Things To Keep In Mind If Buying Or Upgrading To A New Keyboard

What are the things that you  should bear in mind when purchasing a keyboard?

If you  are considering upgrading or buying a new keyboard anytime soon, we sincerely advise taking note of a few features that are a must have.

They are as follows:

  1. Weighted key action.
  2. Touch response.
  3. Sustain pedals.
  4. Good sound sampling.

Weighted key action replicates the feel and weight of the ivory keys of a real piano. Otherwise you  get a spring loaded plastic feel to the keyboard which according to me robs a lot from the experience of piano playing.

Touch response is extremely important as it means that each note plays as loudly or softly depending on how hard you  hit the key. Tonal range is a huge feature of piano playing. If you  cannot control the softness or loudness of individual notes, you  will not be able to make the keyboard sound right. You do not need worry about this when buying an acoustic piano. But a digital keyboard may or may not have this feature.

Sustain pedals – Many people who purchase a digital keyboard do not consider buying pedals as an accessory. If you are buying a acoustic piano then you do not need to worry about this.

A pedal is required of you  are learning to play conventional piano. Almost every piano piece will require you  to use the pedals to sustain certain notes and stop others. If your keyboard does not have sustain feature you  find it inconvenient to play a lot of things on the keyboard. So sustain pedals are a must have.

Good sound sampling – What does the sound of a digital keyboard depend upon? 2 things. The speakers attached to the keyboard and the sound sampling. The digital keyboards today produce the sound of various musical instruments by using sound samplings from the actual instrument. The better the sampling the better and more realistic is the sound. So if you  want your digital piano to sound like a real grand or as close as possible then you need to buy a digital piano with a good sound sampling. And usually when it comes to the sound quality of a keyboard you  get what you  pay for.

So if you are buying or upgrading your current keyboard these main Points in mind and you  are on your way to making a sound choice.

What Is MIDI Function Capability

Once again, the MIDI function of the keyboard is not something that I use personally. I am more concerned with playing the piano and not too much into experimenting with various other sound effects, keyboards, recording, editing, playing other types of musical devices etc. All these things are offered by the MIDI functionality of your keyboard. You can connect your keyboard to other keyboards and play more than one instrument simultaneously.

midi keyboard

You can try interesting recording software and equipment. However, for a person who is trying to learn to play the piano, the MIDI functionality of the keyboard is something that is actually useless. A piano learner is not concerned with producing and experimenting with different sounds. Besides most of the better models of digital keyboards have basic options like accompaniment, sound recording etc. which is probably as far as you will go as a piano player. Unless you are doing engineering sounds and performing professionally, MIDI capabilities of a piano or more suited to a sound artist and a recording engineer.

One piece of advice when you are using a digital keyboard. Always use a surge protector or a constant voltage supply for your music equipment. You can pick up one at the electronics or office supply store. Plug the protector or the CVT into the wall and then plug all your musical instruments and equipment into the protector. This will protect your expensive music equipment against power surges, fluctuation and power outages. Do not flinch on the price of purchasing an effective and good surge protectors. Even the most expensive ones are less than $50 and some have guarantees to repay you thousands of dollars if they should ever fail to protect your record and equipment.

How To Use Online Websites To Buy A Piano

Most of the major manufactures for digital keyboards and pianos have a website online. Most of the keyboard manufacturers also allow you to buy the keyboard online. Sometimes, there are online only offers that offer you a better price and quote than the price that can be found in physical stores. This is usually because they would like people to buy on online stores and reduce their overheads. Websites for pianos and digital keyboards can give you a user manual, product demonstrations and used and new prices for various models.

One of the big advantages of browsing online for a digital piano is that you can go through the complete details and user manual at your own time and pace.

You do not have to feel in any sort of rush as you might if you are at a physical store and asking the salesperson questions. You can read up on a lot of information about a particular piano or a digital keyboard and go to a physical store much better informed.

Browsing the websites for additional keyboard can greatly help you narrow down the models that you are seeking to buy by viewing the features available on each. This will help you reduce the time that you spend in a physical store. You can go to a physical store with the exact requirement and the model that you want in mind. Being more informed will help you deal with the salesperson better and will also help you avoid a bad deal. Sometimes the sales people are not completely aware of all the features of all the models as well. This will give you advantage when you have read up and shortlisted keyboard models online.

