You’ve finally decided on learning an instrument, and the instrument you think might be the one is a keyboard. The first thing that comes to mind is how to choose and buy the right keyboard?
This post will hopefully help you solve your problem.
A shorter version of this write up:
Before buying a keyboard you should have a basic idea of what a keyboard actually is.
Things to look for and keep a check on when buying a keyboard are: the number of keys, the touch sensitivity or action of the keyboard, and the sound.
It’s important to also check if the keyboard you’re purchasing is eligible to be used in certification exams.
Let’s have a detailed look on the above mentioned features;
Difference Between a Piano, Keyboard, And a MIDI Controller
Beginners usually tend to get confused about the difference between a Keyboard, a Piano and a MIDI Controller when going to buy one of the above. So before knowing how to buy the perfect keyboards let’s have a look at the differences amongst the three
Piano: What Is It?
The piano is an acoustic, stringed musical instrument, in which the strings are struck by hammers.
Pianos are quite large, and the volume of the piano depends on the velocity with which each key is pressed.
Acoustic pianos usually have a wooden protective case surrounding the soundboard and metal strings. Most modern Pianos have a row of 88 black and white keys.
With advancements in technology, digital pianos have come up that provide an accurate copy of an acoustic piano. These digital pianos are smaller in size and don’t have actual strings, the sound here is produced digitally.
Keyboard: What Is It?
Keyboards are portable version of digital pianos, also known as digital or electronic keyboards.
A wide range of instrument sounds and synthesizer tones can be created with the keyboard.
A keyboard can have lesser number of keys than the piano, the keys can range from 44 to 88, with 88 keys being the full size. They typically have unweighted keys.
Casio and Yamaha are among the leading manufacturers of home keyboards.
MIDI Controller: What Is It?
MIDI Controllers are similar to keyboards, but they don’t have any sound output. They don’t produce sound by themselves instead they are to be connected to a computer or other systems that convert the MIDI’s signals to sound.
The most common type of MIDI controllers are available in a variety of sizes ranging from 25 key, 2 octave models to a full 88 keys model.
Music producers, DJs or others who’re likely to record what they’re playing usually use MIDI controllers.
While playing professionally compatibility of MIDI becomes very important.
What Should You Buy Out Of The 3?
Choosing between the three: Piano, keyboard and MIDI controller, is not an easy task but here are the pros and cons of all the three, which might help you make a better decision about what to buy:
Reasons To Buy a Piano
Pros: Pianos are beautiful, and when at home they make your room look prettier than before. There is no need to buy extra accessories usually, the sustain pedal for example is built into it, and doesn’t come separately.
Cons: Pianos are quite heavy, and thus not portable. Good quality pianos can be extremely costly as well.
Reasons To Buy a Keyboard
Pros: It’s portable, can be carried easily and thus better for practice.
Cons: Cheaper keyboards usually don’t have touch sensitivity and thus might not have a nice feel to them. Protective cover, stand, sustain pedal, etc. are some of the accessories that you’ll have to buy separately alongside a keyboard.
Reasons To Buy a MIDI Controller
Pros: The biggest pros for MIDI controllers would be that they are inexpensive and not at all heavy thus can be carried very easily.
Cons: MIDI controllers have no built in speakers and there is a need to set them up, thus not suitable for beginners at least. Hooking them up to a computer whenever you feel like playing makes beginners not want to practice.
If you’re a beginner, a keyboard might be a better choice for you since it is portable, i.e. easier to carry for practice and also not very expensive.
Pianos do have a superior quality of sound, but they can be very expensive. In addition to that Pianos are not portable since they are very heavy.
MIDI controllers are a hassle for beginners, as they require you to hook them to a computer and also you should have knowledge about a few softwares to get the best out of them.
What To Look For In a Keyboard?
Now that we know a bit more clearly as to what a keyboard actually is, we’ll come back to the main question – how do you choose the right keyboard?
Number Of Keys
Digital keyboards have a wide range of models available with different number of keys. A keyboard can have a range of 25 to 88 keys.
More the number of keys greater of the range of the instrument, but more number of keys also makes it less portable than a keyboard with lesser number of keys.
While a 25 key keyboard will have only a 2-octave range, an 88 key keyboard will have a 7-octave range.
More the number of keys, larger is the instrument and thus creating more room for better features.
Touch sensitivity simply implies that the strength of the sound of the keyboard is dependent on how strongly and firmly you press any key on the piano.
In a keyboard with good touch-sensitivity touching the keys lightly will produce a lighter sound, and pressing them hardly will produce a louder sound.
It is important to know whether or not the keyboard can produce a good sound without hurting your fingers.
The ability of the keyboard to play more than one note at a time is called polyphony.
Polyphony is depicted by a number, this number is basically the maximum number of notes that a keyboard can produce at a time.
Monophonic keyboards are keyboards capable of playing only one note at a time.
Polyphonic keyboards are capable of playing more than one note, but they do reach their limit as well.
The sustain pedal also plays an important role in the polyphony, multiple notes keep layering on each other when played with the sustain pedal, until the pedal is left.
Things To Consider
- The keyboard should be touch sensitive, this helps out to bring a beautiful sound, and the feel of playing the instrument. Cheaper keyboards for example are not touch-sensitive and thus don’t give a good feel while playing, it feels like hitting a piece of plastic. These keyboards create the same sound no matter how hard or soft you press the keys.
- If you’re considering to pursue playing the instrument in the long run, you should buy a keyboard with at least 61 keys. Lesser number of keys would leave no scope to improve and learn more.
- Before buying do try the instrument, play it and understand if it sounds nice to you or not.
- Be sure of your goals before you start to learn the instrument. If you desire to learn the instrument and further give a certification exam for the same (like grade exams for Trinity College of London), make sure to buy a keyboard that can be used in such exams. Do not buy a cheap keyboard with less features, expecting it to be used in such grade exams since that won’t be possible.
Hello, I’m Rohan. I’m an entrepreneur and coder with two failed startups. I write about music as a side hustle. Why? I love music.