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I'm planning on trading my 88-key digital piano for a 61-key portable music workstation as I'm more inclined into rock keyboards as of late than classical music. However, I do enjoy playing classical parts, and I wonder if buying a keyboard with a restricted range will restrict my repertoire much. A 61-key keyboard essentially removes the first and last octaves from the 88-key traditional piano.

Are there many pieces that would be deemed unplayable without these octaves?

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5 Answers

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Most keyboard instruments of the baroque Era as well as early pianoforte had fewer keys than the current 88-standard (some modern piano like the Bosendorfer Imperial have 97 keys, 9 additional keys in the bass), and much of Bach keyboard works for instance can be played on such a restricted keyboard.

With restricted high notes you will have difficulties with many of Chopin's and Liszt's works where the composers take hold of the whole instrument and use replication of elements among successive octaves for effect. Many pieces of composers such as Scriabin and Debussy also use the whole range of the piano.

Another thing you would miss is playing four-hands, but I guess this is not the kind of activity you are into.

If your new keyboard is able to transpose 1 octave up or down, you may be able to play more pieces by adjusting the range to the work you want to play, as if you were shifting your chair left or right in front of your piano.

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The keyboard is able to transpose, so I hope that solves some of the problems. Sadly, Chopin and Debussy are 2 of the classical geniuses I like to play. –  Diego May 5 '11 at 13:23
    
+1: Bach is generally fine, but Chopin and Debussy can be problematic... Even with the octave transpose button you may find yourself having to hit it in the middle of a piece, which is just a drag in most cases. –  NReilingh May 5 '11 at 14:09
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If you really like to play flashy virtuosic pieces, then it might be a problem. But the highest octave is hardly ever used, and if it extends to an A on the lower end, that should cover most pieces in the standard repertoire. Looking at a Google image search of 61 note keyboards, it seems that many of them end on a low C (C2). It would be a safer bet if it extended at least down to the A, but those lower notes are often used for octave doublings, in which case you'd probably be able to get away with it.

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I have a 61 key and don't find it a problem, but then other people used to larger keyboards do. Just make sure it has handy octave-transpose buttons and you can do a bit of quick transposing mid-song if you need it.

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You might experience issues. I'm learning Liszt's Hungarian rhapsody No. 9 right now and for some of the highest notes, an ossia for 66-key pianos is given. Not sure if they'd fit in to your 61-key one, though.

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Whatever you do, don't get rid of the 88 key digital piano and switch down to a 61 key digital keyboard! The only reason for doing this is if you are into organ music, thus not needing that additional octave at the top and additional octave and one third at the bottom of the keyboard! Like others say, hitting (or even finding) that octave transposition feature in mid selection is a drag and will distract you from the music enough to make a mistake (or variation as us musicians like to say to minimize errors in performances)! Yes, it will limit you in your playing of classical pieces of music and you'll definitely want to hold on to this one! If you do indeed want to go with 61 keys, try to get at least two, if not three or more so that you can have more musical range for organ pieces! What I would do is go with a digital computer organ or even have a pipe organ built if it was in your budget as well as meeting your portability needs!

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