If you are looking for the best electronic keyboard, you have probably been bombarded with a plethora of choices. How will you know exactly which one is right for you? It may be easier for you to make a decision if you determine not only what you want in your digital piano but also what is available.
You can find an electronic keyboard from many well known names in musical instruments including Casio and Yamaha. Most of them are relatively inexpensive costing only between $50 and $300. Furthermore, they all tend to be portable designs, which is possibly one of the most important features when choosing a keyboard.
If you need a flexible keyboard, you could look into a midi controller. Otherwise, you will probably find exactly what you need in a full-size electronic keyboard. Whether you are just beginning or a seasoned professional, you can find a keyboard that will fulfill all your needs and possibly allow you room to grow in your budding craft.
What is an Electronic Keyboard ?
An electronic keyboard is a musical instrument that works by replaying sound samples when you hit the keys. This makes it extremely versatile as it is able to emulate any instrument, not just a piano, by selecting the samples from different ranges according to the type of instrument selected.
The electronic keyboard is made up of the following components:
The musical keyboard which consists of the black and white piano keys, plus a keyboard matrix circuit than picks up the key depression and initiates the process of selecting and amplifying the sound.
Software to control the menus and switches to allow the user to select instruments, play sample tunes, record and playback, connect to a computer and other functions. The software also contains a tone generator which takes the MIDI commands from the keyboard or recorded song and generates the sounds and a rhythm and chord generator which generates rhythms and chords from MIDI commands.
Amplifier and Speakers to amplify the sounds generated by the software.
An electronic keyboard uses an industry standard protocol called MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) which defines how music is encoded into data. The protocol defines how to convert the different components of music into data, for example pitch, volume, and tempo, and allows different electronic instruments or software to communicate.
MIDI is also used by an electronic keyboard to send a signal from the key to the controlling software when a key is pressed. In many keyboards this signal includes not just the note being played but the pressure on the key, thus allowing the amplitude of the note to be varied with pressure. Look for touch sensitive or touch response keyboards for this feature.
Computer connectivity. Most musical keyboards come with a USB interface and the relevant software so you can connect your keyboard to your computer for transferring data. Some also have a MIDI interface to transfer MIDI encoded songs.
What to look for when buying an electronic Keyboard
Before you buy an electronic keyboard consider the following points:
How many keys do you need:
Keyboards come with varying numbers of keys, the most popular is 61 keys, with a smaller number of keys, usually 49, on children’s and starter keyboards. A full size keyboard will have 76 keys and digital pianos will have 88 keys.
How do you decide ?
It depends four factors – the music you want to play, the space you have available, whether you need the keyboard to be portable and the price you are willing to pay.
A 61 key keyboard will let you play most music, it will have 5 octaves in the middle of the range, which will allow you to play most music, but if you want to play some classical music, in particular The Moonlight Sonata you will find you run out of lower range keys. Some keyboards allow you to transpose the pitch up or down an octave so if you do want to play this type of music occasionally you can use this function to gain an extra octave and allow you play it. A 61 key keyboard is smaller than a 76 key keyboard and more portable so if your space is limited or you want to take your keyboard out on gigs this might be the best keyboard for you
A 76 key keyboard will have the range to play almost any music. It takes up more room than a 61 key keyboard and is less portable.
If you want the very best quality and sound and want something that closely emulates an acoustic piano then you need an 88 key digital piano.
What features do you need:
Electronic keyboards are packed with features, many of which are fun but not very necessary. Consider which features you really need when deciding on a keyboard to buy:
Different voices Since electronic keyboards work by playing back sampled sounds when you hit a key it is very easy for them to sound like any instrument in the orchestra. So you can play the keyboard and have it sound like any type of guitar, violin, drum etc. A digital piano will have a much more limited set of voices as these are designed to be used instead of an acoustic piano
Touch Response SensitivityAn acoustic piano will play sounds softer or louder according to the pressure on the keys. An electronic keyboard with touch sensitivity will mimic this by having an additional sensor under the keys which sends a signal to the software controller to adjust the sound volume according to how hard the keys are hit. A very useful feature, making an electronic keyboard sound much closer to an acoustic piano.
Do you need a MIDI interface:
If you want to record your playing on the keyboard and upload to a computer you might want to make sure that the keyboard has a MIDI interface to let you do this. It is possible to use the USB interface and software on the PC to emulate a MIDI interface but the real thing is much better and you will end up with a much better quality recording
Interactive Lessons: Some musical keyboards come with built in lessons to help you learn to play. You select a song you want to learn and the hand (right, left or both) you want to play with. The display shows you each note you need to play and waits for you to play the correct note. At the end of the song you are given feedback as to how you did.
Split Keyboard Mode: This allows you to play different voices with either hand, for example you can play piano with one hand and strings with the other.
Musical Accompaniment: Some electronic keyboards come with built in musical styles you can play along with. Select a style (e.g. rock, blues, country, jazz) and you can have the keyboard play rhythm, bass and chords in that style while you play the melody, just like playing along with a band.
Recording Function: The keyboard can record your playing for later playback on the keyboard or upload to a computer.
Metronome: One of the most important parts of learning to play a keyboard is to get the tempo of the notes right. A metronome is Very useful to help a beginner learn this.