Keyboard Recommendations

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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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: