top piano brands

When you’re in the market for the Top Piano Brands or the best piano brands for beginners, the possibilities of piano brands can seem endless. Yamaha or Kawai? Digital or acoustic?

If you want to end up with the perfect piano for your budget, skill level, and musical goals, this guide is a great place to start. Any one of these 12 popular piano brands will offer you an excellent choice.

The piano keyboard – Piano Music Theory

Top Piano Brands

Yamaha


This Japanese brand is recognized worldwide for its excellence and versatility. They build sturdy, high quality pianos and offer good digital options, as well. Their pianos are known for having a signature bright sound, yet there is still a roundness to the sound.

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Yamaha is an innovative brand that is constantly improving and creating new models to meet a variety of needs. One of the coolest features you can find on a Yamaha piano is its silent piano option. The feature allows you to play an acoustic piano but hear the sound through headphones, so you can practice at any hour without disturbing others.

Many well-known musicians endorse Yamaha including Alicia Keys, Elton John, and Chick Corea. Its U1, and slightly larger U3, upright models are well-loved acoustic pianos that stand the test of time. Its CLP series is a popular digital option.

Yamaha also sells concert grand pianos. Their prices are fair for the quality, and they are a reasonable option for anyone looking for an upright piano.

Steinway & Sons

Quality and history come together to form Steinway & Sons, a favorite piano maker of many musicians. A German immigrant in New York City started Steinway, and it remains there today.

Steinway is a classical pianist’s dream. Many famous pianists endorse the brand including Lang Lang, Mitsuko Uchida, and Martha Argerich. Steinway offers different sizes of grand pianos, which are often selected based on the size of the concert hall they are used in.

Due to its long history, you can find many vintage Steinways for sale. Steinway’s grand pianos are their most well-known models, but their price range makes them a better choice for the most dedicated and serious pianists.

Luckily, they’ve also created two lines of pianos for those with a more limited budget: the Essex (entry level) and the Boston (mid-level).

Kawai

Kawai is another one of the Japanese piano brands that offers pianos at a reasonable price range. They are durable, well-made pianos with several unique features, including longer keys for increased technical ease and the use of different materials in their construction, like plastic and composite.

Their digital pianos were the first to be built with wood keys, offering the experience of an acoustic piano’s keys. Kawai upright pianos and digital pianos are good options for intermediate pianists who want a fairly priced, durable option. Artists playing Kawai pianos include Joe Yamada and Steven Curtis Chapman.

Bösendorfer

If you care about tradition and history when shopping for piano brands, you will value Bösendorfer. Established in 1828, the pianos have a rich and luscious sound. One innovation is the addition of keys beyond the typical 88.

This piano maker is best for connoisseurs and serious pianists who are ready to invest in a well-crafted piano, as their pianos are among the most expensive in the world. Their grand pianos are the bulk of their production, with a few upright pianos offered as well.

Artists who love Bösendorfer pianos include Kimiko Ishizaka, Beatrice Berrut, and Saskia Giorgini.

Fazioli

This northern Italian piano maker creates only the finest grand pianos. Its various models include creations made from unique materials like red elm, ebony, and even gold leaf.

Fazioli pianos are truly works of art, and their price range is very high for this reason. While it’s a relatively young piano brand (started in the late 1970s), Paolo Fazioli’s dedication to his craft quickly established his reputation in the piano world.

Herbie Hancock, Matteo Fossi, and Lucas Wong all treasure Fazioli pianos. This piano brand is perfect for a serious pianist who is ready to invest in a piano for life. 

best piano brands for beginners

C. Bechstein

Bechstein pianos have a long history, with endorsements from composers like Franz Liszt and Claude Debussy creating a worldwide demand. Vassily Primakov, Kit Armstrong, and Michael Dalberto are all well-known pianists who enjoy playing these gorgeous and elegant pianos.

The German pianos are ideal for concert hall performances as well as recording studio work. There is also a line of high quality upright pianos. The price range of the Concert pianos is high, but Bechstein has created three other piano brands to suit a variety of needs.

Beginners can explore the Zimmerman and W. Hoffman brands, while advanced players should look at the C. Bechstein Academy brand.

Blüthner

Blüthner is a Leipzig-based, German brand that achieved acclaim in the time of composers like Brahms, Mahler, and Wagner. It also grew in popularity with The Beatles’ music.

These pianos have stood the test of time. Blüthner currently makes a wide variety of models including uprights and grands. Many artists are fans of Blüthner pianos, including Rima Chacaturian, Billy Childs, and Ying Feng.

