Want something that is smaller, lighter, and more affordable than most keyboard workstations? Checkout these performance synthesizers that are practical for gigging bands and/or for creating your own unique sounds. You can add the classic virtual-analog-synth textures to your music, or create totally new sounds from scratch, or tweak existing samples beyond recognition? using these synthesizer keyboards.
Best Beginner Synthesizer: Here are some good entry level synth keyboards that are gig-ready and will help you to produce some cool sounds.
Roland Gaia SH-01 Synthesizer
Price: $550 to $600
Roland synthesizers are known for their well thought of layout and this is no different. The SH-01 is based on Roland’s proprietary virtual analog synthesis engine. An intuitive layout with dedicated controls and knobs; this synth is suitable for most beginners.
Korg microKorg Analog Modeling Synthesizer with Vocoder
Price: $380 to $420
This is a powerful synthesizer from Korg that is perfect for the musician looking for a serious yet affordable synthesizer. You get a powerful sound synthesis engine, 8-band vocoder with several features, a full range of effects, and a flexible arpeggiator. Even with only 37 keys, this is indeed a very usable keyboard.
Casio XW-P1 Performance Synthesizer
Price: $480 to $520
Finally, a professional synthesizer keyboard from Casio with 400 fully editable PCM based sounds like stereo pianos, vintage electric pianos, strings, guitars, drums and more. Drawbar Organ Mode comes with 9 sliders, adjustable rotary speaker, key click, vibrato and percussion. The 61 standard-size keys comes with 2 types of touch response. This is a 6 oscillator monophonic solo synthesizer. In the HexLayer mode, a single sound made up of 6 components for gig-ready splits and layers.
Why Musicians Use Synths?
Most musicians looking for a beginner synth are not really piano/keyboard players (in the classic sense) and neither are they looking for the home arranger
keyboards that come with several accompaniments and with very little editing features.
What they want is a keyboard that lets them tweak the sounds, something that lets them create unique (and at times weird sounds) so that people around can
say “Wow”. A synthesizer is an instrument that lets you do such things.
Now, some synthesizers may let you do that easily whereas on some you have to navigate several menus to apply the various functions to allow you to do this
in different ways, some easier than others.
For example, the microKorg is a great synth, but there’s a learning curve involved and you need to access several menus to access the various features.
Different musicians have different needs and accordingly they choose their synths:
What do Music Enthusiasts Look For?
Here are the things that Music Enthusiasts usually look for in a beginner synth?
More Synth Sounds
So when we talk about the best beginner synthesizer, basically we are talking about a keyboard with good arpeggiators, built-in vocoder, preferably a mic, and lots of electronic sounds including some cool synth sounds; something that can be used for creating dance / electronic music.
You will find some great synth sounds, bass sounds, analog sounds and filters to have more control over how the various voices sound.
Most of these keyboards may or may not have acoustic piano sounds; some probably may have more of electric piano sounds.
Analog sounds are used a lot in electronic music and since we are talking about entry level synth keyboards, you are most likely to get a V.A or Virtual analog synth (uses digital technology) as opposed to a real analog synth (these are more expensive but produce some deep synth sounds).
More Knobs & Sliders
Since synthesizers are used mostly for live use, they have an easy to use interface with LOTS of knobs and sliders to make it easy for use to control the various parameters.
A keyboard that is dependent a lot on its menu for selection is more suitable for home or studio use. So all those knobs make finding and adjusting sounds a lot easier!
No of Keys
In terms of keyboard size most users opt for 61 keys or even lesser, as you rarely play with both your hands on the keyboard. Usually your one hand will be on the keys and the other would be on one of the knobs/sliders.
But most play-back synths (with more of acoustic sounds) are also available in choices of more than 61 keys.
The brands that make good synths include Moog, Roland, Korg, Alesis, Novation, Yamaha. If you’re looking for used-stuff, you can expect good results from the products of these brands.
If you are just learning and are okay to get a used one, then you may also consider getting something like the Moog Rogue. It could be difficult to find but its quite easy to get started and produces some amazing sounds. Its monophonic though (one note at a time) and limited in features compared to what you get on recent synths. The Moog Little Phatty is the modern Rogue, comes with several more features. It costs around $1300 (new ones) and with some searching you should be able to find them cheaper.
There are many who prefer older models (than vintage), they have more features, polyphony and sounds. If money is not really a factor, you may also consider the offerings from NORD. Some prefer to take the software route, which also can give you better results. Its more about preference but as a beginner its great to have something that you can touch and tweak.
It also depends on the kind of sound you’re after. An easier way to determine that is just have a look at some the bands that you like and see what sort of gear they use to produce those sounds. An easy-to-use synth probably may not give you the sound that you are after.
Use More to Learn More
There are many who prefer the “presets” as they are easier to use, but them you don’t get to learn more about synthesis. You should spend time designing your own patches so that you can appreciate more the capabilities of such instruments.
Programming some of these synths is not fun initially, especially when you don’t understand much about envelopes, LFOs and the other basic building blocks.
However, as you start understanding more, you’ll be amazed with the results that some of these can produce.
This is where some of the software synths can also be helpful as there are several tutorials in the manual that helps you to learn to build your own patches. You build patches using modules, similar to most hardware setups. You start with one component, see how it affects the signal, combine more sources and see how it affects the sounds and so on.
But then the advantage of hardware is that it’s easy to set it up, just plug in headphones or speakers and you are ready to hear the various sounds.
A better approach could be to try out some free software (VST synths, etc.) to get an idea of synthesis and probably move to hardware once you have a better idea of what you really are after.