Considering just how many types of keyboards are used when making music, not to mention the growing number of keyboard manufacturers, suddenly the task of narrowing it down to just 1 turns into a bit of a dilemma.
The type that has your mind racing and stuffed with questions like: Which keyboard is the best for beginners? How do I buy a piano keyboard? And in the case you’re a complete novice, which should I buy? A piano or a keyboard?
Thankfully though, being a keyboard piano retailer, we’re here to shed some light on this very question and help you track down which type of keyboard piano is best for you. Not to mention reveal our tips on what to look for when buying a keyboard in 2022…
First things first though—before you even begin to consider what keyboard to buy, you need to be clear on the differences between the 3 major types of keyboard. Speaking of which...
Keyboard piano VS Midi controller—What’s the difference?Don’t be fooled by appearances! Even though at first glance, the majority of MIDI controllers do resemble a keyboard, at the core they’re completely different. Midi controllers are used by music producers to programme virtual instruments and communicate with their Digital Audio Workstation.
•Sound—This is the most obvious difference between a midi controller and a keyboard. And that’s because, much as the name suggests, MIDI controllers ‘control’ virtual instruments-they don’t play them. So, in other words, they don’t have speakers. All of which means they’re only of real use if you’re looking to produce music digitally via a DAW and a laptop.
•Key-size—Another easy way of spotting a midi controller, is by the size of its keys. So while there are midi controllers with full-size keys—the Donner StarryKey, for instance—there are also a fair few with miniature or 3/4-sized keys. The reason is that, unlike a keyboard or piano, MIDI controllers are designed with musical note taking in mind. Less so for playing extravagant concertos.
•Additional features—Just a heads up: keys aren’t always the easiest way to spot a midi controller. In most cases, it’ll be the array of drum pads, assignable knobs, and faders that are the key giveaway. Most of which will also be backlit by LEDs in some way. Yet another nod towards a midi controller’s intended use as a tool for music production and live performance.
Portable Keyboard VS Digital piano—should I buy a piano or keyboard?
That’s a tough one. Because while both appear on the surface to be largely similar (especially when sat on a stand), the differences between a keyboard and a digital piano are quite stark. So much so that you’d be downright foolish not to consider them before committing to buying a keyboard. Without further ado then, here are 3 we’d urge you to consider…
•Key-feel—For any keen pianist, the keys are No. 1 on the agenda. More specifically, key-feel as it’s this which governs how expressive you can be. Serious pianists will usually favour weighted or hammer-action keys. A perk you don’t tend to find on a keyboard (only if it’s high-end), but do come across on most digital pianos. Typically, the keys on a keyboard will be what’s known as semi-weighted (i.e., not have as much resistance) and thus have a much lighter keypress.
•Purpose/portability—The keyboard piano is made for a completely different purpose than a digital piano. From the ground up, keyboard pianos are designed to be portable instruments, ideal for gigging and life on the road. An area in which they really excel. Whereas your average digital piano - that’s more focused on being a musical piece of furniture. Hence why keyboards come with a separate stand, while digital pianos are built around one.
•Build quality/robustness—This is arguably one of the main reasons why digital pianos are so popular these days. Being made of wood, as opposed to the acres of plastic you find on a keyboard, makes digital pianos feel far more substantial overall. The keys especially, are a world away from the more brittle plastic set you find on a lot of budget keyboards. Just 1 of the many reasons why digital pianos tend to come attached to a higher price tag.
And in case you want to put the above comparisons into context, here’s an example of each type of keyboard. Being a musical instrument brand ourselves, we manufacture all three…
DEP-20 is our most premium model. A keyboard that does have fully weighted keys (hammer-action to be precise) and yet, remains reasonably portable. A combo that really makes it quite rare!
DDP-100. Our signature digital piano comes with everything you need to kickstart your career as a pianist. It’s reasonably priced too.
What should you look for when buying a keyboard piano in 2022?So now you’ve got a grasp of what a keyboard actually is and how it compares to other similar instruments, it’s now time for the big question: what should you look for when buying a keyboard piano in 2022?
A question that comes with a lot of possible answers! Saying that though, we think we’ve narrowed down the 4 main characteristics you should pay attention to when buying a keyboard…
1. Type of keys—As reiterated previously, the type of keys you find on a keyboard can heavily influence how it’s played. So really, it’s one of the easiest ways to cull your options, as most players will have a preference. And while for some, that’s semi-weighted, for the most part, there is a general rule: the more weighted the keys, the more expressive you’re able to be during play. We should know, as it’s just 1 of the reasons why our fully weighted DEP-20 keyboard is so popular.
2. Portability—Surprisingly enough, not all keyboards tick the same boxes, especially when it comes to portability. Some are incredibly lightweight and slimline, while others are less so. However, don’t just go straight for the lightest. See, a keyboard’s weight is actually quite a good way of telling (A) how well it’s made and (B) how well it’s equipped. So as cliche as it sounds, before you commit to buying, weigh up your options. If you’re a roadie you’re likely after a good mix of the two.
3. Inputs and outputs—Any keyboard player who’s part of a band needs to pay attention to inputs and outputs. If anything, they should be the first item on their checklist, as they pretty much determine how it can be used. Fail to investigate this properly and you could end up buying a keyboard piano that’s not fit for your purpose. In other words, wasting your money!
4. Size of the keybed—If you’re a beginner who’s looking to learn the keyboard fast, then opting for the full 88-key piano is essential. Any less and you’re really just putting yourself at a disadvantage. Also, be sure to consider the depth of the keybed too. Go for an overly shallow one and it can easily detract from the feel of a board. So much so that the only time we’d say a smaller key-count or shallow keybed really works is with a midi controller. In any other scenario and we’d advise the full 88.
You’ve done it-reached the end of this blog! Hopefully, now you should have a good idea of what to look for when buying a piano keyboard and understand what makes a keyboard different from other piano-type instruments. If you want to know more, please check out Donner UK and find out what you need here.