Many beginners may be pondering what kind of keyboard to buy. Nowadays, electric keyboards and digital pianos come with different key lengths. Usually, it is boiled down to 61-key and 88-key options. The 88-key is the standard piano keyboard. On the other hand, is 61-keys enough to learn piano?
The short answer is YES; still, there are limitations to 61-key pianos. In this article, we share some details of the pros and cons of the 61-key pianos.
Pro #1: Cost Effective
Generally, the 61-key pianos are more budget-friendly. Many models sell for under two hundred US dollars. This is probably the main reason many people consider the 61-key pianos.
When you compare 88-key and 61-key pianos with similar features and qualities, the 61-keys usually cost about 1/3 of the 88-keys.
The low cost is very attractive to many beginners, especially those who want to explore the piano experience and may not want to put too much into it. Similarly, parents of young children may like to induce children’s music awareness and interest before investing too much.
Pro #2: 61 Key Piano Saves Space
With fewer keys, it comes in a smaller size. The 61-key piano can be put on any stable surface, such as a desk, a table, or even a toddler play table for little ones.
When space is a luxury for you, you would appreciate the compact size of 61-key piano for your small apartment and music production studio.
For any beginners, I would highly recommend getting one with key touch sensitivity, which is essential to developing your piano play skills. The Casio CT-X700 will be an excellent option.
Pro #3: Gig-Friendly
The light weight allows you to carry the instrument wherever you go and perform. You can play the piano for family and friend gatherings or venues like worship houses, schools, and lounges.
Many models feature hundreds of accompaniment rhythm patterns, several drum pads, and octave jumps that enable your stage performance. Hence, you carry a small ensemble with you to perform.
Please remember that the 61-key piano has 5 octaves instead of the standard 7 octaves. Should you need to perform pieces requiring 7 octaves, make sure you get a model with octave jumps (also known as transposition) that allows you to change the octave easily by pushing a button.
Con #1: 61-Key Piano Has Five Octaves
As mentioned earlier, the 61-key piano has 5 octaves instead of 7 octaves. This limits the pieces you can play smoothly on the piano. Even with the transposition feature on your piano, it is still not ideal.
While many beginner pieces can be played on a 61-key piano, the more advanced pieces will be much more fluent to play on a standard 88-key piano.
Generally, the 61-key piano works well for modern and popular music. However, it will be challenging to play with some classical pieces, especially the music from the Romantic and Impressionist Periods, like the pieces by Chopin, Debussy, etc.
Con #2: Difficult to Play Duets
The smaller size comes with some disadvantages. The standard 88-key piano makes it very comfortable for two people to play a duet. For beginners, the duet feature would benefit learning side-by-side with the teacher.
The 61-key piano would not be easy to play a duet due to its size.
Con #3: Lack of Touch Sensitivity
Many keyboards with 61 keys do not have touch sensitivity; rather, they have synth keys. It means the instrument sounds at the same volume regardless of how hard or light you press the keys. For different key types, refer to our article on weighted keys.
We usually distinguish digital pianos from keyboards by weighted keys. Digital pianos come with weighted keys, while keyboards have synth keys (without touch sensitivity).
For any beginner learning to play piano, it is vital to have a digital piano with touch sensitivity. It provides the feel of touch and learning to express the music by pressing keys harder or lighter. This is fundamental to developing piano techniques.
Several 61-key models from Yamaha and Casio feature touch sensitivity.
When considering what size keyboard to get for beginners, I would recommend an 88-key digital piano as an optimal choice. However, if the budget is a top factor on your list, or you want to explore the possibility of learning piano, I would say a 61-key piano with touch sensitivity (like Casio CT-S300) is a good option.
There are other factors to consider, especially if you are a seasoned stage performer or a music producer; you may want portability and space-saving as priorities, and the 61-keyboards are great options.
So, is 61-keys enough to learn piano? The bottom line is that it is enough to start with. It has limitations on what kind of music you can play; however, you still can learn a lot of piano with it. You may consider upgrading to an 88-key piano when ready to play more advanced pieces. There are many options available, from acoustic pianos to digital pianos. You can learn about some best digital pianos in this review.