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Currently I have an old simple Casio (touch-sensitive keys, awful synthesis) and now I'm looking for another digital piano instrument. I think that it's a good idea to have weighted keyboard (It's similar to piano, so it'd be simpler to change instrument later).

Given that I usually play pop, pop-rock and pop-metal, but sometimes some classics too; should I go for a digital piano or keyboard? If both are an option, which one is more cheap in general? Are 61 keys enough for this? What do you think?

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3 Answers 3

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Generally, you should primarily be looking at two things when deciding on the purchase: the quality of the keyboard and the quality of the sound.

Most keyboards/synthesisers will have a half-weighted keyboard which offers a somewhat different feel to an acoustic piano. Dedicated electronic pianos will generally have a weighted keyboard and possibly a hammer-action playing mechanism, designed to replicate the playing feel of an acoustic instrument.

The number of keys is a question of compromise between range and portability. A 61-key keyboard will be easy to transport to rehearsals/gigs, but you may find it too limiting for classical piano repertoire. Many companies sell a number of versions of their keyboards/synthesisers, so you may be able to choose between 61, 76 or 88 keys. If five octaves seems too limiting and the 88-key version is too big, the 76-key option may be a good compromise. It's also worth noting that 61 and 76-key keyboards tend to be half-weighted, while 88-key keyboards are generally full-wieghted.

With regards to sound options, digital pianos tend to have a limited sound selection: generally several acoustic and electric piano models, plus maybe some strings or organ sounds. If require a more flexible sound bank, you would need to connect an external sound module or a computer running a software synth via MIDI.

Synthesisers will of course have a lot more preset sounds and editing tools for creating your own. I'd generally advise against purchasing a keyboard, unless auto-accompaniament is a required feature. For most purposes in a band setting, a synthesiser/workstation is a better option. The drawback is that most synthesisers don't have built-in speakers. However, in most performance situations this isn't a drawback and the synthesiser will have proper stereo line outputs, which isn't always the case with keyboards (having these is essential in any recording/performance situation).

For the applications you've outlined, my suggestion would be to look for a synthesiser/workstation with a 76 or 88-key keyboard. It will give you a broad selection of sounds and at the same time offer enough range to play some classical repertoire. If the classical repertoire is a key consideration, however, I strongly recommend getting an instrument with an 88-key full-weighted keyboard.

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I think the right answer to this is NORD, which although expensive, are the synths that Ibanez of keyboards. The sound quality is top notch and it's as versatile as it gets. The quality/price factor is a good one too.

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I would strongly consider getting a separate keyboard and sound unit. This gives you the flexibility to upgrade one or the other independently.

Keyboards are available with both MIDI and USB interfaces, so you can use them to control computers or MIDI devices. I have an M-Audio keyboard, which feels enough like a piano to keep me happy. My only complaint is some of the mechanical noise from the keys. You can spend a lot more and get a more prestigious brand such as Roland or Akai.

88 keys gives you the same range as a piano. For pop, you may well be able to make do with 61 keys -- it will save you money and is easier to store and transport.

For the sound source, you have all kinds of options. You might find that a PC/Mac can produce all the sounds you need. I find that GarageBand has some very convincing piano sounds, organ, simulations of other instruments and synths, and you can increase the range of sounds with plugins.

If you find you want to play in places you're not prepared to take a laptop, you could get a MIDI sound module. These seem to be less common than they used to be -- perhaps ousted from the market by laptops, but they're still available.

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