Bring music back into my life!
February 23, 2011 7:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm in the market for a keyboard that is as piano-like as possible for around $1000. Recommendations?

I found many prior AskMe questions that are admittedly quite similar (e.g., here and here), but some time has passed and the prior questions have certain idiosyncrasies so I'd appreciate some advice unique to me.

I grew up in a house with a baby grand piano, and throughout college/law school had access to practice rooms. But now it's been about five years without ready access to a piano and I'm missing it. Living in a relatively small apartment in New York, though, space constraints and innate frugality prevent me from considering an actual piano.

What I'm looking for is a keyboard that is as close to a standard piano as possible in structure, feel and sound - probably in that order. It does not need to be particularly portable or have any electronic bells and whistles. Most important is structure - 88 standard-sized keys and ideally standard petals, though I could make do with just a damper pedal I suppose. Second most important is feel - keyboard action, etc. Least important, though also important, is sound. In each category, the closer to a baby grand piano the better.

I'd like to spend around $1000, though would be willing to go up to about $2000 if it made a significant difference. Thanks in advance!
posted by slide to Shopping (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know if you've considered this, but if you're looking to spend that much as it is and your primary motivation is that you really miss the feel and structure of a real piano, you could actually get a used upright piano in your price range. I have one and have now had it in three modest NYC apartments. Moving it is a huge pain if you don't have an elevator (and provided it can even be maneuvered up your building's staircase) but once it's in, it's great. I would say if you don't plan on moving very often, it's worth considering, especially since an upright doesn't need much more space than any 88-key electronic keyboard.

I've played piano for most of my life, and I've never gotten as much satisfaction from playing really nice electronic keyboards as I do from playing even the junkiest of upright pianos.
posted by wondermouse at 7:59 PM on February 23, 2011

I have a Yamaha P155 and I am extremely satisfied with it.
It feels like a real piano, dont know the technical terms, but it is meant to make you feel like you're hitting a real key, with the exact weight, etc.
As far as sound goes, it will blow your mind. Now a days they sample tons and tons
of notes, from very good pianos and manage to bring the best sound possible. It has a pedal as well.
The price is in the range, no bells and whistles, just a pure full size piano.
Definitely worth going to your local store and have a test drive.
posted by theKik at 8:15 PM on February 23, 2011

I bought a barely-used Yamaha Clavinova (standard size, weighted keyboard, only damper and shift pedals -- but who uses the sostenuto pedal anyway these days?) for exactly $1000 a couple of years ago. I too had been spoiled by growing up in a household with a grand piano. I thought about getting an upright, but I'd played on enough practiceroom pianos to realize that any upright I could afford would just be a sad, heavy, honkytonk imitation of the Steinway L. The action on the Clavinovas is finer than most uprights, and at least it's consistent. I wouldn't be surprised if Yamaha has even refined it further in the years since I bought mine. The other thing that made the Clavinova great for the apartment was that I could turn down the volume or plug in a set of headphones, so if I felt like playing at 3am I would not get nasty looks from my roommate or irate phone calls from the neighbor.
posted by philokalia at 8:28 PM on February 23, 2011

I have a Casio PX-330 that I'm very happy with. 88 keys, weighted, great sound, under $700. If you don't want any other instrument sounds check out the PX-130.
posted by smokingmonkey at 9:08 PM on February 23, 2011

Yamaha Clavinova - I have a really old one (from the mid1980s, I think) that sounds spectacular and feels like the baby grand i grew up with. I cannot recommend them highly enough!
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 9:57 PM on February 23, 2011

I've got a Roland PT-3100 I bought used for around $1200, and I'm really happy with it. My recommendation would be to scour Craigslist religiously until you find a mid-range model from a reputable brand, in good condition, in your price range. You will get more piano for your money used than new, and something like a Clavinova or a good Roland/Korg/Kurtzweil will hold its value for quite a while should you ever need to sell.

It is true that the footprint on an upright is not much bigger than that of a digital piano. But my experience is that the sound and action you get on a reputable DP is better than that of a beat-up console upright. My feelings are similar to that of philokalia. I'd rather play a digital piano with rock-solid action and a nice rich tone any day, vs. a tinny Baldwin spinet with loose keys and a couple that stick.
posted by drlith at 4:21 AM on February 24, 2011

Former piano performance major (conservatory equivalent) here. I left my Schimmel upright back in the US, insert long story about cruddy family here, TL;DR, it's not my piano any more, can't get anything from it. Anywho. Just to explain how/why I had such a tight budget all around.

Until I can afford a baby grand, I got a Korg SP-250. Cost me 600 euros, and I swear, it is the best 600 euros I have ever spent. Worth every single euro penny. The keys are weighted like a real piano, and its sensitivity is excellent — y'know that twang when you strike a key hard? It does that. Y'know the muddly sound when you play with muddly fingers? It does that. Bass keys heavy, with a nice, fat, thick-string sound — check. Sopranino keys light and wheezy, thin-string sound — check. Plus you have three different piano sounds to choose from. The first reminds me of Steinway grands. The second is more like Yamaha grands, kind of bright. The third is a little too dark for my tastes, somewhere between Steinway and a Bösendorfer. (Which, y'know, is not bad, just, not quite my thing. If it were more like a true Bösy, I'd be happier, but eh, 600 euros! It plays like a real piano!)

The only downsides for me are the pedal, which is okay, it's standard, not great (I pay a lot of attention to "ends of sounds" and so having them taper off so uniformly gets annoying, YMMV, that's the only noticeably uniform/digital thing I've found though), and more minor, you have to turn off the reverb every time you turn on the piano. But without reverb, you're golden. Built-in metronome I've come to love, and I even enjoy the honky-tonk piano and harpsichord sounds. (My piano prof had a real harpsichord, so I appreciate being able to play Bach on that sort of thing.)

In an apartment, being able to use headphones is great. I can play whenever I want. I picked up some open Koss headphones and am in love. Since they're open, I can hear what's going on around me, and they're such good quality that it feels, convincingly, like playing piano in a room, not "wearing headphones". If/when I ever manage to get a baby grand, I'll very probably keep the Korg just so I can play when others are doing something they don't want piano music encroaching on.

I've heard really good things about the Clavinovas and anything made by Roland too, but the Korg was the best thing in my (very restricted) price range, and I am super-happy with the purchase.
posted by fraula at 5:31 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am shopping for the same thing for my wife. I recently asked a friend of mine, who is a professional musician. He recommended the Yamaha Arius YDP141, 161, or 181 although they do break the $1k mark.
posted by Silvertree at 9:50 AM on February 24, 2011

I was recently got a Casio PX830 Privia for right around $1000 (from Amazon). I like it a lot. It's not perfect, and sustained notes can sound kind of cheesy, but it feels really good (and I like the way it looks, which was important for me - I'm shallow that way).
posted by mskyle at 11:21 AM on February 24, 2011

« Older Veal-entines?   |   Name that song, Google Maps edition Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.