Blüthner pianos are best for those who value tradition and creativity. The pianos create a memorable sound and are long-lasting. Known as the piano with the “golden tone,” the price tag reflects the quality of the brand.

Mason & Hamlin


This Massachusetts-based brand is a stalwart in the industry, making several models of grand pianos and a professional upright model. Their pianos are especially well-built and made to last.

Mason & Hamlin made several innovations in the design of their pianos, including the crown retention system, used in the soundboard. These pianos are a good choice for anyone interested in purchasing a quality vintage piano.

The pianos are on par with Steinway in performance, and their price tag reflects this. Artists playing the timeless pianos include Brian Culbertson, Jarrod Radnich, and Rod Tanski.

Stuart & Sons


Want to have your own custom-built piano? Australian brand Stuart & Sons builds pianos with high-quality materials and excellent craftsmanship. Custom orders can be placed directly with the piano makers.

The pianos come in concert grand and studio grand sizes, with either 97 keys or 102 keys. Choices of materials include Tasmanian Huon Pine and Tasmanian Sassafras. These pianos are unique works of art and as such, are best for those with a high budget who want a piano full of personality.

Artists playing Stuart & Sons pianos include Gregory Kinda and Fiona Joy Hawkins.

Casio


Casio is an electronic keyboard maker known for producing lightweight and compact keyboards that can go anywhere. Their price can’t be beat. The portable models are popular, but Casio also offers more advanced arranger keyboards and space-saving, discreet console pianos.

Their pianos offer many fun sounds that can transform your music making. This brand comes from Japan, and is popular with many singers, pop musicians, and stage performers. Rachel Sage, Larry Dunn, and Kyle Morrison all use Casio keyboards.

Casio keyboards are best for young beginner pianists, those with interests in rock, pop, or metal, and pianists who enjoy experimenting with unique sounds at the piano.

Korg


Korg is another one of the many Japanese piano brands that dominate this list. This modern, digital brand offers a wide range of models, from beginner to more complex. Korg is known for its technological advancements and their ability to produce a wide variety of piano sounds.

Korg offers many versatile digital pianos in a very reasonable price range. The C1 Air model is a good option with technological advancements like Bluetooth. Artists who use Korg digital pianos include Richard Clayderman, Herbie Hancock, and Tom Coster.

Roland


Roland, also from Japan, offers both digital and acoustic pianos in a moderate price range. They are aesthetically-pleasing pianos that are recommended for a variety of needs.

Whether you’re a beginner looking for a digital piano or a more serious pianist looking for a well-made acoustic, Roland has something for you. The F-120 is a popular model for a beginner looking for a digital piano. Jim Brickman, David Benoit, and Marcus Johnson all play Rolands.

How to Find the Best Piano Brands For You

Whether you’re a beginner or advanced pianist, there are some guidelines you can follow to make the process of choosing a piano easier. Before you decide, spend some time considering the following factors.

  • How much room do you have for a piano?
    • Answering this question will help you choose between a digital and acoustic piano, since digital pianos can take up much less room. It can also help you decide between an acoustic upright piano or an acoustic grand piano.
  • Do you prefer digital or acoustic pianos?
    • While many prefer the feeling of striking an acoustic piano’s keys, these pianos do come with some additional upkeep. And don’t forget to factor in the cost of annual tuning, which is essential for acoustic pianos. 
  • What is your budget for a piano?
    • Setting a budget will help you narrow down your options. Your budget will affect whether you buy new versus used, digital versus acoustic, or one piano brand over another.
  • What are your goals with playing piano?
    • Just because you’re a beginner who doesn’t need 88 keys right now, doesn’t mean you won’t in the future. Likewise, after a few years you might feel unsatisfied with a cheaper keyboard that doesn’t have weighted keys. Think about investing more so you can keep enjoying your piano over the years. Or if you’re just trying out piano, start small and upgrade once you’re more committed to playing.

Lastly, always try a piano in person before you buy it. Choosing a piano is a very personal decision with many factors unique to each individual, such as the feel of the piano. Trying different piano brands in person is the best way to gain insight into the right piano for you.

If you still need help deciding between the many piano brands that are available, try seeking advice from an experienced piano teacher.

How to Choose a Piano or Keyboard

Deciding to learn piano is the first step on an incredibly rewarding journey. The good news is that you won’t be taking that journey alone. You will have an instrument to learn on. It will be a daily source of satisfaction, a comforting presence in your home, a companion with keys.

