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Beginner keyboard recommendations


Jonesy
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Hello there! 

 

Can anyone help me out with a few recommendations for a beginner keyboard? I've always fancied learning and have decided to actually do something about it, but have no idea where to start, what makes a good keyboard or what features I should be looking out for when buying a keyboard (apart from it having a headphone jack so I don't annoy everyone!). 

 

I was thinking of spending £100-£200ish, but if it was worth spending a bit extra to get a decent step up then I may be persuaded.

 

If I was spending that sort of money on a bass I'd be looking at Harley Benton or used Squier's, is there a keys equivalent? I saw Thomann have their own brand of keys in that price range, are they worth a look or is it best sticking to Yammy & Casio etc?

 

Aaaand, is there a recommended keyboard height, or is it just go with whatever feels comfortable? Just wondering if I need a stand, or if it'd be OK playing at a desk/kitchen table?

 

Thanks!

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Son has an Alesis Recital

88 Full Size and Semi-Weighted Keys...

Have a look on Faceache or Gumtree see whats local... £100ish will 'prolly come with stand / seat, maybe even sustain pedal...

Or a Midi Controller?

Edited by PaulThePlug
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Thanks for the reply! The recital looks to have decent reviews and there's a few near me for not a lot of money.

 

The more I look into it, there's loads of features that I have no idea if they're useful or not?! Sorry for the onslaught of questions........

 

- Would you say 61 keys would be enough to start with, or would you recommend kicking off with 88 keys? Would I need the extra octaves? If I could get by on 61 I was thinking it might be better to save the space?

- Velocity sensitive and touch sensitive? I get that it's a decent feature to have, is there a difference between the 2, or is it marketing lingo for the same thing?

- Weighted keys I understand is a good thing, but one review said they might not be so good for playing fast. I'll be concentrating on hitting the right keys rather than playing fast (!), but is there any reason I wouldn't wanted semi/weighted keys?

- Would it be worth getting a sustain pedal?

- Are stuff like light up keys or learning programs built in worth it, or are they naff?

- 4 sound presets vs 5,000 with drum beats. I was planning on learning blues/boogie woogie, maybe with the occasional bit of deep purple/the doors thrown in for fun. I guess as long as I have a decent piano and organ sound, I'd be happy? 

 

As well as the Alesis recital, I've also heard good things about the Yamaha psr-e37 and Casio cts1. There's a few vids comparing the both on YT, has anyone got any experience with them? Have to admit, I like the look of the cts1 with it being a bit smaller and easier to tuck away when not in use. Plus, I'm a sucker and think it looks good in red! 

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If you are planning on playing piano parts especially boogie-woogie, you will want more than 61 keys. At least 76 or ideally 88.

 

You'll want velocity sensitivity for piano emulations - the harder you hit the keys the louder the notes sound, like a real piano. For organ parts you'll need to be able turn it off.

 

I'm assuming touch sensitivity means "after-touch" this allows extra expression in synth sounds by pressing down harder on keys you are already holding down. Not needed for Piano or Organ emulations.

 

Weighted and semi-weighted keys will react more like traditional piano keys. Organs tend to have unweighted keys. What suits you best is something you'll only discover after you have been playing a while. Unweighted keys with velocity sensitive sounds (like piano) will make you work harder at your piano technique as they tend to do everything at full velocity. 

 

If you watch piano players and (rock) organists you'll notice that the playing styles for each is totally different due to the nature of the sounds each instrument produces. 

 

If you want to emulate a real piano you will need a sustain pedal. You might also want something that supports the soft pedal function and a pedal to go with it. 

 

Finally remember that a big part of the traditional rock organ sound is that of the Leslie Cabinet and the speed controls for it. You won't get a convincing emulation without being able to change the speed on the fly. You will also want a volume pedal.

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Thanks for the help!

 

So do you reckon I could learn on 61 and then move to 88 if I get into it, or will starting on 61 be prohibitive from the off? Wouldn't I just be able to learn the line and then just not go to as high an octave as the original song? Or is that silly?

 

And same for the pedals, would i be able to get by without them for learning, or would you suggest using them from the off? 

 

Good point on the Leslie cabs. I guess that's another thing I can look at if I get good and look at playing properly.

