I am a teacher, parent, and musician with decades of experience.
Teacher's Choice: Yamaha's Excellent Starting Keyboard, the YPT-260
This is a smart choice for a beginning keyboard. I have always had good experiences with Yamaha—they make some of the best-known and most-used keyboards in the world. There is one Yamaha keyboard in particular, the YPT-260, that I have found to be just about perfect for my students. It's just under $100, which is an excellent price for a Yamaha, and it's both a serious instrument and very user-friendly.
Here are some features:
- 61-Key Portable Keyboard
- Includes the PA130 Power Adapter
- 400 voices, which means your child can play their songs with hundreds of "different instruments."
- 130 Auto accompaniment styles with backing tracks
- 112 onboard songs
- Yamaha Education Suite with 9-step Lesson function
- Aux input allows you to play along with music from a phone, Tablet or computer
- Record and playback using the recording function
The Education Suite is what I really like about this keyboard. Yamaha's on-board lessons programs is an excellent alternative to expensive "human" lessons. You can save serious money on lessons while your child takes her time deciding if she actually likes playing the keyboards!
Connectivity to your tablet is another benefit, as is the recording function.
From the manufacturer:
"Easy, user-friendly and fun! Our principal aim in designing the PSR-F51 was basic functionality that is both straightforward and user-friendly. As a result, we have developed a keyboard that anyone will find easy to operate and play. Using the intuitive panel, simply select a voice and rhythm to start playing... Not only is the PSR-F51 great for beginners and students, you can also power it with batteries for musical performance 'on the road.'"
What's Included in This Guide
- Overview of the key things to consider when buying a music keyboard for a child
- Price range—how much should you expect to spend?
- Correct size and scale of the instrument
- Volume, noise, and ear protection
- Lessons—will you have to pay a teacher, and how much?
- Some of the best available music keyboards for kids
- Package deals—often the best way to go
My Experience With Instruments and Lessons for Kids
My experience with children's musical instruments and lessons goes back many decades. Over the years, I have had plenty of first-hand experience with instruments of all kinds and students of all ages.
- 30 years as a professional musician
- Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist; I have played and recorded guitar, bass, drums, and keys
- 30 years of experience teaching kids as young as 7 on guitar, mandolin, bass, drums, and keyboards
- 15 years of experience as rock band coach with kids as young as 8, including stage performance, arranging, and gear
- Songwriter with 14 complete albums to my credit
- Worked as a jingle writer and studio musician; clients include Budweiser, 7-11, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and many more
How Much Should a Child's Keyboard Cost?
The short answer: A good music keyboard for a child or young player should cost between $50 and $150. Less than that, and it's probably either just a toy or a really cheaply made instrument with poor customer service. More than that, and you're getting into the next-level keyboards, those intended for more serious, established players.
Electronic keyboards are a standard feature of every recording studio and many bands. High-end keyboards, which typically come with advanced recording and sampling interfaces, can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Of course we're not talking about those models here—a good, durable kid's keyboard can be had for well under a hundred bucks. But you have to be a little careful, since some kid's keyboards are little more than toys and will come apart with any kind of sustained use.
Key Considerations: An Overview
Here is an overview of some things to consider when buying a music keyboard for a child:
Money: How much do you have to spend? A good beginning keyboard doesn't have to cost a lot—there are really good options out there for under $100. This guide includes links to the better brands.
Age: How old is your child? For very young children, under the age of 5, a music keyboard is basically a toy—an important and meaningful toy, but a toy nonetheless. The features for a really young child are different than those for an older kid (see the options in this guide). Older children are more likely to take their instrument seriously and practice every day. For them, a more "adult" instrument is appropriate, and, in some cases, necessary.
Lessons: You need to consider how your child is going to actually learn to play the instrument. Do you have someone to give your child lessons? Many music keyboards for young people see this issue coming and include a "tutorial mode" that can be very effective. The more serious you and your child get about their instrument, the more appropriate it is to consider connecting with an actual human for regular lessons. A good teacher can change a child's life!
Volume: This is usually more of an issue with drums than anything else, but I have seen students with potential undone by their parent's intolerance for noise in their house. There are always work-arounds, but these need to be thought about in advance. See the features of the instruments listed in this guide for some ideas about how to deal with this issue.
How Big Should a Child's Keyboard Be?
Keyboards come in many different sizes, from "baby" all the way up to full 88-key studio-quality instruments. So which one is the right choice for your child?
If you have a child younger than 12 who has not yet begun to grow the long arms and big hands of adolescence, then you should consider a keyboard with fewer than the full 88 keys. The ideal child's keyboard should have most of the following features:
- Full size-keys, to give the keyboard a traditional piano feel
- Compact and portable
- Recording and playback functionality (this means the keyboard is basically a recording studio. If your kids write their own songs like mine did, then you might want this feature to preserve their songs for the future).
- Teaching modes. A keyboard that has a tutorial feature can get your young student started without spending a lot on lessons.
- Free songs to play along with.
- Excellent reputation for customer service.
In general, a keyboard that is 54 keys or fewer will be appropriate for a beginning student who is not very young. If your child is younger than 8 years old, it's worth thinking about a more "toy-like" instrument that will give your young student a manageable keyboard that is suited for their size and development.
Music is love, love is music, music is life, and I love my life. Thank you and good night.
— A. J. McLean
Ear protection is a major issue with some instruments, especially drums. For these instruments, headphones are recommended for ear protection. I have had drum students as young as 8 years old who could REALLY hit the drums, and definitely needed ear protection. Keyboards, however, present the opposite problem: it's common to use headphones to listen to yourself play, and those headphones can be turned up loud enough to do damage.
In all cases, when your child is playing an instrument, keep an eye—or, I guess, an ear—on the volume level. Having them wear headphones might buy you a little peace and quiet, but they can also pipe high-volume sounds right into your child's ears.
Check out the features of the Yamaha keyboard discussed above. If you're buying a music keyboard for a child or beginning player, then you'll need to consider getting them lessons of some kind.Your solution will depend on several factors, many of them specific to your family or your children. In general, a good piano teacher will cost about $50 an hour; if you have two kids in one family taking lessons, you may be ale to arrange a package deal. I used to charge $60 an hour for music lessons, and never had a shortage of students, but I was a bit more experienced than other teachers in terms of rock and roll and recording experience.
Many music keyboards for kids have a lesson or tutorial mode that can get things started. However I have not had great experiences with these lessons modes, beyond dexterity drills and some basic chord/scale music theory. For some young children, simply having the keys color-coded is all they need.
My own children used to turn to YouTube tutorials to learn songs. My youngest actually learned an entire Scott Joplin piece from a YouTube tutorial, just through sheer determination and practice (it was his decision, by the way—I never even suggested it!).
Other Keyboard Brands
- First Act MI071
- Yamaha NP-12
- Casio CTK-2400
- Yamaha NP-32
- Huntington KB54
- Alesis Melody 61
- Plixio B0773VDP6R
- Hamzar 61-key with microphone.
The following sources were consulted for this guide: