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Buying a keyboard

Below are some of the popular keyboards on the market ,and I've grouped them into 3 categories to help make choosing a keyboard easier:

  • Entry level keyboards (also known as personal keyboards) are recommended for beginners. Prices range from the low to mid hundreds (US dollars). They usually have inbuilt speakers and are quite portable.
  • Semi pro keyboards are recommended for those with some experience, or beginners who want more features and higher quality sounds. Prices range from around $1000 to $2000. These tend to weigh much more than entry level keyboards and the higher priced models may not come with inbuilt speakers (it's assumed the keyboard would be connected to external hifi speakers - you could use your computer speakers). Some of these are 'light' versions of the more professional models.
  • Professional keyboards are recommended for those who want the audio quality, features and power necessary for studio/performance work. Prices range from around $3000 to $5000+. They usually don't come with inbuilt speakers.
Some words that you might come across when choosing a keyboard:
  • Polyphony: the number of notes that be played (and will sound) at one time. Also known as a voice. I recommend at least 12 note polyphony for playing, and at least 64 if you want to use your keyboard for music production.
  • Tone: an instrument sound. A keyboard may have 100 to more than 1000 tones. Also known as a patch, program or preset.
  • MIDI: stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface and allows you to use your keyboard with your computer. Most modern keyboards except the very basic keyboards should have this feature, and you can check this by looking for a 'General MIDI' or 'GM' logo on the keyboard.
  • Key action: the way the keys respond to playing. Keys can be non-weighted (non touch-sensive), semi-weighted (touch sensitive) or fully-weighted (like piano keys). If the key action isn't specified, it will most likely mean that the keyboard isn't touch sensitive.
  • Key size: refers to the size of the key (not the keyboard). I recommend full-size keys for most users as they are much easier to play than half or 2/3 size keys. If your focus is more on synth programming rather than playing, full-size keys might not be necessary.
  • Workstation:semi pro and professional keyboards are usually known as workstations because of their added features such as onboard sequencers, media drives and effects processors.
Entry level keyboards ~ Semi pro keyboards ~ Professional keyboards

Entry level/portable keyboards

Casio CTK900: 61 keys (touch sensitive), 824 tones, 32 polyphony.

Casio Casio WK3700: 76 keys (touch sensitive), 824 tones.

Roland E09: 61 keys (touch sensitive), 870 tones, 64 polyphony.

Yamaha EZ250i: 61 keys (touch sensitive), 480 tones, 32 polyphony.

Yamaha DGX305: 76 keys (touch sensitive), 487 tones, 32 polyphony.

Semi pro keyboards/workstations

Korg TR61: 61 keys (touch sensitive), 470 tones, 62 polyphony.

Korg TR76: 76 keys (touch sensitive), 470 tones, 62 polyphony.

Roland EXR7: 76 keys (touch sensitive), 510 tones, 64 polyphony.

Roland Fantom-Xa: 61 keys (touch sensitive), 128 tones + Fantom-S presets, 128 polyphony.

Yamaha MO61: 61 keys (touch sensitive), 512 tones, 64 polyphony.

Yamaha 61-Key MOTIF: 61 keys (touch sensitive), 384 tones + 128 GM, 62 polyphony.

Professional keyboards/workstations

Korg PA1XPRO: 76 keys (touch sensitive), 760 tones, 62 polyphony. The top model of Korg's keyboard range.

Korg Triton Studio 88-Key: 88 keys (touch sensitive), 429 tones, 60 polyphony.

Kurzweil K2600XS 88-Key: 88 keys (fully weighted), 450 tones, 48 polyphony. The top model of Kurzweil's keyboard range.

Kurzweil K2600X 88-Key: 88 keys (fully weighted), 450 tones, 48 polyphony. A slightly cut down version of the model above without sampling functions.

Roland Fantom-X8: 88 keys (touch sensitive), 1,024 + 256 GM, 128 polyphony. The top model of Roland's keyboard range.

Roland Fantom-X7: 88 keys (fully weighted), 1,024 + 256 GM, 128 polyphony. A slightly smaller version of the Fantom X-8.

Yamaha Tyros 2: 61 keys (touch sensitive), 994 + 256 GM tones, 128 polyphony. The top model of Yamaha's keyboard range.

Yamaha MOTIF ES8: 88 keys (touch sensitive), 832 + 128 GM tones, 128 polyphony.

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Disclaimer: Information in the links section is provided for personal use and is correct at the time of writing. For the latest detailed specifications, click on the product links. Informational advice written by the author may not be reproduced without authorization. Product graphics on this page used with kind permission from zZounds.