4 Best Keyboards with Light Up Keys – Radiant Pianos!

Author: Brian Campbell | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Every year I teach piano in my music classroom I, always have that one student that wants to learn John Legend’s “All of Me.” Who am I to disagree? It’s a wholesome song that’s moderately easy to learn, and uses one of pop’s most iconic chord progressions.

Inevitably, some of them will get bored fast and forget about it. Other times, sadly, I only have so much time and energy to devote to each kid in each class period.

One day, I had an idea to fix my dilemma; what if there was a keyboard that could teach you with light-up keys? That way, beginners wouldn’t have to learn to read music right away, and they could practice independently.

As it turns out, some smart businessman somewhere already had that idea! There are countless keyboards on the market doing this, for both kids and adults.

For the skeptical, this approach might seem gimmicky. And if I’m honest, it’s a far cry from being a serious pedagogical tool.

However, that doesn’t mean they’re not useful at all. In fact, when used in the right context, they can make a huge difference in one’s learning journey! Each keyboard in this article can teach you to play notes with correct rhythms and in the right order.

Below, I give several reasons why you should give light-up keyboards a chance. Then I’ll explain some of their shortcomings. After all that business is complete, I’ll list four keyboards that are worth checking out.

Why On Earth Would Anyone Want to Get a Light-Up Keyboard?

Perk 1: Good for Beginners

When learning something new, both teachers and students have to find the best approach to learning effectively. This means starting out with simple, graspable skills before advancing complex ones.

The good news – although tricky – is that you can “cheat” in the beginning. Pro learners do it all the time; language learners watch videos with subtitles, songwriters copy the blueprints of their favorite songs … even bike riders start with training wheels!

In “teacher-ese,” we call this cheating “scaffolding.” Just like scaffolding platforms help construction workers accomplish tasks, scaffolding aids learners in learning and integrating skills.

While light-up keys won’t make you a pro overnight, they are a great way to get you jump started on finding notes and keeping rhythms. You have to get comfortable with the ins and outs of a skill before you can improve it, and light-up keys can help with that.

Perk 2: You Don’t Have to Read Music (At First)!

One of the hardest things about playing piano is learning to read sheet music. While not strictly necessary, reading music allows you to advance in all areas of music at a faster pace.

However, as we learned from Perk 1, beginners are allowed to “cheat strategically” with scaffolding. What if I said you should learn to read music, but don’t have to in order to learn piano?

Light-up keys allow you to learn beginner songs without the need for sheet music. Reading music and playing piano go hand-in-hand, but they aren’t the same skill. Neither should they be treated so.

By learning to read music and play piano as two distinct disciplines, you can make faster progress with both! In this way, you stay motivated to learn both disciplines, and never get frustrated from improving one at the expense of the other.

Perk 3: It’s Good for Visual Learners

Any good teacher will tell you that gearing instruction towards individual learning styles is a great idea.

For visual piano learners, you can’t get any better than having the literal keyboard you’re playing literally light up for you. It’s a simple detail, but it certainly helps out when you’re first learning your way around the keys.

Perk 4: You Can Learn by Yourself

Traditional piano teaching required students to learn every new idea from their teacher in a face-to-face lesson. This is crucial to learning good technique and practical advice.

However, there are other skills in piano playing that can be learned on your own. Learning your way around the keyboard is one of these things, and with light-up keys, now you can practice playing melodies in real time.

Now you can’t use the excuse, “I don’t have my teacher to check the notes I play!” But don’t worry, that’s a good thing 😉

Perk 5: Gamification

Educators in the 21st century have all these “buzz-words” they like to throw around, like “internalization,” “student-centered learning,” and the aforementioned “scaffolding.” “Gamification” is another one of these terms.

Simply put, gamification transforms learning activities into games. This increases incentive and enjoyment during the learning process. While hip 21st century teachers will tell you gamification was their idea, it’s really been in the education world for thousands of years.

But, with today’s improved technology, we can take gamification to a whole new level. By turning piano playing into a game-like challenge with lights, we can have more fun with the process.

It might seem silly, but hey – who doesn’t like fun for the sake of fun?

When Light-Up Keys Aren’t a Great Idea

When you’re a beginner, you want as much help as possible so you can grasp fundamental concepts. However, as with anything in life, too much of a good thing is a bad thing.

If you rely on beginner tools too much, you won’t learn the essential skills they’re trying to teach you in the first place. Eventually the biker’s got to take the training wheels off the back wheel!

Here are some potential problems you will run into down the road if you rely too heavily on light-up keys.

Problem 1: Lights Don’t Teach Fingering

Learning correct fingerings is a MAJOR step in piano playing. When you use the right fingers on the right keys at the right time, it’s smoother and more efficient.

If you don’t use correct fingering, you won’t be able to play harder music. Plus, it’s not healthy for technique.

Unfortunately, no amount of fancy lights can help you out here. This is a perfect example of how light-up keys are excellent for a very specific purpose, but can’t be relied on to teach you everything.

Problem 2: Lights Can’t Teach Technique

Technique is similar to fingering, but broader. It refers not only to fingers, but arm placement, sitting, and moving across the keyboard and bench (yup, those details are important!)

Just like fingering, lights can’t teach you how to play the notes.

So Now What? What Do I Do About These Problems?

So, what does this all mean for light-up keyboards? Three simple things!

