Close up of a keyboard.

Choosing a Keyboard

Given the enormous selection of keyboards on the market, choosing the right one can be a daunting task. This article relates to choosing a high-end keyboard workstation, but the method I used to help come to a decision can be used for any keyboard in any price range.

Six keyboards on stands in a shop.I had narrowed my particular choice down to just two keyboards: the Roland Fantom G and the Yamaha Motif XF. Both offer a huge range of sounds and facilities, but after many hours of research, listening, and playing, I was still unable to decide which keyboard was the better of the two. Both are very good instruments, with each scoring points against the other in different areas.

What I needed was a different approach, so I decided to put aside the various attributes of each keyboard and focus primarily on the things that I wanted from the instrument, and what I would be using it for. I found that listing my basic requirements, along with a brief evaluation of how well the requirements were met, was tremendously helpful. I have reproduced my list, relating to the Fantom G and Motif XF keyboards, in the table below.

  Requirement Evaluation
1.

A good piano sound.

Both keyboards have a good piano sound but the Motif, with its longer sample and richer texture, wins here.

2.

Good string sounds.

Both keyboards have good string sound but the Motif strings sound a little warmer.

3.

High quality general instrument sounds.

Both instruments offer good general instrument sounds, so no clear winner here.

4.

A clear display.

The Fantom wins here, however, since most of my recording will be done using a software package and a computer screen I decided I could live with the Motif’s smaller display if necessary.

5.

A user friendly sequencer.

Both sequencers seem user friendly.

6.

Basic sound editing.

Both keyboards offer a good level of sound manipulation. Perhaps Roland offers more in this department, but as long as there is some sound editing capability I am satisfied.

In the end I realized that for the music I write, play, and produce, a very good acoustic piano sound was of paramount important. Both keyboards have usable piano sounds, certainly for live work and most recording work too, but the Motif, sampled from Yamaha’s C6 concert grand, is that much more realistic.

After consulting my list it became clear that, of the two keyboards, the Motif would best fit my needs.

Size Considerations

Keyboards come in a range of sizes, typically 49-. 61-, 73-, 76-, and fully piano size 88-note keyboards, but the minimum number of keys for useful playing I would put at no fewer than 61 (five octaves).

Another consideration is the keyboard action. Most keyboards operate using springs to return the key to the up position. This spring loading is the only resistance felt by the player. However ‘weighted’ keyboards include weights, and in some cases even a form of piano action, to emulate a real piano. Some keyboards go even further by making the key action slightly heavier in the bass than in the treble, again in an attempt to emulate the feel of a real piano. Weighted keys, as a pianist, would be my first choice, but at a price. Weighted keyboards are more expensive, and much heavier to carry around.

If the keyboard is for a child about to start taking piano lessons, I would strongly recommend a keyboard with a weighted action, if a real piano is out of the question.

Conclusion

The key to making the right choice when choosing a keyboard is to decide, first and foremost, what you want to use the keyboard for, and what attributes are the most important for you. Once this is clear, in my experience, it makes making the right choice much easier.
 

For more information about the Roland Fantom G and Yamaha Motif XF keyboards see Fantom G vs Motif XF.

 

 


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Just arrived on this site:

July 26, 2017. The question I attempt to answer this month is Why Pay For Music? Leaving aside the legal argument there is much more to consider. Read the article to find out more.

June 28, 2017. This month features an article on how to make DIY Acoustic Panels that don't need attaching to a wall with screws or glue.

May 29, 2017. New this month is a selection of six Royalty Free Radio Jingles.

April 30, 2017. After a half-year break from adding new material to this site, I've added an article / review on Headphone Holders.

Jan. ~ Mar. 2017. New posts coming soon.

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