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I bought a 49 key keyboard some time ago (a Komplete Kontrol A49) and I've found even Grade 3 piano pieces don't fit on it, neither can they be made to fit with using the octave switch. So definitely the more the better. If its full size, then 88 vs 61 might be more tricky to accommodate and transport? But it would depend on the kind of music - anything piano related, the more the better. But if its purely synth stuff then 49 (or less) is fine. Since the Alesis Recital has a USB MIDI out (so say the specs - not sure if it does the job great though) it opens it up to a world of synths and other fun sounds.

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34 minutes ago, Jonesy said:

So do you reckon I could learn on 61 and then move to 88 if I get into it, or will starting on 61 be prohibitive from the off? Wouldn't I just be able to learn the line and then just not go to as high an octave as the original song? Or is that silly?

 

And same for the pedals, would i be able to get by without them for learning, or would you suggest using them from the off? 

 

Good point on the Leslie cabs. I guess that's another thing I can look at if I get good and look at playing properly.

 

What do you want to learn - piano or organ/synth? To me, they are requiring 2 different approaches. If organ/synth - you'll be better off with a 61key board with synth action, if Piano you'll be better served by a 7x/88 key weighted keyboard

 

If you're learning piano you'll want a sustain pedal at a minimum

 

 

 

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Firstly I need to say that I'm primarily a synth player rather than a traditional keyboard player, so most of this is based on observation of other players.

 

With boogie-woogie in particular there is a lot of left-hand movement, and generally a lot of separation between the left and right hand parts. I suspect that you find very quickly that a 61 note keyboard is too small for this and if you are able to bring the left and right hand parts an octave closer together without them overlapping it won't sound right. Also if your are playing from written notation you'll be constantly be transposing one or the other hand on the fly.

 

IME if you want to play proper piano parts you will at minimum need a sustain pedal.

 

Thankfully you won't need a Leslie Cab. Any decent keyboard which comes with organ sounds should include options for Leslie off, slow and fast. The important thing is to be able to change this from the performance controls as it plays a big part in the sound of 70s rock organ.

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3 minutes ago, sammybee said:

 

What do you want to learn - piano or organ/synth? To me, they are requiring 2 different approaches. If organ/synth - you'll be better off with a 61key board with synth action, if Piano you'll be better served by a 7x/88 key weighted keyboard

 

If you're learning piano you'll want a sustain pedal at a minimum

 

 

 

 

True - if learning piano, go for full weighted.

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2 minutes ago, paul_c2 said:

Or just buy a piano - they go for buttons these days, people can't get rid of them!! So long as you have the means to transport and accommodate it at home.

Yes he could retro fit the light up keys and midi

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46 minutes ago, paul_c2 said:

Or just buy a piano - they go for buttons these days, people can't get rid of them!! So long as you have the means to transport and accommodate it at home.

 

Seeing that people give them away on FB etc, this was my first thought! However, space is the issue here and I wouldn't be able to get away with having one at home. Plus I wouldn't want to put everyone through the pain of hearing me butcher my way across the keys as I learn. A keyboard with headphone jack seems much more humane!

 

I definitely want to learn piano over the organ, I was just thinking it could be fun to chuck in the odd deep purple tune for a bit of fun. I was thinking of learning some Chas n Dave, Jerry Lee etc. If, after 20 years of playing, I was an 8th as good as Henri Herbert I'd be very happy! 

 

So, the hunt is on for an 88 key keyboard and sustain pedal, preferably fully weighted and under £200. Has anyone got any ideas on what fits the bill? There a Alesis Recital Pro near me 2nd hand for £150 - which seems like a good deal, so I may well go and check that out.

 

 

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37 minutes ago, Jonesy said:

So, the hunt is on for an 88 key keyboard and sustain pedal, preferably fully weighted and under £200. Has anyone got any ideas on what fits the bill? There a Alesis Recital Pro near me 2nd hand for £150 - which seems like a good deal, so I may well go and check that out.

