The Ultimate Weighted Keyboard Guide
Why would you want a weighted keyboard?
Another appeal is the cost. Electric keyboards are by far the cheapest choice. They don’t require the added expense of tuning required by their acoustic counterpart. These factors give keyboards an advantage for those just learning to play and for parents who have children interested in the instrument but don’t want to invest a vast amount of money on something the child may lose interest in. Space is another advantage. For pianists with dwellings without the room for a piano, the keyboard makes an optimal choice. Finding sheet music to practice with can be found online or downloaded onto a Kindle.
What types of weighted keyboards are out there?
These keyboards generally come either 61, 76 or 88 keys. The amount present determines the style of weights available. These include non-weighted, semi-weighted, fully weighted hammer-action and fully-weighted graded hammer-action. These different weight types, when combined with the various styles of touch sensitivity available, help provide an overall feeling of realism. Weighted keys also allow pianists to use the proper playing technique. Without them, hand positions become weak and good technique gets lost. Keyboards geared toward the beginner, which include almost all home-use keyboards like the Casio SA76 are not weighted. Professional keyboards tend to use some type of weighting system.
On the low-end of the price spectrum, these keyboards will typically have either 61 or 76 keys and are designed to be portable. They utilize a spring action key system providing the user with some resistance allowing a moderate amount of handling.
These keyboards go a step further by replicating piano mechanics utilized giving the user a more authentic experience. They are fully-weighted and are found in keyboards with 88 keys. They can also be sensitive to pressure making it possible to produce a louder sound by striking the key harder. There are two different types, hammer-action, and graded hammer-action. Fully-weighted hammer-action keys have a small hammer attached to each key by a lever that creates resistance. Unlike spring-action keyboards, this mechanism more accurately replicates the structure of a piano. Fully-weighted graded hammer key systems go a step further in reproducing the feel. In a piano, the keys located on the lowers end that produce a deeper sound have a heavier hammer attached than those keys located on the higher end. This difference in weight requires the user to exert more force to operate the lower end keys. Graded hammer key systems work in the same way thus allowing the operator to use the same hand structure while playing that they would use on an acoustic piano.
Classification of keyboards
The term electronic keyboard or digital keyboard can refer to various types of keyboards with different weighting systems. Since we have already covered those action key systems, let’s take a closer look at the different classifications of electronic keyboards.
Portable keyboards are the top choice for beginners. Although they are usually unweighted with 61 keys, some do have a weighting system on them with a slightly higher number of keys.
The main advantage of portable keyboards is their compact design without necessarily falling short on the essential features. Such features include built-in speakers, accompaniments, and exercises along with a set of keys that light up.
A digital piano is significantly larger and heavier than a portable keyboard primarily because its design is inspired closely from a grand piano. Digital pianos come in 88 weighted keys that mimic the sound and feel of its acoustic counterpart. The hammer action in digital pianos is also very prominent, completing the overall acoustic-like experience.
If there is one type of electronic keyboard that can give you all the functionalities you need to produce music, nothing beats a keyboard station. Its features include editing tools, computer connectivity, a long list of voices, recording capabilities, and trigger pads among others.
Synths come in analog and digital. However, digital synths have the advantage. They feature several filters and effects that you can play with, pitch and modulation controls, vocoders, and more.
These instruments can do anything you’ve programmed it to do. However, it does require a lot of work to maximize the features of a synth fully, so beginners may need to challenge their way through its functions.
If you want an electric keyboard with the most modern capabilities, the MIDI Controller is perfect for you. Although, you need to figure out first what you will control it with so that you can pick the best model for your needs. That way, you can also maximize its features better.
They also come in various key sizes that range from a small 25-key model to a full-blown 88-key model. Either way, MIDIs are capable of helping you produce music regardless of your skill level.
What are the key points to look out for and common features?
One of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a keyboard is portability. If it is going to be set up in the home and not moved around, a heavier keyboard will work just fine. If the keyboard is going to be moved often, ease of movement will become a larger priority.
