What Type of Piano Should I Buy?

4 October, 2022

So you’ve decided to get a piano. Congratulations! I truly believe every home should have one.

But acquiring a piano is not something you should do on a whim; it’s probably going to cost a bit of money, it may take up valuable space in your house, it may require maintenance and it may not be easy to move, so - in the name of smart consumer practises - please get an instrument that you’ll cherish and use for many years. 

The first question most people ask is: "what type of piano should I buy?". Let's have a look at the most common types:


A keyboard is a fairly broad term, but most people use it to refer to an electronic instrument that has the standard black and white keyboard, but isn't trying to be a piano. This can encompass anything from a $20 child's toy to a $4,000 synthesiser. Keyboards are usually smaller in structure and have fewer keys than a full-sized 88-key piano keyboard. They don't have weighted keys, meaning you cannot control the tone by how you strike the key. Keyboards may have lots of additional features such as different sounds, drum backing tracks, recording functions and all sorts of knobs and faders. Keyboards will suffice if you are learning the absolute basics (such as learning note names) but you won't be able to properly play a lot of piano repertoire on a keyboard, and you won't develop proper piano technique.

Digital Piano

Digital pianos are a good option if you're committed to learning piano but are restricted in budget, space and/or noise allowance. In terms of playing experience, they are a big step up from keyboards because of their weighted keys (but this also varies greatly between brands and models). Expect to pay around $1,500 - $3,000 for a new digital piano that will give a pretty good simulation of playing an acoustic piano. There are portable digital pianos, but keep in mind that you will need to buy a stand for it (as well as a music stand and pedals). Console digital pianos (like the one pictured above) are built more like upright pianos and are not designed to be moved around frequently. A digital piano will serve a beginning - intermediate pianist well for several years.

Upright Piano

Do you want the real piano experience? Digital pianos have come a long way since I had one back in the early 00s, but they can’t faithfully reproduce the sound and feel of an acoustic piano. There is a tangible realness to playing an acoustic instrument - feeling the hammer hit the string when you strike the key, feeling the dampers lift when you press down the sustain pedal, hearing the sympathetic vibrations of all the strings, being hit with a huge wash of sound waves and then hearing them swell and fill the room. Upright pianos are a good option for most homes because they don't take up much more space than a digital piano. Expect to pay between $5,000 - $10,000 for a decent student model (either new or refurbished).

Grand Piano

My dream piano: a Fazioli F212 in Macassar finish. Will probably cost me my entire retirement fund when I'm 65.

If you are a serious pianist and have the space and money, you may want to consider buying a grand piano. Nothing compares to the sound, action, and beauty of a well-made, well-looked-after full-sized grand. They are simply awe-inspiring for both the player and the listener. The strings on a grand piano are strung horizontally, and because of the positioning of the hammers, the 'action' (how the keys move when you strike them) tends to be smoother and more responsive than an upright. The pedals are also different on a grand piano, allowing you to achieve certain qualities of tone that are not possible on other instruments. Some advanced piano repertoire is meant to be played on a grand piano and simply can't be executed properly on other pianos for mechanical reasons.

New or Second-Hand?

If money is no obstacle, then buy a new instrument from a reputable seller who offers some sort of guarantee and will throw in extras for free (such as tuning and delivery). Having said that, I have only ever owned second-hand acoustic pianos (two uprights and a grand) and have loved those instruments for many years. Many piano sellers will sell refurbished instruments, which usually have their original structure but have had work done on the inside (strings, hammers, and pieces of felt replaced). When shopping for a second-hand piano, you need to know what to look for. A piano can look great on the outside but be a mess on the inside if it's been neglected or abused. Many people give away old pianos for free, but they often sound terrible and cost a fortune to fix up - not to mention the logistics of moving them around.

Play Lots of Different Pianos

One last word of advice: before you commit to buying an instrument, play a bunch of different ones to feel and hear the difference. Play that $100,000 concert grand in the shop, just to see what it's like. Then play a $500 digital piano so you can experience first-hand the reason for such a price difference. Then play several instruments within your price range and pick the one that feels and sounds best to you. Some questions to ask yourself:

Good luck, and have fun!

Tiffany Ha

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So you’ve decided to get a piano. Congratulations! I truly believe every home should have one. But acquiring a piano is not something you should do on a whim; it’s probably going to cost a bit of money, it may take up valuable space in your house, it may require maintenance and it may not […]

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