Children's Musical Keyboard
If you're looking for a children's musical keyboard, you are most likely not in the market for a full size acoustic piano. It is a wise choice to defer the purchase of a large instrument until the child has demonstrated sufficient interest. What are the choices for a children's musical keyboard in such a case? You have three choices, depending on the age of the child.
You can get a "mini" instrument such as those made by Fisher -Price. Some of these are as small as five keys, although Fisher Price also makes larger toy pianos. That's fine for a three year old, but what if your child is older? The next step up from the tiny "mini" piano is the toy piano.
Brands Of Toy Piano
There are basically three brands of toy piano out there. The largest companies are Fisher-Price and Schoenhut. There is also a smaller but similar company called Melissa and Doug. All three of these products are roughly the same.
How Do Toy Pianos Make Sound?
Toy pianos do not have strings. Instead they make sound by means of bars or rods of metal which are struck by the hammer connected to the key. For this reason, toy pianos tend to sound like xylophones more than a piano. But their chief attraction is their colorful, friendly look. In that sense, they are child-friendly.
As long as the child likes playing the toy piano, it is a good choice. I've taught many kids who got their start on a toy piano, and I've never seen a downside. Every kid makes the transition to a "real" instrument, acoustic or electronic.
What Are Other Beginner's Choices?
When your child outgrows the toy piano, most parents get an inexpensive electronic keyboard. Their advantages are that they actually sound like a piano, and have both black and white keys. (Some models of toy piano do not have black keys.) Popular brands are Roland, Yamaha and Casio.
My advice to parents is to get a mid-range (price) model. You can find perfectly good keyboards for $75 to $100. Do not spend more, no matter what the salesman says. You don't need bells and whistles.
I would avoid the cheapest electronic models for two reasons. Below $75, you will find many models but they have mini keys (less than standard 3/4 inch wide) and have an atrocious sound, sort of like a giant doorbell.
Toy pianos are not electronic, so there is no power cable to deal with. With an electronic keyboard, you must be sure that the power cable is not going to tripped over by the kids.
Features Of Electronic Keyboards
In contrast to the toy piano, which has no features, keyboards have computerized banks of sounds that kids love to play with. So you can play your song on flute or violin or any instrument the instrument includes.
In addition, keyboards sometimes have "weighted keys," which mimic the feel of a real piano. A six year old will not miss any of these advanced features.
What About Grandma's Old Upright?
Some parents want a real piano right away, and that's fine. You must realize that the cheapest used acoustic piano worth playing costs about $2000. Then you must move it ($200-$400) and get it tuned (about $100.) Old pianos that have been neglected are often impossible to tune (the strings snap) and repair.
Repair is difficult because pianos have 9000 moving parts, many made of wood and leather, and thus are very vulnerable to humidity.
What Music Will The Child Play?
There's one question that you haven't asked. How will the child play songs? I note with amusement that many instruments, mini, toy and electronic, comes with "songbooks." With all due respect, these books are ridiculous. They require a fluent knowledge of music notation to be of any use. Your child will be very frustrated if they start with reading music.
A Different Solution For Beginning Piano
Instead of starting to read music immediately, we number the keys, as seen in the drawing below.
Numbers are very familiar to kids, and they can begin playing familiar songs immediately.Below is a keyboard with numbers where you can try out the Piano By Number system.
| 1 1 5 5 | 6 6 5 * | 4 4 3 3 | 2 2 1 * |
| 3 3 3 * | 3 3 3 * | 3 5 1 2 | 3 * * * |
I advise you to get an inexpensive keyboard, or toy piano. Number the keys with our removable stickers, and let your child play simple, familiar songs right away.