Back when I first started selling keyboards by far the biggest clientele I encountered were retirees who had always wanted to learn to play but had never found the time. Now that they suddenly found themselves with excess time on their hands they wanted a good home keyboard that would provide a range of options. The requirements were usually:

  • not too expensive as they weren’t sure if they would take to it
  • at least 5 octaves so that they could learn piano pieces
  • onboard speakers so no separate sound system was needed
  • a good piano sound was key, other sounds were a bonus
  • sustain pedal option to emulate a piano damper pedal
  • lightweight so that it could easily be stored away
  • a few classic beats to play along to
  • a music rest so that they could use tutorial books

With the above in mind, here is my roundup of the top five current keyboards that meet these requirements.

Voices: 392, including a quality stereo grand piano
Rhythms: 100, including pop, jazz, latin and country styles
Weight: 4.4kg (9lbs 11oz)
Onboard speakers: Yes, 2 x 2.5w
Headphone socket: Yes
Sustain Pedal Socket: Yes
USB Connection: Yes
Music Rest: Yes

1. Yamaha EZ-220 Key Lighting Keyboard

Our Summary: Key lighting keyboards have been around for some years and this latest has 100 onboard songs for you to learn by following the illuminated keys (this feature can be switched off). You can connect wirelessly to the iPad app to view the sheet music at the same time, with automated page turning. Limited time offer: Yamaha have collaborated with Flowkey so that you get a bonus three months of lessons via their app. Touch sensitivity is rare for a home keyboard at such a low price but this has it – this will allow you to add extra expression into your playing, the harder you hit a note, the louder it will sound.

Our top pick.

Voices: 600
Rhythms: 180, including pop, jazz, latin and country styles
Weight: 4.5kg (9lbs 15oz)
Onboard speakers: Yes, 2 x 2.5w
Headphone socket: Yes
Sustain Pedal Socket: Yes
USB Connection: Yes
Music Rest: Yes

2. Casio LK-280 Key Lighting Keyboard

Our Summary: Like the Yamaha this is touch sensitive and has illuminated keys, with a bank of 150 songs for easy learning. Use the Casio three step system for learning right, left then both hands together. Added features on this keyboard include audio and mic inputs, so that you can play and sing along to backing tracks stored on your phone or iPad. There’s also a built in midi file player and a six track recorder if you fancy creating your own compositions. Slightly pricier than the Yamaha but some great features.

Voices: 574, including some fun sound effects
Rhythms: 165, including pop, jazz, latin and country styles
Weight: 4.2kg (9lbs 4oz)
Onboard speakers: Yes, 2 x 2.5w
Headphone socket: Yes
Sustain Pedal Socket: Yes
USB Connection: Yes
Music Rest: Yes

3. Yamaha PSR-E363 Home Keyboard

Our Summary: A great beginner keyboard that again has touch sensitivity. This keyboard has features that are often seen on higher end models, such as reverb and arpeggiator effects. There’s a two track recorder for composition and connectivity with various apps for composition and sound editing. The Yamaha onboard Education Suite lesson feature allows you to follow lessons displayed on the screen (although no illuminated keys on this one) and again there is a limited time offer of three months access to Flowkey for additional learning options.

Voices: 400
Rhythms: 100, including pop, jazz, latin and country styles
Weight: 3.4kg (7lbs 8oz)
Onboard speakers: Yes, 2 x 2w
Headphone socket: Yes
Sustain Pedal Socket: Yes
USB Connection: Yes
Music Rest: Yes

4. Casio CTK-3500 Home Keyboard

Our Summary: The entry level Casio CTK3500 has a useful learning mode visible in the LED panel. You can switch between left, right and both hands to learn at your own pace. You can also download the Chordana play app onto your iPad and connect for easier learning via a bigger screen. While there are 400 sounds, they don’t quite have the punch and expression of our top pick keyboard. One of the main features is the Dance Music section that allows you to build and layer tracks easily, probably not an important feature for someone wanting to learn properly but it will keep the Grandkids occupied when they visit.

Voices: 416, plus 480 XG (Extended General Midi) sounds
Rhythms: 230, quality backings including some DJ styles
Weight: 8.1kg (17lbs 14oz)
Onboard speakers: Yes, 2 x 15w
Headphone socket: Yes
Sustain Pedal Socket: Yes
USB Connection: Yes
Music Rest: Yes

5. Yamaha PSR-S670 Workstation

Our Summary: If the budget can stretch a little further then we definitely recommend the PSR S670. With more than 900 quality voices you’ll never run out of options – the grand piano sound is full of depth and expression. Onboard effects including distortion and reverb give a more professional edge to the sounds. Assignable controllers and the onboard arpeggiator can be used with the synth sounds. There is expansion memory available for international voice and style packs. If you like to edit and create, apps will let you develop new sounds and install via flash key. This one is a perfect all-round family keyboard due to it’s versatility.

The moral of this story is that it’s never too late to follow your dreams even if it does take you a bit longer to grasp the theory. Sitting down to play an instrument is not only an amazing feeling but it’s also good for keeping the brain cells active.

Check out our other guides for home digital pianos, arranger keyboards and the best beginner tuition books. Full reviews of each instrument coming soon.

*Prices correct at time of publishing, may vary.

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