Whether you’re new to playing piano, or it’s time for an upgrade, choosing the best weighted keyboard for your needs can involve a lot of research.
It’s also important to note what makes a weighted keyboard different, and why you’d want to spend the extra money to get an instrument that’s going to be heavier and less easy to carry around.
- Choosing the Best Weighted Keyboard in 2017
- Choosing the Right Weighted Keyboard for Your Needs
- Top Weighted Keyboards: Reviews
Choosing the Best Weighted Keyboard in 2017
Let’s take some time to review what to look for when choosing the best keyboard with weighted keys.
What are weighted keys on a keyboard?
First of all, what are weighted keys on a keyboard? Why would you want extra weight? Aren’t keyboards designed to be portable and easy to carry around, versus a heavy acoustic piano that sits in one place in your house?
Not so fast!
While it’s true weighted keys do add weight to your keyboard, that’s not all they add.
Think about how it feels when you press a key on an acoustic piano. There’s some resistance, right?
If you press the key down too slowly, there’s still resistance, but no sound comes out. This is due to the way an acoustic piano creates sound.
First, you press down the key – black or white – the part you can see. When you press this key down in the front, the heavier back part of the key moves up – like a seesaw.
As the back part of the key moves up, it pushes a felt-tipped hammer. This hammer will then strike a string, which is what finally creates the sound you hear.
If this sounds pretty involved, you’re right. Although a keyboard looks pretty simple, there’s a lot going on behind the keys you can see.
If you don’t press a key hard enough, the hammer won’t strike the string with enough force to produce a sound.
If you press the key really hard, you’ll produce a very loud sound on the piano – just like if you took a regular hammer and hit a nail with a lot of force.
What does any of this have to do with a digital piano with weighted keys?
That heavier feeling in the back of the keys – the resistance when you press down – is created by weights in an acoustic piano.
The same thing goes for an electric piano with weighted keys. These instruments will actually have weights built into the key system to give that same feeling when playing.
Why do I need a weighted keyboard?
The biggest reason to get a weighted keyboard is to correctly emulate that weighted response to the keys when you play.
You may have played some inexpensive or even “toy” digital keyboards in that past that didn’t have weighted keys.
These keys all feel the same when you press them – and they usually feel very light, with very little resistance.
While this is okay for someone playing simply for fun, or for a very early beginner unsure about continuing to study music, these unweighted keys may not be the best long-term option for advancing players.
Once a student has mastered the notes and begins to play more intricate music, they’ll want to ensure they can play the songs on any instrument – whether it’s their personal portable keyboard or a 9’ concert grand piano on a stage or in a studio.
Unweighted digital keyboards won’t have the resistance to allow a student to develop the finger strength necessary to play the keys on a 9’ acoustic concert grand piano.
Why not? Think of it like lifting weights. If you lift a very light weight every day, but never lift anything over 10lbs, you’re going to get really good at lifting the light weight.
But when you go to move up to a heavier weight, it’s going to be more difficult.
You may not be able to lift as many reps as usual. Your form may not be as good.
The exact same thing happens when moving from an unweighted keyboard to an acoustic grand piano.
You’ll still be able to find the keys and play the song, but it may not be as easy as usual, and may not sound as fluid until you build up the finger strength required to play a weighted keyboard.
What’s the difference between weighted keys and touch sensitive keys?
This is a great question. You’ll find a variety of touch sensitive or touch response digital keyboards on the market today, and these are definitely a step up from a basic beginner keyboard.
Touch sensitive or touch response keys mean that if you press the key with a little force, you’ll create a softer sound. If you press the key with a lot of force, you’ll create a louder sound.
This type of response helps the player create more musical and dynamic playing skills.
As the student progresses, they’ll also encounter more pieces with more complex dynamics, and a keyboard without touch sensitivity will be unable to help the student gauge whether they’re actually playing any more softly or loudly in certain sections.
Touch sensitive does not necessarily mean a keyboard is weighted. Many top digital piano brands offer touch sensitive keyboards with advanced sensors – some even have three sensors per key! – to mimic the ability of an acoustic piano to respond to variances in touch.
