I looked at some related questions about piano key numbers but I was wondering how many keys would be required specifically for piano exams.

I have previously trained to grade 4 in ABRSM but that was some years ago and I want to buy my first keyboard and start from scratch. But in general I want to make an investment to get a keyboard that will last me through the different grades and not "outgrow" my keyboard later on in life.

It seems the main debate is between 61, 76 and 88 keys. I found the syllabus for the ABRSM but I don't exactly know how this translates into numbers of keys. I can't remember how many keys the piano I used to play had.


  • 2
    "I want a digital piano so I can do my ABRSM"... two bad decisions already in the subject :) Aug 13, 2014 at 9:50

4 Answers 4


Baroque and Classical harpsichord and fortepiano keyboards went 61 keys, F to F, so that should cover everything through Mozart, Haydn and Schubert. However, modern 61-key keyboards go C to C, so that won't quite work.

I should think you can cover everything with a 76-key keyboard, but there are very few of those on the market these days.

Here is one, the Nord Electro 3 HP.

Note that this is a professional stage keyboard; it does not have an amplifier or speakers.

That being said, I would really suggest that you evaluate an 88-key Casio Privia, with small built-in speakers and amp. They might be a better value for your purposes and are quite compact and light. You can buy one with or without the stand and set of three pedals.

  • 2
    I second the recommendation for the privias. The speakers are tiny and won't impress anybody, but the feel of the keyboard is fantastic. However, this is just my opinion. Don't buy anything--especially digital pianos--until you've had a chance to play it for yourself and decide what you like best.
    – Babu
    Feb 9, 2013 at 5:36

If you want to really learn how to play classical piano, you should go either with a real piano or a top notch 88 key digital piano. I own a Yamaha Clavinova CLP 440, it's awesome, I recommend it.

Don't worry much about the pieces you need to pass the exam, worry about range of music you want to play, for instance, you have some very easy Prokofiev's and Bartok's that will need a 88 key keyboard to be played.

You also want something that have three pedals, with the same functionality as the pedals in a Steinway or Yamaha Grand.

Another very important feature you want to have on your keyboard is a graded hammer action, since it tries to copy a grand piano touch and feel, when you play on a real piano you won't notice a big difference.

Some digital pianos I would recommend are:

Yamaha P-155 (around 1000 eur): http://uk.yamaha.com/en/products/musical-instruments/keyboards/digitalpianos/p_series/p-155/?mode=model

Yamaha P-95 (I had a P-95, it's a very good instrument. The speakers sucks though...)(around 500 eur): http://uk.yamaha.com/en/products/musical-instruments/keyboards/digitalpianos/p_series/p-95_color_variation/?mode=model

Casio Px 330: http://www.priviapiano.com/products/PX-330

Roland Portable Digital Pianos: http://www.rolandus.com/products/productlist.php?ParentId=87

  • Space is a bit of an issue for me as I only have a small room in a rented house. That's why I was really looking to buy a keyboard rather than a digital piano...
    – Kidburla
    Jan 11, 2012 at 15:58
  • @Kidburla, you can buy a digital piano without a cabinet. For instance, you can take the Yamaha P-155, it is a 88key graded hammer digital piano, without a cabinet. Of course the sound will not be as good as a clavinova, since the cabinet provides a lot of space for the speakers and amplifiers. Another very important feature is the key action featured in your keyboard. I will edit my answer with some info and some personal recommendations.
    – Victor
    Jan 11, 2012 at 18:52
  • The Yamaha graded hammer action digitals without cabinet are okay in my book for practice. Unless you plan to do use a digital piano for primary gigging, as in MOST of your playing, I see little reason to spend an outrageous amount of money for a moderate increase in playability. For example I've played a large number of digital pianos, and though the expensive ones have a lot of things going for them, they don't feel ENOUGH different from my Yamaha P-80 to justify paying more. Again, unless that's your primary instrument. If that's the case, by all means, go crazy. Jan 13, 2012 at 1:42
  • @JoshFields, I would agree with you if Yamaha didn't change their sound engine in the new Clavinovas. The new RGE engine is simply amazing, comparing the new with the old engine is like comparing wine and water, it is not possible. Plus, the Graded Hammer is ok, but the GH3 is way better! The feel is about the same, but the behavior is much closer to a grand piano than the GH. As I said in my first post, for a serious piano student (not just a weekend hobby) those extras are a must in my opinion.
    – Victor
    Jan 13, 2012 at 19:17
  • @Victor I wasn't aware they'd changed the engine. The last time I played a bunch was about a year and a half ago, although it was in a noisy music store so… yeah you can't judge too harshly in that situation I guess! I guess I thought the student was not that "serious" (whoa subjective term) as they were debating about getting a less-than-88-key-piano. It all depends on what their goals are, but for students with higher-level playing such as college in mind, I think your recommendations are on the money. Jan 13, 2012 at 21:41

Piano actions are very subjective, no less so in the digital universe than the mechanical.

I would suggest a stage piano with internal speakers that you can defeat and use with headphones. They don't have cabinets, and aren't made "pretty" so they wind up being cheaper and have a smaller footprint.

You won't need all three pedals at first, but it's a nice feature if it fits in your budget.

In your price range, I prefer Yamaha's actions (YMMV). I would get a 73-key weighted action, as 61 you'll be running off the end unless you severely restrict what you're playing.


From the syllabus it looks like you will have Liszt, Mompou and Gershwin in your immediate future. You need 88 keys.

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