What keyboard should I buy for my little kid?
June 19, 2017 6:02 AM   Subscribe

At a friend’s house recently, my two-and-a-half-year-old had a lot of fun playing with an old electric keyboard: a Yamaha PSS-140.

He especially liked the little drum kit and the ability to play the preset play-along rhythms. That keyboard appears to be from 1988, though. What modern equivalent should I buy for him? I’m hoping to get something that’s a step up from a baby's toy, but that's still easy to use -- something he can grow into if, as he gets older, he develops an actual interest in trying to learn how to play the piano.
posted by thursdaystoo to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The cheapest and most flexible option would probably be a small keyboard controller for a computer/tablet, like an iRig Keys MINI. If you already have an old iPad kicking around, you can put Apple's GarageBand software on it (which is free), and the keyboard will happily control it.

I'm less familiar with the options on Android tablets, but there's probably something similar, although GarageBand's bang per buck really is excellent. If you don't have an iPad, the cheapest model you can find would be more than sufficient for plinking around/playing little patterns and loops.
posted by Sokka shot first at 6:22 AM on June 19, 2017

We have a casio SA-46 that I bought for my daughter when she was around 3. Biggest pro is that it's solid and has taken a lot of abuse. It has dedicated drum buttons, plenty of rhythm tracks, tones, what we call an "emergency piano button."

We also have a larger digital piano that their using while they learn to play. The smaller instrument is more of a toy put certainly a step above a "baby's toy." My six year still cranks the volume to 11 on the casio and goes to town.
posted by samhyland at 6:38 AM on June 19, 2017

i'd just swing by your local goodwill (with a handful of AA/C/D batteries for testing) and see what they have for $5-10.
posted by noloveforned at 6:59 AM on June 19, 2017 [9 favorites]

At that age, I'd stick to something self contained and cheap enough that you won't be upset if/when it gets damaged. The thrift store recommendation is a good one. Once he's four or five, consider getting something nicer.
posted by Candleman at 7:13 AM on June 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

What is your budget? I'd not recommend getting random crap from the thriftstore unless your budget is under $10. If anyone brought a thrift store keyboard in to my house for my child, I'd probably smash it within a few weeks. Those things sound HORRIBLE. (Well ok before that I'd start randomly soldering bits together as a circuit bending project but the point remains: they sound BAD)

The MIDI keyboard controller for iPad is a decent idea if you already have the iOS devices, but it requires you to find/learn how to do the accompaniment stuff, and it takes some set up, do you want better speakers, etc. There's also the mini keys bit, which serious piano folk would probably recommend against.

Honestly if you both liked that Yamaha, just get that Yamaha on eBay, they are far more affordable than anything decent and new, and will sound far better than the toys you'd find at the thrift store.

Another option is a real acoustic toy piano. These top out around $300 or so for very nice sounding little pianos, Amazon has several options that costs less than a the MIDI controller mentioned above. To my ear, these sound far better than anything you'll get for under $300 new in digital pianos/electronic keyboards.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:18 AM on June 19, 2017

Thanks for all the suggestions. My budget's around $50.
posted by thursdaystoo at 10:01 AM on June 19, 2017

Ok, then I think the Yamaha PSS-140 is actually a pretty good buy, with shipping you should be under $50. That will sound better and be more fun than most anything that is sold for kids.

When I was so disparaging about thrift store keyboards, I was speaking of the kid's digital toy stuff that usually sells for $1-10. Depending on where you live, thrift stores often do have decent old keyboards like that Yamaha, often priced $30-60. Another place to check is shopgoodwill.com - a lot of keyboards end up there but most of it is auction style. You can research each model at manualslib (e.g. here's the Yamaha you tried), but obviously it's a bit nicer to try the thing in person.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:43 AM on June 19, 2017

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