First, don’t treat them like the “ultimate teacher,” and understand that they incorporate only a small portion of the piano learning process.

Second, you need to focus just as much time into technique and expression. Notes and songs will always be there to instruct, but you won’t be able to “will away” bad playing habits.

Lastly, while it might sound counterintuitive, I would approach light-up keyboards like this: don’t be afraid to use them for learning, but make it a challenge to see how fast you can progress past needing them.

They have a very specific goal. But like anything else in learning, once you’ve gotten those skills learned, you don’t want your “cheats” to slow you down – so don’t!

If buying a light-up keyboard strikes your fancy, here are four models that are great for both aspiring and professional musicians! They begin around $100, with the last one (professional grade) costs around $800.

Before continuing, it’s worth saying that quality counts for beginners as much as professionals. 

Although $100 might seem a tad expensive for beginners, their quality will help in the long run. Unfortunately, keyboards on Amazon below $100 tend to be extremely cheaply made, due to being manufactured in China.

4 Light-Up Keyboards to Check Out!

1. The ONE Keyboard Piano (61 keys)

If you do any research on light-up keyboards, you will inevitably come across the ONE Keyboard Piano. There’s a good reason for this, and it’s summed up in two words: their apps.

The ONE Keyboard Piano itself has rather limited features, with just 178 tones and a sustain button (so you don’t need a pedal, interestingly). With that said, it’s not for people looking to get a lot out of the keyboard itself.

However, all things considered, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Augmenting the keyboard with their apps, you can transform a simple keyboard into a full learning environment.

Using their various free apps, you can take crash courses, play games, read 3000 scores, and even purchase sheet music for the latest pop songs. Plus, its MIDI capabilities makes it usable with other apps and programs too.

2. Yamaha EZ300 (61 keys)

Yamaha’s EZ300 piano is a great option for beginners looking to focus on live performance and playing in ensembles. It packs all the usual features needed in a quality beginner keyboard, while including unique features geared towards expressive and group playing.

The EZ300 is unique among light-up keyboards because it can also measure the velocity of each pressed key, using a tool called “Touch Tutor.” “Velocity” refers to how hard you press the key, and subsequently how responsive it is to loud and soft playing.

While the EZ300 still cannot replace a face-to-face teacher’s instruction, the Touch Tutor still gives it a positive edge against competition. Additionally, its “Accompaniment Styles” settings can actually respond in real-time to the music you play.

For example, say you want to play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” as a rock song – it will recognize your chords and play accordingly. If you want a funk song, then presto – it can do that too!

While small details, these features are phenomenal “beginner cheats” that are not included on other keyboards. The EZ300 keyboard teaches you to have nuanced playing, something that the others on this list can’t always achieve.

3. Casio LK-S250 (61 keys)

For a moderately cheap price, Casio’s KL-S250 is a fantastic keyboard for those interested in music production and sound design. It comes packed with 60 songs to learn with the light-up keys, each with its own skills and quirks to master.

However, the KL-S250 goes beyond just a keyboard. It includes 400 tones (far more than most beginner keyboards) and 77 rhythm accompaniments. This allows beginners to practice playing in beat through various styles and experimentation.

All these features culminate in its “Dance Music Mode,” where users can create their own basic EDM tracks using the built-in sounds. No … this won’t turn you into Aphex Twin or Kanye West overnight.

BUT, it’s an incredibly unique feature that will give aspiring DJs a good tool to learn with. It will teach you to play and use the piano with a composer mindset, and not just a performer’s.

Lastly, it comes with various inputs that allow playing along to audio tracks and MIDI files!

4. The ONE Portable Digital Piano (88 hammered keys)

We end with another ONE product. Most light-up keyboards are beginner-centered, cheap, and have spring action keys. However, ONE’s 88-keyed piano takes the lights and puts them in a professional-grade keyboard.

The ONE Portable Digital Piano comes with a full key bed and hammer action keys. This means that while it’s still electric and portable, each individual key is filled with weights that replicate the feel of a real piano.

Additionally, each key is attached to a hammer mechanism which mimics the lever feel of a real piano. While standard on many high-grade keyboards, these features rarely come in a keyboard geared towards beginners.

If you want a professional keyboard, but are interested in teaching piano to others, why not combine it all in a single keyboard?


As you can see, there are definite pros to light-up keys when they are taken in proper consideration. If you are an absolute beginner looking to get a jump start on piano, they might be worth the investment.

However, don’t rely on them too much, and look at the bigger picture when learning piano; in addition to correct notes and rhythms, you need correct fingering and good form – both of which a keyboard can’t teach.

Enjoy playing the “game” of “chasing the light.” But more importantly, enjoy the game of getting so good you don’t need it!

In conclusion, whatever type of keyboard you get, enjoy the hunt – and always, ALWAYS have fun!

Avatar photo

About Brian Campbell

Brian has been playing piano since elementary school and started learning guitar in 7th grade. He teaches K-8 students in Columbus, Ohio, and writes lessons covering a broad spectrum of genres. As a child, he moved back and forth between Colorado and West Africa. He credits those experiences with opening his eyes to the cultural and artistic diversity he appreciates today. Several of his favorite musicians include J.S. Bach, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and Radiohead. When not doing music and teaching, you can find Brian reading, hiking, traveling, or making just one more shot of espresso.

Leave a Comment