Some websites will also offer you support and help on the phone. However, as we have mentioned before, you should almost always never buy a piano or the digital keyboard without having tried it and played it 1st. You can only do this with a physical store. Besides, a dealer can offer you better product support, answer questions, offer you a store warranty and provide you with other services such as annual or semiannual maintenance and tuning of your piano. Besides, you may find it easier to bring your instrument back for repairs of problems when you buy from a close by piano or keyboard store.

How To Get The Best Price On A Piano

Do not buy immediately. Once you have found the perfect keyboard that you want, you are advised not to sit down and start negotiating right then and there. It would be better if you leave the store and give yourself more time to think about it. You might be too excited at that point of time to think clearly. Take a day or think about it overnight and go back to the store and be ready to negotiate a lower price. You should even consider looking at other stores to see if you cannot find the same model at the cheaper price. If you cannot find a better deal and you are hundred percent sure after one-day or even a couple of days that you have found the keyboard of your dreams, go back ahead and start negotiating.

Never pay the sticker price on the piano

best price piano

The one thing that many people do not understand with almost any kind of business is that almost everything is negotiable which includes the price. The price on various digital instruments and accessories is open for a bit of price haggling as well. The higher model that you choose, the more enthusiastic the dealer and the salesperson will be to throw in a few extras for free. Some of these freebies can come in very handy such as the delivery to your home which can sometimes cost as much as $300 for a large acoustic instrument.

By negotiating the price, you can hope to get anywhere from 10 to 15% of the sticker price. You may also negotiate other freebies such as free year of tuing, free maintenance etc. You may also look at buying accessories like a keyboard stand, amplifier, software and some cables. If you do, the salesman will be more receptive to make a deal.

However, make sure that you are buying these accessories only because you need them and not simply to get a better deal. After all, buying additional accessories is going to cost more.

One important thing to keep in mind before you start negotiating is that you should only do it when you are sure that you want to buy that particular instrument. If you are not, do not haggle over the price just for curiosity sake. You are going to waste the sale person’s time and pretty much rule out any possibility of further deals with that particular music store. If you waste their time unnecessarily, they are not going to receive your very enthusiastically in the future in case you find yourself ending up buying from them.

Another important thing to do is to have an absolute maximum dollar figure in mind before you go to the piano store. Don’t end up buying something that you cannot afford. This way, you are better able to negotiate over the price as well. If the salesperson is not being able to give you the price you want, you can make them aware of how much you’re willing to spend and give your contact details in case an offer comes up in the future or the store changes their mind about giving you a better price.

Like any other stores, there are discount seasons to buy a piano and a keyboard. For example, Memorial Day is always a big piano sale time and many major shops and stores offer you very lucrative sales and promotions.

How To Test A Piano/Keyboard Before You Buy It

Before you make the purchase, don’t just be satisfied by the looks of the keyboard and what the salesperson has to tell you about the capabilities theoretically. You need to test the digital keyboard yourself.

test a piano before buying

Remember that one of the important purpose for which you have gone to the piano store is to try out the keyboard for yourself. Try out different features. Try out the sound at different volume levels. This can be an important point if using built-in speakers. Certain keyboard models may not be able to sound good or handle high volumes. Any good piano on the display keyboard store should allow you to try the models you are interested in. If the store manager or the salesman asks you not to touch the merchandise, you are much better off finding another store that will allow you to do this.

Keep in mind that many digital keyboards on display are connected to processors, effects and other digital enhancements to make them sound better. In order to avoid getting fooled by this extra and sophisticated gear, ask the salesperson to turn off all the effects so you can hear the keyboard as it is. You may also want to use amplifier or the speaker that you intend to use at home. You also need to hear the inbuilt speakers of the keyboard since that is what you are most likely to use when practicing at home.

Notice the following things about each piano or keyboard that you try.

