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Old 06-19-2009, 09:26 AM   #1 (permalink)
Entry level keyboard?

Last year about this time I bought a guitar and practiced it for a few months before ultimately losing interest. I posted a thread here at the time and got quite a few very insightful and valuable posts. I actually printed the thread out and put it in my guitar lessons book for when I do pick it up and start playing again.

In the meantime, I've been thinking about picking up a keyboard and seeing if I take a liking to it. My musical background involves me playing violin and viola through high school, as well as a few piano lessons as a child. Essentially, I would be starting from scratch.

I'm looking to purchase an entry level keyboard that won't break the bank, but will be of fair enough quality that it could be used frequently if the interest sticks and I opt to pursue playing it further.

I bought my guitar on Craigslist and it ended up being a great deal. Thus, I would consider Craigslist as an option for a keyboard, but I literally know nothing about the brands, models, or how much I can expect to pay for a keyboard to start on.

Thus, I'd appreciate any and all recommendations or feedback. I don't start new hobbies or interests with the expectation that I am going to pick them up and stick with them my entire life. I'm very realistic, and my interests seem to ebb and sway in trends, so I'm not looking to spend a lot of money, but I am looking to get a decent keyboard once I can establish what the general price ranges and tiers of keyboards are.

One final note: I see myself playing the keyboard more as a piano than using it to make beats and create other instrumental sounds, so if that factors into the models or pricing, consider that as well. Essentially, I would like to attempt to learn piano, without investing the money or space required to purchase a real piano. The ability to create other sounds and put down beats does seem fun, but at the core, I'd like to give learning piano a shot.

If you have any thoughts or recommendations, please share them!

EDIT: I also welcome any comments you may have towards learning whether it be methods, books, or some other means of learning piano. I used the Suzuki method when learning violin/viola and remember there being different levels/books as you advanced, and that seemed to be the standard means for teaching with all the violin teachers and students I encountered.
Desperation is no excuse for lowering one's standards.

Last edited by Jimellow; 06-19-2009 at 09:34 AM..
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Old 06-19-2009, 10:09 AM   #2 (permalink)
I would go for one of the low-end Yamaha digital pianos. Casio also makes some OK digital pianos. I think you're looking at $500-$900 for anything that I would think is remotely usable, especially if you're looking at playing pianistically. Even at this range the keys are going to feel a little chintzy.

You might consider looking for a used console piano ... as long as it stays in tune fairly well and has a pretty decent keybed and action you'll be better off than cheap digital pianos. However, even the smallest piano is cumbersome and probably not practical if you're in an apartment or if you move around a lot.

I played violin from 7 to 16 years old and taught myself piano starting at 12. Piano (and other keyboard instruments) are my main instruments in bands that I've been in for 20+ years now.
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Old 06-19-2009, 11:42 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Location: Seattle, WA
Are you looking for a standalone keyboard or one that you can (must) use with a computer?

The former is good for live performance or practice where a computer isn't around, but limits your functionality to the functionality of the keyboard itself.

The latter is great for more complicated mixing or composition, allows for easier recording, and allows you the flexibility of many good pieces of software.

I picked up the M-Audio Keystation Pro 88 on craiglist for $100 on craiglist about a year back, and it's served my needs and more, particularly when paired with powerful software like Cubase SX3. M-AUDIO - Keystation Pro 88 - 88-Key Hammer-Action USB Bus-Powered Master MIDI Controller. The big caveat, however, is that you need a computer. Without a computer, a MIDI Controller is a big useless piece of plastic.

As for resources, I came across GMajor Music Theory when I was looking:
Free Piano Music! Level One

It was great because it has beginner through relatively complex compositions, but it provides the sheet music AND MIDI tracks for all the songs. It's great if you're a "learn by hearing and copying" or "learn by reading the music" person. I read the music, but it was occasionally good to play the MIDI to make sure I was doing it right. I was a clarinet player long ago, but it took a while to remember.

Best of all, it's all free. He's got all sorts of other resources on that site too, including flash cards and stuff.
"I'm typing on a computer of science, which is being sent by science wires to a little science server where you can access it. I'm not typing on a computer of philosophy or religion or whatever other thing you think can be used to understand the universe because they're a poor substitute in the role of understanding the universe which exists independent from ourselves." - Willravel
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Old 06-19-2009, 06:01 PM   #4 (permalink)
Thanks for the replies.

Digital piano seems the way to go. I'd prefer a standalone model that didn't require a PC. Initially, I wouldn't be looking to mix or add external effects, but instead learn to play piano; likely in the classical music style.

I talked to a friend of mine that is involved in music today and he recommended a site called "Sweet Water Music" (Welcome to Sweetwater.com | Call Us @ 800 222 4700).

