As a keyboard player / pianist myself, I am very well aware of the importance of having a great entry-level instrument to begin playing and practicing on. Every musician on this planet has been a beginner at some point, and certainly nobody can afford to purchase high-end gear at the very beginning of their musical career… nor should they! Even if you are only interested in learning to play for your own pleasure, entry-level budget keyboards are definitely the best way to get started in keyboard playing!
Best Budget Keyboards / Pianos!
There are many reasons why you may want to consider purchasing a good budget keyboard… perhaps you are a piano player looking to expand your sound world by switching to electronic keyboards and digital instruments; maybe you play another instrument already, and are interested in learning more about keyboards; or perhaps you just want to have some fun at home while exploring hundreds of sounds and rhythms to your heart´s content!
Whatever the reason may be, there is an instrument out there that is just right for you. One that fits your budget, suits your own personal needs and meets the requirements you may have as a budding musician, or possibly even as an experienced player. Many professional keyboardists own several budget (or entry-level) instruments, whether it be for practicing purposes, convenience or portability.
The world of electronic keyboards (especially what we could call “home keyboards”) is ever-expanding in it’s diversity and variety; for this reason, it is extremely important to bear in mind some criteria and key elements to look out for, when it comes to selecting the instrument that is right for you.
Ultimately, when it comes to making a decision about buying a budget / entry-level home keyboard, the secret lies in striking the right balance between price – you certainly don´t want to spend too much cash, especially on a budget keyboard – AND quality. Let´s not forget that. while you may be looking for an entry-level home instrument, there is a huge range of quality and available models and brands, which definitely can, and should. affect your purchasing decision in a big way.
So, let´s have a look at some of the key characteristics and features you may want to look out for.
What To Look For In A Good Budget Keyboard (that is still good quality!)
There are a number of things to keep an eye out for, that can help you find the right product for your own personal needs. Here are some of the most important ones to keep in mind:
*The Price: What kind of money are you willing to spend on this keyboard? It´s good to have some guidelines set up before going shopping for an instrument, so you know your budget and stay within it.
* The Build: What kind of materials is the keyboard made of, and how durable does it seem? Entry level instruments certainly will never match the sturdiness of professional gear, but there can still be a wide range when it comes to materials and their durability (you want to be able to enjoy it for a long time!).
* The Portability: What size keyboard are you looking for? Most keyboards will feature 61 keys, which is the universal standard when it comes to key range – five full octaves – but there are keyboards that come in significantly smaller dimensions than others, mainly in two ways: either by saving in weight (which is useful if you plan on taking your instrument with you on-the-go), or by varying the size of the actual keys (most keyboards will come with full-size synth-style keys, but there are options with mini-keys as well; whether this is right for you is up to yourself, ultimately, bear in mind that the playing technique involved in playing on mini-sized keys is quite different from playing on full-sized normal keys).
* Battery Operation: Does it work on batteries, if required? For some customers this will not be an issue, particularly if you plan on having your keyboard always in a fixed location at home. But some players will be interested in extreme portability, and for that purpose owning a model that can work on battery power can be a real life-saver.
* The Sounds: This is, of course, the most important aspect, at least from the purely musical point of view. Entry-level budget keyboards usually will feature several dozen or possibly even hundreds of different timbres or tones (sounds that you can play), and it often comes down to a matter of quantity vs. quality – are you looking for more variety in sounds, or do you prefer just a handful of them that are really good and useful for musical purposes?
There really is no right or wrong answer here, you just need to weigh your options and keep in mind what your short – and medium-term goals are. This will help you make the right decision. Also, check the reviews that have been left by previous customers. This is an honest way of gauging real experiences with the product that you are interested in.
Pre-Programmed Rhythms and Styles – Are They Useful or Valuable?
One of the characteristics of home keyboards, that tend to distinguish them from more high-end professional gear or stage keyboards, is the fact that they often come with a variety of pre-programmed rhythms, grooves or accompaniments. Some people view them as a must-have, others tend to look at them as a rather cheesy feature meant just to impress potential newbie buyers. But what to make of these? Is there any real, musical value in having factory rhythms on your keyboard?
Well, as much as I hate to disagree with the “experts” and my professional colleagues on this issue, the fact of the matter is that auto accompaniment rhythms and grooves are very often the first real experience of playing “with a band” that a budding keyboardist ever has! Being able to jam along to a full-featured band, that will follow the harmony of the chords you play with your left hand, while you play the solo parts with your right hand, is a tremendously fun, entertaining and musically satisfying experience! Not to mention educational – where else are you going to get that possibility? Most people don´t have a professional band at their disposal for practicing and jamming whenever they feel like it!
Also, it helps you develop greater independence between both hands, when you get used to applying left hand for harmony and right hand for melody (some keyboard models allow this to be adjusted, so it´s not always limited to this configuration). And most importantly, perhaps, it helps the eager aficionado learn and strengthen their understanding of different musical genres and styles. Particularly today, when a lot of the radio-friendly music we hear on the charts is quite monotonous and same-sounding… exploring various musical aesthetics, styles and genres is extremely valuable and eye-opening. Basically, you get to travel around the world (both in time and space) to eras and cultures you might never have known otherwise, at least from a musical perspective.
So, don´t let anybody fool you. Pre-programmed rhythms are a great way of getting your feet in the door when it comes to playing along with a band, and they will also help you gain a wider understanding of music as a whole. While this shouldn’t be the only main criteria to choose a budget keyboard for yourself, it is certainly one to look out for. If you can strike the right combination of sound quality, playability AND good accompaniment rhythms… jackpot!
In conclusion, there are many key features that can help you decide upon a keyboard that is right for your needs. Always remember, at the end of the day, music is about playing. It´s about having fun, learning and expanding your mind while doing it! So, know what you´re looking for and follow your gut; the relationship you will establish with your instrument of choice is a very personal and intimate one… therefore, look for what feels right, what gives you plenty of what you need and at the same time challenges you as a musician just the right amount!