Choosing My First Keyboard


Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Messages
7
Reaction score
4
I've been doing some research, but I have zero musical background. I've come up with a list of features I'd like my keyboard to have. I checked out some top 10 blog lists and read some user reviews, and I figured that the Casio PX-850. My budget is $1,000 or less.

I'd buy a grand piano (for the sound) if I could afford it. The way they use vibrating wires on this model really sells "recreating the sound of a grand" idea to me. Their marketing video makes me feel like I might believe I'm playing a real piano if I close my ears.

So I'm here to essentially check with those who would know. Is this the best purchase I could make for the $1,000? Any help, feedback, or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!! ^_^

Why Am I Playing
I am 35. Long time music lover and audiophile. Music is one of the few common threads running throughout my life. I've decided to fully dedicate myself to learning the piano. I'm not looking for a hobby. I want to get very proficient at an instrument and the Piano is my vehicle of choice.

Above all else, I want to be able to create emotionally evocative music. The quality of sound is very important to me. My primary interest is in learning to play classical pieces and to be able to make recordings of my playing and singing.

What Features Am I Looking For
  • Must have MIDI Out Port and USB support as a controller.
  • Velocity Sensitive keys
  • Aftertouch. Polyphonic Aftertouch a plus.
  • Full size keys, 88-key, high quality keys (synthetic ivory sounds nice), full weighted hammer action
  • Automapping (optional, but a big plus)
  • Pedal support (Expression Pedals?)
  • Faders, Knobs, Sliders, and Pads (not sure how important these are)
  • The ability to play away from my PC. I know speakers are often low quality, so not sure if it is really a viable expectation in my current price range.
Questions
  1. How important are faders, knobs, sliders, and pads when you have access to a software DAW? If I do any mixing I would assume that it would be there. They seem like they would be a nice addition, but not worth the extra price if I could spend more on a higher grade of keyboard. Am I wrong?
  2. Are there different types of pedals? I've heard of pedals and in the same sentence also seen referenced Expression Pedals. Is there a difference? Perhaps they are like guitar pedals/distortion-boxes? I've also heard of midi boxes with all the sliders and knobs on them. Do these exist? I haven't seen much referenced in my research.
 
Ad

Advertisements

happyrat1

Destroyer of Eardrums!!!
Joined
May 30, 2012
Messages
9,899
Reaction score
4,230
Location
GTA, Canada
What I'd suggest, if ultimate realism and piano proficiency is your goal is to ignore electronic keyboards for now and buy a used upright Yamaha acoustic piano instead.

It seems to me that your interest in MIDI is incidental and not the focus of your main goal which is to master the playing styles of the great masters of the art.

No electronic keyboard in that price range will ever come close enough to the real thing for those demands.

Take a look at your local craigslist.

Plenty of people end up selling upright pianos for peanuts simply because they have to move and no longer have the space to keep one.

In fact, you can often actually pick one up for free plus the cost of moving it and a tuneup when it arrives at its new home.

At worst, you can easily find a used $3000 piano going for less than a thou on any given day on craigslist and you'll have dozens of prime instruments to choose from in your area.

The MIDI capabilities are great for orchestration and recording purposes, but chances are it will be a couple of years before you produce any recordings of any value and then you can start budgeting for serious workstations like a Kronos or Motif or Kurzweil or something similar.

In the meantime, if you really want to play around with MIDI and orchestration on a cheaper synth you could probably find a used Roland or Korg synth for a few hundred bux on craigslist as well.

That's my take on it given what you've stated here.

Gary ;)
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Messages
7
Reaction score
4
I was actually looking forward to messing around with the MIDI and DAW hookup. You are correct in that I have no interest in producing recordings. However, I play with a tape recorder when I'm board and I have a ball. So I figured learning the Piano might be a fun way to sing more (proven to boost happiness levels) and enjoy a new art.

However, there is no reason I can't do that with a cheap midi controller as you mentioned. The ability to do it is far more important than the quality of what I turn out with the DAW. The sounds of a piano are really that much different? I figured for that price that the quality would be rather exceptional. But in the end, learning to play classical pieces is all I really care about. The sound and composition continually move me, after so many years of listening.

