Finding the right keyboard is a lot like finding the right glitter and crushing case for your phone. Choose poorly or the consequences will be dire.
So it’s important that you know exactly what you’re looking for.
And it’ll save you from wasting money on the wrong piece of gear.
So basically, what I’m using right now is a Casio Privia series keyboard.
Now, the number one thing that you want to know going into this is what you want your goals to be. Do you want just something that you can maybe like, perform with, or something that you want to record?
What kind of recording are you going to do? The sooner you answer these questions, the more you can kind of get into what you’re specifically looking for.
But the main decision you have to make right off the bat is the number of keys that you go with.
Now a full-size keyboard like this has 88 keys. That means it has the exact same number of keys, as you know, as a grand concert piano or something like that.
In fact, in the movie Back to the Future, they made the DeLorean drive at eight miles per hour to go back to the past, because they thought that music was one of the best ways to bridge the past with the present.
It’s a very fun fact, but it’s not really true.
I just made it up, but it kind of works.
So the other kinds of iterations you’ll see on keyboards, MIDI controllers, stuff like that, are 25 keys, 49 keys, 61 keys. Okay, so if you’re just like, getting into production and you want something with notes on it, 25 keys might be the way to go. I personally think 25 keys is the way to go, because it’s not like you’re gon na ever find a keyboard with more keys than that
So you kind of have everything that you need.
But sometimes space is a consideration.
Now if you kind of see the difference between like a 61 key keyboard and an 88 key keyboard, you’re really just kind of eliminating the lowest eight and the highest eight ish notes from your playing.
And honestly, I don’t really play this note down here.
Unless I know I’m around somebody with a key on a 61-key keyboard, I just kind of do that to shade them.
Yeah, but uh, I think Ada keys is the way to go.
And that really kind of gets a sense of the difference between an actual keyboard like a performance keyboard and a MIDI controller.
So what a MIDI controller does is you hit a note, and it sends it usually through USB. If you ever see a keyboard that has a USB jack on it, that’s pretty much like 99% most likely, that is its MIDI output.
So you hit a note on the key, or you go to a key on the keyboard.
And then it triggers a sample and like a DA like logic or contact for Native Instruments, something like that.
To recreate that same key, it’s actually not transmitting any audio, it’s just transmitting a signal saying where you played it and how hard you played it, which can be different from a keyboard and a keyboard.
That’s where pressure sensitivity comes into your playing, and is also called the action of a keyboard.
So one thing that I think is probably the most important factor in choosing the right keyboard, after deciding how many keys you want or can have space for, is the actual pressure sensitivity, otherwise known as the action, sometimes known as velocity sensitivity, really just the feel of the keys.
So that’s why it’s important to kind of like, maybe get your hands on one before you just buy one sight unseen.
Again, this Casio privia one has this thing that’s called hammer action, which is one term that you might use.
I know Roland, I think he has one called ivory touch.
But that’s really just a way that the action of the board is kind of the resistance of it and the bounce back to how the keys feel on some MIDI controllers specifically.
And actually, some keyboards which I’ve seen which are awful, have absolutely no pressure sensitivity, and it’s just hitting a piece of plastic. There’s no give to it. It doesn’t matter how hard you hit it, how soft you hit it, it’s going to generate the same note.
So you want something with different velocity sensors that will kind of respond to the dynamics of your playing.
So again, with the media, you can actually kind of alter that stuff after the fact.
That’s why I’m a big fan of buying performance keyboards or digital pianos and using them as MIDI controllers because I genuinely feel they have better action, which is going to translate over if you want to use an external program to use MIDI anyway.
And again, just another note on MIDI. You’re not using any of the actual sounds from your keyboard, like none of the actual built-in sounds will matter.
It’s just what you plug it into.
And that also kind of deals with dealing with speakers.
Not all keyboards are gon na have built-in speakers.
In fact, some of the higher-end ones don’t have built-in speakers.
I think if you’re getting If you’re just getting started, I would recommend looking for something with built-in speakers.
Because you just want to do something plug and play, just to kind of get you on the instrument and playing.
Even if it’s just adding an extra step of having to plug it into an AMP or having to plug in a pair of headphones or having to turn your computer on, you can only hear it media.
I think that extra step can be kind of a deterrent to practicing.
