features and price. With a full-size, velocity-sensitive 61-note keyboard, convenient built-in carrying handle and three colour options (black, white or red), plus a library of over 400 sounds, 77 rhythms, built-in reverb, dance music mode, aux input and compatibility with Casio’s Chordana teaching app, there’s more than enough here to keep newcomers busy – you even get a 60-song songbook thrown in!
If you don’t need a velocity-sensitive keyboard, you can go for the slightly cheaper CT-S200 model instead, or you can plump for the top-of-the range LK-S250 version which has the illuminated key teaching function.
Read our full Casio CT-S300 review
Best for looks
In 1980 Casio released a revolutionary beginner keyboard, that for the time, offered state-of-the-art sounds, full-sized keys, and eight-note polyphony - not to mention it was incredibly affordable. The original Casiotone was a monumental success, but it hardly holds up to today's standards. Well, luckily, Casio has brought the Casiotone into the modern-day, with the release of the CT-S1.
Building on the legacy of the original Casiotone, the CT-S1 is a fully portable keyboard with 61 built-in voices, 61 full-size, touch-sensitive keys and now 64 note polyphony. We feel the simplified control layout results in a sleek, uncluttered look, while the range of colours - red, white or black - means you can find a keyboard to fit your personal style.
At the heart of the Casiotone is the AiX Sound Source. This sound engine delivers dynamic and expressive tones, perfect for beginners and professionals alike. The Casio Casitone is easily one of the best Casio keyboards on the market right now.
Read our full Casio Casiotone CT-S1 review
Best for portability
This compact, 61-key digital keyboard from Roland features Bluetooth connectivity so it can communicate wirelessly with online piano tuition apps and stream audio through its built-in speakers so you can play along. It can also be battery-powered if you’re on the move, contains a huge variety of over 500 piano, electric piano and organ sounds and comes with a music stand for supporting a tablet on the top.
Throw in a digital metronome, an onboard Loop Mix function and a recording facility to capture your practice sessions and you’ve got almost the perfect partner for your online lesson plan.
We also have to mention just how good this little keyboard sounds - not that we'd expect anything less from industry leaders, Roland. We found the voices to be rich and warm, especially when using headphones.
Read the full Roland GO:Keys GO-61K review
Best on a budget
With its 37 mini keys for little hands to get to grips with, Yamaha’s highly-portable PSS-A50 is great for the younger aspiring pianist. Although it’s often easy to dismiss keyboards of this size merely as toys, the A50 manages to appeal to the younger student while also offering sounds of sufficient quality to actually be of some use to older, more advanced players, so it will continue to be useful as your learning progresses.
The velocity-sensitive keyboard is derived from Yamaha’s Reface series of reimagined classic synths, feels great and is easy to play. It was clear to us that the 42 included sounds definitely favoured quality over quantity, and on top of that, there’s a USB MIDI port, headphone socket, motion effects, a phrase recorder and a built-in arpeggiator with 138 patterns to keep you interested. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something even more kid-friendly, you could also check out the A50’s sister keyboard models, the PSS-E30 and PSS-F30.
Read the full Yamaha PSS-A50 review
Best for semi-weighted keys
If the thought of learning on a basic, plasticky keyboard piano doesn’t inspire you, then the Korg B2 might be just the ticket. To us, this thing looks, feels and – most importantly – sounds like an instrument from a different planet compared to other beginner digital pianos.
For a start, its 88 weighted keys offer a level of response and feel that invites you to keep coming back, and while there aren’t a large amount of included sounds the ones that are here sound immense. With five top tier piano voices, electric piano, organ and strings, you really have everything you'd actually need.
This is, it must be said, a large instrument and one that demands a certain commitment in order to extract all its magic, but if you buy into its charms the Korg B2 is a digital piano you’ll treasure for years to come.
