Buying your first keyboard can feel, at times, as if you are walking through an obstacle course. There are hundreds of brands with thousands of models and even more options for every one of those models. How are you supposed to choose which one will suit your needs? This guide should help you narrow down which model(s) will work best for you.
Do you want to play a keyboard or play a piano?
This might seem like a silly question. I mean, they’re the same thing, right? Well, they’re very similar, but the subtle differences will have an impact on your purchase decision and which is right for you. Generally speaking, digital pianos will have weighted keys to more accurately represent using a real piano. And, depending on the model, they will also come with a small selection of different sounds or tones it can play – for instance, piano, bright piano, electric piano, etc. – although on the more expensive models the manufacturers are including more options all the time.
Keyboards, on the other hand, are typically found with plastic keys that have little to no “weight” to them, but a much wider variety of different sounds, sound effects, chords, and other effects to accompany or enhance your playing. It’s common to have hundreds of different musical tones, accompaniments, and even digital sampling even on many entry level keyboards. If you look at the selection of keyboards and digital pianos in the marketplace you will see ones with a feature called “one touch chords” or sometimes it’s called “auto accompaniment”, usually on keyboards. What those phrases mean is that the keyboard can play accompaniment patterns in different styles and sounds when a chord is pressed one time, which will give the impression that you are playing with an entire band. Although this makes the keyboard very entertaining for a beginner but makes it harder if you are learning piano because eventually you will have to learn to accompany yourself.
While learning to play on a basic keyboard can be fun with all the options available for accompaniment, playing piano well requires great skill. Many consider learning to play on a digital piano a better approach then using a keyboard. A competent player will complete hours and hours of practice to play both accurately and in time. The sequences of a players hand movements can sometimes become quite complicated and it’s sometimes easier to concentrate when you are unencumbered by too many options and can concentrate on your lessons.
No, these aren’t technical terminology from the designer; this is an important item when picking out a musical keyboard for the first time. If you looking for a keyboard for your child and you really aren’t sure if they are going to stick with it, then this is an option you can do without. Otherwise, this is an important option. Velocity sensitivity means that, like on a regular piano, when you press down on the key lightly, the key plays in a quiet manner. Press harder or pound on the key, it plays loudly. This allows for the keyboard to be played in an expressive manner. Dramatic passages in a song can be played loudly, with emphasis, while quieter moments can be played softly, quietly. For anyone serious about learning to play piano, this is an important feature that your musical keyboard must have.
There are a few other features that you might want to consider before making your choice. Some keyboards have a recording device, allowing you to record your performance, and then replay it back for critique or for enjoyment. Still some other devices have built in lessons or practice sessions. Some models of keyboards have a built in microphone for singing while others have a plug to add your own microphone if you wish.
These are all optional items, however, as they won’t affect the way you play or how you learn. The first two items listed are going to be the main questions you have to ask yourself. After that, you can add as many additional options as you and your budget can afford.