The Ultimate Online
Piano Lessons Experience

Click Here »

Congratulations on deciding to buy your first piano!

This can be an exciting—but overwhelming—process. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place! At Pianote, we want everyone to start their piano journey strong, so here’s a guide to get you started.

Things to Know Before Buying Your First Piano

No two people’s piano-buying needs are the same. To narrow down your piano choices, first consider the following:

  • The type of music you’ll be playing, such as classical or pop
  • Budget and commitment level
  • Living situation (housemates?) and space

Digital keyabord

Acoustic Pianos vs. Digital/Electronic Pianos and Keyboards

One of the first things you should decide is whether to go digital or acoustic.

Digital/electronic pianos and keyboards are popular because they can be cheap, save space, allow you to practice silently, and come in a wide variety of options. Some can imitate other instruments or even teach you how to play. Certain models (sometimes called hybrid pianos) imitate the touch, feel, and atmosphere of an acoustic well, so playing Chopin on an electric instrument (in addition to jazz or pop!) is certainly doable.

So how come some people prefer more expensive acoustic pianos? For experienced, classical pianists, the touch, feel, and sound of an acoustic piano remains unparalleled. On acoustics, pianists have more control over musical expression, such as access to a wider dynamic range.
An upright piano

Upright vs. Grand Pianos

If you decide to go the acoustic route, you will need to decide between an upright or grand piano.

Grand pianos are definitely advantageous for experienced pianists. Grand pianos allow for greater control over dynamics, more nuanced expression, and heightened clarity when playing repetitive notes and trills.

Upright pianos have slightly inferior sound because of the (vertical) way the hammers and strings are arranged. However, they do save space.

Should You Buy a Used Piano or Rent Your First Piano?

There are certainly advantages to renting or buying a second-hand piano.

Higher price isn’t always better. Affordable used pianos can last 60 years in good condition. But you should still set aside some funds for tuning and maintenance.

Make sure you try a used piano before buying it, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about its history.

Renting is also a good option for beginners who are not ready to commit long-term, and most music retailers will have rental programs.
Person playing the piano

Key Takeaways

If you’re a total beginner, subtleties like tone quality are unlikely to matter too much. So, you may be perfectly happy with an inexpensive upright piano or an electronic/digital keyboard or piano.

But regardless of what piano type you choose, make sure you do the following to avoid buyer’s remorse:

  • Know your needs (budget, space, musical genre, etc.)
  • Always try a piano before buying it
  • Aim for 88 weighted keys (or at least 61) with touch sensitivity
  • Prepare for additional costs like tuning, maintenance, and moving
  • Understand on a basic level how a piano works

Experiment with what feels and sounds best. Try not to stress too much if this is your first piano; at the end of the day, musical enjoyment can be had on even the simplest instruments.

Charmaine Li

Charmaine Li is a Vancouver author who has played piano for over 20 years. She is a classically-trained Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Canada and loves writing about the ways in which music—and music learning—affects the human experience. Charmaine manages The Note.