Read our full Korg B2 review
Best for features
If it’s bang for your buck that’s driving your purchasing decision, then the Alesis Harmony 61 MkII is a solid choice. For a shade under $/£200 you get over 300 included sounds - with everything from pianos, keys and synths to sound effects and strings – a large selection of rhythms to practice along to and a bundle of accessories to complete the package.
It has 61 piano-style keys, which in our experience, allow the learner to grow and develop their playing, while a dedicated headphone input allows for silent practice sessions.
The Harmony 61 MkII won’t win many prizes for tonally accurate sounds, but as a tool to spark the imagination of a younger player, it’s a pretty compelling package.
Read our full Alesis Harmony 61 MKII review
Best beginner arranger keyboard
By their very nature, arranger keyboards do come with a level of complexity that puts them in a league above ‘regular’ pianos and keyboards. By allowing the user to layer up sounds, rhythms and melodies from different instruments, they can be thought of more as a portable band. That said, we find that the Casio WK-6600 does a pretty good job of making this multi-layered workflow accessible for players of any ability thanks to it being remarkably simple to use.
You have access to a monstrous sound bank, for starters, with over 700 to choose from. There’s also an onboard mixer, effects and a sequencer to help sketch out your ideas. It’s a lot of functionality, and a great way for a beginner to learn the art of arrangement and composition for not a lot of money.
Best with lessons
If you’re taking out a Playground Sessions membership, why not consider a keyboard piano specifically designed to be used with the service? This 61-key, five octave keyboard has semi-weighted keys, built-in speakers for practicing and an audio input so you can connect your computer or tablet’s headphone output and hear the app’s sound through the speakers as you progress through the lessons.
With a slot for a tablet built into the top panel, a USB connector, sustain pedal input and five of its own onboard sounds, it comes bundled with membership to Playground Sessions starting at $160 for a month’s subscription, rising to $400 for a lifetime membership. Since it’s been designed with online lessons in mind, it’ll not only work brilliantly with Playground Sessions, but with any other online lesson provider too.
Best with weighted keys
If you've got your heart set on learning the piano, but you want to play around with accompaniments and a slew of voices, then Casio's CDP-S360 is the instrument for you.
This versatile and highly playable instrument walks the line between a piano and a keyboard, combining 88 full-sized keys and Casio's Scaled Hammer Action II with an impressive 700 tone and 200 accompaniments - all in a lightweight, portable package.
You also have the option to add the SP-34 pedal unit and CS-46 stand, to make the CDP S-360 even more piano-like.
Best keyboards for beginners: buying advice
What is the difference between a keyboard and a digital piano?
So what is the difference between a keyboard and a digital piano? Dedicated digital pianos are aimed more at people who want an alternative to an acoustic piano, with full 88 weighted keys. Keyboards, on the other hand, are generally loaded with extra features and sounds. Keyboards are also more portable, with some having the option to be battery powered.
Some sort of acoustic piano sound is nearly always top of the list of sounds that a keyboard for beginners comes with. Still, the quality of this sound will be an important consideration – generally, the cheaper the keyboard, the less realistic the piano sound is likely to be.
Keyboards will usually have some sort of rhythmical accompaniment section with preset drum rhythms built-in, and many even feature onboard tuition features such as illuminated keys, a metronome and built-in songs to play along with.
How many keys do you need?
Keyboards come in numerous sizes, with the standard being 88 keys. Smaller keyboards are available with 76, 61, 49 and even 25 key options out there. When starting out, it's best to go for something that can accommodate two-handed playing straight away, or you'll be wanting to upgrade sooner than you think. For this, you'll need at least 49 keys or four octaves.
For this reason, we've made sure all of beginner keyboards in this guide have a minimum of 49 keys, except for one – the Yamaha PSS-A50, which has 37 mini keys making it suitable for small children or players with small hands.
As a general rule - bigger is always better. Go for as many keys as you have room for, or your budget will allow. Buying a full-sized keyboard piano at the beginning means your new instrument has room to grow with you as you progress on your keyboard-playing adventure.
What is the action of a Keyboard?
