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The 5 best keyboards and digital pianos for beginners and kids

Learning to play the piano starts with choosing the right first instrument, and it’s a more impactful choice than many beginners realize.

I have tested and reviewed a wide range of instruments, and here are my top picks of the best keyboards and digital pianos for beginners and kids.

Quick recommendations

After playing various entry-level instruments, I believe the Yamaha NP-15 is the best electronic keyboard for most beginners in 2024.

It’s the keyboard I wish I had when I started. Suitable for kids, it looks and sounds like a grown-up instrument. I absolutely love it.

For those seeking an extra touch of realism, the Casio PX-770, with its beautiful cabinet and authentic sound, is the best beginner digital piano.

While it’s not the newest instrument, its quality and performance make it a standout. This digital piano will stay with you well beyond the beginner phase.

Finally, the Casio CT-S1 is my favorite keyboard for younger kids. It’s everything a kid’s piano should be. It looks like fun, sounds like fun, is lightweight, and comes at a very reasonable price.

Contents

Use these jump links to navigate to the desired section of the review.

Why you should trust me

James Nugent, writer at Higher Hz

My journey to becoming a professional pianist started with a portable keyboard and a few songbooks before I moved on to private tuition and more formal music education.

As a beginner, I experienced the negative impact of choosing the wrong keyboard and, later, the benefits of the right instrument and structured lessons.

Over the past 20 years, I’ve worked in various positions within the music industry, including many years as a piano tutor, and it’s thanks to those years I can better understand and use my experiences as a beginner to help others.

One of the most important things I’ve learned while teaching is that no two students are the same. While there are many tried and tested standard teaching methods, we often have to think about what’s best for the individual rather than what’s best for beginners as a group.

I can draw on years of first-hand experience seeing how different students react to different pianos, keyboards, and features to create a versatile list that caters to a wide range of aspiring pianists.

How I chose my top picks

While I can’t consider every student’s individual needs, I can ensure my list is versatile by considering the most common differences between students.

Since my list is aimed at beginners and kids, I started by considering typical differences between kids and adult beginners.

Kids often respond best to:

  • lighter keys,
  • portable keyboards that are easy to carry,
  • instruments that look more fun and less professional,
  • fun features and apps with interactive games/lessons,
  • lots of voices and onboard songs.

Adults often respond best to:

  • instruments that look professional,
  • a digital piano that looks like a real piano,
  • a realistic piano sound,
  • full-size keyboards (88-keys),
  • weighted keys.

As you can see, the common theme in the differences listed above is a balance between fun and realism.

Music should be fun at any age, but it’s fair to say that kids typically respond best to obvious fun in education, and adults usually enjoy a more grown-up setting more.

You could argue it makes no difference because every keyboard provides the same notes. But, the learning environment you create directly impacts your engagement with the material you’re working on, and the keyboard/piano you choose is the centerpiece of that environment.

I should stress that the differences listed above are typical but not constant, and there are always exceptions. For example, some kids are ready for a more formal instrument, and some adults require something more playful.

I tested a range of instruments that offered different variations of the things that adult beginners and kids typically respond to best. I also held value for money as a high priority, which is especially important for beginners.

Whether you’re buying for yourself or a youngster, you should consider the following when choosing from the list:

  • individual personality,
  • your expectations (a hobby, long-term creative goals, future academic pursuit, etc.),
  • how much time you have to practice,
  • how portable it has to be.

Once you consider those things, you’ll find the right instrument on this list.

Here are all the digital pianos and keyboards I recommend for beginners and kids in 2024:

Also, be sure to check the Honorable mentions for instruments that didn’t make my top five but are too good to leave out altogether.

Best keyboard: Yamaha NP-15

  • Number of keys: 61
  • Keys: full-size, non-weighted
  • Presets: 15 voices
  • Polyphony: 64 notes
  • Built-in speakers: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No

I love the Piaggero NP-15 because it’s the perfect blend of features that beginners of all ages love.

It’s not the most playful/fun keyboard by design, but it’s lightweight and portable enough for kids to carry from one room to another, with full-size keys (although not fully-weighted).

Despite only having 61 keys, the Yamaha NP-15 looks and sounds professional enough for any adult beginner.

Yamaha Piaggero NP-15
Piaggero NP-15 electronic keyboard | Image: Yamaha

The Yamaha Piaggero NP-15 is a lightweight/portable keyboard with 61 velocity-sensitive keys (semi-weighted).

It has 15 onboard voices, compared to the 10 offered by the older NP-12. The voices come from Yamaha’s AWM Stereo Sampling sound engine, which produces some of the best acoustic piano tones in its class.

Besides the acoustic pianos, electric pianos, organs, and strings also sound great. The NP-15 offers 64 notes of polyphony, which isn’t overly impressive, but it’s enough for early beginners.

This Piaggero takes a more sophisticated approach by focusing on realism more than most similar keyboards, and that’s evident in the sleek, minimal, all-black design.

You do sacrifice some features for the focus on realism, and that results in only a handful of built-in effects (six reverb types), but you get 25 songs and a built-in recorder (one song up to 7000 notes), which makes an excellent overall package.

