If you are a traveling musician, you will surely know the nightmare that hounds musicians every time they travel from one venue to another. This problem is further compounded if you are going to travel by air for there are regulations about traveling with pianos or guitars. It will surely be a dreadful experience if you are bringing a full-sized piano, for example, together with your luggage. It is good enough that nowadays, musicians can opt for smaller-sized pianos or mini keyboards that are not bulky enough and not heavy to tag along. Moreover, these mini keyboards are still of great quality despite the obvious reduction in their sizes.
You will no longer be burdened with cumbersome keyboards if you opt for the portable or even the mini piano keyboards. But the only problem left is on how to choose the best mini-keyboards with all the myriads of brands out there. Hence, if you’re one of those pianists who are willing to shed your huge 88 full-sized pianos, here are the brief criteria that you must consider to find the best mini-keyboard for your out-of-town gigs.
Table of Contents
- Digital Piano—a Good Alternative?
- Factors To Consider When Buying a Portable Keyboard Piano
- Recommended Mini / Portable Keyboard Pianos
Digital Piano—a Good Alternative?
The portable digital keyboard has the capability to produce the sounds of other instruments aside from the sound of the piano itself. Using it, you can select any sound output, from a church organ to an electric guitar or saxophone among others.
There are many reasons why the digital piano or keyboard is a good alternative for piano lovers. First, it eliminates the need for the bulky frame, metal strings, soundboard, and heavy wooden body. It uses solid-state digital electronics.
Equipped with these digital electronics, it can readily mimic the sound produced by bulky acoustic piano. Thus, it becomes light sans the bulky frame, metal strings, soundboard, and heavy wooden body. It also becomes very portable and doesn’t leave a large footprint. Moreover, it costs less due to its less expensive manufacturing costs.
You can also set the digital keyboard to any specific musical rhythm you prefer. There are, for example, settings for rock and roll, pop, pop-rock, slow rock, soul, waltz, and many more. The digital keyboard also features a drum beat track that you can follow while playing the piano.
Another feature of the digital keyboard is that it allows you to record your piece as a digital file. It also features volume control and headphone jack so that you can practice anywhere without disturbing other people.
Factors To Consider When Buying a Portable Keyboard Piano
Having a full-sized classical acoustic piano can readily add elegance to the internal architecture of a living room. However, not many people can afford to buy or acquire even the upright type of piano for their living room. Luckily, the age of electronic and computer technology has brought in a new type of instrument—the digital keyboard—that sounds almost the same as the acoustic piano but is of more affordable price. This digital keyboard is lightweight and very portable as it does away with the bulky steel framing, strings, and hammers of the more complex mechanical constructions of the earlier acoustic pianos.
Here are some fundamental factors that could help you zero in on the right mini-keyboard for your use:
1) Action, Sensitivity, and Key Size
You should go for semi-weighted synth action keys because it allows balance dynamism and nice playability. Of course, if you opt for mini-keyboards, you will have to sacrifice a bit and compromise with sounds. Full-size keyboards can create awesome sounds and tension consistency, but they are weighty. Mini-keyboards, however, are portable enough though they can also provide balance dynamism and playability. So, when shopping around, go for mini-keyboards that offer better key action and sensitivity.
2) Style, Rhythm, and Voice
Although they are portable, it doesn’t mean that mini keyboards are not equipped with many voices. Portable keyboards are packed with many sounds and manufacturers usually equip their mini-keyboards with many features like voices and styles and sounds to ensure that their customers will be satisfied with their offerings. The added sounds, rhythms, and styles are not comparable to full-sized pianos, but if you are just a tyro in playing pianos, you will surely get satisfied with the additional features that come with mini-keyboards. These added features can help you personalize the sounds that you create. Most keyboards are packed with percussions and drum sounds, plus they also have pre-made rhythms. You can use these sounds and rhythms to accompany you while you play your selections.
3) Key Counts
Furthermore, there is the factor of key count or the number of keys. The standard key count for many portable pianos is 88, but many portable keyboards have lesser number of keys.
Portable keyboards are different from the full-size keyboards because most of them only have 61 keys. However, these 61-keys pianos are good enough to allow you to engage in two-handed piano playing using arpeggios and chords. Although the mini keyboards may deal you with some playing handicaps, you can play every musical piece using the mini-keyboard. The 61-key configuration is undoubtedly ideal for traveling pianists who want to travel light.
4) It Should Allow for Recording and MIDI
When you shop around for mini-keyboard, you should look for something that allows you to make a recording. This would be very useful if you are a regular musician or if you are a budding songwriter. This is usually possible via the use of memory card, or via the use of USB cable that connects to a computer. Recording can also be a handy tool when practicing your pieces. Some keyboards allow for MIDI connectivity likewise, allowing you to use your keyboard as the controller for your MIDI or virtual instrument software. Previously, keyboards had 5-pin MIDI sockets. However, nowadays, it is very common to see keyboards with USB Connector.
5) It Should Be Easy to Use
The good thing about contemporary mini-keyboards is that most of them have user-friendly control panels. They also have an intuitive user interface that allows even those who are not used to a computer to manipulate the control panel easily. Moreover, many keyboards are packed with metronome, headphones, accompaniment, and even practical lessons that students can readily use. Hence, if you are desirous of learning how to play piano, you will surely learn it with all these special features that come along with every contemporary keyboard.
