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Electric Keyboards

Monday, 3 November 2008

If you don't have enough space for a piano, an electric keyboard is a good alternative for casual and beginner players. We examine some keyboards to see which have the best features and sound.

The Basics

  • Ensure your keyboard has a good piano sound, including a Grand piano option. Keyboards also come with many other sound options, like xylophone, guitar, drum, trumpet, and many more.

  • Keyboards with 88 keys like a piano are available and highly recommended if you have the space. Don’t go with one with less than 61 keys or you’ll limit your song repertoire considerably.

  • For beginners, consider a keyboard with a learning function, which usually play a phrase for you to repeat.

  • Many keyboards include pre-programmed famous songs you can learn and play along with.

  • Check for an output, which allows you to plug into your home stereo system speakers.

  • If you plan on mixing and composing your own tunes using your keyboard and other instruments, look for a keyboard with MIDI functionality so you can transfer your songs to a computer for editing. Most current keyboards will come with MIDI installed.

Other Considerations

  • Touch-sensitive keys respond differently depending on how hard or soft you strike the key. They will also sustain the note giving more of a real piano sound and feel.

  • Some keyboards are capable of recording what you play, either from an external or built-in microphone. If you plan on doing this a lot, look for one with good internal memory capacity, or better yet, expandable memory card slots.

TEST CRITERIA

We tested these three keyboards in a children’s piano class, and also invited a concert pianist to try them out:

  • Casio: $999
  • Yamaha: $1,199
  • Korg: $1,249

Our tests and results include:

Professional Test

  • Our professional wasn’t a fan of the keyboards at all because they weren’t able to mimic the beauty and responsiveness of a grand piano, but he thought the Yamaha did the best job of emulating a real piano sound.

Student Test

  • Everyone preferred the Yamaha for its sound, and the digital display helped with learning.

 

OUR TOP PICK

The choice was unanimous across the board: Yamaha had the best sound and teaching facilities.

 

Thanks to Our Experts

Robert Silverman, concert pianist

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