Here is a complete guide to understanding and choosing the best piano keyboard, from a Beginners perspective.
All your queries regarding the various technicalities of a digital keyboard instruments, is answered here.
Table of Contents
Factors To Consider – Buy Piano Keyboard
For beginners buying an entry level music keyboard, the choice is easier. But if you are considering a digital piano or a keyboard with specific features, then there are some additional factors which you should consider before you decide what to buy.
Some of the important things to look for would be Cost, Number of keys, Maintenance, Portability, built-in Styles, Recording Capabilities, etc.
If you are buying an expensive model, make sure that your instrument is upgradable so that it does not become obsolete in a short span of time (applicable mostly for arrangers, synthesizers & workstations)
Your Music Keyboard / Electric Piano
Let us look at these factors closely, though most of these apply to both digital keyboards as well as digital pianos.
- How Much Does it Cost?
Be ready for one thing while buying Piano, Keyboard… the model that you like will always exceed your budget.
If budget is a constraint, you will need to do some thinking…maybe buy a used one or cut on certain features which are not necessary for you.
If budget is NOT a constraint, go in for all the features. You will find several digital piano reviews here to help you select the best digital piano.
- Are You a Beginner?
If you are a beginner, cut down on accessories like the pedal.
Look for a model which is not very expensive. You may even consider beginning on a used electronic keyboard, piano.
Learning to play the keyboard / piano takes time so start on something economical and then upgrade when you become good at it.
Besides, newer models are released every couple of years so you can pick up one of the latest ones when you are ready to upgrade.
- How Many Keys Do You Need?
Keyboards/Pianos come in 88, 76, 61, 49, 37, 25, even lesser keys.
The smaller ones, less than 61 keys, are usually used by guys who are into Computer music recording. They use it as a midi controller.
61 keys keyboard is the minimum you should look for; you should be able to play a wide range of songs on this.
If you are inclined towards classical music, then consider buying 88 keys piano keyboard.
- How Does it Sound?
The sound in the high-end models will definitely be much superior but you should still check if the keyboard sounds full and rich…which is needed for providing a convincing background accompaniment.
Check if the accompaniments cover various music genres and music of different parts of the world.
Also check if the built-in speakers are good…you may need external amplifiers if you are planning to do more of onstage performances.
- Synth or Weighted Action Keys
This refers to the feel of the keys.
With a Synth action it is easier to play faster as the keys are lighter…Ideal for beginners and non pianists.
Weighted action tries to imitate a real piano key. Weights are added below the plastic keys to make them harder to play. This means that the feel is more like a Piano…suitable for pianists and those who want to improve their piano skills. The best electric pianos use wooden keys as in a real piano.
- Touch / Velocity Response Keys
If the keyboard has touch response keys, the sound produced will be sensitive to your touch. If you press the keys lightly the sound will be soft, if you press it hard the sound will be loud.
You will need this feature if you are seriously learning to play keyboards.
Almost all the standard size 61 key electronic keyboards nowadays have this feature but just make sure it is there. Mini-keyboards and toy pianos do not have touch sensitive keys.
- Is It Expandable / Upgradeable?
Digital keyboards, being an electronic instrument, run the risk of getting obsolete over a period of time. So this is an important factor to consider before buying piano keyboard.
If you are an intermediate or advanced player, consider keyboards that can be upgraded with the latest sounds and styles just to make sure it does not become obsolete
Check if your electric keyboard supports USB or SmartCard for loading and saving songs & styles?
Electronic Keyboard manufacturers are now incorporating all the upgradeable features (found in Computers) to electronic keyboards and Digital Pianos as well.
- Sequencing & Mixing Features
Most of the musical keyboards have built-in sequencers so that you can practice composing, arranging and recording your own music.
But if you are serious about recording and mixing then you need to consider whether you want to do this on your keyboard or a computer.
If you already have a computer and have used software sequencers for recording then you can probably save cost by having limited sequencing features in your keyboard when you buy one.
You will be duplicating the recording features!
But if you do not have a computer and wish to do some serious recording and mixing on a keyboard, consider buying a good synthesizer or a workstation.
- Is It Built for the Road?
If you are a performing artist, you will have to consider the issue of portability, and also check if it is ruggedly built.
Since you will be traveling a lot, you will need to consider factors like weight of the keyboard, provide better protection by buying high quality keyboard cases and sturdy stands so that it adequately supports your keyboard onstage.
For top of the range models, also consider insuring your gear.
- How is the Layout / User Interface?
If you are a performer or if you do studio work, it is important for you to be able to locate all the features quickly and easily.
Having numerous knobs and sliders is a good thing (though it looks daunting at first) because you don’t have to depend on the LCD display to apply the various features.
Nonetheless, a good and easy-to-use user interface will always come in handy. A well-lit display will also help you to perform on-stage, especially if it is dark up there.
More Factors to Consider – Seleting the Best Digital Piano
Most of the factors mentioned above apply to Digital Pianos as well. A couple of other factors that you should consider before Buying Piano:
- Hammer Action Keys
You usually find Synth and Weighted Action Keys on music keyboards but for Digital pianos, you need graded hammer action keys. It closely mimics the keys on an acoustic grand piano. Read more on Hammer Action / Graded Hammer Action keys here…
- Piano Sound
Check for the piano sounds before you buy an electric piano; the sounds need to resonate and decay naturally. The bass notes should have punch and without any distortion; the higher notes need to be brighter.
Conclusion – Buying Piano / Keyboard
I hope this “How to Buy Piano” guide was useful. You may decide to buy either a pre-owned keyboard instrument in case you find a good one, or buy a new one from your local outlet, or on the Internet for better prices. In general, these are the factors which you should normally consider before you set out to buy the best electric keyboard or digital piano.