6) Additional Features
Since its introduction, the portable digital piano has become a very popular alternative to the classical piano and has been loaded with many different features not found in the traditional pianos. These added features make this digital instrument ideal for use by newbies and professionals alike. These added features generally include illuminated keys, additional sounds, memory, MIDI terminal, and audio output. However, even with highly advertised added features, choosing the most suitable portable mini piano for your need can be a bit difficult for there are many brands on the market today and there are factors that you should consider when buying a digital piano. Foremost of these factors is the consideration of affordability. There is also the factor of appearance and color. Moreover, there is also the factor of its being user-friendliness.
Recommended Mini / Portable Keyboard Pianos
At present, there are many portable keyboard models and brands on the market. Here are some of the most popular portable digital keyboard models that are available on the market today.
1) Yamaha PSR-EW300 SA 76-Key Portable Keyboard
The PSR-EW300 AD digital keyboard is one of Yamaha’s offerings for serious piano newbies and professional musicians alike. The PSR-EW300 features a 76-key touch-sensitive keyboard that allows you to play wide and complex musical passages with the realistic “feel” of a piano key. Moreover, the PSR-EW300 like many other Yamaha offerings offers a massive selection of 574 voices to choose from along with 165 accompaniment styles featuring different musical genres from around the globe. Like, any Yamaha digital keyboards, the PSR-EW300 features the Yamaha Education Suite (Y.E.S.) that is specifically beneficial to newbies. The Y.E.S. is a piano lesson that teaches you musical basics such as chord and musical note recognition, and timing. The Y.E.S. likewise allows the user to practice using a preset until a piece is perfectly played.
Another PSR-EW300 feature is the “Touch Tutor” that allows you to track the speed and strength of the keys. Moreover, as the keys are touch-sensitive, a heavy touch on a key produces louder sound while a gentler touch gives off a quieter sound, and this feature adds expressiveness to the piece that is being played. Furthermore, the PSR-EW300 also features brand new reverb effects, and this keyboard could be played in dual-mode.
The PSR-EW300 is equipped with a “USB to Host” terminal that allows connection to computer or portable device. This port also acts as MIDI terminal. Lastly, this digital keyboard comes with a power supply, a stand, and a stool.
2) Hamzer 61-Key Portable Electronic Keyboard Piano
The Hamzer 61-key portable electronic keyboard is an affordable multi-function keyboard that is suitable for both newbies and intermediately skilled users. The Hamzer keyboard is equipped with an integrated learning system that is designed to assist novice and intermediate users. It uses an LCD display to facilitate easy visual access on the keyboard settings and playing modes. Moreover, this electronic piano is capable of producing up to 255 different rhythms and the same number of timbres as well as 61 percussions. It also comes with 24 integral demo songs.
Furthermore, it features standard-sized keys for maximum finger control.
The Hamzer digital piano is also equipped with two built-in 4-watt speakers with volume control for the authentic sound range. Out of the box, the Hamzer comes with a good quality headphone for personal listening, microphone with a 4-feet long cord, a stool, and an adjustable keyboard stand. The Hamzer 61-key electronic piano draws power from six AA-batteries for flexibility, but it can also be plugged to any household 110-volt power outlet using a standard 110-120 volts power adapter.
3) Casio SA76 44 Mini-Sized Keys 100 Tones
The Casio SA76 is a compact digital keyboard from Casio whose dimensions are 23.8 x 8.3 x 2.24 inches or 605 x 211 x 57 millimeters. Designed for children, the SA76 weighs just 3.6 lbs. or 1.63 kilograms. Due to this minuscule size, its key sizes were significantly reduced, limiting its use to people with small fingers.
However, SA76 is not just a simple toy. This mini keyboard can produce 100 different musical tones and features 50 musical genre patterns, five percussion taps, and a tempo controller. It also features a simple tone selector for organ and/or piano settings and a bank for ten built-in songs. Moreover, this Casio product has two 1.2-watt speakers and an easy to read LCD monitor. However, there is one major drawback in its design. This drawback lies in its power adaptor for its power adaptor comes separately.
4) Plixio 61-Key Digital Electric Piano Keyboard
This offering from Plixio has a 61-key manual—with 36 white and 25 black keys—that spans five octaves. This digital piano features a hundred rhythms, 40 musical tones, eight percussions, and other effects such as echo, vibrato, and tempo. Additionally, this keyboard provides 60 built-in demo songs to its user.
The Plixio digital keyboard features a microphone jack to allow the user to sing along while playing the keyboard. Moreover, it features a USB port to facilitate computer connection. With this feature, the user can play MP3 and other audio files onto the digital keyboard. This feature also allows the user to record and store a chosen musical piece in digital format. It also features great volume control and an earphone jack to enable its user to engage in a silent practice readily.
It measures at 34 x 12 x 3.5 inches (or 864 x 305 x 89 mm) and weighs 6.8 pounds or 3.9 kilograms. Out-of-the-box, the digital keyboard includes accessories such as a power adapter, an auxiliary cable, a sheet music stand, and a music note.
5) Korg microARRANGER 61-Key Keyboard Production Station
The Korg microARRANGER is the best choice for more serious beginners as well as musicians on the go. This product does not only function as a keyboard but also as a music arranger to help both beginners and professionals. This keyboard is one of the lightest in its class weighing 9.26 pounds or 4.2 kilograms and measures 34.4 x 10.9 x 3.6 inches or 874 x 277 x 91 millimeters.
This Korg offering features a 61-key manual with velocity sensing that encompasses six octaves. It also features two built-in speakers that offer high-quality Korg stereo sound from 128 user programs along with 32 drum kits and 64 user drum kits. It also has four stereo effect processors that accommodate 89 effect programs. Moreover, it provides 304 styles, each with its own intros, fills, endings, and four variations.