Due to rapid developments over the last ten years, you can get a portable piano keyboard that comes with a fantastic range of features that allow even complete beginners to achieve a professional sound.
With a wide range of realistic voices, numerous auto accompaniment styles and quality sound systems, a portable home keyboard is a practical low cost solution for practicing, performing and composing at home.
Standard home keyboards are characterized by their 61 note piano keyboard and lightweight keys. These are ideal for complete beginners as the boards are smaller with fewer keys to worry about, and the lightweight keys are easier to play.
However, those that have learned to play the piano may prefer a weighted 88 key keyboard, and should look at a digital piano rather than a home keyboard.
Most home keyboards come with the standard 128 General MIDI voices, including a number of pianos as well as strings, woodwind and percussion amongst others. Higher spec keyboards will have more voices, for example the Yamaha YPT200, has 134 voices, whilst its sibling the YPT300 has 482 voices but cost relatively less.
Many budget home keyboards only have 12 notes of polyphony, which means you can only sound 12 sounds at the same time. This will be enough for beginners but you may find that you find you want more as your playing and composing progresses.
Yamaha YPT series come with a generous 32 notes of polyphony which should be more than enough.
If you want to use your keyboard for composition you will want to check what kind of sequencing features it has. Most keyboards will allow you to play and record tracks individually and layer them over each other. However, with many low cost keyboards you can only layer a couple of tracks rather than the maximum 16 which you can achieve with the YPT series.
One great feature of home keyboards is auto accompaniment, where you play a chord with your left hand and the keyboard plays along using the notes of that chord and one of the preset styles such as jazz, swing or waltz. You can play the melody with your right hand to achieve a really superb sounding composition.
Check how many auto accompaniment styles your keyboard has, you will be looking at around 100 on a fairly high spec keyboard. A final thing to look for on your home keyboard is the type of speakers. Excellent sound and sample quality can be ruined by cheap speakers. Ideally you need true stereo speakers to get the best sound out of your instrument.
A portable home keyboard is ideal for beginners looking for an all round instrument that they can use for learning, performing and some simple composition. Don’t be put off by the more complicated keyboards with a wider range of features as you may quickly become bored with a very basic board.
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