Yes, access to an instrument is necessary. Regular practice at home between lessons is the only key to success.
However, until you’ve tried playing for a little while, I don’t recommend spending too much money! A second-hand piano will be fine at first, as long as the action is in good working order and the strings are all present.
It’s always sensible to take a piano tuner with you, to check over any instrument that you’re considering buying.
You could also explore the option of renting: for a small monthly fee, you can enjoy the use of a very nice instrument. Plus, rental charges are often deducted from the purchase price should you decide to keep the piano.
An acoustic piano
This is the ideal option as the tone, touch and feel of a good quality acoustic piano cannot be matched by other keyboard instruments.
The disadvantages of acoustic pianos are:
A digital piano
The most important features to look for are weighted keys, a good tone, pedals and a full size (88-note) keyboard.
Although good quality digital pianos don’t have the tone, feel and touch of good acoustic instruments, they have several advantages:
An electronic keyboard
Although these instruments produce many different sounds and have built-in drum rhythms, they do not have the full length keyboard, pedals or weighted keys which are essential requirements for piano playing. However, if you are uncertain about whether you or your child will enjoy learning to play the piano, or will be able to find enough time to practise regularly, an electronic keyboard may be an initial option.
An electronic keyboard is acceptable for the first six months or so, but after this time you will need to consider purchasing a piano because you will be gradually learning techniques that are not possible on an electronic keyboard.