Written By: Ashley Southam
People have many different questions when it comes to buying a keyboard. How much they should pay, how many keys it needs, etc. A lot of this really depends on the buyer and your own personal preference. The best way to tell if the keyboard is right for you is if it “feels” right. Having said that, there are a few simple guidelines that will help you out when it comes time to buy your piano.
One of the great things about having so many different keyboards to choose from is that you can usually find one for a very decent price. The first thing is you want to make sure the keyboard actually works properly. The problem with keyboards is that as they age they tend to decay a bit. So be careful not to buy a keyboard before you’ve actually played on it, checked the keys and all the buttons and so on.
The next step is looking at how many keys the keyboard has. I’m often asked “how many keys should I get?” The answer is really down to personal preference and what exactly you’re using your keyboard for. My personal advice is to acquire a keyboard with the full 88 keys. However, 76 and even 61 will usually be enough. If you have the choice I think either 88 or 76 keys is best. If you were just using a small range of the keyboard and it’s more for recording interesting samples and so on, then fewer keys might be fine. Note that most professionals will use 88 keys.
The next thing to look at is the keyboard's weighted keys or “synth” action. This simply means what the feel of the actual keys is like. This again really depends on your personal taste. Weighted keys: this means that the keys on the keyboard have the same feel and weight as keys on a standard piano. A lot of trained pianists go this route, myself included. I don’t like to use synth style keys but that’s entirely my personal taste. One of the benefits of playing on a keyboard with weighted keys is that if you've never played on an acoustic piano before you should easily be able to quickly adjust because your hands will be used to to the feel of the keys. Synth style keys also have their advantages. Because they’re not weighted it can be a lot easier to play them faster.
Another aspect that shouldn't be overlooked is the velocity and after touch of the keyboard. Velocity refers to if how hard you hit the keys heavily affects how loud the sound that comes out. For instance, if you lightly touch the keyboard you will get a nice quiet sound. Similarly if you hit down hard you will get a full, louder sound. After touch refers to the sensitivity to the sound and touch after you hit the note and hold it down. If you play a note and you want it to ring the way an acoustic piano does, after touch is very important. Personally I believe that velocity and after touch is VERY important and any keyboard you have should really have these things take care of.
So as you can see, there are a lot of things to consider when looking at buying a keyboard. Ultimately I believe a lot of it comes down to personal taste and what your instincts tell you about the keyboard itself. Remember, you want it to be something that you can spend a lot of time on so be sure that you are completely happy with what you end up getting.