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How to Shop for an Electric Keyboard

Know Your Options Before You Hit the Stores

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So you’re ready to bring home a new instrument. It’s an exciting time, but before you run to the music store, there are some things to consider.

An instrument is an investment, and you want to get the most for your money. Consider the following, and you will find a keyboard that suits all of your needs.

1. Don’t Head Straight for the Newest Technologies

Are you a new student or an experienced professional? The newest, top-of-the-line models can impress anyone, but they can also be a huge distraction. A high-tech keyboard can be confusing and intimidating, and could also be obsolete by the time you reach a high enough skill-level to appreciate it.

You can find many excellent, high-quality keyboards with decent price tags. Most come with large sound libraries and loads of options, so you can still have fun with your new instrument. Focus on learning right now, and award yourself with a sleek keyboard further down the road.

2. Will You Be Able to Use Foot Pedals?

Using pedals is a necessary skill for pianists, and if you plan on playing a full-sized piano at some point, you should begin training your feet now.

Many keyboards can connect to external pedals. You can buy the standard three-pedal platform, which can cost between $40-$150, or you can purchase pedals individually. Sustain pedals are the most popular, and range from $20-$75.

If your budget is more flexible, you can find a keyboard with built-in pedals. Be sure your home has space to spare, because these models are typically built into their stands, and are not easily stored.

3. Know Your Keyboard Sizes

Standard pianos have 88 keys. But there are three other sizes to choose from:

  • 76 Keys: When starting out, you won’t need all 88 keys. A 76-key model will save you money, and will take you well into your intermediate stages.

  • 61 Keys: This is another good choice. As a beginner, you won’t notice the omitted keys, and it’s a great practice piano for all skill-levels. Over time, the missing keys will show, but their absence won’t harm the integrity of a song.

  • 49 Keys: This is the smallest standard size, and isn’t ideal for everyday use; you will notice the missing notes within your first year of playing. If this is your only option, don’t let me discourage you. This size will let you learn what you need to know, and 49 keys are better than 0.

4. Do You Need to Spend Extra on Speakers?

Most keyboards have speakers built into their bodies, but it is good to be certain before bringing it home. Some of the more technical models need to connect to external speakers in order to produce sound. This might seem obvious, but it is a very common oversight.

5. Find a Model With “Touch Sensitivity”

A keyboard with touch sensitivity allows you to produce a louder note by pressing the key harder, mimicking a piano. It is still common for keyboards to omit this feature, so if you’re window-shopping online, keep your eye out for it.

6. Will You Be Able to Play Full Chords?

Another feature to remember is “polyphony.” This feature allows multiple notes to be produced at the same time. Keyboards made for people over age 3 usually have this, but the polyphony might still be limited.

A good rule of thumb is to find a keyboard with at least 10-note polyphony. This way, you can play a chord with all ten fingers without losing any of the notes.

Keep these things in mind when you’re in the store, but don’t forget to test out the instruments! It’s the only way to determine the sound quality, so don’t be shy -- turn it on, and test it out!

Get a head start on your new hobby, and learn about the layout of the keyboard.

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