Key Features to Look for in a Keyboard

If there is one instrument that can be found in more homes than any other, it’s probably the piano! Acoustic pianos of all shapes and sizes, and digital keyboards bring hours upon hours of fun and pleasure to any home. But if you’re a first-time piano buyer or renter, you’ve probably got a few questions about your first piano keyboard.

This week we’d like to share a few tips to help you find the best piano keyboard for you.

But before we get into the nitty-gritty, there’s one thing you’ll need to ask yourself: “What will my new piano keyboard be used for the most?”

You might want it as simply something to play at home. Or, maybe you want to create music on your computer, and you think that a good digital keyboard will be a valuable tool. Or perhaps you need it for you or your children to learn and practice with. In each of these cases, and many more, there are many exciting options to explore!

To start, you can find piano keyboards at any music store, and many home electronic stores as well. It’s a good idea to check out the online selection of brands like Yamaha, Casio, and others, to see just what kind of variety is available to you.

Most piano keyboards will come with just about everything you’ll need to get started, but it’s still important to keep in mind that every keyboard is a little different. One manufacturer might have different features, and each model may have subtle variations.

Key Features

If this is the first time you’ve ever purchased or rented a keyboard, your best bet is to stick with something simple. You’ll want your first keyboard to be easy to use, as well as fun to play. That being said, there are a few “bells and whistles” that you’ll want to make sure that you have.

Headphone Jack

It may not seem like much as first, but the simple headphone jack can seem heaven sent! In fact, this simple feature is one of the best things about having a keyboard – you can play and practice privately, without disturbing others who might be in your area, and who might not appreciate beginner piano lessons nearby.

Speakers

This may seem silly at first, but you may not realize that some keyboards don’t come with on-board speakers, which can be a big problem. If you don’t already have a sounds system in your home that you can plug into, you won’t be able to hear a single note if your keyboard doesn’t have speakers. It seems like a small thing, but if you don’t keep it in mind in the store, you may be in for a shock when you get home.

Keys

Here’s where things can get a little tricky.

A true digital piano keyboard has the same 88 keys as an acoustic piano, always. That said, these devices are usually pretty big, and are not terribly portable.

Then there are digital keyboards, which are designed specifically for portability. Many of these do have the full 88 keys of an acoustic piano, but because portability is a main concern, you can also find keyboards with 61 keys. They claim to offer a similar playing experience, but if you or your child are learning on a real piano, and using this to practice, there will be some issues.

Lastly, there are also synthesizers. Technically, a synthesizer is more of a controller than an actual musical instrument, but they do often come with a keyboard – of sorts. They may have 37, 49, 61, 76, or the full 88 keys.

Keep these differences in mind when you’re deciding what you need your keyboard for.

Key Weight

This feature also tends to be a little trickier.

Many digital keyboards have what are called “weighted” keys. The idea is to make the digital keys feel more like a real piano. Each manufacturer achieves this a little differently. Some feel like you’re playing on a real-life grand piano, while other can feel like you’re playing on cheap plastic keys.

In general, true digital pianos go out of their way to imitate the sound and feel of a real piano, so they tend to have remarkably good weighted keys.

As for smaller digital keyboards, it is a feature you will have to look for, as not all keyboards feature weighted keys, and those that do are often only partially weighted. Similarly, synthesizers don’t tend to be weighted, and when they are, it can be even lighter than a keyboard.

Accessories

You’re going to need some accessories to go with your keyboard! First and foremost, you’ll most likely need a stand for your keyboard. Many come with one included, but be sure to check the box, and grab one if you need it.

It’s also a great idea to look into picking up a sustain pedal, sometimes called a damper pedal. On a regular, acoustic piano, this is the pedal all the way to the right. It is the most used of the pedals, and when it’s pressed, it lifts the dampers away from the strings and allows them to vibrate freely, sustaining the sound. Keyboards can’t do this, since there are no dampers or strings, but a sustain pedal for your keyboard can create the same effect digitally.

These sometimes come included, but can also be found separately.

USB Connection

Today we can make music on our computers, even without any real musical instruments at all! So with that in mind, it’s important to make sure the keyboard you choose is able to communicate with a computer through a USB port. If you’re just starting out on your learning journey, you may not use it right away, but as you progress, it may open up a world of new possibilities!

The good news it, you should be able to find each of these key features, as well as countless others, pretty easily. In fact, most digital pianos and keyboards come with all sorts of “extra surprises” for you to explore and enjoy. Just keep in mind that each manufacturer is different, and it’s really your own personal preferences that can help you pick the best piano for you!