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 sound and touch of all the starter digital pianos that I've tried. It's no wonder that this is such a popular instrument 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 crucial, because 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 is very good and ideal for beginners. I felt certain 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-770.
The PX-770 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 for when 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-770, should have a first class touch and sound.
In fact, many important parts of the PX-770 (such as the weighted keys) are borrowed from instruments costing twice the price, which is why this piano is great value for money.
The PX-770 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.
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 your performance 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-770 is a great musical companion, and it’s no wonder that it’s one of Casio’s top sellers. Is it worth the extra £200 over the CDP-130? Definitely. As I found out, a PX-770 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 looks really stylish (in black or white) and it can connect to iOS and Android devices too. In my view, it's one of the best digital pianos for beginners on the market today.
What else do Casio do?
As you’d expect from the company that invented the electronic keyboard, CASIO are still the market leaders and have many models available. My two favourite keyboards are the LK-265 and CT-X700.
The LK-265 is all about making music fun and is packed with features to keep you going back for more. The keys light up to show you how to play any of the 60 built-in songs, all of which have a full band accompaniment that sounds great. However, plug an Android or iOS device into it, and you can follow the music on the screen as well. When using the Lesson feature, the keyboard will wait for you to find the right notes before continuing with the song, so you can learn at your own pace.
For the ambitious performer looking for an upgrade, look no further than the CT-X700. Using brand new AiX sound technology which has taken the musical industry by storm, the CT-X700 proves that inspirational products can be reasonably priced too. If you’re a budding performer or music producer, you’ll love the new features in the CT-X700, such as powerful yet easy to use recording, performance and editing functions. Plus, the all new drum styles, effects and sounds put many so-called ‘professional’ synths to shame!
need help to choose?
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