So what do I look for in this new piano? Does it really not matter or should I be looking for something specific. For example, I just checked out apage that talks about the different types of pianos. It stated that an Upright piano (the kind that stopped being produced in the 1940's and 1950's would provide the closest to grand sound. While I'm new to playing, I'm a long time listener, so the tonal quality is important to me. Thanks so much for your help!!

bluebookofpianos (dot) com (forward slash) types (dot) html <--- Piano Article
 

happyrat1

Destroyer of Eardrums!!!
Joined
May 30, 2012
Messages
9,899
Reaction score
4,230
Location
GTA, Canada
Fred Coulter and a few other forum members would be of far greater assistance when it comes to choosing an acoustic piano.

Myself I've always been more of a synth guy and not really a pianist by any stretch of the imagination.

I do know, from what I've read, that when it comes to mastering a piano is the fact that any electronic piano will only take you thru the first stages of proficiency before you ultimately have to play on a real piano.

Subtlety and nuance, which are the qualities you are going for however, manifest themselves very poorly in electronic pianos when compared with acoustic equivalents in the same price range.

As for which to go for? Real piano geeks will argue til the cows come home about the merits and shortcomings of a Yamaha vs a Steinway vs a Mason and Rich vs a Bosendorfer ad nauseum, much as audiophiles will argue til the cows come home about Class A Tube Amps vs Transistors etc...

Myself? I am no piano geek but Fred and a few others might be able to give you a few pointers as to what you are looking for.

Most adult beginners start out with far more modest objectives than those you have outlined and this board caters to all skill levels and proficiencies so don't be surprised if the SNR of the conversations around here are lower than you expected.

Gary ;)
 

SeaGtGruff

I meant to play that note!
Moderator
Joined
Jun 6, 2014
Messages
3,390
Reaction score
1,458
If you get a keyboard instrument that doesn't have many (or any) sliders, knobs, pads, etc., you can still use it as a MIDI controller. Companies like Akai Professional and Novation make "launch pad" controllers that have those things but no keyboard, and you can usually pick one up for about $100, give or take. I bought two-- one from Akai Pro and one from Novation-- that were being sold together as a discounted package deal for about $100, or maybe it was $150, whereas each one of them would have cost me about the same price if I'd bought them individually, so it was like getting one of them free.

Anyway, you can use your keyboard instrument as a keyboard controller, and use something else to supplement it with additional types of controls if desired. So you don't need to get a keyboard instrument that has a lot of sliders, knobs, pads, etc.-- unless you want to use those things with the keyboard itself. That is to say, when you use the keyboard as a controller, the MIDI data coming from the keyboard and from the other controller(s) can be blended together within the DAW so they're controlling the same thing(s), such as a particular virtual instrument. But if you want to use the other controller/s to affect the keyboard's sounds then you'll need to send its/their signals to the keyboard, and depending on the keyboard that may or may not work directly on the "keyboard parts." For instance, on my PSR-E/YPT Yamaha models the incoming MIDI data does not affect the keyboard parts, and there are no function settings which will allow that to happen such as those found on the PSR-S models. That means if I want to use the other controllers to affect my keyboards, I must send the MIDI from the keyboard and other controllers to a DAW, then have the DAW merge them and send everything back to the keyboard, and turn off the keyboard's Local Control, such that I'm using the keyboard as a controller to play its internal sound engine but am bypassing the restrictions imposed by its "keyboard parts" (meaning its Main Voice, Dual Voice, and Split Voice).

I'm sorry if all of that is rather confusing! :)
 

Fred Coulter

Collector of ancient keyboards
Joined
Feb 15, 2016
Messages
825
Reaction score
427
Location
Central Florida
Aftertouch. Polyphonic Aftertouch a plus.

Aftertouch has nothing to do with how a piano works, and is becoming harder to find. Even the new Kronos-LS doesn't have aftertouch. Are you sure you want aftertouch? (Aftertouch is not the same as velocity sensitivity, which is what a piano does and is relatively ubiquitous.)

Polyphonic aftertouch is almost impossible to find. Anywhere. I've heard of only one or two controllers that produce it. Like release velocity. It's in the MIDI standards, but rare.
 
Last edited:
Ad

Advertisements

Fred Coulter

Collector of ancient keyboards
Joined
Feb 15, 2016
Messages
825
Reaction score
427
Location
Central Florida
  • Automapping (optional, but a big plus)
  • Faders, Knobs, Sliders, and Pads (not sure how important these are)
Questions
  1. How important are faders, knobs, sliders, and pads when you have access to a software DAW? If I do any mixing I would assume that it would be there. They seem like they would be a nice addition, but not worth the extra price if I could spend more on a higher grade of keyboard. Am I wrong?

