The electronic keyboard is a very practical and low cost way to start playing a keyboard. Many will come with basic keyboard skills instructions.
Whereas a digital piano will usually have a fairly standard and basic feature set, portable or ‘home’ keyboards come in a variety of different keyboard lengths and sizes, and generally include a host of digital sounds and accompaniment features. They usually have built-in speakers, and battery operation is common with smaller models.
These keyboards take full advantage of digital technology, providing autoaccompaniment features which quickly allow beginners to play pieces of music. Drum, bass and chord parts can be triggered, shaped and stored in memory using the left hand, whilst the right hand plays the melody. Schools often choose portable keyboards to provide entry-level instruction for young beginners, as immediate results can be mixed with basic teaching and act as an introduction to the piano when it is felt that the child has reached a sufficient standard. Look for 2 headphone sockets so that a tutor can listen in as well!
What to look for
- 5 octave (61 black and white full size keys) keyboard. This length of keyboard allows full piano repertoire to be played and is ideal for the beginner. Don't forget a height adjustable stand for the keyboard.
- Full size keys. This means the keys are the same size as an acoustic piano.
- Touch sensitive (also known as touch responsive) keys. This means that, like an acoustic piano, the volume of the notes is louder when the keys are struck harder. Also known as semi-weighted or fully weighted piano-action keys.
- Sustain pedal input. This allows connection of a sustain pedal, which enhances the expressiveness of the performance.
- USB or MIDI connections to PC.With ‘sequencing’ software installed within a PC, these connections allow players to record, store and arrange music within a PC environment.
- Digital effects, such as reverb, chorus and delay enhance the overall sound of the instrument.
- On-board song recording (or sequencer). This allows players to record their own performances and store within the keyboard. Many instruments offer ‘multi-track’ recording.
- ‘Hybrid’ keyboards. These are keyboards that offer an extended range of keys (76 or 88 notes) which combine the functions of a keyboard with more piano like performance potential.