Their digital piano listings are as follows: Digital Pianos | Sweetwater.com

As I browse these listings, it seems the going rate is $500 or so, and that's admittedly more than I was intending to spend.

One of the questions that I have right now is: I noticed some of the cheaper keyboards listed have 76 keys as opposed to the standard 88. Would you consider 88 keys to be a requirement? I suspect the range is limited with 76 keys and am wondering if I should even consider a model without 88 keys.

I'm going to say that a console piano is not an option due to my living situation. We actually used to have a piano that I didn't use, and now when I'm wanting to learn it's long gone.

I'm not opposed to spending money, but I'm reluctant to spend a lot on the basis that I really am not sure how long I'll be interested in wanting to learn and play. Ideally I stick with it and play often, but in life the only thing I find myself doing on a regular basis is going to the gym and lifting weights. My other hobbies and interests tend to come and go and thus I'm reluctant to spend heavily on any one of them. But with that said, I think there are a lot worse ways to spend one's time than investing it in music.
Desperation is no excuse for lowering one's standards.
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Old 06-19-2009, 10:55 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Location: Spokane, WA
yeah sweetwater is good, I've bought lots of stuff from them. I can't recommend a good keyboard though, they're very diverse and each has it's own following, most synth entusiasts I know wind up with a room full of the things. Personally i'm happy with one midi controller and loading sounds up on the computer instead, that way my hardware is only limited by the diversity of my software.
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Old 06-20-2009, 12:20 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Location: Atlanta
I'd also suggest a low end Yamaha. When I was performing, I had a top of the line Korg which will remain a brand I stand by, but I'm certain it's just too much for anyone just starting out.

In closing, men who play the keys are h-a-w-t.
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Old 06-20-2009, 02:34 PM   #7 (permalink)
Originally Posted by Jimellow View Post
One of the questions that I have right now is: I noticed some of the cheaper keyboards listed have 76 keys as opposed to the standard 88. Would you consider 88 keys to be a requirement? I suspect the range is limited with 76 keys and am wondering if I should even consider a model without 88 keys.
88 keys is not a requirement, but if you want a close-to-real piano feel you probably won't find it in a 76 key model. They usually have synth keys or "light" piano action. I think CME makes a 76 weighted key keyboard but their stuff is so expensive plus it's just a controller so you'd need to connect to the computer or a sound module.

You might look around for used digital pianos. It doesn't have to be fancy.
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Old 06-20-2009, 05:19 PM   #8 (permalink)
To update... I found a used Casio WK-3000 on Craigslist for $150 and bought it today.

The link can be found here: SUPER MEGA AWESOME KEYBOARD Casio WK-3000 Professional Series 76
It received positive reviews on Amazon (
) and seems to be a nice fit for me.

The quality is great, and it came with a stand. I browsed a pawn shop as well as two music stores and a piano-specific store today, and this deal was easily the best I came across. I'm very satisfied with the purchase.

Now I can focus on learning and the methods by which I intend learn with. If anyone has recommendations in regards to books, websites, or methods of piano teaching, please share them.

I played violin through high school and can/could read music, but it will take quite a bit of refreshing and playing to get back to where I was; especially when considering I'm dealing with a different instrument as well.

I really like that headphones can be plugged into the keyboard and used, as this will make practicing in the evening bearable for those in earshot.
Desperation is no excuse for lowering one's standards.
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Old 06-22-2009, 01:37 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Old 06-23-2009, 04:00 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I'm also on the lookout for a solid keyboard for an intermediate. I've been scouring Craigslist for the past few days. This recent one has caught my eye. I'm a little weary of having to track down the AC adapter but this one may be the right one for me.
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Old 09-12-2009, 08:18 AM   #11 (permalink)
rolls good
Just about any of the portable keyboards from Yamaha or Korg will do you in good stead for learning to play.

My only recommendation is that even with the lower-end units, you go ahead and get one that does have USB-Midi capability, so that if/when you do want to hook it up to a computer, it's pretty much plug-n-play (assuming you have sequencing software).

I know from experience the low-end Yamahas with USB-Midi will also function as a tone-generator for VSTi instruments without requiring an investment in a separate audio interface.
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Old 09-14-2009, 09:49 PM   #12 (permalink)
Location: Portland
For non stand-alone's I'm a huge fan of M-Audio keyboards. They are as inexpensive as a bunch of plastic should be, and everything you'd expect for the price.
The Axiom series have really great semi-weighted keys. I plan on getting the 49 just as soon as I have the cash. M Audio also makes keyboards without all the fancy drum pads and sliders and knobs, but with weighted keys, for a bit less cash.

Good luck in your music making adventures...
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