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Guide to Buying an Electronic Piano Keyboard

David Dempster, 27 June 2018

In order to study my course ‘Read & Play Music’, you need some kind of real piano or electronic piano keyboard. I wrote this guide to help you if you are going to buy an electronic keyboard.

There is a bewildering variety of keyboards to choose from. Which one is right for you? Read on.

Let’s start with the lowest-cost approach and work up from there.

Piano keyboard app on a tablet computer (iPad or similar)

Suitable for studying the first four lessons of Book 1 of my course. That lets you get started on the course even if you have no real keyboard.

You’ll find a number of keyboard apps available for download to your tablet. Any of them is fine. Some are free.

Basic keyboard

Suitable for studying Books 1 and 2 of my course.

A basic keyboard does not allow you to vary the loudness of each note as you are playing. You can think of it as a training keyboard, adequate for learning the basics in the first two books of the course.

Velocity-sensitive keyboard (also known as ‘touch sensitive’)

Suitable for studying the whole course. Somewhat adequate for playing music after you complete the course.

A velocity-sensitive keyboard allows you to play a note quietly or loudly by varying the way you push down the keys. This is essential for playing musically.

Weighted keyboard

Suitable for studying the whole course, and for a lifetime of music-making.

A weighted keyboard is designed not only to sound like a real piano, but also to feel like one. The keys feel heavy as you push them down, just like a real piano. This helps you develop finger strength, which means you’ll be better able to play a real piano when the occasion arises.

Tip: I do not recommend keyboards that are described as ‘semi weighted’. They tend to have an unnatural, spongy feel.

Weighted and graded keyboard

Suitable for studying the whole course, and for a lifetime of music-making.

This is designed to feel even more like a piano: the keys to the left feel heavier, and the keys to the right feel lighter.

Electronic piano

Suitable for studying the whole course, and for a lifetime of music-making.

An electronic piano is a high-end version of a weighted and graded keyboard. Typically it is designed to sound and feel exceptionally good (like a real piano). It has pedals, like a real piano, for adjusting the quality of the sound as you play. It may also be designed to look more like a piano, made of wood rather than plastic and with its own built-in legs. It looks like a piece of furniture, gracing your home with its appearance as well as its sound.

Key size

If you are buying a basic keyboard, make sure it has full size keys. One white key should measure 23.5 millimeters wide (0.9 inches). If you already have a keyboard with small keys you can use it for studying Book 1, but you’ll want full size keys when you move on to Book 2 and start playing with two hands.

Useful accessories


  • Power adaptor. (You don’t want to run the keyboard from batteries. They are expensive, and the keyboard begins to malfunction as the batteries run down.)


  • Keyboard stand. This supports the keyboard as you play. If you don’t have one, you can place the keyboard on the edge of a table.
  • Music stand. This usually clips on to the back of the keyboard. You place sheet music on the stand so you can read it as you’re playing. If you don’t have one, you can improvise by leaning the music against a pile of books or similar. Or you can buy a stand-alone music stand.
  • Pedals. These are operated by your feet to control the sound as you play. The most important is the sustaining pedal which makes the sound continue after you let go of the keys. We dun’t use pedals in this course. You can easily learn about them after you complete the course and begin playing published music.
  • Piano bench. You sit on this as you play. If you don’t have one, find a chair that is comfortable.

Bells and whistles not needed

Some keyboards have lots of fancy features, such as sounding like different instruments, beating the time, and so on. These extra features are not necessary for studying my course, but they can be great fun!

Happy music-making!

David Dempster
Creator of the Dempster Method of Music™
Author of the course ‘Read & Play Music’.

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