The 10 Best Portable Keyboard Pianos
This wiki has been updated 27 times since it was first published in February of 2018. The electric keyboards on this list are all relatively light in weight, making transportation to gigs or rehearsals easy and, unlike acoustic pianos, they don't need regular tune-ups or maintenance. In this ranking, we have included a varied selection from entry-level learning tools for beginners, to professional-quality live performance and recording instruments for experienced artists. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
November 01, 2020:
While for centuries the piano remained a heavy and unwieldy item, the invention of the portable electric piano heralded a sea change in the way we played, used, and regarded the instrument. Not only, as with the electrification of the guitar, did this radically alter the sonic capabilities of the piano, but it made it more accessible to a new wave of budding musicians and made it easier to perform in smaller venues and to carry to recording sessions.
In this latest update to our ranking we have made four replacements, starting with our upgrading the Casio CTK-2550 to the Casio Casiotone CT-S200. This was due to the fact that the newer model included several features that made it more appealing to beginner musicians, including a useful learning app, battery power and a carrying handle to assist with portability, as well as MIDI connectivity and a large onboard sound and rhythm library.
Next, we switched the Yamaha YPG535 with the Yamaha P71, as the latter is a far more portable solution, with a collapsible stand, as opposed to a fixed support, and while it lacks a lot of the bells and whistles of the previous choice, we felt that the P71 offered high-quality tones and playability in a compact size, weighing just 25 pounds. It also features a USB output for connection to external sound modules and devices, to further expand its capabilities.
Finally, we included two studio-quality stage pianos at the top of our ranking, which add a little more diversity to our list. These are the Nord Piano 4 and the Roland RD-88, each of which are true powerhouses in their own right, but with slightly different features and applications.
The former is the latest offering in a long line of high-end synthesizer-piano hybrids and is well suited to playing live, as it boasts a number of dedicated controls for real-time manipulation of its features mid-performance. The Roland RD-88, on the other hand, is a much more stripped-down, albeit very high-quality performance or studio tool, with an impressive onboard sound library when played as a standalone unit. However, it comes into its own when used in conjunction with Apple's MainStage software, which is available as part of their Logic Pro X sequencer package.
May 07, 2019:
The most important feature of any portable keyboard is that it doesn't leave you resenting the fact that you don't have a full-size piano, so we made sure our selections have perks that may even make you prefer a keyboard over, say, a baby grand or an upright model. The Casio Privia PX160, Korg SP280BK, Casio CDP-240, and Yamaha YPG535 each have the complete 88 keys, so you won't find yourself feeling cramped — feel free to spread out and really get expressive. The keys on the Casio Privia PX160 also happen to be weighted and graded, for a completely authentic acoustic experience, while the Alesis Recital Pro has hammer action keys.
Naturally, one of the benefits of a keyboard is that it can do things that a regular piano simply cannot, and we really wanted to showcase models that stand out in that area. Those looking to produce their own music will be blown away by the bank of 700 digital sounds on the Casio CDP-240, the very real-sounding voices recorded in the Yamaha YPG535, and the 130 auto accompaniment styles in the Yamaha PSR-E263. When it comes to mixing and creating, it feels like the sky is the limit on these models. Portability was also important, which is why all of our selections weigh under 40 pounds — the Yamaha PSR-E263 weighs just 11 pounds.
Korg Kronos LS Workstation Although it's technically a synthesizer, this top-of-the-line model features an 88-key layout utilizing the company's light-touch technology that makes it an absolute dream to play. The keys are also semi-weighted however, helping to replicate a true piano feel. This combination makes it one of the most versatile models around, perfect for practically any genre and style of music. korg.com
Fender Rhodes LA While countless electric pianos and software synthesizers (such as Logic's excellent EVP88) have tried to recreate the mechanical nuances and tone of the Fender Rhodes electric piano, nothing comes close to the sound and playability of the genuine article, and this Los Angeles-based outfit is doing their best to keep the legend alive. Part repairers, part service center, and part store, founder Nir Benjaminy and his team will do everything from regular tune-ups and re-covering, to complete restorations, or check out their collection for restored vintage pianos for sale. fenderrhodesla.com
Why You Should Invest In A Portable Piano
These folks are likely looking to add the ability to play their favorite instrument on the go.
