Buying a Piano – A Guide for Beginners

Blog, Buying a piano

Buying a piano can be a very difficult decision, particularly if you just started your lessons. The truth is that each piano is different, just like each person that will play it. As such, there is not one piano that would be perfect for everyone. In this post, we will discuss different types of pianos, the pros and cons of each, questions to help you narrow down your search, and links to recommendations.

Types of pianos

1. Acoustic/mechanic pianos

These are the traditional types of instruments, which do not require an electrical output as the sound is produced by the hammers hitting the keys. They can be either upright or grand pianos.

  • Best type of instruments for developing a healthy piano technique
  • Warm, authentic piano sound
  • Greater control over articulation, dynamics, and phrasing
  • Ideal for players of all levels, from beginners to advanced
  • Traditional instrument
  • Beautiful aesthetic
  • Better resale value
  • More expensive (at least £2,000 for a decent one)
  • Requires tuning at least once a year, ideally twice (at the time of this post, tuning is around £70 in the UK)
  • It takes up more space than an electric instrument
  • It is considerably louder
  • It needs a good, stable temperature (avoid putting it near windows or radiators, or in a room that has sudden temperature changes)
  • Moving it is more difficult, as they are very heavy

Find acoustic piano recommendations here. You can also check our post on how to take care of an acoustic instrument.

2. Electric pianos

A modern invention, where the sound is produced electronically, rather than by hammers hitting the keys.

  • Budget friendly (you can find a good enough instrument for a beginner starting at around £300-350)
  • The volume can be adjusted, and you can use headphones if practising late at night, or if you have neighbours
  • It takes less space than an acoustic instrument
  • Easier to move it when needed
  • It does not require tuning
  • It is not affected by changes in room temperature
  • Practising solely on an electric piano can affect technique, sound production, and make it playing on an acoustic piano later more difficult
  • Not ideal for intermediate and advanced players (particularly if you are thinking of taking exams)
  • The sound and touch of an electric piano is artificial (although the higher end electric pianos have made advances in trying to bridge the gap)
  • If the electric part gets damaged, it will be difficult to repair it
  • The lower budget electric pianos do not have weighted keys, which is essential in learning how to play the piano
  • They become obsolete very quickly, as newer models appear, which lowers their resale value

Find electric piano recommendations, based on low, medium, and higher budgets in our post. If you already have an electric instrument and want to check how to take care of it, check out this article.

3. Silent/Hybrid pianos

These are a combination between acoustic and electric pianos. The main benefit is that they have a real piano action inside. A silent piano is an acoustic instrument that is digitally enhanced, while a hybrid piano is an electric instrument that has an acoustic piano action, but the sound is solely produced electrically. Read more on the difference between the silent and hybrid pianos here.

  • It has a real piano action inside, unlike an electric piano, which will help developing a better technique than an electric piano
  • When noise is an issue, it can be used as an electric piano (such as when practising late at night)
  • It has a better sound and touch quality than the electric pianos
  • Hybrid pianos are smaller in size and weight than an acoustic piano (however, silent pianos are not smaller or lighter since they are an acoustic instrument with added electronic parts)
  • Silent pianos: The cost is higher than an acoustic piano, in the same model (adding a silent system adds approximatively £1,000 over the price of the acoustic)
  • The touch of a hybrid/silent piano is still inferior to the acoustic piano
  • Silent piano: It requires tuning for the acoustic part of the instrument (tuning not needed if it is a hybrid)
  • The electrical part can become obsolete quickly, while the acoustic part can last much longer
  • Action regulation might be required after 3- 5 years

Find silent and hybrid piano recommendations here.

Things to consider

Having gone through the pros and cons, now it’s the time to ask yourself what is essential for you and what are your home conditions.

How much space do you have?
Acoustic and silent pianos require more space, while electric and hybrid ones need less.

How much will I play the piano and at what times?
Acoustic pianos are considerably louder (although uprights have a practice pedal, which can dampen the sound quite a bit), while electrics, silent, and hybrids can be used with headphones.

How long do I want to use this instrument for?
As you become more proficient, an electrical instrument will eventually need to be replaced with an acoustic one. Electrical instruments also become obsolete quicker, so you might need to replace them quicker than acoustics.

What is your budget?
Electrical pianos are more budget friendly, while acoustic and silent instruments are more expensive.

Do you like the sound of it and how it feels under the fingers?
This is the most important question, as you will be the one to hear this instrument over and over again. For acoustic pianos it is a must to go in the music shop and try them on, as the same piano can sound and feel differently even if it is the same model. For electric pianos, it is still recommended to go inside or shop, or listen to sound samples on YouTube. As these are mass produced, the sound variations are much smaller than on acoustic pianos. Still, I highly recommend going in a music shop, if possible, to get a feel of the keys under your fingers.