The answer to one is the answer to the other. You can do automapping and control the sound with faders, knobs, sliders, and pads on your computer. Or you can have the controller to access them all. Or some variation of both.

I've seen a person on a different forum state that if the controllers on the keyboard aren't motorized, the keyboard is useless. But that may be extreme.

There's a lot of personal preferences to deal with as to which approach you'd want to take.

Pads are used to trigger sounds and chords.
 

Fred Coulter

Collector of ancient keyboards
Joined
Feb 15, 2016
Messages
825
Reaction score
427
Location
Central Florida
Are there different types of pedals? I've heard of pedals and in the same sentence also seen referenced Expression Pedals. Is there a difference? Perhaps they are like guitar pedals/distortion-boxes? I've also heard of midi boxes with all the sliders and knobs on them. Do these exist? I haven't seen much referenced in my research.

There are two types of pedals. (Sort-of.)

First, there's the momentary switch type of pedal. Think of the pedals on the piano. You push it down, something happens. You let go, whatever happened turns off.

Second, there's the continuous controller type of pedal. Think of the swell shoes on an organ, or a volume pedal for a guitar. With this type of pedal, you can change the value of a knob without using your hand.

And then there's the in-between. Sometimes the sustain pedal is not an on/off pedal but a continuous controller. It will look like a sustain pedal (on/off), but works like a continuous controller. Why? Because IF the hardware allows it you can do fancy pedal work called half pedaling, which on a "real" piano lifts the dampers only partway.
 

Rayblewit

Love Music / Love Life
Joined
Nov 18, 2015
Messages
2,390
Reaction score
1,911
Location
Melbourne Australia
The OP has high ambitions . . Says he has no music knowledge and wants to learn piano.
How can one even think about midi's and DAW's.
I would be learning the piano first on a cheap model then when ready be buying the desired high range piano.
The OP wants to learn classical.
Rome wasn't built in a day.
Jeepers:eek:
 
Last edited:

happyrat1

Destroyer of Eardrums!!!
Joined
May 30, 2012
Messages
9,899
Reaction score
4,230
Location
GTA, Canada
Jeepers creepers Ray...

You can't fault a guy for having ambitions in life.

Besides, at age 35 he's not over the hill already like the rest of us :D :D :D

Cut the guy some slack at least until he starts feeling the arthritis on rainy days like we do :p

Gary ;)
 

Rayblewit

Love Music / Love Life
Joined
Nov 18, 2015
Messages
2,390
Reaction score
1,911
Location
Melbourne Australia
You can't fault a guy for having ambitions in life.

Quite right Happyrat!
In fact Marques, no disrespect intended. I wish you well with your desire.
If you go down the path of buying the model with all the features, then I would surely take the good advice above offered from Fred, SeaGtGruff and HappyRat.

btw, Welcome to the Forums . . the place to be!
 
Ad

Advertisements

Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Messages
7
Reaction score
4
I've been reading up on Pianos today and I'm not sure if my situation would really benefit from one. I read that you need to store it in a room that does not have a fluctuating temperature. The only room that is suitable for playing, volume wise, is my sun room. It has single-pane windows and I live in the mountains. Warm or Hot during the day, cold at night. Apparently this can untune a piano pretty quickly.

Then there is the noise volume. With no way to wear headphones, I'm wondering if I will get complaints from the neighbors. I also read that to benefit from the acoustics that a real piano provides, you need a properly sized room. Too small and the volume is too loud. Too big and the volume is weak and lacks strong acoustics. I should also avoid used pianos if I don't know what I am doing. Otherwise I could easily pick up a pretty piece of useless furniture. Are these serious concerns?

Finally, why is it that people seem so opposed to electronic pianos when I also mention that I want to play classical? I thought the high end ones were pretty impressive in the demos that I watched. The reviews have been pretty darn favorable, especially for the Casio Privia PX-860, which is what I had my eye on.
 

SeaGtGruff

I meant to play that note!
Moderator
Joined
Jun 6, 2014
Messages
3,390
Reaction score
1,458
Digital pianos sound okay to me. As for the PX-860, I haven't checked it out, but I'd love to have a PX-560 (although it's a little over your $1000 budget).
 