If you're perusing this list with the sincere intent to buy yourself a portable electric piano, there’s a good chance that you fall into one of two camps. In the one camp you have people who already own either a large, wooden piano — whether it’s an upright or a baby grand — or they may already own an electric piano, but one that doesn’t lend itself to travel. These folks are likely looking to add the ability to play their favorite instrument on the go. In the other camp, you have folks that don’t yet own a piano, but who see the advantages of investing in a model they can take with them wherever they please.
What a portable piano offers that other options don’t is a certain streamlining in its construction. That usually means a portable piano will minimize its amount of bells and whistles in favor of creating a unit the size and shape of which make it easy to pack up in a car or, in the case of the smallest models available, sling over your shoulder.
While at first it may seem that such a creation could only benefit touring musicians, you may find that the ability to take your piano out into the world with you will improve both your skill at the instrument — as you’ll be playing it much more often and you’ll be forced to perform well in front of crowds — and your popularity as a player, as exposure increases your reputation as a reliable artist. You may find your services as a pianist requested by everyone from local cover bands and aspiring rock groups to church functions, weddings, and even high school music programs.
The mere fact that you added the convenience of portability to your playing may just be the thing that elevates your passion from hobby to profession. Of course, there’s nothing to say that you can’t just enjoy the ability to play your piano in different rooms around your house, without having to hire a pair of hands to help you move it. However you choose to use the portability of your new piano, you’re sure to find that its added flexibility is a boon to your experience.
The Key To Choosing The Right Model
One look at the various portable pianos available on the market and included on our list will show you that there are a lot of subtle features differentiating one model from the next. Knowing how to navigate those differences will be key to ensuring that you make a purchase you’ll be happy with.
Most 88-key pianos, especially if they have speakers built into them, are slightly longer than the width of the average sedan.
And speaking of keys, one of the biggest differences among the available portable piano is on the market is the number and type of keys that they have. Traditionally, a full-size piano has 88 total keys. If you want access to the full expressive range that the instrument offers, you have no choice but to invest in an 88-key piano. Some models with fewer keys offer you the ability to assign their keys to different ranges that you would find on a full-size keyboard, which can be effective if you know that many of the songs you like to play or that you write don’t utilize that full, 88-key range.
The biggest downside to an 88-key piano, however, is the reduction in it’s essential portability. Most 88-key pianos, especially if they have speakers built into them, are slightly longer than the width of the average sedan. That makes packing them up in the car rather difficult, especially if you’re not driving something with a little extra space inside. Full-size portable pianos are also likely to be heavier than their more diminutive counterparts, so if you know you have a hard time toting heavy loads, it may be smart to go with something a little smaller.
Another aspect of the keys, other than their total count, is their feel. Generally speaking, you will encounter two kinds of keyboards: weighted and unweighted. Unweighted keyboards tend to be lighter in weight and less expensive. If budget is your primary concern, the weight of the keys might be a concession worth making. Weighted keys, however, provide a far superior feel, replicating that of the natural weight you would feel sitting at a real piano. Many weighted models also have superior touch sensitivity thanks to the phenomenon of piezoelectricity, which allows you to alter the intensity with which a note sounds simply by striking the key harder or softer.
Other Important Considerations
Beyond the specifics of the keys, there are a number of other aspects and features that could make or break your purchase, especially if there’s a close race between two models for your heart. Keep an eye out for the number of different tones a given portable piano offers, especially if you like to play a variety of genres that may require the sounds of grand pianos, synthesizers, and many other instruments.
Some models may go so far as to have XLR outputs, as well, which is even better for your sound quality.
Also, look out for built-in speakers, which can make practicing at home much simpler. Keep in mind, however, that built-in speakers will add to both the bulk and the weight of a given model, making it a little less portable.
With or without built-in speakers, you’ll want to make sure that your portable piano has the appropriate outputs that would allow you to amplify your sound. A quarter inch output will let you simply plug-in to pretty much any amplifier on the market, and will also be where you plug-in higher quality headphones. Some models may go so far as to have XLR outputs, as well, which is even better for your sound quality.
Lastly, if you know that you’re going to be composing, you might want to look for a model that has the ability to record what you play. If your piano can then play that back to you while you play along with it, composing harmonies and other complementary structures, it will make your writing task that much easier.