The action describes how easy or hard the keys are to actually press down to produce a note. Real pianos have weighted keys and, therefore, quite a heavy action, so for beginners, a more lightly-sprung ‘synth action’ keyboard is more likely to fit the bill to start with.
A light action is often better for small hands in particular, but don’t be too tempted by mini-size keys – little hands can quite easily handle full-size keys as long as the action isn’t too heavy, and learning on full-size keys will remove the need for switching from mini to full-size at a later point, which can be difficult once you’ve got used to small keys.
Does a keyboard need lots of sounds?
The number of sounds that your beginner keyboard should have comes down to what you want to use it for – you don’t necessarily need hundreds of sounds if your main interest is simply learning piano. There are plenty of options out there that offer little more than 10 high quality sounds.
That said, if you’re buying a keyboard for kids to learn to play their favourite songs on, a wide variety of tones is arguably more likely to keep them interested in the long term, plus it will make the keyboard more entertaining for when they’re playing it outside of lesson time.
What is a velocity sensitive keyboard?
Velocity-sensitive keyboards respond to how hard you hit the keys while playing, emulating the response of an acoustic piano - the harder you hit a key, the louder the note that comes out.
It’s important to learn how hard to press the keys from the off if you’re seriously considering making any kind of progress as a player, so velocity sensitivity is an important item on your wishlist.
It will also give you more accurate feedback for monitoring the development of finger strength and independence when practising.
How many sounds does my beginner keyboard need to have?
When you’re starting out, your first keyboard piano probably isn’t going to sound as good as the ones the professionals use – after all, you wouldn’t shell out hundreds on a top-end keyboard if you’re not 100 percent sure that you or your budding pianist are going to persevere beyond Frere Jacques. Because of this, keyboards for beginners and kids can often skimp on sound quality, promising hundreds of tones that are all really just endless variations of one or two basic sounds.
Our advice would be to go for keyboards with fewer, better quality tones. This will help you to achieve a better sound right from the start, inspiring the confidence to help you progress with your lessons. In our opinion, if it actually sounds like you’re playing a piano while you’re learning, you’re much more likely to stick with it!
What's the best way for a beginner to learn the keyboard?
Traditionally, if you wanted to learn the keyboard, your first port of call would be a stack of sheet music, books and one to one lessons. Now, this is still a valuable way to start your musical journey, but with giant leaps forward in technology, there are certainly more convenient ways to learn.
There are a wealth of piano learning apps out there that can show you everything from how to sit at your instrument, how to play scales and chords and even how to master your favourite songs. Most of these apps will charge a monthly subscription fee to access a full course of lessons, with nearly all offering a free trial of some description. To find out more, check out our in-depth guide to the best online piano lessons.
What's the best age for a beginner to start learning the keyboard?
Really, there is no optimal age for learning the keyboard - if your child shows an interest in learning, it's worth giving it ago. That said, there are a few things to consider.
Very young players can have problems with overly large keyboards, so it's worth sticking to 49 or 61 keys and progressing to the full 88 notes when you feel they are ready. Similarly, children can find it challenging to navigate fully-weighted piano keys, so they should start on semi-weighted or synth-like keys. Older beginners won't have this issue, so they can learn in any keybed.
What accessories do I need for my beginner keyboard?
So, once you've decided on the best keyboard for beginners that suits your needs, the next step is to kit yourself out with all the essential piano accessories that will make your learning experience a lot easier.
Keyboard stand: One of the first and most crucial accessories to grab is a sturdy keyboard stand. Make sure the stand you go for is appropriate for the size and weight of the keyboard you have. For non-weighted keyboards, you will most likely get away with a single braced stand, but for instruments with weighted keys, you are better with a double-braced stand for added security.
Bench: A solid and high-quality piano bench will not only ensure you are comfortable while sitting for hours and hours practising, but it will also ensure you play in the correct position, with the optimal posture.
Now, benches come in various styles, and which you choose is dependant on your specific needs. The most popular types are adjustable benches, which allow you to set a particular height to ensure the player is comfortable and storage benches with a hidden compartment for housing your books and learning materials.
