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How to Choose a First Keyboard,
This year I have had several new students asked advice about buying their first keyboard. The purchase of a good instrument is a big factor in getting good musical results. So, I am always happy to discuss this with people.
Piano or keyboard? is a frequently asked question. Often parents aren’t sure if this is a whim or a real passion and even adults are often unsure how far they want to take their music. So, a big outlay upfront for an instrument can be quite off putting. Do keep in mind though that the better the instrument the more likely it is that you will want to play it. A good instrument usually brings about better practice. It is therefore a good idea to get the best you can because it will lead to you getting more out of lessons which are also expensive.
A good piano is always good but for size and ease of ownership a keyboard is often a better option. I personally like both. I love playing my piano and keyboards are very handy for access to technology.
What to look for in a piano? First and foremost a good sound. If it sounds dodgy you won’t play it and so it will just turn into an expensive piece of clutter in your lounge. The next is ease of playing. If the action does not feel comfortable don’t consider the instrument. I suggest that you use a technician (piano tuner) to check out any piano you may be considering buying.
There are quite a few good second hand instruments available in places such as trade me which appear to be a good buy. This means that if you have the space a piano could be a possibility without having to hurt the budget too much. It does pay however to have a piano tuner/technician check the instrument before you buy. Pianos are a complex instrument and a technician will be able to tell you if there is something seriously wrong or not.
- My preference in playing is the piano, as I do have a good sounding piano that is hardly surprising. However, I find keyboards are also good and have some great advantages. They are portable and less dominating in any given space. The thing I love about keyboards is their access to technology. I therefore recommend using both piano and keyboards depending on the task. For my students, go for whatever you are lucky enough to have.
- Just lately I played some music for a friend using a Kurzweil keyboard.The performance had about 1 to 2 hours of music all up and the instrument performed well and sounded good. It was all piano music and the people enjoyed the music just as they would a piano. Keyboards are up to it and of course if it hadn’t been for the portability of the keyboard there would have been no piano music at all. It turns out that the Kurzweil is cheaper than I thought too. So, I am off looking for a new toy.
So down to Music Works Wellington I went. They tend to look after me well and I go there for the tech side of what I do. The check list for keys is like the check list for piano. To start with it must sound good. Play it for a while, ( don’t be shy they really don’t mind in fact they just want you to be happy). So, play it and ask yourself does it sound good, will it still seem good to me in 6 months and does it make me want to play it. 3 yes’s and you are probably on to something.
Is it easy to play? This for a keyboard is a little different than a piano. You are looking for weighted keys I. e not to light or too easy to play as that makes your fingers weak. The keyboard should be at least 5 octaves, that is 60 notes but 76 notes is better. The keyboard must be touch sensitive. In other words, able to play loud and soft well. Experiment with the sound and make sure the instrument can give a wide range of dynamics between loud and soft. This sensitivity can usually be adjusted within the keyboards controls.
Ports, ports and more ports…… Usb, Midi in/out and thru, jacks for running the signal to different amplification, really the more the merrier. The USB will give you access to the computer so it is possibly the most essential. I would want at least all the above ports before thinking of buying.
OK so there is a lot to consider when thinking tech my advice is to think about your purpose for this equipment and let that guide you. Talk to these tech guys in the stores they are there because they enjoy all the tech and have useful info to share.
I went and spoke to Phil Hankins down at Music Works. We came up with a few keyboards that you may wish to use as a starting point for your search. I was impressed with all 3.
NP12 – current RRP $449.00
PSRE353 – current RRP $459.00
P45 – current RRP $999
Last thoughts are to remember that tech is always changing getting better and cheaper. So be open to this and buy your keyboard/tech always with your purpose in mind. This will help you avoid the bells and whistles’ and stick with the substance of the instrument.
Happy hunting Cheers Peter