14 Great Keyboards for Learning to Play

good keyboard to learn piano

14 Great Keyboards for Learning to Play

By Owen O’Malley

HOW MANY NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS HAVE YOU ALREADY GIVEN UP ON? WAS “LEARN TO PLAY KEYBOARD” one of them? You’ll get no judgments from us—only sympathy, encouragement, and the following buyers’ guide for prospective (and erstwhile) piano and keyboard students. Whether you have an instructor or study and practice on your own, buying a keyboard for the purpose of learning and practice is a lot different from buying one to play gigs in a band. To help, here are the educational features we deem most essential, followed by 14 exemplary models that have some or most of them.

Feature

1. FULL-SIZED KEYS

What It Does

Keys are the same physical dimensions as those on an acoustic piano.

Benefit

Learning with full-sized keys makes it easier translate your technique to acoustic pianos.

Feature

2. WEIGHTED ACTION

What It Does

Simulates the physical feel and action of the mechanical keys on an acoustic piano.

Benefit

Helps you build finger strength and dexterity.

Feature

3. TRIPLE PEDALS

What It Does

Offers damper, sostenuto, and soft pedals like on a real piano, via built-in, included, or optional pedal.

Benefit

A lot of traditional music written for piano calls for more than just the sustain pedal.

Feature

4. DUET MODE

What It Does

Splits the keyboard in the middle with identical note ranges on either side.

Benefit

Lets student and teacher sit side by side and play the same part in the same range, as opposed to octaves apart.

Feature

5. AUDIO INPUT

What It Does

Usually 1/8″ stereo mini or stereo RCA. Routes audio from an external source through your keyboard’s speakers or headphone output.

Benefit

Play along with songs from your iPod or other device; great for learning or practicing along with your favorite music without having to convert it to another format.

Feature

6. AUTO-ACCOMPANIMENT

What It Does

A “virtual backup band” with a variety of musical styles that responds to your left-hand chord changes. Add realtime variations for intros, verses, fills, etc., and you have an “arranger keyboard.”

Benefit

You can learn timing with a metronome, but auto accompaniment lets you learn feel. And it’s a lot more fun. A great way to practice improvising and coming up with musical ideas, especially since the virtual band never needs a break.

Feature

7. INTERACTIVE FULL SONGS

What It Does

Goes beyond both auto-accompaniment and mere demo song/MIDI file playback to let you play interactively with fully arranged songs.

Benefit

Most beginning students want to play music they already know and love. Song mode offers this, and often implies some combination of features 8–11.

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