Headphones: A good set of studio headphones will go a long way to helping with your practice. Not only will you be able to practice in relative silence, but you'll also get to hear your new keyboard piano in all its glory.
Sustain pedal: While some keyboards come with a sustain pedal, they aren't always the best. We highly recommend upgrading to a piano style pedal. If your keyboard didn't have a pedal included, then it's worth investing in one - you can't play modern pop songs without it.
Music Stand: Got lots of books and sheet music? Well, it's worth picking up a good quality music stand to keep all your pages in order.
Which brands make the best keyboards for beginners?
You can't go wrong with the big guns, such as Yamaha, Casio, Roland and Korg. These brands not only make some of the best keyboards for beginners in the world, but they also produce professional products that the biggest names in music use on tour and in the studio. So if in doubt, go with one of the big four, and you're sure to get a great keyboard that will last.
What's the best beginner keyboard to buy in 2023?
Really you can't go wrong with any of the keyboards on this list. We firmly believe that every entry here offers fantastic value for money and, more importantly, the best foundation to start learning the keyboard. That said, there are a couple of stand-out options that we would highly recommend checking out first.
The Yamaha Piaggero NP12 is number one on this list for a reason. This sleek keyboard may not have all the sounds of the others on the list, but for many budding pianists, that's its appeal. Gone are the rows and rows of unnecessary voices and features, in favour of piano-like full-sized keys, excellent built quality and ten fantastic tones.
We also have a couple of options from budget keyboard heavyweights, Casio. The first is the ever-popular Casio CT-S300, which features 61 velocity-sensitive keys, 400 sounds and even comes complete with a 60-song songbook - what more do you need? A relatively new addition to the growing Casio catalogue is the wonderful Casio Casiotone CT-S1. This new wallet-friendly keyboard builds on the legacy of the original 80s icon, bringing it into the modern-day with 64 note polyphony and the incredibly expressive AiX Sound Source.
How much should I spend on a beginner keyboard?
When working out how much to spend on your new keyboard, you must first think about what you want to get out of your new instrument. If you are simply looking for an inexpensive way to tinker around with some chords, learn scales or see if it is the right instrument for you, then you don't need to spend a fortune. You can easily pick up a well-made keyboard for around $/£150 - $/£200.
For many, the humble keyboard is merely a stepping stone to learning the piano. Now, while it may be tempting to go for a basic option, you may want to consider looking for a keyboard with full-sized keys to ensure you don't pick up any bad habits that may hinder your progress on the piano. Of course, this will cost you a little more, but it will be worth it in the end.
If you're looking for a keyboard that will grow with you, then you'll want to look for something around the $/£300 - $/£500 mark. This will ensure you don't need to upgrade your keyboard unnecessarily, ultimately saving you money in the long run - providing you stick at it.
How we test the best keyboards for beginners
It's fair to say we aren't short of choice when it comes to keyboards suitable for beginners. There are literally hundreds on the market. For that reason, it's essential that we put the instruments through their paces to ensure they are worthy of being included in this guide to the best keyboards for beginners.
The first test - and most vital for us - is how the keyboard feels under our fingers. This is, of course, a combination of the key action as well as the size and shape of the physical key. To test the key action, we'll make sure to play varying dynamics to see how the instrument responds. We'll be sure to try out a myriad of different musical styles while we're at it. This goes hand in hand with the keys' texture, shape, and size. As these instruments are aimed squarely at novice players, they should feel welcoming and not too rigid.
Next is the sound of the keyboard. We will carefully go through the list of inbuilt tones while paying close attention to the speakers' frequency range and assessing the usability of the voices. We aren't all that interested in a keyboard with a million sounds if only two or three are actually useable.
Lastly, we will go through any extras included with the keyboard, such as pedals, audio outputs, MIDI compatibility and any accompanying app.
Read more about how we test music making gear and services at MusicRadar.
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