Of course, nothing feels or sounds quite like a well-tuned acoustic piano with good action, but electronic keyboards can provide a satisfactory playing experience if you take the time to pick out something decent. In the studio, I use a Yamaha stage piano (CP33) and have decided that, due to the variation in temperature and humidity of The Hotel, a digital keyboard is the most sensible choice for this setting.
Since people often ask for recommendations, I thought this might be a good place to share my thoughts…
- In selecting a keyboard, the most important factor for a young pianist is to get weighted, hammer-action keys. Though different manufacturers may use different terminology, the idea is to get a board that has the feel of an acoustic piano. This will aid in technique development and muscle control.
- Secondly, the keys should be velocity sensitive. This means that you will be able to control volume with the pressure applied to individual keys, making varied dynamics in music achievable.
- It is important to be able to add a sustain pedal to the keyboard. While it is not an absolute necessity, it will prove to be a point of frustration in a relatively short time if you are unable to develop pedal technique because of the limits of your keyboard.
- Keyboards, like computers, are quickly upgraded in the industry. However, for most people, a basic model will last a long time, so attend to the function, sound, and feel rather than being distracted by “bells & whistles” that are not necessary for developing musicianship. Consequently, it is possible to find a good deal on used equipment that will serve as a nice starter instrument.
- Each individual has their own personal preference as to what constitutes good “action” on a piano or keyboard. For a beginner, looking for something in the middle (not too stiff, but not too easy) will help develop competent technical playing skills that will more readily adapt to differing playing environments.
- Some keyboards have built-in speakers while others require external amplification. For practice purposes, either will serve you well. For built-in speakers, just be sure to listen to make sure that they produce a sound you can live with. In general, external amplification will provide a fuller, higher quality sound, but will also require more investment (amp & chord). This addition also “bulks up” your rig if portability is an issue. In some cases, it is possible to begin by using a keyboard’s on-board speakers and expand later with the addition of a good keyboard amplifier.
- Finally, think about size. A standard acoustic piano has 88 keys. While you can learn a lot on a small board, it won’t take long for most players to desire a full set or something pretty close to it. Most keyboards range from 49-88 keys, with 61 and 76 key models being pretty common. Transition to a full-sized piano in any venue will be facilitated by familiarity with a full keyboard early on.
Some Keyboards Worth Considering: