I am asked often from a parent about the feasibility of their child just practicing on a keyboard instead of a piano. This is a tough question that has many pros and cons. My ultimate preference is an acoustical piano in good condition! As the student will find out after they have taken lessons for a short period of time, that their preference would be a piano as well. Not having anything to practice on, is NOT an option! You can't play football without a ball so why would you consider piano lessons without a piano? Also consider buying a well made instrument. A used piano with some non-working keys will be a major problem. You are setting your child up for difficulty or failure if you do not provide a quality instrument. Those students who have better instruments are more successful and enjoy it more....too......I think parents expect more because they have invested more and it becomes a win-win situation for all involved!
Never have to be tuned
Many can transpose the key with the push of a button
Cost cheaper than a new piano
Good brands - My favorite keyboard is the Kawaii digital from Broussard's. Other acceptable keyboards: Yamaha, Clavinova at least $500. Any keyboard under this price is not acceptable because it will not have "weighted touch" or full size keys.
Stores to consider buying from: Broussard's Piano Gallery in Mobile, Andy's Music in Mobile, Guitar Center, and Best Buy.
Many do not have weighted touch. Even those with weighted keys, feel different than the piano and are lighter touch or a clicking feel than the piano. Those keyboards that don't have weighted touch cannot produce loud and soft sounds by pressing the key harder or softer and cannot play smooth or detached sounds. We are training muscles in each individual finger and need that resistance. There are very few activities that use each individual finger instead most activities use the entire hand. Fingers 4 and 5 are very weak compared to fingers 1,2, & 3.
Many do not have full size keys or a complete set of 88 keys like the piano.
Many are complicated to use.
Many keyboards have an inferior pedal (square pad) that slides around the floor. (Remedy: buy a full size pedal for around $25)
Many do not have a good bench to sit at the proper height.
Those students who have a keyboard rarely use the other sounds. They find playing my piano difficult because their muscles are not developed enough in their hands and the weaknesses are magnified when they play a piano. Their reaction time is different than what they are used to on the keyboard.
Note: I am particularly impressed with the Kawaii digital keyboard because of the "feel" and neat technology. They use wood in the keys and soundboard to give it an "authentic" sound and feel!
Many parents ask this question about using a keyboard because of the amount of money to invest in a good piano, lack of space in their home and don't want to invest in a lot of money and then the child decides to quit taking piano lessons. All of these are valid reasons to consider but most can be worked out with a little effort. There are many used pianos for sale in the newspaper and swap shop and Craig's List for very little money. A friend may have a piano not being used that would let you borrow it for a while. Broussard's in Mobile has a rental program that is very reasonable. The lack of space usually can be worked around if you really want to make this happen for your child. Many churches don't mind their congregation to practice on the piano - just takes a little more effort to set aside time to go there to practice/not as convenient. A good used piano will cost you a minimum of $1000. New pianos range from around $2000 to $100,000 (for a Steinway concert grand.) If buying a used piano, it would be worth your time and money to have a piano tuner/technician look at it to see if it worth the investment and to check for any problems. I am not an expert but knowledgeable enough to tell you myself. Some brands to consider Yamaha (my personal favorite), Kawaii and the Steinway Brands. Another expense is yearly tuning of the piano by a piano tuner. Cost $75-100. Tuning is important to keep the piano in its best condition and to maintain it well for a longer lifespan. Another tip: keep the piano in an even temperature and even moisture level area. It is best not to place the piano on an outside wall if possible. You have to look at purchasing a piano as an investment. Also, a word of advice - the piano and the television don't work well in the same room. Most children have to practice in the evenings and that is when dad wants to sit down, relax and watch a little television; therefore, the child cannot practice or has to practice as soon as they arrive home from school. So the family will have to work out a schedule that works best for all of the family. If the child cannot commit to 30 minutes a day to practice nor has nothing to practice on, I suggest you NOT commit to lessons because it will be a waste of your money and time. If you buy something inferior as well, you are setting the child up for a difficult process and probable failure. So consider renting - at least for the start.
Other excellent articles and resources, please see - http://www.ptg.org/scripts/4disapi.dll/4DCGI/cms/review.html
On my Freebie web page, see Keyboard PDF