Engadine Music's Guide To Buying A Keyboard
We are spoilt for choice with the number of keyboards and digital pianos available in today’s market. And with so many different makes, model variations and options it can be confusing. Let us help you buy the right keyboard for your needs with confidence.
Let’s familiarise ourselves with the features common to all keyboard types first before we discuss specifics of each keyboard type.
Number Of Keys
The number of keys can range from 25 up to a full-sized piano keyboard of 88 keys. Consider how you will be using the keyboard, how old the person will be playing it, if you need to transport it easy, how much space you have, and the type of music you will be playing.
How does the key respond to the player’s touch? How much resistance does the player feel when they strike the key? Some keyboards have little to no resistance at all, while others have weighted or semi-weighted keys that make the instrument feel like a traditional piano when playing it.
It is important to note that if you or your child will be undertaking exams you will generally need to practice on an instrument with weighted keys. Talk to your teacher or ask us for more information on this.
The ability of the instrument to sense how hard or soft the player has pressed the key and create a sound or send MIDI information.
Refers to the number of different sounds a keyboard can make at one time. **
Different to polyphony, this refers to the number of different sounds (instruments) a keyboard can play at one time, such as drums, bass, organ, guitar, flute, etc.
MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) allows instruments, sound modules or computers with MIDI ports to communicate with one another, MIDI messages do not contain sound but rather information on which note to play on which digital instrument at what volume.
Many modern keyboards can connect to computers. USB connection is the standard now, but some keyboards will require a MIDI interface and cabling. Modern keyboards may also have iOS and Android connection capabilities, allowing you to access different apps from your phone or tablet for recording or performance.
A sequencer records MIDI data and plays it back in a user-programmed sequence.
A sampler records a sound and allows iit to be played back as the player requires it
Many modern keyboards will offer external storage options for flash drives and card slots. USB connectivity also allows for data backup to a computer or drive. The latest generation of keyboards may also offer cloud file storage.
Portable keyboards are a great place to start. Some of these may include learning functions such as key lighting to make it easier to learn to play. They normally don’t have the same depth of options as more expensive keyboards, but they offer a lot of value and versatility.
A workstation keyboard can be thought of as a tool for composing, recording and producing music. Many have internal recording options, being able to write to an internal drive, an external drive, CD-burner etc. They will also have the tools to be able to record, edit and finalise songs.
A digital piano is designed to give you the experience of playing an acoustic piano without some of the hassles associated with those instruments (physical size, tuning requirements, transport, timber warping).
Some are designed for use in one location (home, church, permanent setup in a club or restaurant) whilst others are designed to be portable and used for stage work. The major difference will be the exterior design, as the internal components and functions will be very similar, if not identical.
A digital piano may well be the best choice for those undertaking grades. Once more, discuss this your teacher or talk to us.
A synthesiser, commonly called a synth, produces its sounds using an electrical signal. At first synths were not very good at emulating acoustic sounds such as a piano, but were great for producing sounds ranging from the weird to the sublime not possible on traditional instruments at all. Synths also allow the player to edit and create their own sounds, and manipulate those sounds when playing in ways not possible on a traditional piano. A pitch wheel is one example of this, where the player can bend notes; similar to how a guitarist would bend a string.
it should be noted that there can be a lot of crossover on modern instruments, with features common to all types of keyboards available in the one unit. A portable keyboard might offer a pitch wheel for bending notes, as well as some recording and sequencing functions, but the difference will often be the quality of sounds and depth of control one has over the features in the unit.
Will I Need Anything Else?
This is really determined by how you are going to use the keyboard and where you intend to place it when you play.
Some accessories that might be useful include
. A stand
. A cover to keep dust off/out
. MIDI or iOS interface
. Headphones for silent practice
. A gig bag of case if you are going to transport it
. An amp if you intend to play in a band or in a pubic space
. Extra leads to connect it to mixers, a computer, recording device, etc
Yamaha, Casio, Kawai and Roland all offer excellent instruments across the keyboard range. Feel free to come into the store, call us on (02) 9520 3044 or email us so we can help you find the best keyboard for your needs.