Fred Coulter

Collector of ancient keyboards
Joined
Feb 15, 2016
Messages
825
Reaction score
427
Location
Central Florida
I've been reading up on Pianos today and I'm not sure if my situation would really benefit from one. I read that you need to store it in a room that does not have a fluctuating temperature. The only room that is suitable for playing, volume wise, is my sun room. It has single-pane windows and I live in the mountains. Warm or Hot during the day, cold at night. Apparently this can untune a piano pretty quickly.

My mother (Bachelor's in Music Theory) had an upright piano throughout grad school and in her early teaching position starting in 1976. But there came a point where she got tired of hiring a tuner to come by the house every six months, and picked up a Roland electric piano in the late 70's. She said that if the volume control was in just the right place, it didn't sound that bad. Recently that thing has been given to one of my sister's kids, who are graduating high school in a couple of months.

And that's an electric piano that's close to four decades old. Electric pianos have improved tremendously in the last four decades.

When I recommend getting a "piano", I mean getting something with 88 keys (the size of a traditional piano keyboard) or 76 keys, with weighted keys. (You can play serious music on a 61 note keyboard, but those keyboards are generally much lighter.) Basically, keyboards can be heavy to push down like a piano, light to push down like an electric organ, or somewhere in between. I prefer learning to play piano on something that feels like a piano because it's usually easier to control how fast you press the key down, which varies the volume of the note. It should have a decent piano sound, but that's very common nowadays. You can usually tell how seriously the manufacturer takes the piano like performance by whether or not the keyboard supports three separate on/off pedals. (There are three pedals on a piano.) A very serious electric piano will support half pedaling on the sustain pedal, which is also a good way to tell how seriously the manufacturer takes the piano aspect.

You can get a decent 88 note piano that supports three pedals for under a thousand dollars. I understand that the Yamaha DGX-660 has three pedals available and supports half pedaling. There are undoubtedly others out there.

I don't recommend getting a "real" piano for a beginner. They're heavy. They need tuning. They're either expensive or used. (Not that there's anything inherently wrong with used, except that a piano is a mechanical contraption so there's far more than can just wear out. If you're going for cheap, that may be what you get.) The upright piano in my house is inherited, so there's sentimental value. My father's grand piano is now with his widow, so it's unlikely that I'll ever see it. (My daughter, on the other hand, may very well inherit it eventually.)

Most piano teachers won't have a problem with you having an electric keyboard at home to practice on. However, they will probably want it to be a larger weighted keyboard.
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Messages
7
Reaction score
4
Digital pianos sound okay to me. As for the PX-860, I haven't checked it out, but I'd love to have a PX-560 (although it's a little over your $1000 budget).
How is it that in the product line, the PX-560 is more expensive than their flagship PX-860? I don't understand =\.

And that's an electric piano that's close to four decades old. Electric pianos have improved tremendously in the last four decades.
What I have been reading is that electronic pianos are likely where things are heading. That the technology is better than ever and if someone wants to hear exceptional sound for an affordable price, without having to venture into the Wild West of used pianos, that a solid electronic piano is suitable. Don't get me wrong, you can't beat the sound and ambiance of a real piano.

It also seems though, that if I am serious about playing in the classical method, that I won't be able to truly benefit from something as advanced as a Grand Piano until many, many years from now. Given their price, I'm inclined to wait until I can truly benefit from using one. Obviously having authentic piano keys is useful right off the bat, but in regards to being able to utilize the extra power a real grand piano offers, I'd be putting the cart before the horse. Given that I'm opposed to Baby Grand's, because of the loss of sound quality, I'm probably won't be ready to make such a large purchase for many years.

I continue to research digital pianos and I'm not finding a greater model for the price. I see many alternative models, but none that can match the PX-860's 256 notes of polyphony. The best competing products top out around 190 or 192 (can't remember). It is my understanding that this should be considered an important feature.

The piano has three pedals, half-pedaling is supported, synthetic ivory keys, 88-keys, full-sized keys, 20W + 20W amplifier, supports split - layered - duet modes, Tri-sensor Scaled Hammer Action II fully weighted hammer action keys, keys also trigger a vibrating string which helps recreate some of the dynamic tones of a piano (haven't seen this anywhere else), key action has three sensors for capturing speed and accuracy, and Casio’s Hammer Response feature takes into consideration the speed at which different sized hammers move inside acoustic grand relative to velocity the keys are pressed providing a nuance to timing.

