I'd like to buy my first keyboard instrument. I want a piano touch with 88 keys and MIDI output and otherwise extremely minimal features. I'm hoping this will allow me to experiment with different sounds over the lifetime of the keyboard rather than being locked in with the sounds that are normally built in to a digital piano. By moving the sound production out of the keyboard, I expect it would also be lighter and easier to transport (several smaller components instead of one large keyboard).

Is this a bad idea? Is MIDI limited in the sound quality it can produce in any way? (I.e. can I produce completely natural sounding music with it?)

  • 1
    What's your budget? Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 15:21
  • Just want to ask suggest that I thought instrument recommendation questions were not permitted on Music SE? Commented Oct 31, 2013 at 17:43
  • That's why I didn't ask for a suggestion for a specific instrument. I want to learn about the process whereby I would find such a set of components. Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 0:04
  • I'd like to ignore the question of budget until I know what the possibilities are. Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 0:07

3 Answers 3


First, you need to understand what "MIDI" is. The Musical Instrument Digital Interface has nothing to do with sound or sound quality. To say that an instrument is a "MIDI" instrument says nothing at all about what it sounds like. MIDI only refers to the method by which you can connect that instrument to other instruments and computers to move data around in a music studio or performing stage situation.

If you want to find a good digital piano, you need to visit a music store with a wide selection, and you need to sit down and play several instruments and listen to them. It would also be a very good idea to take piano lessons and ask your piano teacher to recommend an electronic instrument suitable for you to purchase.

There is no substitute for seeing, playing, and hearing different keyboard instruments in a store. You can do all the research you want online, and ask all the questions you want in forums or sites like this, but you will not really learn anything useful if you do not also spend considerable time physically handling these instruments yourself.

  • I know a little about MIDI and how it works, the basics. I'm specifically wondering if using MIDI limits the quality of the music I can produce if all of my music is generated exclusively from a MIDI source. E.g. can MIDI capture how hard I press a key? Can it capture partial undamping with the foot pedal? (Forgive me, my vocabulary here is lacking.) (Do they make foot pedals that do that for digital pianos?) Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 0:12
  • 2
    You are asking a lot of different questions here, @David, but the answer to these is "yes". MIDI can capture how hard you press the key (velocity), how fast you release the key (release velocity), how hard you press down on the key after it is depressed (aftertouch), and there are foot pedals with partial damping -- but only if the particular keyboard or instrument supports these features.
    – user1044
    Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 1:19
  • Considering you marked my other, significantly different question a duplicate without any explanation, I wonder if your goal is to help enlighten other users or obstruct them? Please take a little more time to consider your actions. If you think that I am mistaken, please give me the benefit of trying to show me why my answer is a duplicate before marking it so. Commented Nov 4, 2013 at 20:59
  • For one thing, your other question had virtually the same title. Secondly, it asked substantially the same question. Thirdly, I'm one of the senior members here and I have years of experience with the kinds of questions we answer here and how they work. Fourthly, I took a considerable amount of time to provide you with one good answer, so I am indeed working to help you, not to obstruct you. Finally, you are completely new here, so you need to observe and learn how things work here rather than being so critical of those who have experience.
    – user1044
    Commented Nov 5, 2013 at 0:16
  • David, on this site we do not usually entertain detailed questions asking for recommendations for purchasing musical instruments. This site, as its title suggests, is for questions about learning to play instruments, not so much about selecting and purchasing them. If you need extensive recommendations for digital musical instruments, computers, and sound reinforcement, you should look to other sites, not this one.
    – user1044
    Commented Nov 5, 2013 at 0:35

Following on from Wheat's excellent response, there are lots of considerations - you probably won't need an 88 note, a 76 will be lighter (one thought), and cheaper. Most are midi these days. Do you want a home piano, or one with a stand for stage work? If you haven't played before, you will not be as fussy as maybe you need to be as far as action is concerned -a lot of pianos out there have a quasi piano feel, but they're not that good. You'll pay lots for a realistic action.

Having several lesson with a good teacher will definitely be more help than reading any answers here! You'll be able to try out a piano or two, and will be surprised at how different each is. I'd advocate deciding on one which will do for now, and buying a pre-owned one. That way, when you realise you need to upgrade (and you will...) you'll not lose too much. Keyboards/pianos are infamous for dropping in value in no time at all.

  • Saying that I'm looking for my first keyboard was misleading, sorry. I've played pianos and taken lessons, and my family had an old piano and a couple of cheap keyboards when I was growing up. Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 0:14
  • I just realized I'm being really terse. I got here from stackoverflow so I'm in super technical, very specific, get to the point before you finish the first 3 words mode. Sorry. :) Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 0:15
  • So the question's a bit of a red ferret, then.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 16:24
  • I think I could have been more clear about my experience with pianos and keyboards in the past, but I still feel like I'm asking some pretty specific questions here. Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 19:07

MIDI music can be very 'natural' sounding depending very much on the sample library or synth you use to create the sound. The two basic types of software instruments are software synthesizer and recorded samples of actual instruments.

There are lots of ways to edit MIDI tracks to make them sound more natural that depend on what real instrument you are emulating. For example, if you are emulating strings you may want to edit notes to make them overlap slightly and/or change the porto time.

One requirement I would definitely add to your choice of MIDI keyboards is 'touch sensitivity.' Touch sensitivity maps to 'velocity' and is essential for natural sounding music.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.