  1. Is the overall sound full or wimpy, bright or dull?
  2. Do long notes actually lost as long as you play them?
  3. On an acoustic piano do the top 5 keys sound good and not metallic? Do the lower 5 keys sound good and not sloppy? Do you get a quick response when you press the keys, is a keyboard too sensitive or not sensitive enough?
  4. Do your fingers have enough room on the keys? This question is pertinent if you are not buying a full-sized keyboard the smaller keyboards might have smaller keys and require you to play differently than you would on a full-size keyboard.
  5. Do you like the overall look and color and design of the keyboard? Will you be happy with it taking up space in your house for the next few years?
  6. Can you make out any noticeable dents or scratches? This may be a sign that the piano is not new but a used one. If the piano is a used one, manufacturer and the dealer should offer you a better price and not try to sell it to you as new.
  7. Check all the keys. Make sure they sound ok. Before you make the purchase, don’t just be satisfied by the looks of the keyboard and what the salesperson has to tell you about the capabilities theoretically. You need to test the digital keyboard yourself.

12 Features You Should Look For In A Digital Keyboard

Knowing the digital features you want in a keyboard

Before you go into the market looking for at its keyboard, make a list of what is important to you. For me personally the primary concern is with the tonal quality of the digital keyboard. I like to purchase a digital keyboard that offers an authentic piano sound as well as features like weighted action keys and touch sensitivity. Without these 2 features, playing the digital keyboard is quite far removed from playing the real thing. I believe these 2 features are essential to playing the piano the way it is meant to be played and to learn certain essential techniques. Sustain pedals are also an extremely important part of a digital keyboard.

digital keyboard features

You may also consider features like quick live performance flexibility. This may not really matter if you are going to be playing at home but may be very important if you play in concerts. These are some of the common features that you should consider when purchasing a display keyboard.

  1. Realistic piano sound. As already mentioned, I highly recommend looking for a home digital piano with the best piano sample sounds so that the digital keyboard sound grates and you have fun playing it.
  2. Realistic piano action. Once again, features like weighted key action and touch sensitive keyboards offer the best way to learn piano.
  3. Built in speakers. You want to avoid the added hassle and expense of having to attach your own amplifier and speakers. This also makes the setup of a digital keyboard more cumbersome. Ideally you want inbuilt speakers and good ones at that. The better the inbuilt speakers, the more convenient and easy it is to sound great when playing the piano.
  4. Performing on stage. If you are going to be performing on stage, look at stage pianos and high-end digital piano models to ensure that your piano playing and tonal quality is right up there with what the audience wants to hear from a piano recital.
  5. Portability. Depending upon your need and requirement, you may want your digital keyboard to be of a particular size. You may want it to be easily movable if you intend to move it around the house or even carry it to different places.
  6. Polyphonic. This is again an extremely important feature that you should look for in a digital keyboard. If you buy one of the lesser models from the local electronic store all a toy store for yourself or for your child, you may come home to realize that you can only play so many notes at the same time the in fact in. In fact in certain very cheap keyboards, you can only play one note at a time. This completely beats the purpose of learning the piano. Piano playing is all about playing multiple notes at the same time when playing chords and melody. Try for at least a 32 note polyphonic. You might wonder why you need 32 note polyphonic when you do not have 32 fingers. But the fact is that by sustaining various notes, you can play more notes than number of fingers on a piano. Some models even have a 128 note polyphonic which is excellent.
  7. MIDI capability. This may be important if you want to do adventurous things with your digital keyboard like attaching it to multiple keyboards, connecting it to the computer, doing your own recording and editing etc.
  8. Pitch blend and modulation. Once again if you are looking at working with various sounds and creating new sound effects, you may want a digital keyboard that allows you to create different sounds. Arranges, synthesizers and workstations are a good option if you want to achieve this result.
  9. Sound editing. If you want inbuilt sound editing in your display keyboard, you should look at workstations. You can also do things like change the sound of the piano by making it brighter, etc.
  10. Internal recording, editing and sequencing. If you want to record what you play without external recorders or the computer you need a sequencer which most digital keyboards have. But the low-end models only have a basic recording capability. If you want advanced editing and sequencing features, you are probably going to have to look at a workstation which is one of the more expensive options.
  11. Automatic rhythm, harmony and base accompliment. Once again look at Arrangers have these kind of features available to you.
  12. Sound effects. If you are looking to create and work around with sound effects, you probably want to get a synthesizer that allows you to make your own sounds. Once again be aware that some synthesizers are monophonic which means that they can only play one note at a time.

