What to Look For When Buying a Keyboard
When you want to buy your first keyboard, it’s often confusing to know exactly what to get. Keyboard or piano? Or do you actually want a digital piano? And what are the differences between the two?
The most important fact is the following:
From the smallest to the largest, they are ALL keyboard instruments. Even a Steinway concert grand is a keyboard instrument. Over the years though, taking acoustic pianos out of the equation, the distinction between digital pianos and keyboards has become palpable. A digital piano feels like the real thing, is heavier to lift (because of the weighted keys) and sounds more like a real piano (a very subjective thing), whereas a keyboard is (generally) smaller, lighter, and, most of the time, has way more features than a digital piano.
Factors to consider when buying a keyboard
How many keys?
When buying a keyboard, you should always remember that Keyboards can either be classified as 61 keys, 76 keys and 88 keys.
But sometimes we see 25 keys, 32 keys, 49 keys and you may wonder what confusion is this. Remember that there is a difference between a keyboard and a midi controller which look same from the looks but the purpose is different.
61 Keys keyboard normally has many tones, sounds and styles to choose from. Keyboards which are larger than 61 keys are more tailored towards a Piano kind of feel.
Weighted keys like a real piano
One of the main goals of the digital piano is to simulate the traditional upright piano without the hefty weight and lack of portability. And one of the most important factors in recreating the authentic piano experience is the feel of the keys.
The best digital pianos today have weighted keys, and many even have graded hammer action. That means that the lower keys feel heavier than the higher keys, just like how they would feel on an acoustic piano.
Where is it being used?
This is a difficult question, definitely not set in stone. Some churches are very modern and funky in their contingent, and want modern, funky sounds and beats; other churches are quite traditional and want a piano-type vibe. Some people want to practice/learn piano at home. Some want to just use a non-weighted keyboard for noodling tunes. Still others want to use a MIDI controller to programme notes in a MIDI sequence on a PC or MAC.
Do you want to manipulate the sounds?
Do You Want To Manipulate The Sounds?
If you are looking to buy a keyboard that’s a stand-alone unit with which you can manipulate/change the sound (ie, add more reverb, resonance or change the cutoff time), you probably want to look at a synthesizer. Some synths are weighted; most are not. One cannot write off non-weighted keyboards and synths for serious players – many great Jazz players use non-weighted synths (Chick Corea, Jan Hammer, Keith Emerson, Andrew Ford).
Digital Piano vs Keyboard
To understand the difference between digital pianos and keyboards, you must first start at the top with the most important distinctions. The biggest difference between these two kinds of instruments revolves around what they are specifically designed to accomplish.
At its root, a digital piano is built to replicate the experience of real acoustic and grand pianos.
Digital pianos attempt to have all the same feel, look, and capability of traditional pianos, but with the added features of portability, digital effects, and computer connectivity.
Keyboards were most certainly not made to mimic real pianos. In fact, they were created to be a device that produces the sound of a piano–but comes without the hassle, maintenance, and is sometimes even more catered towards a producer of music rather than someone who wants to create it.
For this reason, keyboards many times are much lighter in weight, have tones numbering in the hundreds (sometimes thousands), and are stocked full of all kinds of bells and whistles. Many times, keyboards do not focus on creating the most realistic piano sound, but rather focus on implementing a large amount of electronically devised and synthesized sounds.
Other features or accessories you may want to consider are:
Sustain pedal (most keyboards have a 6.3mm/¼ inch socket for this) – when pressed, it emulates the sustain/vibration of a real piano. All the damped strings on the piano are “sustained” by moving all the dampers away from the strings and allowing them to vibrate freely. All notes played will continue to sound until the vibration naturally ceases, or until the pedal is released.
Headphones, so you can practice late at night!
Keyboard stand – X-frame or a Z-frame; a Z-frame is sturdier, an X-frame is cheaper. Some high-end weighted digital pianos have wooden furniture-style stands available as an optional extra.
This is just a rough guide, as buying a keyboard is a very personal thing – there is no black-and-white. It all depends on your personal needs and preferences.
If you still have questions, feel free to email, call or visit m4music. We stock a huge variety of keyboards, and our friendly and knowledgeable staff are on hand to answer any questions and offer advice.