Understanding Electronic Keyboards
Why a Portable/Electronic/Arranger keyboard vs. a Pro keyboard (WorkStation)-
how are these different?
Pro keyboards (also called synthesizers or workstations) can have up to 88 keys and some offer realistic piano action and excellent piano sound. They also will feature a multitude of other features that you may not need including audio recording, editing the sound to the most elemental part of the sound, a 16+ track sequencer with detailed editing, a lot of synth sounds.They will run 4 to 18 simultaneous higher quality effects like reverb,but many will have no built in arranging capability or musical styles other than arpeggiators and drum patterns. Some workstations do offer a small menu of preconstructed patterns usually require the player to construct each part (track)individually. This is a good feature for composers, but requires a ground up approach to composition. Because of the depth of features, workstations can be intimidating for a first time user. Portable/arranger type keyboards are generally easier to use and are an excellent means for much quicker songwriting ; also great for use as a "one person band".
What affects the price you will pay and what should you look for?
- The level of realism, quality and number of sounds- are they extremely realistic or a close approximation ?
- Start with the grand piano sound, then strings. These are the most difficult to emulate
- Arranging- Song Styles (how many and quality) and Song Sections (how many) and musical parts (how many)?
- Does it sound like it was designed by a world class musician?
- Display size- bigger the better to view info, makes it considerably easier to use
- Score display- does it also have Lyrics/Text display?
- Number of simultaneous effects, number of different effects?
- Vocal Harmonizer- adds harmony backup vocal to your voice through a mic input
- Polyphony- the number of notes that will play simultaneously IMPORTANT !!
- How can you backup your tracks/compositions? Hard drive, CD burner, audio recording-
- Will it sync with non audio tracks?
- Does it have USB to device for optional jump drive or floppy drive for storage, USB to computer for saving sequences and styles
- Does it have a Video output? This is very useful for lyrics display
- Multiple audio outputs ?- more is better in order to separate different sounds sent to a mixer or computer for mixes
- External controls- total number, logical control panel layout -- touch screen? Complexity might mean more menu flipping,
- Music Search- how easy is it to find the style of music you need quickly?
- Ease of Use- how quickly can you assemble a new song, find a patch to play, tweak a sound, chain patterns together?
- Recording or Sequencing features? Most feature built in multiple ( at least 16) track recording sequencers with detailed editing and standard midi file
- Playback- how many tracks does it have, how detailed is the editing?
- Are optional sounds available? Third party sounds/samples? How can you store these? RAM memory? RAM is volatile so you will need a backup like a jump drive or memory card to do this.
- Will you need a Computer editor/librarian software package? They can offer great visuals and are usually much, much easier to use.
- Saving sound edits, song edits, style edits, sliders, switches, Easy to use?
What about speakers? Do I need an amp
Almost all portables have built-in speakers except a few very high end stage models are designed for performers and will require a keyboard amp or other external amplification.Most onboard speakers are generally loud enough for home listening or monitoring yourself. All have headphone jacks if you prefer not to be heard. Keyboard amplifiers or portable powered speakers are on the site if you have play in a big venue or with other louder instruments, choirs, or just want more bottom end bass frequencies, . . .
How good do these sound
- Please notice that almost every portable on our site has a sound file you can play on your computer to hear for yourself.
What accessories should I consider?
- Keyboard amps/powered speaker systems- if you play on stage for bigger venues
- Headphones and home stereo speakers can suffice if you play at home only
- Microphones may be plugged into some models. You may also need a microphone stand
- Keyboard Stands come in many shapes and styles- X style, Z style,
- Bench- consider a more sturdy 4 leg bench if you do not need portability, X style if you do, the wider the better
- Headphones- full size will be more comfortable and quieter and may offer better quality audio
- Pedals- most come with a sustain pedal, some have jacks for more control- volume, expression,etc
- Bag or case- for portable models, we recommend the manufacturer bags and cases first, then Gator Cases
- Dust cover
- Comparison Chart
What is MIDIan interface to connect a keyboard to the computer like USB port for printers. It sends note and other data from the keyboard to the computer or vice versa. Basically says play this note at this time at this volume level- it is not an actual audio recording. It also makes it possible for one keyboard to play another keyboard.
What is polyphony?
the number of simultaneous notes that can be played, though if it's a stereo sample/recording each note can use 2 notes at once. Its important for anyone who plays a lot of notes at the same time and holds down the sustain pedal. The earliest notes played will cut out when the limit is exceeded. This can happen with pianos with 32 note polyphony especially.
What are those pedals for?
a sustain pedal to hold all notes played as lomg as the pedal is held down. The soft/half pedaling pedal plays one of 3 strings only for each note (softer sound) and sostenuto (select only certain notes to sustain).
What is a sequencer?
a recorder with 1 to 16 tracks usually so that multiple instruments can be played back for fully orchestrated songs and can have elaborate editing capability. Typically digital pianos have only 1 or 2 tracks for playing back a piano performance and archiving another. These can be downloaded to the computer with a midi interface
What is sampling/samples?
a short audio recording of a note. For more realistic sound, digital pianos can be recorded at different velocities so that when you strike a note harder, the timbre changes for better realism
What are effects?
to modify and enhance the sounds in the keyboard including non- piano sounds. e.g. - reverb will put the piano in a small room or up to a large concert hall.
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