There’s no quick or easy answer to this, but I’ll do my best. If you’re looking for a cheap keyboard, I would suggest Yamaha or Casio, but it must have at least 61 notes. If you can afford something better, digital pianos by Korg, Roland and Casio are very good. Yamaha’s Clavinova line is also very good. If you are looking at high end keyboards (also referred to as synthesizers) then my absolute favorite is Korg.
As far as real pianos go, if you are looking at an upright, the taller the piano, the better the quality of sound because it has a larger soundboard. Shorter pianos are known as spinets and their sound can be rather “tinny”. However, a spinet is usually more affordable than an upright. If you are considering a used instrument, I strongly suggest that you get the opinion of your piano teacher or piano tuner. They usually won’t mind checking an instrument out for a small fee and it will be money well-spent as they could end up saving you a lot of money.
Photo: Steinway unveils limited edition Lilly Pulitzer-printed piano ( read more below post . . .)
My favorite upright pianos are made by Yamaha because they have a great sound, a good feel and they tend to hold their value better than a lot of other pianos.
Grand pianos are the best for several reasons. The touch is different from that of an upright because the hammers move upwards rather than sideways and they also have something called a “repetition lever” that an upright is lacking. This allows you to play a lot better in faster passages. Also, the soft pedal works differently and in a better way on a grand, although it’s not really used too often.
The smallest grand pianos are 4′ 11″ and some piano tuners argue that the soundboard is so small that you may be better off with a larger upright piano for a fuller sound. Sound quality is certainly very important, but I happen to believe that the action (the feel of the keys) is even more important for a practice instrument. The brilliant pianist Glenn Gould also felt this way.
The largest grand pianos are 9 feet in length, which are really only for concert halls. A piano with a length of about 6 feet is ideal. If you decide to look at a piano without seeking professional advice, then make sure to get underneath the piano and check the soundboard (the wood underneath the strings). It is the heart and soul of the piano and should not have any cracks or damage of any kind.
My favorite grand piano is a Steinway, which I believe is the “Rolls Royce” of all pianos, however there are many wonderful companies such as Bechstein, Bosendorfer, but they are very expensive. More reasonably priced pianos are made by Kohler and Campbell and many other companies.
In many cases, you may be better off purchasing a used grand piano and putting some money into having it refurbished. I would suggest that if you are serious about buying a grand, scour the newspapers for a Steinway* and see if you can get an older one at a great price and then invest some money into making it like new again.
*Note – Steinway Grand Piano
Steinway unveils limited edition
Lilly Pulitzer-printed piano
When it comes to pianos, Steinway & Sons have established an uncompromising standard for sound, beauty and investment value. The firm has now announced a limited edition Lilly Pulitzer-printed model M piano to commemorate Lilly Pulitzer’s 50th Anniversary Jubilee. The six-foot long signature piano model blends matchless quality and timeless style with bold Lilly Pulitzer personality. The Jubilee celebration, which also featured music from The Alex Donner Orchestra, was the first time fans of both Steinway and Lilly Pulitzer had an opportunity to admire this rare instrument. The Lilly Pulitzer Limited-Edition Steinway & Sons Piano is available at Lilly Pulitzer stores.