When I was 8 years old and my parents purchased my first piano, after me begging for 2 years, brand new with the little “shoes” that were tied on to the pedals. This big instrument, bigger than me! And it was for ME!! Boy, was I excited! It made me feel like a huge wonderful event just happened. Better than Christmas morning presents! It sounded beautiful to me (it was an upright) but because it was good quality it added to the excitement of taking piano lessons. As a result, I started playing IMMEDIATELY, by ear and improvising, even before my first piano lesson. Then, I had a REALLY good teacher who also gave me exams at McGill College in Montreal (equivalent to the Royal Conservatory Music Development Exams). She gave me a wonderful musical start.
If I had started out with a poor sounding keyboard with a teacher who wasn’t serious about what she was doing, I KNOW I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I did. For me the SOUND of the piano was what I LOVED. If you buy your child a good quality instrument, it shows them that YOU are serious, and THEY are more apt to be more serious about their musical studies.
A 5-octave keyboard that is not weighted and does not have dynamics (soft and loud by touch) a poor substitute for a piano. The student will also go to lessons and hear an instrument that they love and go home and be demotivated by a poor instrument. None of my keyboard students stayed with lessons very long. My digital piano students, however, quite a few became advanced. I’ve taught students who owned poor keyboards when I was first starting out 16 years ago, and realized I was wasting the student’s and my time. There are so many cheap pianos out there that can be purchased, and moved into your home, and give your child a much better musical experience. There are also good digitals out there that can give an upright a run for its money. Get your potential piano teacher or a technician to help steer you in the right direction. Pianos can also be rented for between $30 - $50 per month and the rent is applied towards the purchase of that or another good piano.
Some of the opening exercises I have children doing, make them get used to the WHOLE range of the piano keyboard right from the beginning, which means we NEED the 7 octaves that an 88-key keyboard or piano provides. If it’s a keyboard, make it WEIGHTED. Keyboards can also come with damper (aka Sustain) and volume pedals, like the organ pedals. Try to get the pedals that look like piano pedals, not the square ones. Some keyboards also have Sostenuto functions, and damper and soft pedal functions.
There are actually 5 types of keyboards/pianos. The first two, tend to be my first choices, number one because they are great training tools, where a child or adult can later opt to branch out to some of the other options. Piano players tend to be a little more versatile in the ability to play keyboards, due to the fact that piano technique is a little more difficult, and therefore if you have good piano technique, you can play piano AND keyboards, but keyboard technique doesn’t necessarily lend itself well to piano playing, because pianos have a stiffer action, which is why you would ALWAYS want a weighted keyboard for learning.