Something else to consider is that most keyboards meant for professional use do not come with built-in speakers. Instead, they are designed to be plugged into an amplifier system. If looking to simply play the keyboard, a model with a headphone jack will suffice. If the goal is to produce music, it would be better to purchase a model that has midi connectivity or a USB port to allow the keyboard to connect to a computer or other recording gear. Many keyboards can also be used in conjunction with an m-audio pedal that works just like the pedals on a piano.
While most keyboards are produced with plastic keys, some manufacturers have begun making the keys out of wood to further replicate the feel of an acoustic piano. Keys also come in a variety of sizes. Many of the smaller keyboards possess slim keys that are two-thirds the dimensions of normal piano keys. Most of the professional grade keyboards use full-size keys. These are recommended because they make playing easier than trying to adjust to smaller keys.
Another component to take into consideration is the polyphony of the keyboard. Polyphony simply means the number of individual notes the instrument can play at one time. This is especially important in playing chords. Keyboards with a polyphony under a 32-note max, while usually cheap, are a poor choice. Those with a 64-note level are satisfactory. The best have a 128-note polyphony level. Anything above this is unnecessary.
Along with the polyphony level, take into account whether the instrument is monotimbral or multitimbral. Monotimbral keyboards can only produce one tone at a time where multitimbral can produce several tones. When the goal is to produce music, multitimbral is important in order to have the ability to produce diverse sounds on separate channels. Multitimbral keyboards with a high level of polyphony have the ability to simulate an entire orchestra. A good rule of thumb is to look over customer reviews before making a purchase, especially when buying one that is on sale.
What are some of the most popular weighted keyboards?
Korg Kronos X
The Korg Kronos X workstation provides a platform to inspire the creative juices. Its workspace includes 88 keys, color display, X-Y and Vector joysticks, eight rotary knobs, 16-track audio recording and nine sound engines. The multitrack audio offer users the sound of studio recording in a single instrument. The SGX-2 piano engine offers a wide collection of samples including Una Corda, or soft pedal samples. The 62GB capacity allows plenty of space for downloads. The Kronos X provides users with everything needed to realize their vision.
Roland Fantom X8
The Fantom X8 offers users a graded hammer-action 88 key workstation that is capable of producing a wide range of sounds and effects. It comes with a color LED screen and a new sound generator chip that can hold up to 1GB of data, making it possible to produce both short samples as well as longer compositions. It is loaded with quality sounds from drums to guitar to piano, many of which were recorded and mixed by celebrated studio engineer Dan Blessinger. The onboard USB port can be used as an interface and to import and export to Apple and Windows-based computers. The Fantom X8 is user-friendly while still delivering amazing performance.
Yamaha MOXF 88
The MOXF8 builds on the excellent reputation of the MOTIF models. With the M OXF8, users have access to a wider range of sounds and effects. It also contains a flashboard option slot. Included is a large library of instrumental sounds from orchestra to techno. The built-in sequencer lets users produce music without the need for a computer or other device and allows for both real-time and step recording. The MOXF8 features a 128-note polyphony, 16 sequence tracks, 480 parts per quarter note resolution and an approximately 226,000 note capacity giving users everything they will need to compose and produce.
The Montage is a full-size keyboard that features progressive versions of the Motif and DX synth lines. It comes in all three key versions and features a color touchscreen as well as an array of rotary encoders. It also possesses the Super Knob, a macro controller that allows users to control many different parameters at the same time. Its motion control synthesizer engine powers the Advanced Wave Memory 2 and the FM-X sound engines. The Advanced Wave has 10 times more wave memory than previous models, a 128-note polyphony and 1.75 GB of flash memory. Compatible with previous generations of Motif libraries, the Advanced Wave allows the user to write their own custom samples. The FM-X has the capability to produce anything from classical sound to EDM. A wireless midi can also be purchased to allow for mobile connectivity. Its eight operator engine makes just about any musical composition possible.