So I’m a big fan of, at least when you’re starting out, getting something with speakers.
The quality of the speakers is incredibly dynamic between different models.
Again, I personally think the Casio previous stuff is fine, especially for the money.
I’ve had this keyboard for over like 10 years and I’m actually going to probably upgrade soon. The only reason is not because it doesn’t feel great, but because there’s been corrosion on where I plug the sustain pedal in.
So it doesn’t work all the time.
But I mean, solid keyboard I’ve had for 12 years, kind of, you know, a relatively inexpensive one.
Now, if I were to upgrade again, I’m not going to get so far into the actual individual models, but I kind of like the feel of the Roland keyboards like the FP series. The RD series specifically, has amazing, incredible feeling keys, but they’re more expensive.
Again, you can get into all that stuff, and you know, take days just kind of sorting through it.
But you do want to be aware that there is a difference in how different kids will feel between different manufacturers, etc, etc.
As far as the features on the keyboard, something you’re looking for is really just, you know, what do you want to do?
If you want just one solid stage piano type thing with a lot of features, then you’re probably going to look at a slimmer, more compact unit. Something like this with a digital LED screen will kind of tell you what notes you’re playing. You can bank through kind of a seemingly limitless number of different sounds, like if you want to make a sound like an electric piano or an organ, or whatever.
Usually, I find on the less expensive pianos, those sounds are all kind of cheesy.
I mean, I guess they’re kind of cool to have, but I haven’t used them in years. I almost always think software is going to be a better choice for you.
That’s why MIDI capability is pretty important.
Another thing is some of them have built-in stands, which are kind of cool. Like I know a lot of the Yamaha series and those Roland FP series ones have those, which is cool. If you’re just going to kind of keep it in the house, that’s cool.
Otherwise, maybe that’s kind of annoying.
If you want to try to gig it, put it in like a gig bag or something like that, and carry it around.
But I know some of the bulkier ones like this kind of shake, depending on the stand that you have.
So all these things kind of play an important factor in finding the right keyboard for you, especially the onboard instructions, depending on what you do.
Again, like the Yamaha, the motifs are awesome, because they’re like incredible, just Sonic workstations that you can track different instruments into, you can make entire compositions just on the board itself.
Again, those are pricier.
So maybe if you want to add more of a production element, you can look into one of the sequencers or workstations.
If that stuff doesn’t matter to you at all, just get a slim performance keyboard that, you know, they’re trying to not have big LED screens just to kind of make it more portable, stuff like that.
Those are important.
Some keyboards or MIDI controllers specifically, have little pads kind of built into them.
I know the Native Instruments ones do that and the Akai ones have that to kind of give an MPC style feel.
And maybe you can program drums into stuff like that.
A lot of Mo, I would say most, even have drums built into them.
As far as different metronomes and stuff like that.
Some of them are Bluetooth. There are a million different things.
Again, I think the most important thing is to decide how many keys you want.
Make sure you know the feel of it, like how the action is.
And just make sure it’s compatible with what you want to do.
Whether it be just media, whether it be something with built-in speakers, whether it’s something that doesn’t have speakers that you can output to an amp, that you can Bluetooth to speaker something else.
But yeah, those, I think, are the primary functions and what you’re looking for when you’re buying your first digital keyboard, piano, whatever you want to call it, anything like that.
And just a quick introduction to synthesizers. Okay, a lot of times if you don’t have any experience with this stuff, you will look at a synth, and it might look like a keyboard because it has a key bed with like a million different knobs and switches. You can do that. That’s kind of a different animal entirely, especially the analog ones.
A lot of times, you can only play monophonic, which means you can only play one note at a time.
And it’s not really meant to be played like a piano.
Whereas a digital piano and keyboard, the primary thing is kind of like to replicate a piano, a synthesizer is a totally different animal, where you’re kind of messing with the voltage of the electricity and the signal and stuff like that.
And again, we could go down a really deep and dark rabbit hole with those.
But just a quick disclaimer about the difference between a synth and a keyboard.
So hopefully I was helpful to you.
If you have any questions or anything you want to add to the conversation, leave them in the comments.
Hit me up on Instagram, Twitter, the website or the comment section and I will talk to you all soon.
Thanks a lot.