At the end of the day, be clear about what your requirements from the digital keyboard are. If you are looking to play and learn with piano, you need not concern yourself with many of the points mentioned above. You only need to concern yourself with the 1st 3 points pertaining to good piano sample sounds, keyboard action such as weighted key action and touch sensitivity as well as availability of pedals with the keyboard.

After you have narrowed down the model you want to buy, take your time to test it out and make sure that it looks and sounds good to your ears. If the digital keyboard is hooked up to an elaborate system of external amplifiers and speakers in the store, ask the salesman to either hook up the digital keyboard to the kind of amplifier you will be using at home or to take it off altogether so you can hear what the inbuilt speakers sound like. Keep in mind the space in your home and where you are going to put it. Make sure that you are comfortable on the keyboard and enjoyed practicing on it.

How To Prevent Your Keyboard From Getting Obsolete

Just like any other digital or electronic gadget, you will find that your digital keyboard may get obsolete with development in new technology. This of course depends on what you buy in the 1st place. If you buy a very top-end digital piano, the odds are that the quality of the sound, the tonal range of the instrument as well as other features remain up to date for a longer period of time. But with lesser models, you will find that the technology improves more rapidly. Usually, keyboard manufacturers are trying to make products that can be easily upgraded in the future with the advent of new technology. This means that your digital keyboard will not necessarily go obsolete and you can upgrade your hardware in the future without having to buy a new digital keyboard.

digital keyboard

In order to prevent your display keyboard from becoming obsolete quickly, you may ask the following questions off the piano salesman.

  • Can I add more memory? Adding more memory to your existing keyboard means that you can accommodate new sounds, software and hardware at a later date. Also ask about the memory limitations. If you do not understand the terminology, ask the keyboard salesman to explain it to you in simpler terms.
  • Is the digital keyboard upgradable? Just like a computer or smart phone, many digital keyboard offer upgrade to the operating system as well as to the hardware as the latest improvements occur. This may not be possible with the lower end models offer digital keyboard. Usually being able to upgrade the software on your this keyboard requires Internet connection capability. Most of the high-end digital keyboard such as workstations offer the facility to upgrade your software.Once again the high end digital keyboard such as workstations have a vast library of sounds. You may want the ability to add extra sound cards and sound libraries to your old digital keyboard whether they are developed by the original manufacturer or other 3rd party sound developers. This feature comes in very handy for sound engineers and sound artists who wants to constantly experiment with new sound effects.
  • Is the company still making this model or series? You should not feel embarrassed to ask the following question. If the model or the series has been discontinued, your display keyboard may already be obsolete. However, this does not mean that that particular model is not suited to your need and requirement. If it meets all the other criteria on the list, you may in fact be able to get it for a good low price simply because that particular model is not being manufactured anymore. You should also ask whether you can get upgrades.

Should You Buy A Keyboard From An Electronics Toy Store

We have discussed the 5 main categories of digital keyboard but it is common for many parents to pick up a digital keyboard from the closest local electronic store or a toy store.

Many of these digital keyboards are sufficient to get small children started out on their hobby of piano playing. Even adults choose to go this way in order to avoid heavy expense right in the beginning of learning to play the piano. The one main reason they choose to go down this path is that they figure that they need time to actually figure out whether learning the piano is something that is going to stick. If the hobby progresses onto serious levels then you can always upgrade to purchasing a more serious digital keyboard. It is a similar case of reasoning with children as well. Sometimes parents are not sure whether the child will take 2 learning the piano enthusiastically and continue for some time in the future.

