How to choose a piano
You don't have to buy an expensive piano or keyboard right away, especially if you have a small kid. You can get something simple, start taking piano lessons, make sure that your kid enjoys it and wants to continue, and then you can buy a better piano.
When you see that your child is interested and you are ready to commit to this activity, here are some thoughts on how to choose a good piano.
Digital piano is a good start. Make sure you buy a fully weighted 88-keys piano. Fully weighted means that it is designed closer to a hammer mechanism of a real acoustic piano. Professional musicians use this type of keyboard because it makes possible to play with more dynamics (more difference between quiet and loud sounds), while light keyboard is not able to reproduce much dynamics at all. Also fully weighted keyboard will help you to learn the right hand posture and right touch. Pay attention to fully weighted versions when you buy, visually they look the same as light keyboards, you have to read the description.
Some advantages of having a digital keyboard:
- it is not heavy, you can easily move it
- you don't need to tune it! It is always in tune. It will save you some money (it costs about $150-200 to tune a piano, and you have to do it at least every year. When you play more and you get more sensitive to piano sound, you need to tune 2-3 times a year)
- it has multiple other timbres like organ, strings, electric piano, etc, and kids love playing with those
- it usually has a USB port so you can record your performances in you computer or use it with various software (make sure it has a usb port when you buy it!). If it has a 1/4 inch jack output you can still record audio in you computer, but you will need to have an audio interface with 1/4 inch jack inputs.
- It is easier to sell a keyboard/digital piano than acoustical piano in case you don't want to continue playing or want to upgrade
Disadvantage of digital piano/keyboard:
- The quality of sound is not as good as acoustic piano. The sounds is reproduced by little built-in speakers in the keyboard. It is totally fine for beginners though, but if you are an audiophile and feel like you want a better quality audio -- I would recommend to buy a couple of nice speakers (e.g. Yamaha HS5 etc..) and connect them to a line output (1/4 jack) of your keyboard.
(make sure you are using unbalanced TS 1/4 jack cables... balanced TRS do not work with most keyboards)
Good acoustic pianos sound better than digital ones. The problem is to find that good one, especially if you are shopping pre-owned ones -- sometimes they are not in a good shape, especially those that are old, and it is hard for a beginner to tell the difference right away. Research brand names: in medium price range watch for Yamaha and Kawai.
Baby grand pianos: the most tricky thing is that many baby grand pianos don't sound better than a good upright piano. I saw many grand pianos in homes and churches that could not compete with my upright Kawai. I even saw some grand pianos in small churches in really bad condition -- so bad that it is a real struggle to play it. A good grand piano, even pre-owned ones, will cost money. People don't give away or sell good grand pianos for cheap. I you see a cheap one, just keep in mind that it is probably not a good one (but go check just in case!)
TIP: to save money, buy used pianos (digital and acoustic). Many people sell their pianos in great condition. The same with other audio equipment. My acoustic piano is pre-owned, I bought it on sale at University of Miami. They have a contract with piano salon: they buy new pianos every year and sell "old" ones for discounted price. "Old" ones are only one year old, used by professionals, and in perfect condition, so I got my piano for $4k, which is $2k less than its full price. By the way, many universities are doing the same thing, and if you want to buy and acoustic upright piano or a baby grand -- such university sales is a place to go. They also have many pianos displayed at once in one room, I spent 2-3 hours playing all of them and choosing the best one. I also bought all my audio equipment used (speakers, microphones, audio interface...) on ebay or reverb.com.