So let’s find you the right instrument. Even a short search can uncover a wide range of terminology and options that can be a little daunting. We’re here to help. This chapter gives you all the knowledge you need for choosing a piano or keyboard to choose the right instrument for you. If you don’t need all the information, take a look at the quick buyer’s guide at the end of this chapter. If you already have an instrument and you’re happy with it, feel free to skip ahead to Chapter 2 – Piano Learning Methods

Let’s start by splitting your options into three categories:

  • Digital keyboards – The cheapest, most convenient, and most versatile. Sound and feel aren’t as good as acoustic pianos, but keyboards work well as a first instrument.
  • Digital pianos – Larger and more expensive, but nearly as versatile while mimicking the feel of an acoustic piano well. A great alternative if budget and space allows.
  • Acoustic pianos – The best option for playing experience and sound quality, but by far the largest and can be extremely expensive.

Digital keyboards

digital keyboard
A digital keyboard for beginners with 61 keys

A keyboard is the most minimal option, just a casing around the keys and controls. This makes it portable and usually the cheapest option. You may also see it called an “electronic” or “electric” keyboard because the sound is either synthesized or sampled. It comes from an in-built speaker with adjustable volume (or a headphone input if you don’t want to disturb).

Digital keyboards don’t need maintenance, and you can almost always choose to play with a range of instrument sounds: pianos, organs, or non-keyboard instruments like strings. The sound quality on cheaper, older keyboards isn’t great, but modern models are pretty good.

A downside of digital keyboards is that the playing experience can vary from excellent to not-so-good based on two key factors: the number of keys and the type of key action.

Number of keys

A full-size piano keyboard has 88 keys, spanning seven octaves and three extra notes. If you want the most accurate piano experience, go for this. If you’re limited by size, then the next largest is fine (76 keys: six octaves, three notes). This will serve you well, but you will find yourself hitting the lower limit on some classical pieces like Beethoven’s “Für Elise”, the upper limit on much of Chopin (he loved the high notes), and many 20th century composers like Debussy, Ravel, Prokofiev, and Bartok.

Anything less than 76 keys and you will regularly hit the upper or lower limits. Of course, if you simply don’t have the space and it would be a choice between 61 keys and nothing at all, then 61 keys it is. Five octaves will limit you, but that’s all they had back in the 1700s when Mozart was composing music. And if it was good enough for Mozart…

Key action

This term refers to the mechanism of a piano that produces sound. Digital keyboards and pianos don’t have the same physical parts as a real piano, so they use various techniques to recreate the heavier touch and feel of a real piano’s keys. Better instruments do this by including or replicating versions of the moving parts (see Key action guide). Simulating the key responsiveness of an acoustic piano, these are more expensive and heavier than other keyboards, but still smaller, cheaper, and lighter than both digital and acoustic pianos.

Key action guide

Hammer action The highest quality and most expensive. Each key moves a mechanical hammer, giving an almost identical feel to an acoustic piano.

Weighted Weights are built into the keys, similar feel to a real piano.

Semi-weighted Combines spring-loaded action with weights attached to the keys. Some dynamic lost, okay for a first instrument.

Unweighted (aka “synth action”) Typically moulded plastic keys creating resistance with springs. The cheapest option.

Accessories for keyboards

Sustain pedal. Piano pedals are foot-operated levers designed to affect the sound in various ways. On an acoustic piano or digital piano, they come attached, but if you go for an electronic keyboard, then you will need a sustain pedal (aka “damper pedal”).

Sustain pedals vary in price depending on how robust they are. The best option is a heavy “piano-style” lever pedal, made of metal and weighted to feel it is really attached to a piano. But if you are on a budget, there are small, square plastic pedals available that are also fine. Bear in mind that these lighter pedals may slide around a little and work with a simple on/off mechanism, so will not allow for subtle use of the pedal.

Keyboard stand. Unlike an acoustic or digital piano, a keyboard doesn’t come with a casing to raise it up. Don’t settle with putting it on a table; do your posture a favor and use a keyboard stand to ensure it is at the correct height. Sturdy, stable stands will feel better and won’t distract you by rocking back and forth when you play with feeling. For more on setting the keyboard height, see Chapter 3 – Proper Piano Technique.

This is all you need to know for now, but for a detailed explanation on what the pedals are for and how to use them, see Chapter 9 – Piano Pedals.

Digital pianos

digital piano
A clavinova digital piano with 88 keys

Digital pianos give the convenience and flexibility of a keyboard while recreating the playing experience of an acoustic piano very well, especially as technology keeps improving. They usually have hammer action keys (see Key action guide above) and are made of wood or an imitation material. This gives you the feel of playing a solid instrument, while they don’t require tuning or the same physical maintenance as an acoustic piano.