Read my full Yamaha NP-15 review for more information and test results.

What I like

  • Incredible sound quality.
  • Lightweight and portable.
  • Easy to use for beginners of all ages.

What I don’t like

  • No Bluetooth.
See current price at: SweetwaterAmazon

Best stage piano: Yamaha P-145

  • Number of keys: 88
  • Keys: full-size, weighted
  • Presets: 10 voices
  • Polyphony: 64 notes
  • Built-in speakers: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No

I’ve been a fan of Yamaha’s P Series for many years, often finding them as house pianos in clubs and venues.

The P-145, with its new compact hammer-action keyboard, has a lovely feel, great sound, and all the reliability I expect from the P Series.

I’d recommend going for the P-225 with the CFX concert grand sound, but the P-145 is outstanding value for money.

Yamaha P-145
P-145 digital stage piano | Image: Yamaha

The Yamaha P-145 showcases a new, slimmer, and lighter design than previous models, making it easy to store after each practice if necessary. I see it as an even more grown-up version of the NP-15.

The P-145 only has 10 voices, which is lower than some alternatives in the same price range, but the sound quality is solid overall. Thanks to an enhanced built-in speaker system, the sound is actually better than previous models.

The standout voice is the CFIIIS concert grand with damper resonance. While it’s not as rich as the CFX tone (P-225), it’s very good indeed. You’ll also encounter a few more unusual voices, like the dizi, a Chinese transverse flute.

Another thing I love about the Yamaha P-145 is that it has a three-pedal unit input for a realistic piano experience.

It’s not without flaws, and I’d have liked to see a built-in recorder, but it’s an excellent addition to the already impressive P Series.

Read my full Yamaha P-145 review for more information and test results.

What I like

  • Great piano sound.
  • Slim and lightweight.
  • Three-pedal unit input.

What I don’t like

  • No built-in recorder.
See current price at: Amazon

Most fun keyboard: Roland Go:Keys 3

  • Number of keys: 61
  • Keys: full-size, non-weighted
  • Presets: 1154 tones
  • Polyphony: 128 notes
  • Built-in speakers: Yes
  • Bluetooth: Yes

One of the things I like most about the Go:Keys 3 is that it comes in various colors because a bright, fun appearance goes a long way with kids.

More importantly, it provides a vast collection of quality sounds that will cater to traditional needs and encourage experimentation.

Considering everything on offer, it comes at a relatively affordable price.

Roland Go:Keys 3 in Turquoise
Go:Keys 3 electronic keyboard | Image: Roland

The Roland Go:Keys 3 is a beginner-friendly keyboard that is as visually pleasing as it is sonically impressive. The striking color options, including red, blue, white, and turquoise, will appeal to all ages, especially kids.

This 61-key beginner keyboard has a whopping 1154 tones from Roland’s Zen-Core engine and a max polyphony of 128 notes.

I love that the Zen-Core engine is available at the beginner end of the market because it delivers some of my favorite sounds from synths like the Roland Fantom (often showcased by the fantastic Shaun Martin of Snarky Puppy).

You’ll also get over 200 music styles within the smart auto-accompaniment feature. I think it’s always a good idea for beginners to get used to jamming with other instruments, even if it’s in the form of a backing track.

If you manage to exhaust the included music styles, Bluetooth connectivity allows you to stream additional tracks from external devices.

The layout is simple enough for most youngsters, helped by a handy LCD screen, and should be a breeze for most adult students.

I consider the Roland Go:Keys 3 a clear step up from previous Go:Keys models and flexible enough to offer longevity you don’t always get from a beginner keyboard.

What I like

  • Stunning sounds.
  • Auto-accompaniment feature.
  • Available in various fun colors.

What I don’t like

  • Nothing to note.
See current price at: SweetwaterAmazon

Best digital piano: Casio PX-770

  • Number of keys: 88
  • Keys: full-size, weighted
  • Presets: 19 voices
  • Polyphony: 128 notes
  • Built-in speakers: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No

Although the PX-770 has been around for a relatively long time, it’s still an excellent buy for beginners who want a combination of realism and affordability.

The Privia range is tried and tested and has the kind of reliability that will take you from beginner to intermediate.

It’s more suited to adult beginners but is great for kids ready for a more formal piano experience.

Casio Privia PX-770 in White
Casio Privia PX-770 digital piano | Image: Higher Hz

The Casio PX-770 has the look and feel to create a realistic piano experience. One of the main attractions is the scaled hammer-action keyboard that mimics the performance of a real 88-key piano.

The wooden console and stand are lovely to look at, and combined with the three-pedal unit, they deliver an authentic playing experience.

In my opinion, one of the most significant benefits a beginner gets from a digital piano like the PX-770 is the perception of sitting at a real piano.

Casio Privia instruments always deliver solid sound quality, even at the entry level, and the PX-770 is no exception. It offers 19 voices from Casio’s AiR Sound Source with a max polyphony of 128 notes.

The flagship grand piano voices are very good for an entry-level digital piano. Built-in effects, including reverb and chorus, enhance the already impressive sounds.