It's use of AiR technology supposedly recreates the sounds of a 9' grand piano, the piano sounds are captured at four dynamic levels, AiR provides Damper Resonance for the rich sound of the strings when the sustain pedal is used and String Resonance to emulate the sympathetic resonance of the open strings in an acoustic grand, piano lid simulation (closed, half-open, fully open), and sympathetic resonance. You can even lift a physical lid on the piano to direct the sound to you. Apparently this feature is loved by all who hear it. According to reviews anyway.

At this point I'm leaning away from a real piano because it seems like I might get a stinker of a piano. I can't recognize this for myself, being new to this, so I may pay the several hundred dollars to get the piano moved, only to find out I need a different one. For the sake of simply getting started, I'm back to primarily considering electronic pianos. Any chance you guys can tell me if there are alternatives to the PX-860, costing $1,000 or less, that may provide a superior or more desirable option?
 

Fred Coulter

Collector of ancient keyboards
Joined
Feb 15, 2016
Messages
825
Reaction score
427
Location
Central Florida
Sounds like a good choice.

I see many alternative models, but none that can match the PX-860's 256 notes of polyphony. The best competing products top out around 190 or 192 (can't remember). It is my understanding that this should be considered an important feature.

Maybe.

Here's the deal with polyphony. If you're playing a piano without the sustain pedal, you only need polyphony of ten notes. How many fingers do you have? (OK, modern compositions with cluster chords will cause problems. But you get the idea.)

If you're moving beyond the baroque and early classical to the romantic era and beyond, you're going to use the sustain pedal. But there are only 88 notes on the entire piano keyboard. So 88 note polyphony will let you hold the sustain pedal down and play every note on the keyboard.

The PX-860 doesn't play on multiple MIDI channels, so you will probably never use all the polyphony available. On the other hand, it doesn't hurt. At some point polyphony, especially for a piano, becomes a marketing tool not a musical tool.

So I wouldn't use 190 vs 256 not polyphony as a decision maker. But if the rest of the keyboard is great for you, that's a good enough reason to get it.
 
Ad

Advertisements

Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Messages
7
Reaction score
4
So I wouldn't use 190 vs 256 not polyphony as a decision maker. But if the rest of the keyboard is great for you, that's a good enough reason to get it.
I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to answer all of my questions. I've had a lot of trouble finding anybody to talk to about these topics. I'd imagine the internet is full of musicians who gather but I'm finding it seems to be about the music, not the musicians. That is, as far as forum options go. So you've really helped me out when I've been struggling. Thank you very much for your time and your expertise.

Thank you all for your help. I do, sincerely, appreciate it :)
 

SeaGtGruff

I meant to play that note!
Moderator
Joined
Jun 6, 2014
Messages
3,390
Reaction score
1,458
How is it that in the product line, the PX-560 is more expensive than their flagship PX-860? I don't understand =\.

Tell me about it! I had exactly the same reaction. :)

However, the PX-560 is a more powerful keyboard than the PX-860:
- The PX-860 and PX-560 both have 256-note maximum polyphony.
- The PX-860 has 18 preset tones and 0 user tones; the PX-560 has 650 preset tones and 400 user tones.
- The PX-860 has no "synthesizer" functions; the PX-560 has many of the "synthesizer" functions of the PX-5S.
- etc.

With Yamaha keyboards, I think the digital piano models with fewer voices sometimes have better-quality voices than the models with hundreds of voices (presumably because the wave sample memory doesn't need to be divided between as many voices). But I'm not certain of that, and have no idea whether it's also true of Casio digital pianos.
 
Ad

Advertisements

SeaGtGruff

I meant to play that note!
Moderator
Joined
Jun 6, 2014
Messages
3,390
Reaction score
1,458
By the way, the PX-5S is a little less expensive than the PX-560. They're somewhat similar and somewhat different. If I remember correctly, Casio (or maybe it was an online musical instrument store) had a page that talked about the differences between them, to help unconfuse people who were having trouble deciding between one or the other.
 

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments. After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.

Ask a Question

Top