Robert Estrin - piano expert

Can you Start Learning Piano on a Keyboard?

An excellent question that deserves a great answer

In this video, Robert answers a very common question among beginners: can you start learning piano on a keyboard? Is a "real" piano really necessary?

Released on October 30, 2013

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi, and welcome to and I'm your host Robert Estrin. Today's subject is, "Can You Start Learning the Piano on a Keyboard?" Great question and there's a lot of ramifications to this we're going to cover today. I know a lot of people and they want to have lessons for their kids, let's say, and they don't want to spend a lot of money because they're just starting out. They figure, "Oh can I get a keyboard? Is that okay?" Well, not such a simple question. We're going to cover this today.

So, first of all, there are many different types of keyboards. From little Casio's, plastic things you can buy at Kmart, to top of the line $15,000 hybrid keyboards. So there's a difference in these. Many teachers feel that a bare minimum requirement for starting the piano is an 88 note weighted action digital piano. Now, what does this mean, weighted action? Well, if you've ever played a keyboard, they feel like an organ. The keys go down, the little springs are very very easy to push. But if you ever pushed the keys on a real piano, it takes much more effort. It takes about 55 grams of down weight to get the key down. So they make keyboards that have the same weight. So you figure, "Ah, I'm set. No problem."

Or are you? Well, it's not quite so simple. As you'll see if you've ever looked at a piano action, it's an incredibly complex mechanism with about a hundred parts to each note. So a keyboard may have the weight, but it doesn't have anything close to resembling the feel of a piano. More than that, the keys on a keyboard are very short. Not the part you see but behind the fall board, in a piano, the keys extend for about three times the length of the part you see. So when you push down a key on a keyboard, it's like being close to the center of a seesaw, if you're playing black keys or between black keys. Because the part of the key is so short that the leverage is very difficult when you're playing near the fall board. And it's much easier at the end of the keys. Not so with a Grand piano where the keys are longer.

Now there are also different factors. We started off with the worst possible scenario which is just a keyboard. Then we moved to a weighted action, which is better. Now an upright action is better still, but still not as good as a grand action. As I discussed in another video, there are many ramifications of a grand piano or a baby grand action that are superior. And virtually any pianist will eventually outgrow even an upright.

So I would say that a keyboard is certainly better than nothing and could be very valuable as an adjunct for practicing when a real piano is not available. For example, practicing late at night with headphones or in an apartment where you can't play a real piano. It might be all you can do. But realize you will progress faster right from the very beginning having a real piano and ideally a baby grand or a grand piano. And you will certainly outgrow even an upright and, ideally, should start on at least an upright piano in your studies.

So that's the long and short of it. I hope this has been helpful for you. Thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin, here at and
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Ken Cory * VSM MEMBER * on February 3, 2022 @1:06 pm PST
For me, I’m afraid that train has left the station. I now own five digital keyboards, and would never go back to acoustic, even if I had the money and the space. I enjoy the occasional grands I have the opportunity to play, but in my opinion their action is as difficult as in many modern digital keyboards. In my line of work, what’s important is consistency, and digital keyboards have a great advantage over acoustic keyboards in that regard. That and all the conveniences that Christopher pointed out.
Robert - host, on February 4, 2022 @8:30 am PST
I love having my digital piano to take on vacations!
Christopher * VSM MEMBER * on February 2, 2022 @6:59 am PST
I think you should specifically have called out hybrid pianos -- I recently moved and had to give up my Boston Grand. After a great deal of research, I bought a Casio Grand Hybrid with a Bechstein keyboard action. I'm delighted with it -- all the convenience of a digital piano (headphones, no tuning, multiple piano simulations, very compact size) but with a proper piano feel. Expensive yes, but a joy to play. (Yamaha and Kawai also make them). And they are very much first rate instruments to learn on.
Robert - host, on February 2, 2022 @11:17 am PST
I was referring to keyboards, not digital pianos, much less hybrid pianos which are a new category of pianos. Some hybrid pianos have traditional, acoustic piano actions with digital sound reproduction which offers many benefits.

You not only can get the touch of a grand piano (on some models), but you can get an approximation of the sound of much larger instruments (9-foot concert grands!).
Ken Murray on August 24, 2017 @6:44 pm PST
I took lessons for four years 50 years ago on a nice
Baldwin upright. Just bought a Yamaha digital with
Weighted keys. Ok but no comparison to a real piano.
My question is while I'm using my grade 1 & 2 books (with plenty of liner notes on what I'm doing wrong from
My teacher ) can I advance without instructions til I get
Pass the basics to save money before I pay for lessons. Or am I handcuffing myself, by possibly
Practicing wrong.
Wanda Stagner * VSM MEMBER * on August 23, 2017 @10:26 am PST
Thank you for your insights. I have been asked this question several times and gave a simlar answer. Ironically, I had to get a high quality digital piano because I lived in an upstairs apartment where it was impossible to get a real piano. A university near me has a communities music program and I believe the practice rooms are available to the students-an alternative to look into.
Robert - host, on August 26, 2017 @4:35 pm PST
Sometimes having a fine grand piano available to play on a regular basis in addition to your home piano can help to understand what you are striving for in your practice.
Evona York * VSM MEMBER * on October 30, 2013 @8:01 pm PST
I live in Mexico, and some people simply don't have the money even to buy a keyboard. One young girl could only play a real piano when she took her lessons. She practiced on a keyboard painted on a plank, and gained proficiency enough to win a prize for her playing. People who truly want to learn seem to find a way to do so! God is good.
Sr. Christine on October 30, 2013 @6:31 pm PST
I enjoy and benefit from your videos and piano tips. I am just wondering if you can show us how to play the "Oh Holy Night" in the key of C. god bless and than you very much.
Robert Estrin - host, on October 31, 2013 @3:40 pm PST
We are planning repertoire tutorials and I will make a note of your suggestion.
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