Choosing the right keyboard can be a little tough! So I have taken a look at the top factors to consider when buying a keyboard.
There are so many factors that influence the decision to buy an instrument, and keyboards are no different. If you’re looking for a keyboard*, and are struggling with choices, start with considering all of the following, and you’ll be on your way to finding the perfect keyboard for you!
*In this I’m referring to all digital/electronic pianos as keyboards (as opposed to specifying stage pianos vs arrangers vs synths etc…)
Really, this question is: how many keys do you need? Do you need to play large glissando lines, or are you needing to double up the bass at the bottom end of the keyboard? Then you might need all 88 keys. Are you just playing synth bass or just wanting something to write some songs on. Then you might not need anything more than 49 keys! The usual sizes are 49, 61, 76 and 88 keys. 49 is the smallest standard size for keyboards (you can get smaller sizes but they are more production tools rather than keyboards). 49 will cover you if you are only going to be playing single lines, but will limit you quite quickly when you come into two-handed playing. 61 keys is the next size up, and is the perfect middle point between size and portability. It gives you 5 octaves to play, and will cover you perfectly if your range on the piano is to be relatively limited. If you’re not in need of optimum portability, then 76 keys could be the one. It is a step down from the full 88 key piano by an octave, but will certainly give you enough freedom to cover a wide range on the piano, meaning you’ll be covered if you find yourself in a new band role where more is required of you. Here are some different sizes, with the 88-key Korg Kross 2, the 73-key Korg Grandstage, the 61-key Roland JUNO-DS61 and the 49-key M-Audio Oxygen.
I partly covered this when writing about keyboard lengths, but it is a key (see what I did there?) consideration. If you are going to be lugging your keyboard around from gig to gig, you’re going to regret a fully weighted 88-key keyboard. But of course, if you just need something at home for practice, this doesn’t matter. Things that affect portability are length, if the keys are weighted, and size and weight (some keyboards are designed to be simple and lightweight). If you will be transporting the keyboard, you must consider if you are to be carrying it in your car, on public transport, or even by foot! If you're moving it at all, it's a must that you get a case to protect the keyboard from scratches and bumps. Take a look at our range of cases!
Weighted or Non-Weighted?
I mentioned weighted keys above, and this is the largest factor in terms of player experience. You can get keyboards that are non-weighted, semi-weighted or weighted, also called hammer action. Weighted keys are designed to mimic the feel of a real piano, with some keyboards even having a split key bed, where the lower keys feel heavier and the higher ones lighter. If you are going to be playing the keyboard simply so it is a cheaper piano, then weighted keys are the way to go, to give you the authentic experience. However, weighted keys, obviously, add more weight. At the other end of the spectrum is non-weighted keys. These don’t really feel like a piano at all, and are harder to play softly, but there are many advantages. The first is that these keyboards are considerably lighter. They respond faster and glissandos are easier. If you are only playing synths or organs, these keys may be better suited for you! Between the two option are semi-weighted keys. They respond a bit more to your playing, but obviously not as much as weighted keys. They are light enough to cover synth lines, but also have that added weight to feel comfortable for any softer piano lines. It’s important you think about what lines of music you are playing, what kind of dynamics, and what the goal is from playing. If it is to learn to play piano rather than keyboard, then you’ll need weighted keys!
This is an obvious one. What do you need your keyboard to sound like? Do you only need a piano sound, and if so, how high quality does this sound need to be? Do you need just a few piano sounds for only a little diversity, or do you need as many sounds as possible? Again, what are you primarily using the keyboard for. If it’s synth lines, you’ll need something that is best at synths! If it’s organ, get a keyboard that is well known for its organ sounds, such as the Vox Continental Digital Keyboard. These sounds do cost, and of course, the higher the quality the sound, the higher the cost. But the sound affects both the listener and the performer. You are welcome to try out all of the keyboards on our shop floor! Below are two examples, the Roland FA08 Synth Workstation, which boasts over 2000 sounds, and the Yamaha YDP-143 Arius, which has only 7, clearly serving very different purposes!
There are many, many extras that can come along with keyboards. Do you want to plug the keyboard in to your computer to control digital sounds on there? Do you need to be able to just sit your keyboard down and play without hooking up speakers? Do you need a backing track function? Do you need to control EQ and compression and manipulate FX? Will hall reverb make you feel better when you play? I can’t really help you here, as there are so many options. As my advice has been at every question, think about where you’ll be using the keyboard, consider these questions, and you’ll be thinking along the right lines!
Here at Wembley we have all kinds of keyboards, from midi controllers, to stage pianos, to professional arrangers. If you’re looking to purchase, and are really unsure, please do come in and ask us! You’re welcome to try any of the pianos on the shop floor to cement your decision! We look forward to seeing you.