Need some help choosing your first digital piano for 2018?
Music teacher, Dr Chris Stanbury reviews two of the best digital pianos for beginners.
A digital piano can give you a great start in music, and they're ideal for home use. Not only do they fit into compact living spaces, but you can also plug in headphones and they don't need tuning. Many students ask me what is the best digital piano for beginners, and I’ve found two from Casio UK which should be at the top of your shopping list.
As one of the most affordable digital pianos on the market, I was genuinely impressed with what the Casio CDP-130 has to offer. I’ve seen and heard quite a few other products that are available for a similar price, but I have to say that the CDP-130 offered the best in terms of sound and touch of all the starter digital pianos that I've tried. It's no wonder that this is such a popular instrument amongst beginning piano students and often recommended by piano teachers worldwide.
Above all, it’s really important that a digital piano has touch sensitive keys and a weighted keyboard. This means that the keys have a slight resistance to being pushed down, just like an acoustic piano. Learning to play against this key resistance is an essential piano playing technique.
So, choosing a digital piano that reproduces this key weighting correctly is really important, as having something which sounds nice but doesn't really feel like an acoustic piano can do more harm than good. Thankfully, the touch and key weighting of the CDP-130 was great and ideal for beginners. I felt sure that piano students of all ages would be encouraged to play in the right way with this instrument.
How a digital piano sounds is also very important, of course. When you’re trying out a digital piano, try this: play any key quickly and with force, and you should hear a tone that is both loud and bright, with a clear, ringing tone. Then, play the same key slower and with less force. The resulting note should be quieter but also much more mellow in character.
Pianists call this ‘tone colour’, and it’s a very important area of expressive playing which beginners need to appreciate. In some digital pianos, doing this experiment just results in the same tone just at different volumes. This isn’t ideal, as it isn’t what occurs on an acoustic piano.
Thankfully, Casio tell me that the CDP-130 has something called ‘Dual Element Sampling’, which means the piano can tell if you’re playing loudly or softly and plays the matching ‘colour’ of piano tone. For the beginning pianist, this means that the CDP-130 helps them to develop good expressive skills as well as the proper playing technique.
Overall, the Casio CDP-130 is a great digital piano for beginners, and would be ideal for a student of any age who is looking for something affordable but with all the essential features included. A quick look online shows that this instrument would suit anyone with a budget of £299 (in actual fact, I found the price to be even lower in my local music shop).
If you’re able to put a little more into your investment, you might be interested in my next choice: the Casio PX-760.
The PX-760 is the first instrument in Casio’s very popular Privia range. They sound great and they're also some of the most compact digital pianos available in the UK. This means that they are perfect where you need an instrument that plays well but doesn't take up much room.
It’s a general rule in the digital piano industry that a higher price means a better quality touch and sound. But, Casio think about things differently. In recognition of a digital piano’s important place in music education, Casio has it's own rule: that every instrument they produce, including the PX-760, should have a first class touch and sound.
In fact, many important parts of the PX-760 (such as the weighted keys) are borrowed from instruments costing twice the price, which is why the PX-760 is really good value for money.
The PX-760 uses a completely different technology to the CDP-130 that I mentioned earlier, and I could hear a big improvement in the sound quality. The instrument coped with everything I played, from starter tunes to professional pieces and beyond.
From a teaching perspective, there are a few extra details which I can imagine will make a big difference to piano students of all ages and abilities. Firstly, the song recorder is really useful, as it means you can record the pieces that you're learning and then listen back to them to spot mistakes.
Secondly, Casio’s brilliant Concert Play feature introduces the sound of an orchestra into your music learning. Basically, you can play along to some beautiful orchestral music and be the star soloist alongside Japan’s finest orchestra, the NHK Symphony. As a beginning piano student, I always dreamed of what it would be like to be part of an orchestra. With the Concert Play feature and the free included music book, Casio makes this possible and my students love it.
The PX-760 is a great musical companion for many students, and it’s no wonder that it is one of Casio’s top sellers. Is it worth the extra £200 over the CDP-130? Definitely. As I found out, an PX-760 could cope with even top grade piano pieces, thanks to the impressive piano sound and great keyboard feel. What's more, its sleek cabinet design makes it look really impressive. In my view, it's one of the best digital pianos for beginners by far.
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