Because your first one is the most important…
Buying a keyboard for beginners can be a minefield. Let’s be honest, there are endless models and options, with no clear indicator as to which is going to suit your needs best.
Are you true novice, starting out for the first time? Or are you coming from a background of using other instruments, and therefore understand some basics? Are you buying it for someone else completely? Whichever came you fall into, we understand it can be tricky when you’re buying a beginner’s keyboard.
Let’s take a look at some of the things you might want to consider.
1. Keyboard or Piano?
This may seem like a strange question when picking a beginners keyboard, but it can have a big influence on which instrument is the right one. This is often down to the included features. Instruments commonly described as home keyboards generally feature ‘auto accompaniment’, and ‘one touch chords’.
What this means in practice is that the keyboard has functionality that enables it to play accompaniment patterns in different styles when a single chord is pressed just once by the players left hand. This gives the impression of a whole band playing at once.
On the other hand, when a piano is played, the music consists of two separate ‘parts’. One for the left hand and one for the right hand. These are both read and played simultaneously.
A piece of keyboard music generally consists of a melody line, played with the right hand, with chord names written above at the point that they occur. The auto accompaniment on the keyboard will then take care of creating musical parts in the correct key for the chord played. Most keyboards have this functionality. For someone starting at the beginning of their playing career, we’d recommend the Yamaha PSR-F51 as a great example of a well functioned, easy to use instrument.
Learning to play the keyboard is more instantly gratifying for the beginner as a result. It could be said that it takes a little more discipline, therefore, to learn how to play the piano, as it takes a little longer to learn how to accompany yourself.
2. The right tools for the right price
Clearly, a key consideration when looking at buying a new instrument – particularly if you haven’t got a strong idea what you need – is the budget. Musical instruments typically vary in quality, durability, ease-of-use and, of course, sound. As you’d expect, the more you pay, the better the results. But that’s not to say everyone should jump straight in with something expensive. Far from it.
Modern instruments, especially those we choose to stock, will all reach the necessary levels of quality you’ll need when starting out. We wouldn’t sell them otherwise. But it’s worth us explaining a few of the features which may result in a higher priced instrument.
We mentioned auto-accompaniment earlier. When buying a beginners keyboard for a child, then, the more ‘traditional’ keyboards (such as the Yamaha PSR-Range or YPT range) with accompaniment styles are an excellent option. The learner can achieve impressive results in a very short space of time. They’ll be able to sound like they are performing with other musicians. This is a great motivator for young players.
On the other hand, a learner who is aiming to ultimately play the piano may have no interest in accompaniment features. They might require a very different style of instrument (such as those sometimes termed ‘practice pianos’). These tend to have less features, in favour of a smaller but more realistic set of sounds, and more authentic piano keyboard ‘feel’. A strong contender here is the Yamaha P-45 Stage Piano, which delivers a superb, authentic piano playing experience for the learner.
3. Velocity Sensitivity
Whilst this might sound like something from an engineer’s design notes, velocity is a feature that is very important when picking a beginner keyboard. The easiest way to explain is to consider a real, acoustic piano. When a key on a piano is played hard, the resulting sound is loud, and when the keys are played softly, the sound is quiet. This allows the instrument to be played expressively.
Dramatic moments can be emphasised by playing with more volume, or made delicate and intimate by playing softly. These are known as ‘dynamics’ in a piece of music. Velocity sensitivity on a keyboard means that it mimics a real piano keyboard in this way. Playing hard = loud, and playing softly = quiet.
If the player is dipping a toe in the water, so to speak, then a keyboard without velocity sensitivity may suffice. They are generally a less expensive option, and so financially, present a smaller outlay if a child loses interest, for example. However, if they continue to play then dynamics will form an essential part of their playing. This will require a velocity sensitive keyboard.
In a nutshell, then, a non-velocity sensitive keyboard is fine only for an absolute beginner, and only where it isn’t clear whether the learner will stick with it. If it sounds like something you would need, we’d point you in the direction of the Yamaha PSR-E363, which has touch sensitive keys. These are great for adding in extra expression.
4. Other Features
There are other features that may be considered useful when choosing a beginners keyboard. Some feature a recorder, enabling you to record your performance, or create songs. Others have built in ‘lessons’ or practice features. Some even have microphone inputs with vocal effects.
You may even want something with a weighted, hammer action keyboard for a more professional playing experience. The options really are endless.
To see the range of keyboards available, see our online store, or visit our stores to try them out. Alternatively, give our customer service team a call for more information on buying a beginners keyboard: (01925 582420).
Joe is a contributor for the Dawsons Music blog. Specialising in product reviews and crafting content to help and inspire musicians of all musical backgrounds.