As a pianist and educator I think it’s tremendously important for students to have a keyboard or piano at home to work on when they begin learning. Set up the instrument in a quiet spot with not much foot traffic. Buy headphones so that you or yours can practice without disturbing others. Encourage your children, family members or friends to play for you…a lot. Be interested in their progress. Sing along. Praise them. Ask them to teach you something they know. It really makes a difference if you take an interest.

Having a home instrument means that students can work on skills in between lessons, even if just for a few minutes a few times a week. As we all know, the more we play, the better we get, and the faster that happens. Of course, quality practice over quantity is ideal. I ask my students to aim for 6 minutes a day, or at least a few times a week. You see, 6 minutes is an attainable goal, and music lovers are bound to keep going after the six minutes are up. Also, “interleaving” is a great way to improve upon skills…meaning…take breaks, especially when frustration sets in! I personally offer incentives to my own kids. Like limited ipad/iphone time as a reward for practice. It’s remarkably effective. Make practicing a simple chore, like every other chore you or your kids might have to do. Perhaps give someone the night off from doing dishes or setting the table if they provide the “music”.

Anyhoo, back to buying instruments….

Keyboards are fine to start with, but I always recommend “touch sensitive” and “weighted” keys whenever possible. Also, a standard size sustain pedal, an adjustable piano bench, and an adjustable stand (of fixed stand depending on your needs and aesthetic), and a usb connection is most ideal. In my experience, motivated students will begin writing their own music in due time, and having the usb input makes it possible to record “midi” tracks into garage band and logic, or whatever other DAW students have access to.

Yamaha makes some wonderful keyboards for beginners (and professionals). Students do not need all the bells and whistles, like drums and countless instrument sounds, just something with internal speakers and a decent “piano” sound will do fine.

I own the Yamaha p-45 and P-125, which are touch sensitive and weighted 88 keys, as well as a Yamaha grand. I also have a mini Yamaha keyboard PSS-A50 ($99) which has an impressive sound for it’s size and price, and it is very portable for practicing on the go. Of course, students will have to upgrade with this one, but as a starter instrument it can work, especially for those interested in playing chords, writing songs and accompanying themselves (think of the way a guitarist will strum chords and sing along). And it fits in a carryon…bonus!

I have also discovered a great local Franklin, TN company, Seale Keyworks, with knowledgable staff and wonderful piano options (if you are in the market for a real piano)….they also sell keyboards, and offer piano and keyboard maintenance, tuning and repair services. I have experienced excellent service and highly recommend them.

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