However, this only relates to the sound of the instrument, not the feel.
A touch sensitive keyboard can play dynamic sounds, but it won’t help strengthen the player’s fingers to prepare them for playing an acoustic instrument.
Weighted keys will give the player the truest feel of acoustic piano keys, and will prepare a student to play on any instrument.
They’ll give the player some resistance when they press the keys, which will feel more like an acoustic instrument, and allow the student to learn how much force to use to get the desired volume and tone out of a piano.
What’s the difference between a 61 key, 76 key, and 88 key weighted keyboard?
You’ll notice weighted keyboards offered in a variety of keyboard sizes. This number relates to how many total keys – black and white – are on the keyboard.
As the numbers suggest, the 61 key and 76 key keyboards are smaller than the standard full-size 88 key keyboard.
61 or 76 key weighted keyboards are generally less expensive than a full-size 88 key weighted keyboard, so if budget is a concern, it’s worth considering other factors (how many tones the player needs, the player’s level and goals, etc) to make sure you’re getting the best 88 key weighted keyboard for the money if you choose to go with a full-size keyboard.
A smaller keyboard is better for beginners, but advancing players and professionals will want at least 76 keys.
Some teachers will require a minimum of 61 keys as well, so be sure to keep that in mind when considering which keyboard will fit your needs.
88 key weighted keyboards are definitely the most popular because they come the closest to looking, sounding, and feeling like an acoustic piano.
They offer students every note they’d find on an acoustic piano, and the same feeling and feedback they’d encounter.
They’re also the perfect choice for a gigging musician who needs a quality instrument for home and stage – you don’t want to be missing out on a few notes because your keyboard is too small for your song!
Choosing the Right Weighted Keyboard for Your Needs
Before you purchase a weighted keyboard, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind.
First, and this is true for any keyboard purchase, think about your budget. This will be the main factor in which instrument you choose. You always want to get the best value for your money!
Second, consider the playing level and goals of the musician.
If the keyboard is for a beginner or a young child, you may be able to get a higher-quality weighted keyboard with 61 or 76 keys that will be enough at least for the first few months or year.
If, instead, the keyboard is for an advancing student looking to develop their skills, you’ll want to get the best 88 key weighted keyboard your budget allows.
Will this keyboard need to travel? Or will it be used mostly at home, in one place? Will the player want a variety of voices and tones to choose from, or is the player focused more on sounding like an acoustic piano? These are all questions to consider to help you choose the best electronic keyboard with weighted keys.
Next, we’ll take a look at the top weighted keyboards for any budget and playing level.
Top Weighted Keyboards: Reviews
We’ll look at weighted keyboards with 61, 76, and 88 keys, including the best weighted keyboard under 500 and the best weighted keyboard for beginners.
61 Key Weighted Keyboard
There are very few 61 key weighted keyboards on the market these days. This is mainly because players who want weighted keys generally need more than 61 keys.
However, we’ll give an honorable mention to one high quality 61 key touch responsive keyboard, in case you’re looking for something very lightweight, small, and portable.
76 Key Weighted Keyboard
Yamaha tends to dominate the market for 76 key weighted keyboards. While there are other touch-sensitive brands available (including the Casio WK-245), Yamaha has the best weighted keyboard in the 76-key keyboard category.
88 Key Weighted Keyboards
Now we’re talking! Most weighted keyboards you’ll find have 88 keys. Why? Because by the time a student is working on more challenging pieces, they’ll want to be able to perform on any instrument, and they’ll also need the full range of the keyboard.
The best weighted keyboard for beginners is a keyboard that will grow with them, and an 88 key keyboard ensures that’s a possibility.
They’ll never run out of keys with a full-size keyboard. There are a ton of 88 key weighted keyboards for any budget, so let’s get started!
Now that you understand the difference between touch response and weighted keyboards, it should be a little easier to make your selection.
The best weighted keyboard will have 88 keys so you can play any song you encounter, but if your budget only allows for 76 keys, make sure you get the best value you can.