digital keyboardsHowever, I must strongly point out here that purchasing a good quality instrument is essential to progressing along and learning piano well. A substandard digital keyboard will only take you so far and will not allow you to learn the piano as it is meant to be learned. For example, in order to learn the piano the way it is meant to be played, you need to have features in your digital keyboard like weighted action and touch sensitivity. Without touch sensitivity, the finer nuances of playing a piano are completely lost. One of the biggest advantages of piano as a musical instrument is that you can play sounds as softly and as loudly as required by the composition. This tonal quality is controlled by pressing the keys softly or hard. This is an essential technique learned and a digital keyboard that does not have this feature fails completely in this regard. Also the functions of the sustain pedal are important in playing the piano. The cheaper digital keyboard that you purchase from your or store or the electronics store may not have this capability. So if you see yourself or your child strongly progressing and doing well in learning the piano, do not wait too long to purchase that more efficient and professional digital keyboard. Otherwise you will fail to progress in learning the piano the way it is meant to be played.

How To Choose Between Different Kinds Of Digital Keyboards

Let’s have a more in-depth look at the different kinds of digital keyboards.

Digital pianos and organs

Digital pianos and organs for home use come in 2 types. Portable models and upright and brand models. In my experience out of these 2, the upright and grand models produce a beautiful piano sound and usually have features like weighted key action and touch sensitivity which brings you really close to the experience of playing a real acoustic piano.

digital keyboards

The advantage of a portable digital piano is that, well, it is more portable. Both these types of keyboards come with built-in speakers although the quality of the sound and speakers on the upright model will be far superior to the portable models. You may overcome this disadvantage by using an external amplifier of your own. What matters at the end of the day is the quality of the sample piano sounds that your digital keyboard is loaded with. The better the quality, the more realistic your keyboard will sound.

Most of the upright digital pianos as well as the portable ones offer other sound options such as electric piano, acoustic piano, honky-tonk piano and other instruments like strings, flute, guitar etc. The upright models are already propped up on their own legs and the portable ones also usually come with the music rack, a stand and a plug-in pedal.

You may also have a choice between the size of the keyboard. You can choose between 61, 73 or and 88 key model. Buying a smaller size may allow you to save some more money.

Arrangers

As far as the playing and learning is concerned, this option is not something that should concern many piano enthusiasts. Arrangers are basically digital keyboards that have a lot of different sounds and accompaniment features loaded onto them. They might not have the best acoustic piano samplers as an arranger is not specifically meant for piano playing but for doing lots of other things. For example, you can create a one-man band with using features like automatic drums, bass, accompaniments, hundreds of sound effects and instruments as well as recording and playback capability. Low-end models can be quite inexpensive and quite portable.

Arrangers can be a lot of fun for someone who is looking to experiments with sounds and creating sound effects as well as recording different musical instruments. Examples of people who use arrangers are sound technicians, sound artists, disc jockeys etc.

Stage pianos

Just the name should tell you everything that you need to know about these kind of digital keyboards. Stage pianos are meant for performing on stage and offer you the best of professional digital piano sound. A stage piano is the choice for professional as well as semiprofessional piano players who is going to be playing in a band, doing a solo piano act or doing gigs around the town. Digital stage piano does not have built-in speakers and you need to use an external amplifier and speaker of your own. However, you can plug in a pair of headphones and hear yourself at all times. The function of a stage piano is simple. It is meant to be an alternative to a larger and heavier acoustic piano and meant to sound great. The sound sampling of the stage piano is superior to perhaps all of the kinds of digital keyboard. It is also complete with features like weighted action keys and touch sensitivity that make the stage piano as close to an acoustic piano playing experience as you can get. All stage pianos come with a music track and a sustain pedal. You might need to purchase the necessary accessories separately.

Workstations

Again this is an option that most piano enthusiasts who want to learn piano to play at home or even professionally should not concern themselves with. A workstation is essentially a computer built into a keyboard and has the capability of performing a myriad of different functions. A workstation basically has everything. It has top-of-the-line sound samples, sequencing ability, recording and editing as well as compatibility and integration with other keyboards and computers. Workstations also come in 61, 73 and 88 key models. Workstations can be quite expensive but if you have lofty mystical dreams and goals, this might be what you want to try out.

