Whether you are a beginner looking to learn a bit about playing the piano or a seasoned player, there is an ample selection of electric keyboards available to suit your needs. Before purchasing, think about whether you have a place to put the keyboard or if will you need one that comes with a stand. Also, if you are accustomed to playing on a standard piano, you may want to think about getting a pedal. Prices, in general, for the occasional player can start as low as $100 on sale, but are usually listed for around $300 new. However, for those looking for a state-of-the-art system, pro players can expect to pay upwards of $500 for a new instrument.
What to Expect
These days, shopping for an electric keyboard may be a daunting task. Features keep improving and expanding, helping you to integrate your instrument with all of your other technological devices, namely computers. On the other hand, there are some basic features that should be considered when buying one's first keyboard.
* '''Key number''': Key number, or in other words, the size, is important depending on how you plan to use the piano. Is this for at home use? Or are you planning to play it elsewhere, say in a lesson or performance? Most keyboards range from the portable and versatile 61-key model (5 octaves) up to a heavier grand 88-key digital piano most often used by professionals. For children, there is a smaller,even more compact 4 octave (49-key) version.
* '''Key sensitivity''': Even for the least experienced player, you will want to get the most out of the piano's sound. Make sure to look for touch-sensitive or weighted keyboards which will react more like a real piano with the ability to be turned on or off.
* '''Headphone jack''': Virtually all models come equiped with this, so as to not disturb anyone while practicing.
* '''Effects''': All keyboards come with some, such as chorus, reverb, delay, echoing, and more. The idea is that the more you pay, the more fun effects you get for your price.
* '''Left-hand switch''': If you want to be able to play more complex and diverse pieces, it pays to have a left-hand override feature to layer and play splits. This way, you can play a guitar sound on the left side while playing an organ sound with the right.
* '''Speakers''': All keyboards have their speakers built into the model. If you find that a higher volume of sound is needed, you can always invest in an additional set.
* '''Demo songs: '''For educational purposes, demo songs offer a great way to start learning simple songs, basic chords, and develop an ability to read music.
* '''Recording''': Keyboards that offer a recording feature are great to see how you progress from one lesson to the next and enable you to make your own music.
* '''Voices, instruments sounds, timbrals''': The more you have, the more versatility there is for making complex and creative music.
* '''Editing''': DJ's and wannabes can look out for filters, modulation, and envelopes for adjusting EQ levels, timbre, volume, and motion effects. Editing can also be useful for creating new or customized sounds.
* '''LCD display''': Many models offer this feature. Some have the ability to show bitmap displays of sheet music that automatically scroll as you play.
* '''MIDI compatibility & USB connectivity''': These days, hardly anyone is caught without a computer. If you are interested in saving and recording your compositions to an electronic device, find a keyboard with a USB port and Smart media slots which allow you to transfer music and MIDI files. Also, some keyboards feature music arrangement programs which let you download and follow along with the music via a computer.
Yamaha and Casio are the most popular, but there are also Korg, M-Audio, and Roland keyboards, which tend to be a bit pricier. Check out our picks for what's available on the market right now.
* '''For the kids: '''
** An add-on microphone for karaoke.
** A keyboard that features light-up keys and guideboard for easier learning.
** Keyboards for children come in all types of fun colors like pink, so playing will be even more entertaining!
* '''For the player who likes an extra kick:'''
** An amp or the ability to connect to a home stereo system or audio monitor.
** Rotary speakers or drum pads.
** Ability to download songs off the Internet and onto your instrument.