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While portable electronic keyboards are the most inexpensive they generally come with some pretty amazing features.
The question is what features do I need and how do I use the ones that come on my instrument?
This article will explain all the various bells and whistles on the current models available and how to use them to make your playing sound better.
What features should I expect and how are they relevant to me?
Some of the features discussed below are common to all electronic keyboards in this entry level category. Others will be found as you go higher in price.
Overall sound quality!
Two things go into the overall sound of the portable keyboard.
First would be the quality of the instrument sounds.
Even the least expensive instruments will have as many as 100 different sounds or tones.
As the Digital age evolved so did the sound quality of these instruments.
Digital sampling of actual instruments added new realism to what were before poor representations of actual musical instruments.
Even so there are differences in the quality of these "sampled" instruments.
Some practical advise about the sounds.
As I write this article I sit next to a keyboard I have used for many years as a professional working musician.
Out of the over two hundred sounds available to me, I use maybe a dozen of those 90% of the time.
Sure, If someone asked me to play the theme music from M.A.S.H. (Suicide is Easy), I could add the sound of a helicopter but how often is that going to happen!
The point is that on these electronic keyboards there are many sounds that are either practically useless or not good at all.
Listen first to the acoustic piano sound.
It is one of the hardest instruments to digitally sample.
Dose it sound like a real piano to you?
After all you are the ultimate judge of what sounds good to you.
Strike a note and hold the key down. Does the note "sustain" or ring out or does it dissipate quickly.
Again you are the ultimate judge of what sounds good to you!
Some other usable sound to check out..
The sounds I use the most are of course the acoustic piano, and some variations of electric piano sounds.
The strings and violins if sampled right can be very useful and add richness to you music.
How about the sound of the drums? Realistic sounding cymbals?
Check out the Brass and woodwind sounds like trumpet, horns, clarinet , and the flute. These are often useful sounds for performance.
I can and will give my opinion on what sounds best to me but the bottom line is that it is a personal decision based on your taste and you budget!
The second thing that goes into overall sound quality is the sound delivery or "speaker system".
The presence on on board speakers is what defines portable electronic keyboards in this category.
Unlike their professional cousins they are designed for home use.
You can have the best digital samples of instruments available and if you are listening to them on cheap speakers they will not sound good at all.
A general rule of thumb is that the larger a speaker is the better the sound quality.
Most electronic keyboards in this price range will have two speakers. Most of the low end models are monophonic however there are some that do play in stereo.
If you look on the back of the keyboard and see two output 1/4" output jacks labeled L and R then most likely it is a stereo keyboard.
Why is this important?
At the risk of sounding obvious, if the keyboard is not pleasing to you ears you wont practice and if you do not practice you might as well push it under the bed. Have you checked there? Someone may have left one.
Some call it cheating, I call it FUN! and it can also be an aid in learning. Let me explain.
The Automatic accompaniment feature is another thing unique to these electronic keyboards. Its like having your own back up band and you are the conductor.
Like with the instrument sounds you will end up using a handful of these musical styles out of the hundred or so that may be included. Every thing from polkas to rap music.
Some benefits are...
If you hope to one day play with other musicians in a band it will give you a feel for that.
It helps with learning to keep time and that is a big one. You can consider it a sort of fancy metronome.
It can make sitting at the keyboard and practicing more fun and that is a big one. The more fun you have, the longer you will want to practice. The more you practice the better you get!!
M.I.D.I or the ( musical instrument digital interface )
If you navigated to this page yourself you will want to consider this a must on your instrument.
Look on the back and you will see at two five pin ports labeled midi in and midi out.
These allow you electronic keyboard to talk to your computer. There are tons of great creative and educational software applications that can open up a whole new world of learning for you as you progress.
Best Home Study for "Ear Players"
After checking out dozens of home study courses that teach you to play by ear and focus on chord progressions I am convinced that the folks at Hear and Play have the best, most well rounded program available for just about all styles of music from Gospel to Jazz. Read my review or visit Hear and Play for more information.
If you have any questions, suggestions, or ideas for future lessons feel free to Contact Me.