In the world of electronic keyboards, there are more choices and options than Carter has liver pills. Prices range from under a hundred bucks to literally thousands. So it can be quite a daunting task to pick a keyboard that is just right for you. Hopefully, this guide will give you a good basis to start with.
When deciding on the keyboard you’re going to purchase you should take into consideration a number of factors including, price, intended use, features, ease of portability and sound. The saying, “you get what you pay for” doesn’t always apply to electronic keyboards. Some low end models have excellent sound quality and a decent feature list for the money, while some rather expensive models leave a lot to be desired, usually because of a confusing user interface.
Probably the most important thing when deciding on what keyboard you ultimately end up with is what you intend to use the keyboard for. Will it be used for live performance or are you looking for something to add to a studio setup? Are you going to be doing mostly standard wedding band material or are you looking for new and unique sounds for your brand new alternative rock band? The reason these questions are important, and need to be answered, is because not all keyboards are the same. Some are strictly preset standard sounds like grand piano, organ and maybe clavinet. Others have the ability to create your own sounds by combining various waveforms that come with the instrument. The spectrum is so wide you could plant the Grand Canyon right in the middle of it.
So where do you begin?
The first step is to sit down and decide what you want the keyboard for and how much you can afford to spend. List any features that you feel you absolutely can’t live without. Don’t leave out portability. Unless you’ve got a road crew or plan to just leave the thing at the studio, you don’t want something that takes a moving company to lug around. While the days of the 200 pound monsters are pretty much over, there are still some keyboards out there that aren’t exactly lightweights.
If you’ve decided that you can deal with something on the lower end simply because you’re first learning to play or aren’t all that serious about your music, then you might want to consider something like the Casio CTK900 pictured below.
The keyboard sells for a modest $200. It comes with 61 keys, which is pretty much standard for most keyboards. Don’t let the small price tag fool. This is one powerful keyboard for the money. It comes with 824 tones and 176 different rhythms. With today’s digital technology, unless you have an ear like an opera singer, you really can’t tell much difference in the sound between the Casio and higher end models. The Casio has most of the standard features you can expect to find on a keyboard, including general midi which maps certain sounds to certain midi channels so that there is continuity between one keyboard and another. This is for people who need more than one of these little monsters.
Still, for the professional studio musician, composer and performer, the Casio might be just a little bit limited. For those of us who need something a little more powerful, there is always the Yamaha Motif ES6 pictured below.
Warning! The interface for this monster is NOT for the computer illiterate. It has a menu system that is so many levels deep it makes the Grand Canyon mentioned earlier look like a pot hole. The Yamaha company has been making excellent keyboards for years and this beauty is no exception. Along with everything that comes with the Casio, it then goes on to leaving that beast in the dust with 128 note polyphony, 175 megabytes of 16 bit ROM, 1859 waveforms, 1024 preset voices, 65 drum kits, and a sound that will blow you out of your seat. Yes, all that and a price tag of $1,999. Save those green stamps people.
As you can see, the range of what you can spend and what you can get from an electronic keyboard is staggering. So do your homework. Make sure that what you ultimately get is what you need. If you’re not sure, ask the salesman. Tell him what you want it for. If he’s worth his salt he’ll know just the right keyboard for you, your budget and your music.