I really enjoy playing the PX-770, and I’ve found Duet Mode particularly useful when teaching students.

I love the two-track recorder because critical listening is essential, and 60 play-along songs provide some challenges for beginners to conquer.

Read my full Casio PX-770 review for more information and test results.

What I like

  • Fantastic piano sound.
  • Realistic feel.
  • Nice-looking cabinet.

What I don’t like

  • Shows signs of age.
See current price at: SweetwaterAmazon

Best for younger kids: Casio CT-S1

  • Number of keys: 61
  • Keys: full-size, non-weighted
  • Presets: 61 tones
  • Polyphony: 64 notes
  • Built-in speakers: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No

Although it lacks the sound quality of the Go:Keys 3 and the professional look of the NP-15, Casio’s CT-S1 is the ideal kids’ keyboard.

When I think about what kids want from a keyboard, it ticks many boxes: it’s light, portable, colorful, cheap, sounds good, and comes with interactive apps.

Casio CT-S1
Casio CT-S1 electronic keyboard | Image: Higher Hz

The Casio CT-S1 is a beginner-friendly keyboard that comes in a range of colors (red, white, and black).

It comes with 61 velocity-sensitive keys, and in addition to looking fantastic, it has a library of 61 sounds to explore and a max polyphony of 64 notes.

The onboard sounds include some lovely acoustic pianos, electric pianos, organs, and synths not often found on similar keyboards. The exploration continues with 37 onboard effects that allow you to enhance and transform sounds.

I prefer all keyboards to have a simple layout, especially for kids, and the CT-S1 gets it right with a straightforward, minimalist workflow.

Casio’s Chordana app provides many more fun learning opportunities, and it’s even better with the optional WU-BT10 wireless MIDI/audio adapter.

My one complaint is that the Bluetooth adapter comes at an additional cost; I’d like to see it included as standard.

Read my full Casio CT-S1 review for more information and test results.

What I like

  • Excellent sound quality.
  • Easy-to-use for kids.
  • Interactive apps.

What I don’t like

  • Bluetooth only with adapter.
See current price at: SweetwaterAmazon

Honorable mentions

Some instruments that didn’t make my top five were too good to ignore, so here are more options worth checking out.

  • Alesis Prestige. The Prestige is an excellent, cheaper option if you want 88 fully-weighted hammer-action keys but can’t make your budget stretch to the Yamaha P-145.
  • Casio PX-S1100. I loved the PX-S1100 when it was first released, and I still love it now. I know other manufacturers are catching up to Casio’s slim and sleek design with weighted keys, but it’s still a favorite of mine.
  • Korg B2SP. I like to include options from various manufacturers, and the B2SP is my first offering from Korg. It’s a lovely (and cheaper) alternative to the Casio PX-770.
  • Yamaha PSR-E283. PSR keyboards have always been a common choice for beginners; I started on a PSR 3, and have such fond memories. The PSR 3 wasn’t right for me because I wasted too much time on the many strange sounds, and quirky demo songs, but it was fun! Nostalgia and the quirky nature of the PSR 3 aside, the PSR range continues to get better, and the PSR-E283 is a prime example of how far this range has come.
  • Korg Liano. I’m wrapping up my picks with another Korg, the Liano. It has some outstanding sounds and is the perfect choice for anyone who wants 88 keys without the weight of a hammer-action keyboard.

Recent updates

  • May 24, 2024: I’ve published an updated selection based on my recent tests and comparisons. I’ve replaced the Yamaha NP-12 with the newer NP-15 and Roland Go:Keys with the Go:Keys 3. I’ve also added the Yamaha P-145 to the main list and moved the Alesis Prestige and Korg B2SP to the Honorable mentions.
  • May 23, 2024: I’ve updated the structure to the latest site standard and explained the picking criteria in more detail. I’ve also added quick jump links for faster navigation.
  • January 3, 2024: I’ve checked all the picks and scheduled a future update.
  • July 14, 2023: I’ve made some minor improvements to the article and added lists of top features for your convenience.
  • April 19, 2023: I’ve updated the text for clarity and explained the picking criteria. No changes in recommendations.
  • January 7, 2023: I’ve verified the accuracy of picks. The Yamaha NP-12 is still my top recommendation for most starters.
  • October 1, 2022: I’ve made slight improvements to the article structure and replaced the Casio PX-S1000 with the newer PX-S1100.
  • January 5, 2022: I’ve added links to the full reviews and verified the accuracy of picks.
  • September 21, 2021: I published the original list of the best instruments for beginners based on my experience playing various keyboards and teaching piano to students of all ages.

Final thoughts

I mentioned my old Yamaha PSR 3 above, and it’s an example of a good beginner keyboard not being suitable for every beginner.

In those days, 100 voices were more of a distraction than a benefit to me, and I’d have progressed more quickly with something else.

My top five picks and honorable mentions highlight some amazing beginner keyboards and digital pianos for beginners and kids.

If you choose the one that fits your personality and aspirations best, you’ll be off to the perfect start.

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