 

I don't have direct experience with that model, but I've had Alesis' synths in the past and they have been, solid, reliable bits of kit. At £150, you'll get your money back if it doesn't work out. Just make sure it's all working as intended

 

Sustain pedals are cheap... I got a Donner one recently for £13

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20 hours ago, Jonesy said:

Aaaand, is there a recommended keyboard height, or is it just go with whatever feels comfortable? Just wondering if I need a stand, or if it'd be OK playing at a desk/kitchen table?

 

Simply put, for a good start you'll want the keybed at a height so you underarms and the back of your hands are roughly in one line, the hands horizontal and your fingers bent. Many beginners drop their wrists to below keybed level, which is bad for everything. I've always let my pupils play with coins on their hand backs for a few minutes - the game being: don't let the coin drop. Much more should be said here.

This is why key surfaces tend to be kept around 72 cm above the ground.
Personally, I normally find that a keyboard on top of a table is too high. Instead of buying an expensive stand, I used the saw on a wooden table I got for free. Perfec.


In your situation, I'd normally not stress the unweighted vs (semi-)weighted bit too much, unless you already know that you're gonna go through with everything, in which case starting with fully weighted will probably result in better technique overall and probably also makes transition easier.
It's a much more expensive alternative though, which I gather will break the budget unless you're lucky on the second-hand market.

These three core systems of weightedness come in many different, often brand-dependent, grades of resistance and return characteristics. 
If you can't bring someone in the know to test the gear, I'd say: go for what you can afford and let time help you on your path.

 


Fully-weighted keybeds being slower? A total beginner might indeed feel that they are, but it's not a fact. More advanced players will normally play faster on fully weighted than on unweighted, but it depends on a lot  - including music style.
(I'm reminded of sea kayak beginners always reviewing short kayaks as being faster. Er ... that's because you lack technique!)

Me, I'd not be too afraid of 61 keys in your situation, but I see opinions differ. By all means get 73 or 76 keys if you can afford them, but 61 should be a bit cheaper.

Enough for now.

Good luck!
bert

 

Edited by BassTractor
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Thanks for everyone's replies on this, you're all very helpful!!

 

Looking at what is in budget and semi/weighted with 88 keys, it looks to be slim pickings. I can't see much outside of that Recital Pro I mentioned and that looks to be a rare bargain.

 

I'll see how I get on. There's a few reviews that may have put me off it slightly and I'm on the fence on a few features. I'm off on hols for a week but, if it's still there when I'm back, I'll go check it out.

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  • 1 month later...

I haven't got one yet and I've just had loads on that puts me in 2 minds about learning - I have a new baby on the way in a couple of weeks, so won't have that much time for  and I'm also wondering if it's better to just spend more time playing the bass rather than learning a new instrument. 

 

Then I think learning the piano will make me a better musician, so I start looking again.

 

The Recital Pro I was looking at was sold by the time I was back from my break and I've been out bid on a couple of Yamaha P45's recently. I think the Yammy is the way to go though so I'm still keeping an eye out.

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1 hour ago, Jonesy said:

Yamaha P45's

I am surprised at how inexpensive these are, on Facebook marketplace.   And they sound and feel good to me, too. 

 

I would have gone for one myself, eventually, were it not for the 50 quid Kurzweil in Cash Converters.     

 

Keyboards will teach one harmony - and, apparently, once one develops a good left hand technique, you can do everything a bassist does . . .., 

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On 02/04/2024 at 15:40, Jonesy said:

Yamaha P45's recently. I think the Yammy is the way to go


That, or you might be as lucky as I was. I got a Roland F-140R for P45 money.
The F-140R is not as known as many other Roland or Yamaha models, and I reckon that's why I got it cheap.

Its keybed, sound generator, amps and speakers all perform way above the P45, and IMHO its only drawback is that I see no way of accessing its hundreds of sounds without switching through most of them sequentially (this is so bizarre that I have a hard time believing it's true, so maybe there's a hidden, undocumented function somewhere.

Anyway, if you're looking at the P45 anyway, then keep an eye out for this one.
One never knows.
 

 

 

Edited by BassTractor
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  • 1 month later...
On 02/04/2024 at 20:09, Jonesy said:

I'll add that to the list and keep an eye out for one. Ta for the heads up! 

Did you ever get one? 
 

I’ve had my spare listed for a while. Was plenty reliable for me to use and learn on for years:

 

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