Synthesizers

I remember the time that almost any digital keyboard was referred to as a synthesizer. Simply because that these were perhaps the first and the most common kind of digital pianos to suffice. There were not many options for digital pianos. The latest technology of sampled piano sounds was not present. So any digital keyboard was actually a synthesizer that used electronic circuits 2 synthesize and create artificial piano sounds as well as other instruments. Needless to say, in the earlier models, the sound was nowhere close to what an acoustic piano should sound like. With the advent in technology, synthesizers have come a very long way. You can still buy a good old synthesizer and manipulate reform, filter and work with both analog and digital sounds. The modern versions of synthesizers come with more sounds to work with than the older models. However, once again the larger purpose of the synthesizer is not to replicate or produce authentic piano sound. It is not also something that is meant to render a complete piano playing experience. Synthesizers are a great instruments that are used by sound artists that allows them to create almost any possible some including beats and hoops and lips.

Keyboards were a huge hit with pop groups because of the wide spectrum of backing support they could provide. They still are.

If your idea of purchasing a digital keyboard is to have fun with sounds and do things like mixing and creating new sound effects, then a synthesizer maybe the option for you. Synthesizers wary a great deal in their models and price range. You can pick up something for a very reasonable price. Do not expect to find actions like weighted action and touch sensitivity unless you choose a very high end model. This is simply because like I already said, the main function of the synthesizer is not to replicate the piano playing experience. You can however find lots of good preset sounds even if they do not match the sound of a real piano.

What Are The Different Kinds Of Digital Keyboards

After going through the previous posts and considering your options, you have decided to purchase a digital keyboard. However, decision-making for you is not over yet. Now that you are done choosing between acoustic and digital, you now need to decide what type of digital keyboard you want. There are usually 5 categories or 5 kinds of digital keyboards available. For regular piano enthusiast and not a professional, many of these are not an option. Also the line between the different kinds digital keyboards is getting blurred with advancement in technology as even digital pianos and organs can give you a large array of sound effects and features just like a digital arranger or a workstation.

These are the 5 basic categories of the displayed keyboard.

Digital pianos and organs. Arrangers. Stage pianos. Workstations. Synthesizers.

kinds of digital keyboards

You may have automatically decided to go with a digital keyboard option as opposed to the acoustic piano with the aim of saving money in mind. You are perfectly right in making this assumption. However, when you get around to seeing different models of the digital keyboard available to you, you will realize that some of these instruments can get quite expensive as well. Some may even cost as much as an acoustic piano. In fact the highest models of digital keyboards are called stage pianos or digital upgrades. These pianos look much like an acoustic piano and are sometimes almost just as large. Well, not quite but they are intended to take up a more or less permanent space in your home just like their acoustic counterpart.

You might or might not want to concern yourself with the various permutation of digital keyboards such as processor, memory, storage space etc. which is very similar to purchasing a computer. As far as I’m concerned, the number 1 factor that should be looked at when purchasing a digital keyboard is the quality of the sampled sounds. I wish to learn and play the piano on the keyboard and am not much concerned whether it can also produce a realistic trombone sound. While many people look for extra features and entertaining assortment of extras in the digital keyboard, this is not my criteria. I want the best experience that is as close to performing on an acoustic piano. Here are a few things you should know regardless of which of the 5 categories of digital keyboard you purchase.

All digital keyboards today use sample sounds. The quality of the sound may differ in quality from one brand to another as well as the price you are ready to pay for your purchase.

There is a variety of keyboard actions such as touch sensitivity and weighted action keys that mimic the touch and feel of an acoustic piano.

3 common keyboard sizes are standard 61 key, 76 key and 88 keys.

Digital keyboards can come in very portable sizes and can also be much like their acoustic counterpart. Some digital keyboards are like a smaller upright piano and meant to occupy a prominent place in your home. These digital instruments cannot be carried from one place to the other and you definitely cannot make a road trip with them in the back seat of your car.

Nearly all these 2 models come with a music rack, a plug in sustain pedal and MIDI capability. You also have options for connectivity to the Internet through wireless or LAN port. There may also be a USB port on your digital keyboard.

The way to differentiate between different categories of keyboard will be things like sequencing capabilities, built-in speakers, sound effects, metronome, auto compliment features, recording features, extra pedals and other plug-in devices.