Like a digital keyboard, the sound is either synthetic or sampled, and like a digital keyboard, this gives you a range of piano and other instrument sounds. Unlike many digital keyboards, they have the full 88 keys, so you won’t limit what you can play (see Number of keys above).

One downside is that while they vary in size and shape, and are smaller than their acoustic counterparts, they are not easily portable. So if you go for one of these, then you may need to experiment with where to place it at home. In general, digital pianos are more expensive than keyboards, but far cheaper than the equivalent acoustic piano.

USB MIDI connections

Digital keyboards and digital pianos will almost always have a USB MIDI connection (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), allowing you to connect a computer or portable device. This allows you to use apps and other programs to access more sounds, record your playing, and access other functionality of piano-learning apps.

how to connect a piano via midi
MIDI connection of a digital piano

Acoustic pianos

The original sound and playing experience that has shaped Western music for centuries. As you play, you can feel the notes resonate up through your fingers and around the room. This “acoustic” sound is created with entirely physical parts, so no electronics, sampling, or loudspeakers are involved.

The physics of an acoustic piano

Pushing a key sets a hammer in motion that hits a string, creating the familiar piano sound. The hammer mechanism gives the key weight against the finger (“Hammer action” keyboards imitate this touch feeling). The strings’ vibration spreads to the air around them inside the instrument. This causes reverberations that bounce around the casing and escape through carefully designed holes in the body of the piano.

While this makes it difficult to fully recreate the feel of playing an acoustic piano using samples or synthesizers, technology is advancing fast. Modern digital pianos are excellent at simulating all physical elements of the sound- even the noise of the dampers muting or releasing the strings. A good digital instrument can sound and feel even better than a low-end acoustic piano.

inside grand piano
The inside of a grand piano with hammers, strings, and dampers

The downside of acoustic pianos is that they are the most expensive option by far, and the expense is not limited to buying. Moving a piano is costly, and they need maintenance. The parts react to small changes in moisture or temperature, so acoustic pianos need regular tuning. This also means you need to consider where you place an acoustic piano. They can’t be kept in damp conditions or too close to a radiator as they can easily dry out and warp.

High-quality pianos hold their value well, so you might see it as an investment. The flipside is that you should be careful of cheap, used instruments, as a “bargain” is often damaged and expensive to repair. You should always get an opinion from someone with expertise before buying any instrument, but this is especially critical for used pianos. Also, if you’re set on an acoustic piano but aren’t sure whether you want to learn in the long term, there is a range of options available online for renting a piano or hiring out a practice room with a piano.

Acoustic pianos are available in two forms: grand and upright pianos.

Grand piano

grand piano
A concert grand piano

This is the iconic, long, low, curved piano you may have seen in concerts or videos of famous classical pianists. The strings lie flat and are wound horizontally, giving the casing its signature shape. This means the hammer needs only gravity to fall back from the string, so the key pushes back on the fingers with an entirely natural feel. The high dynamic range gives a rich tone that rings out whether quiet or loud, in a living room or a large concert hall.

Upright piano

upright piano from yamaha
Yamaha upright piano

This is the tall, rectangular piano that comes to mind when you think of a Wild West saloon or a blues band in a bar. The sound quality is similar, but since the strings are wound vertically, the hammer action requires springs, slightly reducing the dynamic range and feel. While a little less impressive, the smaller floor space and square back makes them more convenient, as they can be placed up against a wall.

What is dynamic range and why is it important?

This is the range of volume available to you when pressing the keys. Low dynamic range forces you to either thump the keys or barely hear the notes. A high dynamic range allows smooth transition between loud, quiet, and anything in between. Good control of your dynamic range allows you to play with real passion and emotion.

Take Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” When played well, there are subtle differences between delicate and powerful notes throughout the piece. The best players have such good control over their dynamic range, they can even vary dynamic while playing multiple notes at the same time.

Other accessories

Bench/stool

Forget the keyboard players you see standing up. As a pianist, it is best to sit at the piano, and a bench or stool set at the correct height is essential. Larger, heavier stools remain comfortable for longer, but are generally more expensive. Make sure it is adjustable so you can set the height to allow for correct posture and sitting position. For more, see Chapter 3 – Proper Piano Technique.

Metronome (optional)

A metronome provides an audible sound (usually a click or a beep) to keep you in time with the tempo (speed) set by you. You don’t necessarily need one, but it can help at the start if you find yourself slowing down or speeding up. Be careful not to get into the habit of always listening for a count, as it often makes it harder to keep time without it. Most keyboards and digital pianos have a built-in metronome, but if you go for an acoustic piano and need one, there are plenty of apps available online, most of them for free.

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